Back from hiatus!!

We have had an action packed last two weeks.  We attended a wonderful wedding in Cape Breton, stayed with a dear friend in New Brunswick, spent a few days with our very special friends in Cape Cod and then rounded out the visit with a visit to our Boston based friends who run a great liquor store in their neighbourhood.  We stayed at a quirky B&B in Spencer, Massachusetts run by a retired opera singer and the former caterer for the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. We’ve had company for the last two weekends in Thornbury which both featured wonderful dinners.  We got to meet two sets of new neighbours on our block and this past weekend we hosted George’s Florida golfing group and enjoyed some particularly fine veal and superb wine.

Needless to say, not a lot of TV has been watched in the mean time, but here are a few recommendations:

On the big screen

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a memoir that has been a favourite of book groups for several years.  Now a motion picture, it is still a terrific exploration of a harrowing childhood, Woody Harrelson gives his most remarkable performance yet as an alcoholic father of at the Walls family.  He portrays a delusional dreamer who plans to live in an unattainable glass castle while failing to provide the necessities of life for his three children.  The resilience of his children is inspiring testimony to the indomitability of the human spirit.

Netflix

Atypical – I binged on the first season of this wonderful show that stars Jennifer Jason Leigh.  It’s about an autistic 18-year-old boy who is navigating his way through his senior year of high school.  It’s touching, funny and addictive.  Enjoy!

The Defenders is a Marvel comics based series that brings together the characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  I am slightly ashamed to confess how much I enjoyed this utterly mindless martial arts show.  I especially love Matt Murdoch’s Daredevil (played by the extremely appealing Charlie Cox) way more than I should!

Superchannel

Line of Duty  This BBC series is on its fourth season. I binged on the first 4 episodes of this season about an internal affairs department that investigates police corruption.  Wonderfully addictive.

 

YouTube

The President Show star Anthony Atamanuik did an interview with Seth Meyers that gave great insight into his hilarious portrayal of Trump. You can catch the interview on YouTube.If you haven’t been watching this show (Thursdays at 11:30 following The Daily Show on Comedy Channel), you should give it a look.

Streaming

Animal Kingdom originates on TNT in the US and the second season will be seen later this season on Bravo.  A searing look at a California crime family led by a terrifying Ellen Barkin.  If you haven’t seen season 1 yet, it is available on Netflix.

Bravo

Suits is in its 7th season.  I admit I have grown tired of the Mike and Rachel storyline, Lewis Litt’s endless manic episodes, etc.  Could this be the last season as Rachel (Megan Markle) may be leaving the show to marry her true life prince (Prince Harry)?

HBO

Game of Thrones really has been thrilling this season.  The dragons have been called into service and tonight Jon Snow’s magnificent seven go after a Whitewalker.  Not to be missed.

W

Nashville is fabulously entertaining in its corny rivalries and love stories.  The music is always great as well.

AMC

Preacher is a genuinely bat-shit crazy series about the search for God.  Indescribable!

PBS

I binge watched last weekend’s 3-episode Black Work, a gritty British crime miniseries.
New episodes premiere tonight of Season 4 of Endeavour, about the young Inspector Morse.
Father Brown continues its nostalgic charm offensive about the crime solving capers of a portly British vicar in small town 1950’s Britain.

Comic Relief

I have compiled a list of my favourite depression avoidance mechanism shows in light of the Trumpocalypse, Korea, Charlottesville, Barcelona, etc.:

Baroness Von Sketch (Tuesdays on CBC)
Stephen Colbert The Late Show (Mon – Fri on CBS)
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Mon – Thurs on Comedy)
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee(Wed on Comedy)
The President Show (Thursdays at 11:30 on Comedy)
Real Time with Bill Maher (Fridays on HBO)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sundays on HBO)

Zen Moments

CBS Sunday Morning is my therapeutic way of spending most Sunday mornings exalting in all things pop culture.

Current Affairs

CNN

I don’t usually comment on news programming but over the past two weeks, I have not been able to believe my eyes and ears.  The Charlottesville, Va coverage and Trumpocalypse continuing events (Bannon’s resignation, Mueller’s inquiry, etc.) have been must-watch TV.  CNN‘s sister network HBO produces VICE TV and their Charlottesville episode (Aug. 14) is breathtaking in its analysis of a far right movement. This past week I particularly enjoyed the work of several of its anchormen who tried to interpret the events of the day including Trump and his response to the Charlottesville events. They include:  Fareed Zakaria, Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, and Andrew Cuomo.  They have all worked extraordinarily hard to explain and enlighten their viewers regarding the recent events of Charlottesville and its aftermath.  This morning’s Fareed Zakaria GPS is particularly informative regarding the differences between Germany’s reckoning with its past versus the US approach to slavery and the Civil War.

Radio

NPR and CBC were both mainstays for us as we drove many kilometres on our recent road trip.  Their level-headed analysis of current events served as a counter-balance to the hysteria of the 24-hour news networks.

Audible.com

We listened to a number of books on tape during our trip including the following:

Al Franken: A Giant of the Senate  We loved this wry and witty autobiography by the very clever Franken.  Fingers crossed that he becomes President one day.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder.  This is a harrowing account of a finance genius’s terrifying fight for justice in Russia and how it made him an unlikely international human rights leader and Vladimir Putin’s number-one enemy.

The Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. This self-help book is written by a superstar blogger who cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be positive all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir by Alan Cumming.  We adore Cumming from The Good Wife and are about to start this autobiography of the very outspoken Scottish actor.

IN Print

House of Spies by Daniel Silva. I inhaled this book, as is the usual case with a Silva espionage novel. There is cause for celebration among lovers of spy fiction as Daniel Craig has just announced he will do another James Bond film. As is the case with many of his novels, we are primarily in the Middle East, Russian oligarchs abound, and there is a joint effort by intelligence agencies to hunt down an international terrorist mastermind.

The Marriage Bureau True Stories of 1940’s London Match-Makers by Penrose Halson.  I have just started this charming anthology as it is my Toronto book group’s September choice.

Closing Words

Our summer weather continues today with a blue sky and a suspicious absence of rain.  I attended our annual Thornbury antique show this morning and am looking forward to being able to eat dinner outside this evening from the porch of our golf club which has a glorious view of Georgian Bay.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!!  Go out there and seize the day while we have this beautiful summer weather.

 

 

 

About to go on hiatus…

This post will be short and sweet! My son Jon is visiting us in Thornbury this weekend and we leave for our Cape Breton/Cape Cod trip in a couple of days. I won’t be watching much TV over the next 10 days or so, but here are a few recommendations in the mean time:

On the Big Screen

Atomic Blonde is a fast paced action flick starring Charlize Theron and James McEvoy. I found it pointless and repetitive. Charlize does look amazing though. If you want something completely mindless for the summer, this is your movie.

Streaming

Gifted is a lovely, yet completely predictable movie about a little girl being raised by her handsome hunk uncle Chris Evans (aka Captain America). Great rainy afternoon flick.

A Cure for Wellness is a very dark look at a mysterious Swiss rehab clinic. Stars Jason Isaacs as the clinic director and was actually too dark for me to persevere with.

Younger, Animal Kingdom, The Bureau were all series favourites this week. I binged on The Bureau‘s French espionage suspense through two 10-episode seasons. Season 3 is just now airing on Sundance Now in the US and I yearn for it.

Netflix

Ozark is an addictive look at what happens when a financial advisor decides to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. Stars Jason Bateman and Laura Linnea as a couple on the run.

Here’s a great article from the NYTimes on romantic comedies you can catch on Netflix:

https://www.nytimes.com/watching/lists/best-indie-rom-coms-netflix

 

Amazon

The Last Tycoon with Matt Bomer and Lily Collins debuted this week on Amazon. Beautiful depiction of the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930’s, but essentially vacuous. None of the characters engaged me and I may not persevere beyond the first episode. Here’s the NY Times review:

 

HBO

Room 104 (anthology suspense) made its debut on Friday. Twilight Zone revisited!  You may not sleep well afterwards.

Game of Thrones  (Sundays) has been going gangbusters in its first episodes of this penultimate season. There will be dragons!

PBS

Grantchester and Remember Me continue on Sunday nights. Father Brown serves up corny mysteries (why do so many people in charming villages die so horribly?) on Thursday nights. British bliss!

CBS

Extraordinary awfulness continues with summer series ZOO (Thursdays)  and Salvation (Wednesdays). I am now able to look away! Yay!

NBC

Midnight, Texas (Mondays)  is a summer fantasy series adapted from the Charmaine Harris novels. It makes you appreciate just how special True Blood was. There is nothing magical about this very lame fantasy series.

AMC

Preacher (Mondays) is crazy but extraordinary in the power of its images.

Loaded (Mondays) is a British Silicon Valley type show that drags in its 60 minute length with charmless characters and a total lack of humour.

FX

The Strain (Sundays) continues its wacky weird vampire apocalypse tale.

ABC

Somewhere Between (Tuesdays) is a just plain awful tale of time travel. So lame, it’s painful.

W

Nashville (Thursday) is so bad it’s good. You may want to throttle most of the main characters, but somehow it’s addictive.

CBC

Baroness Von Sketch (Tuesday) is awfully funny and the soccer series 21 Thunder debuts Monday night.

 

Reading Material

We’re listening to the Truman Capote inspired novel The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin.  Such a sad faux memoir of a bygone era when artists had glamorous patrons.  I have dived into Daniel Silva’s House of Spies.  This is the most recent of Silva’s 20 espionage novels.  A terrorist incident in London has spurred a multi-agency effort to catch the criminal mastermind behind this latest outrage.  Silva is a terrific writer who delivers great background, fully drawn characters and plots that are torn from today’s headlines.  Get ready to immerse yourself in the murky world of international spy craft.

Humour and Zen

This past week of the Trumpnado has been full of surprises!  From Spicy’s resignation, to Scaramucci’s appointment, to Reince Priebus’s resignation, to John Kelly’s appointment, etc.,  I didn’t think anything could possibly top Trump’s horrific address to the Boy Scout Jamboree last week, but he has succeeded in being the centre of a vortex of incredible tweets and rants this past week.  He has provided fodder for all the political satirists including, Colbert, Noah, Bee, Meyers and The President Show.  The President Show (Comedy Thurs. at 11:30) introduced Mario Cantone as Anthony Scaramucci.  Inspired!!!! He was born to play this role!!!  Needless to say, I have had to fall back on  my British shows and my CBS Sunday Morning show to provide solace and soothing during this very difficult time.

 

Closing Thoughts

We are finally having a gorgeous summer weekend.  All of our meals have been eaten outdoors! Our pool is open for business and it’s actually too warm to soak in the hot tub.  The Thornbury pier is overflowing with children taking their ritual leaps into Georgian Bay and the local ice-cream parlour is thronged with young families taking their children out for a summer treat.  The restaurant patios are packed and the summer Jazz Concerts in the Park are full of appreciative listeners.  We leave for a road trip this week that includes a wedding in Cape Breton, a stay with friends in Rothesay, NB, a trip to see friends in Cape Cod and a visit with our Florida neighbours in the Boston area.  Enjoy the week wherever you are.  My next post will likely be on August 13.

Streaming up a storm!

It has been a very busy week. I hosted a coffee party for our Georgian Bay Club Thursday morning lady golfers and I hosted a 75th birthday dinner for a dear friend and neighbour. I attended a local art show yesterday and bought a piece of art for our Toronto condo. A local artist also completed a project for our Thornbury front hall.
You can see both paintings here:

IMG_0238

IMG_0239

 

On the Big Screen

We didn’t make it to any of the summer movies this past week, but Dunkirk and War for the Planet of the Apes are both on our must see list this summer.

Streaming

Animal Kingdom (this series originates on TNT in the US) is hurtling through its second season of mayhem. Ellen Barkin is terrifying as a murderous matriarch who runs her crime family with an iron fist in idyllic Southern California.
Younger (this series originates on TVLand in the US) is now in its third season and continues the story of a 41-year-old (played by Broadway star Sutton Foster) pretending to be 26 in a publishing world that is ruled by millennials.
The Zookeeper’s Wife is a very sweet true life tale of the efforts of a Polish couple to save Jews while they struggle to run the crumbling Warsaw Zoo. Touching in a Schindler’s List kind of way, this couple was honoured by Israel as Righteous Gentiles for their work in saving hundreds of Jews from the death camps.
Colossal is a very peculiar little sci fi film starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. They play two individuals who share a strange kinship with monsters that are rampaging through Seoul, Korea. Indescribable!!
The Bureau (this series originates on IFC in the US) is a French espionage series that is set in Paris, where the directorate for the French secret service is located . Fraught with suspense, this series is more le Carre than Bond. In fact, in one scene, the hero takes a beating rather than pulling out his martial arts skills so that his cover as a French teacher won’t be blown. You will learn a lot about spycraft watching this very understated but compelling series. If you are a Dan Silva fan, you will enjoy the settings of intrigue in Iran and Syria and the involvement of the US and Russian spy agencies. I just binged on the 10-episode first season and have begun watching season 2.

Coming soon

The second season of the hilarious sitcom People of Earth premieres on TBS July 24 so will be available for streaming in Canada after that.

 

CBC

I keep tuning in to Baroness Von Sketch (Tuesdays) and am looking forward to the July 31 debut of 21 Thunder with Colm Feore.

NBC

Midnight, Texas (debuts July 24). From Charlaine Harris of True Blood fame.  Monsters abound!

ABC

Somewhere Between  (debuts July 24). Uh oh. Time travel is involved, one of my least favourite genres:  A serial killer strikes close to home for a news producer, who gets to go back in time one week prior to the string of murders.  A woman tries to change fate (that never ends well) and stop a killer.  Good luck with this summer series!

HBO

Game of Thrones debuted for its penultimate season last week. Looks like this season belongs to the women vying to sit on the Iron Throne.
This Drug May Kill You is a heartbreaking and eye opening documentary about the opioid crisis and the toll it is taking on families in the US. Watch it on demand.

AMC

Preacher (Mondays) gets crazier and crazier.
Loaded (Mondays) is a very odd British series about a group of techies who sell their video game for millions. Kind of a British Silicon Valley.

CBS

Salvation (Wednesdays) I think I have given up on this one. Too much romance, not enough scenes of the asteroid approaching earth. I swear it’s killing my brain cells.

W

Nashville (Thursdays) has descended into pure corn.  Juliette has returned to her evil manipulative ways.  Scarlett is once again a walking nervous breakdown.

 

Showcase

Suits (Wednesdays) Why can’t I just quit this one?  Harvey, Mike, Donna, Rachel, sometimes Jessica, and last, but most annoying, Lewis.  Geez, on last week’s episode the fact that Mike posed as a lawyer with no legal training finally came into play during a weirdly unengaging pro bono case against an insurance company.  The agony continues!

PBS

Sunday nights PBS rules with British series Grantchester and Remember Me.  Pure bliss.

 

Comic Relief

There have been new episodes of The Late Show (nightly on CBS) with Stephen Colbert (this past week featured his Russian adventure), The Daily Show (Mon-Fri on Comedy) with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal (Wednesday on Comedy) with Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries (Tuesdays on Comedy)  and The President Show (Thursdays on Comedy). These shows keep me sane.

Zen Moments on TV

My absolute favourite is CBS Sunday Morning which I am about to indulge in.  I also love Fareed Zakaria on CNN, and all of PBS’s public affairs programming, especially Frontline and NOVA.  Tonight Vice on HBO does a special episode:  an examination of US foreign policy and how post-Cold War alliances have shifted which features conversations with diplomats, politicians and scholars.

The Week Ahead

Looking forward to a week that includes visits with family, golf, mahjong and perhaps a summer movie.  My son David is coming to stay next weekend for the Elvis Festival, so I look forward to hosting him.  So far today, the rain is holding off, so enjoy this beautiful summer weather, no matter what your plans entail.

Summer Delights…

It’s been a truly wonderful week.  I saw two movies in actual movie theatres, one play at Shaw and got to golf a couple of times with some lovely ladies.  The deluge of summer rain has resulted in my garden in Thornbury looking the best it ever has.  We had some wonderful dinners with friends, one eaten at the local restaurant that overlooks the town marina, and ending with a campfire under the stars.  TV has been somewhat limited, but here are a few recommendations:

Live Theatre

Me and My Girl was the big musical at Shaw this year. What a delight! Great singing and dancing in a show that makes fun of the British class system and is a bit of a send up of Pygmalion. Terrific performances from the leads and supporting players. Some great songs that will send you out humming the tunes. A totally entertaining and uplifting experience.

Netflix

Witnesses  is an 8-episode French crime series about a serial killer who stages his bodies frozen.  Very dark and intriguing.
Okja is a Korean fantasy film (and a very controversial screening at Cannes) about a genetically modified giant pig with Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhall as the name actors.  This film really belongs to the young Korean actress who plays Mija, the little girl who raises Okja the giant pig.  Totally unique and original and delightfully sardonic.  Watch for Steven Yeun (Glenn from The Walking Dead) as an ecowarrier.
Gypsy is a very strange 10-episode series about a psychotherapist (played by Naomi Watts) who gets way too involved in the lives of her patients.

The Keepers is a 7-episode documentary series about the unsolved murder of a nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.

Streaming

New episodes of Animal Kingdom and Younger are available! Find them if you can, before these series air on Canadian TV later this year.

 

On the big screen

The Big Sick is an endearing romantic comedy about a real life relationship between the star Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily. I adored this movie. Nanjiani is a regular on Silicon Valley where everything he says and does makes me giggle.
My Cousin Rachel is a new adaptation of the Daphne Dumaurier classic suspense novel. Sam Claflin and Rachel Weiss are perfectly cast as the two leads. British accents and period costumes = bliss.  The story doesn’t make a lot of sense and many films have dealt with poisoning and gas lighting since this story was written in 1951, so one almost has a deja vu experience watching it because it all seems so familiar.  However, even though this film is flawed, for me, this beautifully filmed trip back to 1890’s England is still a very enchanted experience.

Broadcast TV

CBS

Salvation – where is the asteroid!!! All I saw were lame romances! This show is extremely silly, and if they don’t start showing some CGI shots of the approaching asteroid, I will be tuning out very soon.

Zoo – I still can’t look away, but I did delete the last episode after watching about 15 painful moments of cheese.

Showcase

Suits is premiering new episodes! Do I still care about Mike and Rachel, Harvey, Donna and the egregious Lewis? I think not. I hope that Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Prince Harry make their wedding plans soon so that her character can be put out of her misery.

HBO

Game of Thrones returns this Sunday! There will be dragons!

AMC

Preacher continues its rapid-fire craziness. Turns out Tulip is married to a New Orleans crimelord. Who knew?

FX

The Strain returns for its 4th season premiere on Sunday night. This vampire apocalypse series is seriously nutty.  Turns out the Nazis were vampires!

CBC

Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows This documentary gives you a picture of the human being that has been the source of so much angry focus this past week or so.  It may defuse some of the outrage that has been expressed regarding the $10.5 million settlement the Canadian government recently awarded him.  (More likely that angry Canadians will call for further defunding of the CBC). Very thought provoking.

Peter Mansbridge replacement project My vote goes to Wendy Mesley who has been soldiering on as an anchor very valiantly.  God knows the woman has paid her dues!

21 Thunder is a new series debuting next week on July 28.  It stars Colm Feore!  Even though it is about soccer, I will give it a chance, because Feore is a national treasure, despite the weaselly bad guy parts he usually plays in US based TV series.

PBS

My Sunday night  of British bliss continues with My Mother and Other Strangers, Grantchester, and debuting tonight Remember Me. Starring Michael Palin, Mark Addy and Julia Sawalha, this 3-episode miniseries tells the story of a man who moves into residential care who then becomes the sole witness to a violent death.

NBC

Midnight,Texas is a new supernatural based series (based on the novels of Charlaine Harris whose work was most famously turned into the series True Blood) that will have its debut on July 25. Psychic Manfred Bernardo moves to the small town of Midnight, Texas and meets his new neighbours. Among the inhabitants: a witch, an angel, a mysterious assassin, a local pawn shop owner and a reverend who may or may not be a werewolf. Can’t wait, but then I am a total sucker for this sort of thing.  Here’s the trailer:

W

Nashville continues its corny melodrama.  Despite the impulse to want to slap most of the main characters silly, I keep being drawn back to this increasingly lame show.

Comic Relief

Colbert (CBS) and Noah (Comedy) are both back with new episodes.  Samantha Bee is on Comedy on Wednesday at 10:30; The Jim Jeffries Show is on Tues at 10:30 (Comedy); The President Show is on Thursday at 10:30; Baroness Von Sketch airs on CBC Tuesdays at 9:30.

Closing thoughts

The week ahead promises some golf and Mahjong;  some gatherings with friends, and of course, lots of viewing possibilities.  I’m way behind on catching up on all sorts of shows I’ve been meaning to check out on Netflix. Today we’re attending a farewell party for some of our Thornbury neighbours who are moving to their next home in Meaford for their next chapter of retired life; there’s also a Jazz in the Park concert here in Thornbury that we will be attending if the weather stays dry.  Safe travels for everyone who may be headed off on holidays.  Enjoy the week, whatever it may hold for you.

Unexpected change in plans…

This was a week we hadn’t planned to spend in Ontario as we were supposed to be celebrating the 4th of July with friends in Cape Cod. However, our son David gave his dad tickets to Bob Dylan’s Wednesday performance at the ACC in Toronto so we modified our plans and rescheduled our Cape Cod visit to coincide with an August trip to Cape Breton to attend a wedding.

Full confession: I have never been a big Dylan fan. I loved his contemporaries on the sixties and seventies folk scene (Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, etc), but I didn’t care for Dylan’s scratchy growl as I’m more of a melody fan myself. I was actually a huge Leonard Cohen fan and preferred him as a poet and songwriter. However, this concert made me a Dylan believer. He sang in a tuneful and melodic voice and was backed up by a band that was incredibly musical as well. What a surprise! The Guardian review of his show at the London Palladium, gives you a real taste of what the show was like.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/apr/30/no-room-for-nostalgia-as-bob-dylan-keeps-show-on-the-road

Here’s a sampling of his playlist in Toronto
From the Great American Song Book:

Make You Feel My Love
Stormy Weather
Autumn Leaves
That Old Black Magic
Once Upon A Time

From his classics:

Don’t Think Twice, It’s alright
Blowing in the Wind
The Ballad of the Thin Man
Accompanied by a great band with a wonderful sound, it was a very respectful audience; he gave a 1 1/2 hour performance in wonderful voice and was actually warbling. As a bonus, I sat next to a Turkish diplomat who was attending a niece’s university graduation and it gave me a great appreciation for how well loved Dylan is by the whole world.

On the big screen

Baby Driver is an adrenalin fuelled thrill ride with a great soundtrack and terrific performances by leads Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, etc. This is a genre defying heist/coming of age/romance/action flick. Truly original for most of the film, I enjoyed it and left the theatre feeling pretty energized.

 

Wonder Woman is a delightful campy approach to the Wonder Woman origin story. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are perfectly cast in the lead roles. Danny Huston is magnificently evil and watch for Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen in roles as Amazon mentors to Wonder Woman.

 

Movies to Stream at home

Logan is a painfully long farewell to the Wolverine character in the X-Men series. I can’t believe George and I watched the whole thing!
Get Out is a fabulous suspense movie by the wickedly talented director Jordan Peele

Kong: Skull Island is much more engaging than I thought it would be and does star Tom Hiddleston (for goodness sakes, if you haven’t watched him in The Night Manager, please do so immediately!)

HBO has a great documentary on Cary Grant, for those of you who still can’t get enough of him.

 

Series to stream at home

Because I have had a serious espionage obsession since my teen years when I read all of the James Bond novels (not to mention my current fascination with Dan Silva’s Mossad novels), I was curious to catch up with The Bureau, a French series currently in its 3rd season on Sundance. Dark and murky! I have only made it to episode two so far, as viewing it on my Ipad seems to trigger episodes of narcolepsy.

Amazon Prime

I keep forgetting I actually have the app for this on my IPad. I caught the first episode of Good Girls Revolt (Mad Men without the advertising world and Jon Hamm); the first 4 episodes of A Crisis in 6 Scenes (a Woody Allen series that is quirky to the max); Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle (we’re now in Venice and Monica Bellucci is a famous opera diva). Not crazy about any of these three series so far, although I did love the first two seasons of Mozart in the Jungle and recommend it unreservedly.

 

 

CBC

Airfarce 150 Birthday Canada features a terrific La La land parody and a great Ed Robertson/Chris Hadwick duet of “if I had a gazillion dollars” (adjusted for inflation).

Pure – I binged on this one on demand. Crazy Mennonite crime series. I far preferred Banshee which HBO Canada aired for several seasons. Apparently the Canadian Mennonite community was outraged by the inaccuracies of this series, but it made for good fun all the same! My favourite parts were when the Mennonites were forced to use modern technology against their will. Total fish out of water scenes.

Baroness Von Sketch has returned with new episodes of this hilariously female centric sketch comedy show.

 

 

Netflix

Bloodline I finally binged on Season 3 of this once wonderful series. OMG, the last two episodes are quite possibly the most painful 2 hours of television I have ever watched. Disappointment alert:  This will spoil your enjoyment of the first two seasons as the Rayburn clan goes seriously downhill, and the last two episodes take a Dallas turn where you wonder if the whole story was some kind of fever dream. Such a sad ending for a series that had so much impact in its first two seasons.

W

Nashville – this incredibly melodramatic series is now offering pure corn!  Sadly, I can’t look away.

ABC

Downward Dog sob. I have watched the last two episodes of this show’s first season and I can’t express how sad I am that the show has been cancelled by ABC. Find it on demand if you can and enjoy this talking dog fable.

NBC

The Night Shift, ok, I have now given up on this hokey by the numbers mishmash of a medical soap opera set in an ER department at night with nods to veterans from the US wars in the Middle East. Despite TC’s devilish good looks, I don’t care anymore whether he accomplishes his mission in Syria.

CBS

The last few summers, CBS has featured some disaster themed shows (Under the Dome) and now Zoo – which includes hilariously fake scenes of animals attacking humans.
In this same vein, stay tuned this week for the Wednesday July 12 premiere of Salvation about an asteroid colliding with earth!

PBS

Sunday Night lineup of My Mother and Other Strangers, Grantchester, Tennison. Simply the three most blissful hours of my week.

AMC

Preacher has more batshit craziness of any show on TV at the moment

FX

The Strain (dystopian vampire apocalypse series) seems to be returning to wreak more mayhem next Sunday July 16.

Closing thoughts

We are off to the Shaw Festival this week to see My and My Girl, their big musical of the season. We are headed back to Toronto today for a family reunion with my brother’s and sister’s kids and our own kids.  This only happens about once a year as my nieces now have to travel in from LA and this year, Costa Rica.  Looking forward to seeing everyone!  Hopefully, the threatened rain will hold off long enough for us to enjoy a backyard barbecue.  For everyone else, enjoy this great weather, and if it rains, well you know what to do….

Summer Doldrums…

What a great week! Despite a little more rain than I would like, it was a terrific week for dining with friends, community Canada Day events in Thornbury, campfires under the stars, and the best darned fireworks show enjoyed with family. We got to see our kid’s Mastador (part Mastiff/part Labrador) learning to swim after tennis balls in Georgian Bay. He is our grand dog after all, so we are very proud of him. Despite the rain, I managed to sneak in 18 holes of golf at the beautiful Cobble Beach course in Owen Sound as well as 9 holes with my Tuesday ladies in Toronto. Mahjong was pure bliss as we were able to enjoy a spectacular thunderstorm that hovered over my backyard as we experienced it from the safety of my breakfast room.

TV’s a little in the doldrums these days as many series are on hiatus, however, here are some suggestions for you:

Streaming/Netflix

The Lost City of Z is a true story of a 20th century adventurer who spends several expeditions in Bolivia looking for a lost city (a contemporary of Hiram Bingham on whom the Indiana Jones stories are based and who discovered the lost city of Machu Picchu). A little slow, but beautifully told. Charlie Hunnam is wonderful in the lead role.

GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is a new series that debuted on Netflix this weekend about lady wrestlers. Truly original and quirkily funny!

 

Shows you may not have caught up with yet

Younger has begun its 4th season in the US and will air on Showcase later this season. Our heroine’s secret (she’s a 40-something pretending to be a 20-something) is partially out and chips are starting to fall.

Outlander (a time shifting historical fantasy set in the time of the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland) will return to Showcase later this season. A friend asked me why I didn’t write about this show, so I’m including it here.  It is simply the most romantic show that has ever been on TV.  You can catch up with earlier seasons on Netflix if you haven’t managed to find it yet.

Game of Thrones (the show with the dragons) will return to HBO for its 7th season on July 16.  If you haven’t watched yet, I believe you can screen earlier seasons on demand.  This is must-see viewing for my family, however, I believe most of my peers are not so keen on this medieval fantasy genre, but we are enthralled by it.  This is going to be a very short season of only 7 episodes as the series writers have now caught up with the source material in the novels.  Season 8 will be the last season.

 

PBS

Ahhh… I am looking forward to tonight’s all British lineup of My Mother and Other Strangers (period nostalgia) at 8, Grantchester (dishy vicar in a small town) at 9, and Prime Suspect: Tennison at 10 (a prequel to the Helen Mirren series).

NBC

Sunday Night with Megan Kelly at 7 is about to air its third show. Kelly goes head to head with the venerable 60 Minutes on CBS with an investigative journalism show that is awfully similar in format and style. I did enjoy her early segments on Vladimir Putin and Alex Jones, so I’m willing to see how she does.  She must be getting quite a chuckle out of the latest Trump tweet madness on the theme of ladies who bleed too much.

ABC

Downward Dog (this was on the schedule on Tuesdays at 8) has two more episodes that should have aired even though the series has been cancelled, so stay tuned. I am very sad as I loved this show narrated by a talking dog with soulful eyes named Martin.  Sad.  You may have to look for it by streaming.

AMC

Preacher has begun its second season and will air new episodes on a Monday nights at 10. Totally crazy, this is a comic book based series that you will either love or hate. Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga star.

HBO

It’s a holiday weekend in North America, so little new programming is happening. You might want to catch this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight at 11 with John Oliver as he should have some choice words about Trump’s declining mental state.

Bravo

For those of you able to access this show by streaming, Animal Kingdom (Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman) is a wild ride with a California crime family led by an amoral and avaricious grandma. Ellen Barkin is mesmerizing in the lead role. It will appear on Bravo later this season. You can catch up on Netflix with Season 1, if you haven’t managed to watch this series yet.

CBS

Zoo has begun its third season on Thursdays as summer programming. Totally silly with cheesy special effects, but for some reason, I can’t look away from this ridiculous show.

Political Comedy

Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert are on holidays. Bill Maher is also taking holidays (the whole month of July). Full Frontal with Samantha Bee airs a new show on Comedy Wed. At 10:30. The President Show (Thurs at 11:30 on Comedy following Trevor Noah) also seems to be on hiatus. Slim pickings!!  I may have to turn to CNN and MSNBC for my comic relief.

Zen Moment

So looking forward to CBS Sunday Morning today as it gives me a gentle push into a new week. Today’s segments include John Mellencamp, the Grand Canyon, Summer Music, Storm Chasers, flowers in Tombstone, Arizona, Herman Wouk, Watermelons, Goats in Trees in Morocco. Can’t wait to be soothed and inspired.

Closing Words

We are off to see Bob Dylan at the Air Canada Centre this week! Our nieces and nephew and family and our children are dining with us for a mini-reunion in Toronto. This is a big deal as one niece is flying in from LA and another is struggling to make it home after 7 months in Costa Rica.  It has been a lovely holiday weekend with our children visiting us in Thornbury.  Backyard BBQ’s and frolics in the pool and hot tub.  Sunset walks to the pier and a visit to the ice cream parlour on our street.  What could be better?  Enjoy your week and these magnificent long summer days. Just remember to take an umbrella.

Whirlwind week…

It has been a great week of golf, mahjong, end of season parties for my fitness group and my gourmet group and a fabulous 50th anniversary party for friends. It was a real pleasure this weekend to spend time under the stars dining with longtime friends and sharing soothing beverages around the campfire. It was a rather busy week which included a great family birthday dinner at one of Toronto’s best rated restaurants, Edulis, located on Niagara St. in the trendy Bathurst and King area. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a great week for TV watching, but I do have a few recommendations:

Streaming/Netflix

After our wknd company departed today, and we had finished 3 loads of laundry, George and I collapsed in front of the TV and managed to binge our way through the last 5 episodes of House of Cards on Netflix. Still not as crazy as the Trump White House, but pretty enthralling nevertheless. I am in awe of Robin Wright’s incredible posture. Of course, Claire Underwood’s ramrod posture is perfectly in keeping with her steely resolve, but she is my posture idol anyway. There are many Shakespearean echoes in this season, and evil absolutely runs amuck. This is perhaps the darkest series around these days, but it is having trouble at being as entertaining as the actual shenanigans coming out of Washington.  There are cheeky echoes of the Trumpian distractions (impeachments, obstructions of justice, election tampering, etc.) and you will chuckle when you see real-life journalists from CNN, MSNBC, etc. interviewing fictional characters from the show. Sadly, this fifth season of the show is not quite the escapist entertainment it was in its first season.

A Man Called Ove (film adaptation of the novel by Fredrick Backman) is now available on Netflix. This charming film about a curmudgeon and his redemption is a wonderful adaptation of the novel. You will not like this leading character at first, but you will root for him by the end, so stay with it.

Movies to Stream

You might get a kick out of some of these films that are so bad, they’re good:

https://theringer.com/the-50-best-good-bad-movies-a9add81b5b7f

Audible.com

Crazy Rich Asians (the novel by Kevin Kwan) is our current read on Audible.com. Soon to be a major motion picture, this social satire pokes fun at the old money world of the super rich in Singapore. Very entertaining look at rich people problems (also the name of one of the two sequels in Kwan’s Singapore trilogy).

Moments of Zen

As always, I adore my CBS Sunday Morning (Sundays at 9 am) show as a gentle way to while away a peaceful Sunday morning. This morning’s show included a very moving segment about a woman who has survived two heart transplants with a lot of support from her friends which reduced me to tears.

PBS

Sunday nights are incredibly satisfying as the PBS lineup currently includes 3 British series:
My Mother and Other Strangers (period nostalgia) at 8; Grantchester (dishy vicar in a small town) at 9; Prime Suspect: Tennison (Masterpiece Mystery) at 10 (a prequel to the wonderful Helen Mirren series).

NBC

Sunday Night with Megan Kelly at 7 pm features an interview wth JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, a terrific look at a segment of the US population that voted heavily Republican in the Trump election.

ABC

Downward Dog, (Tuesdays at 8 pm) a comedy about a talking dog and his owner is one of the most charming shows you’ve probably never seen.  Its cancellation after one season has been announced, but it is being shopped to other networks. The owner is played by Allison Tolman (formerly of Fargo Season 1) and her boyfriend is played by Lucas Neff (formerly of Raising Hope).  Great performances and clever writing.

FX

Fargo (available on demand on FX) aired the last episode of its third season. A restrained bloodbath compared to its first two seasons. Ewan McGregor is terrific in dual roles, David Thewlis is terrifying as the villain, but the two female leads Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, steal the show whenever they appear.

AMC

Better Call Saul (available on demand on AMC) aired the last episode of its second season. This series has had a slow burn effect in its depiction of Jimmy McGill’s metamorphosis into the nefarious Saul Goodman. This prequel to Breaking Bad is a very noir experience as we watch the protagonist and many of the secondary characters evolve into the characters they become in Breaking Bad.

Preacher returns for its second season on AMC at 10 pm Sunday night.. It is part of a current trend in fever dream entertainment that includes Legion, Mr. Robot, Twin Peaks, American Gods and numerous other shows. These shows are bat shit crazy and you will either love them or hate them. Preacher‘s great cast includes Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, both of whom you will recognize from their many film appearances.

HBO

The Handmaid’s Tale (now available on demand) had its first season finale last week. An adaptation of the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, this very dark dystopian series features a searing portrayal by Elizabeth Moss in the leading role. It is chilling and ends on a cliffhanger that will be followed by a second season. TV has taken a very dark turn lately with several series that deal with dark mysterious worlds. The Leftovers, Incorporated, and The Man in the High Castle are all examples of dark tales of a world gone terribly wrong.

Veep and Silicon Valley have their season finales on Sunday night. These brilliant comedies feature very clever scripts and hilarious performances. Kumail Nanjiani is my favourite SV performer and he is also on the big screen right now playing himself in a comedy he both wrote and starred in about his own life, The Big Sick.  I can’t wait to see this comedy that also stars Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.  Great reviews!!

National Geographic Channel

On the bright side (especially if you’re a fan of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb), National Geographic’s series Genius about Albert Einstein (now available on demand) had its finale last week. Amazing performances by Johnny Long and Geoffrey Rush as the young and old Einsteins respectively. This series portrays a deeply flawed man who cares more for the problems of the world than he does for his own family. An epic that follows Einstein’s life from childhood to death, it spans two world wars and the Cold War.

Bravo

Animal Kingdom has aired the first 4 episodes of its second season (on TNT in the US and you can catch Season 1 on Netflix. This terrific crime series stars Ellen Barkin as the grandma/crime boss of a Southern California gang of career criminals. Incredibly gripping, you will be able to catch this season on Bravo later this year.

There are a couple of series making their debuts/season returns on the summer tv schedule:

Younger returns to TVLand for its 4th season on June 28. It’s about a 40-something woman who pretends to be 26 in order to get a job in the publishing industry. It stars the forty something Sutton Foster in the leading role and she is completely believable as a 20-something.  Fabulous and funny! Try and stream it online if you don’t have access to TVLand. The season will air on Bravo in Canada sometime later this year.

CBS

CBS is introducing a new season of the incredibly silly series Zoo Thurs June 29. Cheesy special effects and ridiculously lame scripts are the norm for this series where genetically modified creatures have run amuck and are taking over the world. I can’t look away!

Similarly insane in its concept, Salvation, an asteroid disaster series will debut on CBS on July 12. Can’t wait!

 

Political Comedy

On the comedy front, Stephen Colbert is currently in Russia filming segments for The Late Show on CBS M-F at 11:35. I will also be tuning in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO Sunday at 11, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO Friday at 10, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on Wed at 10:30, Jim Jeffries on Comedy on Tues at 10:30, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah M-Th at 11:00 and The President Show Thurs at 11:30 following Trevor Noah.

Closing Words

This week will be pretty full with the usual activities plus our end of season bookgroup party, a golf outing to Owen Sound, dinner with longtime friends, etc.
I am looking forward to having our family gather in Thornbury next weekend for Canada Day festivities. Thornbury is hosting a number of special events for Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration and we will be looking forward to watching a very special fireworks display on the holiday.

Until next week, enjoy this spectacular weather (often including amazing thunderstorms) and make the most of the days that do not have torrential rainfalls.

Recovering from company…

As lovely as it was to show off our city and countryside to our American friends, it was just as heavenly to have a little down time this past week to recoup and just enjoy the quiet.  Much napping was done and George picked up his new Ford Explorer (which will be our car for driving back and forth to Florida and Thornbury), and I picked out a new Mini Cooper Countryman SUV.  So cute!  I pick up my new car tomorrow afternoon.  Fingers crossed that all goes smoothly. We still haven’t made it out to the movies to start catching up with our summer blockbusters, but I did manage to watch a little TV this past week. Here are some recommendations:

Netflix

Animal Kingdom season 1 is now available on Netflix. As season 2 has begun airing in the US, those of you who want to catch up with this terrific crime series (Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman) can see it on Netflix before it begins airing Season 2 on Bravo later this season.
House of Cards is airing its Season 5 episodes on Netflix.  I think audiences will honestly have a hard time engaging with its dark storyline in light of the madness that is hitting the news media everyday re Trump’s America.
Bloodline is airing its third and final season on Netflix.  Still dark and brooding, this series continues to take us down its noir storyline in sultry Isla Morada, Florida.
The Girl With All The Gifts is a wonderful and original zombie story from England about a post-Apocalyptic world where a fungus has brought about a zombie Apocalypse and a group of survivors tries to develop a cure.  Very suspenseful and starring a wonderful group of actors that include Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton and a terrific child actress named Sennia Nanua in the leading role as Melanie.

Amazon Prime

First of all, I keep forgetting that I can actually watch this channel from an App on my iPad.  We are Amazon Prime customers, so see if you can get the app.  Some of their shows are terrific:  Flesh and Bone, The Man in the High Castle, Goliath, Bosch, Transparent, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Good Girls Revolt, Patriot, Mad Dogs, Alpha House, The Night Manager, Mr. Robot, The Expanse, Red Oaks, Sneaky Pete, Mozart in the Jungle, etc.

American Gods is like no other series I have ever seen.  Old gods versus new gods amidst humans who scarcely understand where they fit in.  Ian McShane is wonderful as the god behind this story. New episodes air weekly!
I Love Dick comes from the creative team behind Transparent. It’s a savage social satire of the artistic life and the poseurs who pretentiously act like artists.  Not for everyone, but give it a try.  Very naughty sexual triangle!

Comedy

Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show airs M-Th at 11:00.  I love his sense of humour! He skewers Trump nightly.
The Jim Jeffries Show airs Tuesday at 10:30.  This irreverent Australian is having a very good time making fun of the lunacy of US politics.
The President Show airs Thursday at 11:30.  You have to see this show to believe it.  A wonderful Trump impersonator has real guests on his show and takes  a devastating look at all things Donald.
Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal airs on Wednesday at 10:30.  Bee is fearless in her weekly attacks on the US political scene.

PBS

PBS has returned from its fundraising hiatus with some new summer programming on Sunday nights.

Masterpiece Theatre:  My Mother and Other Strangers, Episode 1 airs tonight at 8 pm. Rose meets Captain Dreyfuss.  Emma goes on a date and incites an international incident.

Masterpiece Mystery:  Grantchester, Season 3: Episode 1 (Christmas Episode) It’s the week before Christmas, 1954.  Vicar Sidney Chambers is engrossed with holiday duties, but distracted by an impossible situation – how can a vicar and a woman carrying her estranged husband’s baby ever make it work?  He is one dishy vicar with a knack for solving crimes!!!

Bravo

The Handmaid’s Tale This dark dystopian adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel is chilling and stars the wonderful  Elizabeth Moss in a story of female oppression under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.  Particularly timely given the Trump administration’s intent to roll back Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, etc.

NBC

The Night Shift returns for its 4th season this Thursday June 22. It is a throwback tv series in which a group of doctors from the Army return to work the night shift at a hospital in San Antonio.  All the usual TV Doctor show cliches but starring a very dishy Irish star named Eoin Macken as the lead doctor.  Guilty pleasure to the max!!

CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Monday – Friday at 11:35) has taken the lead among the late night talk shows because of his relentless attacks on Trump.  Must see nightly viewing!!
CBS Sunday Morning is playing in the background as I write this.  This wonderfully soothing show has been airing since 1979 and is now hosted by Jane Pauley.  Celebrity interviews, human interest stories, current events, pop culture, the arts, etc. are all covered in wonderfully inspiring and moving ways. The moment of nature at the end of the show is my Zen moment every Sunday.

HBO

Veep and Silicon Valley both air on Sunday nights. Terrific writing and performers in two very funny shows.

Audible.com

We are currently listening to the comic novel Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.  The Ibooks store describes it as the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the mot massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

Bonus Reads: Irreverent Editorials on Recent Events in the US

I was very impressed by this recent editorial in Maclean’s Magazine following the latest mass shootings:

I came across this story in Texture and thought you’d find it interesting: “America’s mass delusion” Maclean’s, June 19, 2017.

https://read.texture.ca/dl/content/mme/2017-06-19/ri/3462bcab-e02e-3541-9430-041a4a4f53c7/?src=iOSShareMail

 

In addition, my husband sent me this editorial from today’s NYTimes regarding the Trump administration’s fixation with a ban on Muslims and illegal immigrants:

Closing Thoughts

We just had a lovely Father’s Day lunch today with our children and extended family.  We’re celebrating our son David’s 35th birthday with a special dinner for him on Wednesday.  My gourmet group of almost 30 years is gathering at our place in Thornbury next weekend and 15 of us will be dining under the stars in our backyard.  Fingers crossed that the spectacular summer storm we experienced last night doesn’t make a repeat appearance next Saturday!  There were tornado warnings and one did touch down near Creemore.  That would be way too much excitement.  In the meantime, get out there and enjoy this wonderful summer weather between raindrops.

 

 

Southern Ontario touring with Americans

Our pals from Florida and North Carolina are headed to the airport as I write this.  I’m a little weary, having spent most of the last week showing our friends the sights in Toronto, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Stratford, and Thornbury.  We got to tour down memory lane as we revisited the haunts of our past lives as students at U of T where we showed them our colleges, toured through Hart House and then meandered up Philosopher’s Walk to Yorkville where we shopped and had the most expensive Gelato ever!

We also walked through Chinatown, Kensington Market,  the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Eaton Centre, The Distillery District, and many spots along Bloor St.  We feasted on Schnitzel at Country Style, Dim Sum at Mother’s Dumplings, French food at Merlot, etc.  We wanted to immerse them in all things Canadian, so we sampled Tim Bits, Poutine, Butter Tarts, etc.

They got to play golf at the Georgian Bay Club in Thornbury and we enjoyed Sunday night dinner with them and our kids at Lambton in TO. As well as seeing two plays in Stratford (Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore), we took them to see Second City’s Monday night show (Canada: The Thinking Man’s America).

Perhaps nicest of all we got to introduce them to some of our Thornbury pals with a dinner under the stars in our backyard followed by s’mores around the campfire.

Our last bit of touring came on our drive back to Toronto on Sunday with a little detour to the Cheltenham Badlands (1501 Olde Base Line Road between Creditview and Chingcousy Roads).  This little bit of Ontario geography is pretty magical.  Hidden away in Caledon, these rolling red hills are made of shale which has turned red because of iron oxide deposits and they are exposed because of erosion. Just off the Bruce Trail, they are part of the Niagara Escarpment and the roads are being reconfigured to allow for parking and better protection of this incredible area.

Our friends both confessed to not watching any TV except for sports and the occasional Netflix program, so I haven’t watched much myself this past week.  I did get them to watch The President Show (follows Trevor Noah on Thursdays at 11:30 on Comedy) as I wanted to see their reactions.  Although they both voted Republican, they are completely non-political and took the full frontal attack on Trump and his cronies with good humour.  We didn’t discuss politics very much (as we have learned from our Florida visits that it never ends well) and we also learned that many Americans seem to just tune out the daily barrage of news about the political scene.  They seem to have a sense that America will emerge from this period of total craziness the same way it always does and that “this too shall pass.”  I even got them to watch most of the Tony Awards last night which thankfully remained mostly apolitical.  For more on the Tonys (which I think went pretty smoothly under the leadership of Kevin Spacey as host), here’s an article I meant to send out yesterday:

 

We also intended to take them to see Wonder Woman, however, we were exhausted from attending Stratford, so here’s an article re the upcoming Summer films instead:

https://flipboard.com/@TheAtlantic/-your-2017-summer-movie-preview/f-ff02620e84%2Ftheatlantic.com

Live on Stage

Canada: The Thinking Man’s America (at Second City on Monday nights) was a great introduction to our friends about how Canada sees its relationship with its powerful neighbour.  It was a very sweet and gentle explanation about how insecure we are, generally not terribly patriotic, etc., i.e. totally opposite from Americans in most respects.  Although Americans were made fun of in a gentle way, I don’t think our guests were unduly offended.

Guys and Dolls (Stratford Festival Theatre) is a fabulous production of the classic Frank Loesser musical which opened on Broadway in 1950 and was remade as a film in 1955 starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.  Great dance numbers (directed and choreographed by Donna Feore), wonderful songs and tremendous performances.  Who could ask for anything more?

HMS Pinafore (Stratford Avon Theatre) is a classic Gilbert and Sullivan show.  First performed in 1878, the show is still funny with great songs and more sailors’ hornpipe dance numbers than I could ever have imagined in one show.  Word of advice, when attending two shows in one day, if possible, see the more sedate show first at a matinee.  We had toured Stratford, had a picnic lunch by the Avon River and then seen Guys and Dolls at the matinee.  We followed that up with a quick change at our lovely B&B, a boozy dinner and then the 8 pm show of Pinafore. Needless to say, we did close our eyes a few times during Pinafore, so see this show at the matinee if you are able to squeeze in two shows in one day.

TV Viewing in furtive bits and pieces

The rest of the week was hectic.  I only caught up with some of my late night comedy favourites after heading to bed.  Real Time with Bill Maher‘s Friday night show (HBO) was fascinating in its emphasis on Maher’s apology for his N-word usage.  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had great fun last night in his interpretation of the Comey testimony and his analysis of the prospects of Brexit now that Theresa May has a shaky coalition government.  The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy) continued to satirize the Washington melodrama, and I missed a new Samantha Bee Full Frontal (Comedy) program entirely!!  Much catching up to do On Demand.

Fargo and Better Call Saul (on FX and AMC, respectively continued in my absence.  I did catch the Gotham (Fox) season finale and Batman has finally emerged!!

I finally finished watching the first season of the very black comedy series Fleabag (streaming) and loved its very British sensibility.

We were able to get our friends to sit through a screening of War Machine (Netflix) with a gravelly voiced Brad Pitt playing a thinly disguised version of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who gave a career ending interview to Rolling Stone Magazine while he was commander of US forces in Afghanistan. This movie was a hybrid of a war movie and a satirical anti-war movie as it makes clear that the forces on the ground in Afghanistan did not understand their mission under Obama which was to wind down the US presence there. Very odd and Pitt’s performance is a little odd and one-note.

I was able to get my friend Lois to agree to watch another Netflix program from the BBC. Planet Earth is simply one of the most gorgeously photographed documentary series I have ever seen.  We watched The Seasonal Forest episode and gasped at seasons of fledgeling ducklings plunging out of their nests, cicada bugs going through their 17 – year spring awakening, martens hunting for squirrels, etc.  The Circle of Life is enacted every day in the forests.

I caught a bit of my Sunday morning Zen experience with CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.  Our friends were amazed that Jane Pauley is still cute as a button at 67. I adored the segment on the 40th anniversary of the Broadway musical Annie. The segment on the coast guard rescue of a Long Island fisherman thrown overboard was incredibly moving.

Closing Words

We will return to our regular routines of golf, mahjong, visiting mothers and the rest of our families and commuting between TO and Thornbury this week.  We are off to pick up a new Ford Explorer SUV for George today and I am going to test drive some Mini Cooper Countryman SUVs.  I love the car’s cheerful and irreverent  demeanour.  I’ve been driving an Audi Q5 for the last several years and as we have moved into a condo with an underground parking lot with columns that seem to jump out at you from nowhere, I am looking for a shorter, narrower vehicle.  This cute little Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 and I have fallen a little bit in love with it.  If it turns out to be a disappointing ride, I will likely revert to an Audi Q3 which seems to be most highly rated for its quiet ride and safety features and I have thoroughly enjoyed my Q5 over the years, even though it has been stolen and had a tree fall on top of it. Not to mention the odd close encounter with pillars.

Summer is definitely here now with temperatures in the high eighties and low nineties (oh my gosh, one week with Americans and I have forgotten my Celsius), so enjoy this glorious weather!

 

Our North Carolina friends visit Canada for the first time…

We had a lovely Thornbury weekend, celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary with some longtime friends. We hiked the Loree Forest portion of the Bruce Trail, sampled flights of beer, wine and cider at the Thornbury Cidery, and then had our traditional lobster dinner followed by dessert and an amazing red wine around the fire pit under a cloudless star filled sky.

It’s going to be a busy week of sightseeing and theatre going as we take our Florida neighbours (summer home is Pinehurst, NC) on their first ever tour of Southern Ontario (not to mention Canada!). We’re going to introduce them to Toronto’s multicultural diversity by taking them on the subway, touring St Lawrence Market and Kensington; Yorkville and the Eaton Centre; Chinatown, Little India and Greektown; Little Portugal; the Lakeshore; Casa Loma; High Park, etc. We may take them to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake if they are keen. We are headed to Stratford to see Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore and stay overnight in a B&B. We’ll finish our tour with a weekend in Thornbury, some golf at the Georgian Bay Club and a backyard barbecue with friends. It doesn’t look like a good week for TV so you’ll all have to watch on my behalf.

Summer Previews

Here’s a helpful summary of new shows coming this summer:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/25-exciting-new-summer-tv-shows-to-make-sure-you-never-see-the-sun?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

On the Big Screen

The Exception with Christopher Plummer is opening in limited release this week.  I saw it at TIFF last year and absolutely loved it.  A German soldier tries to determine if the Dutch resistance has planted a spy to infiltrate the home of Kaiser Wilhelm (Christopher Plummer, who steals every scene he’s in) in Holland during the onset of WW11, but falls for a young Jewish Dutch woman during his investigation.

Streaming/On Demand

Sleeping Giant is a Canadian film from 2015 which has been described as a masterpiece.  While spending the summer in cottage country on the shores of Lake Superior, three teens cope with boredom by testing the limits of their experience.

Fleabag This wonderful British comedy series can be streamed from Amazon.  It’s a six-part series adapted from the award-winning play about a young woman trying to cope with life in London while coming to terms with a recent tragedy.  Very naughty!!

Animal Kingdom This very dark series has returned for its second season on TNT and will be seen in Canada on Bravo.  It’s a fabulous story about a crime family in Southern California led by a most unmaternal granny played by the still attractive Ellen Barkin.  Very noir!!

Netflix

House of Cards Here’s a terrific analysis of how this season of House of Cards is having difficulty making fiction as interesting as fact:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/under-trump-house-of-cards-sees-capitolgains/article35123619/?ref=https://www.theglobeandmail.com&

Bloodline continues its noir story of a family of adult siblings who find that their pat secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep of a brother returns home.

All my favourites

You can still catch Genius (National Geographic), Fargo (FX),
Better Call Saul (AMC), and The Americans (FX) before their seasons come to an end.

Still Star Crossed debuted last week on ABC.  It’s the continuation of Romeo and Juliet, picking up from their untimely deaths.  My head is still reeling from the insanity!

Gotham  (Fox) is one of my favourite guilty pleasure shows!

Sunday Night Madness

Things have slowed down as PBS takes a break and several series are ending their seasons including The LeftoversVeep and Silicon Valley.  John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight returns for a new episode tonight.

Comic Relief

Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher HBO) got into a bit of trouble last week for using the N-word in a very unfunny joke.  He’s still not in as much trouble as poor Kathy Griffin for her stunt with a decapitated Donald Trump. She has now lost many jobs and seems genuinely apologetic for her actions.
Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal (Comedy) continues her full-on attack of all things Trumpian.
Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show (Comedy) continues to poke fun at the regime.
Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show  (CBS) was on a vacation break last week but returns for new shows this week.
The President Show (Comedy) has been flying under mot people’s radar since it debuted 6 weeks ago (Thursdays at 11:30).  Here’s how IMDB describes it:  The losers dominating late-night are in for a rude awakening when the smartest, handsomest, most winningest president of all time enters the fray to address the nation.  The President Show brings television back to the people – by putting a plutocratic billionaire behind the desk. It stars a comic named Anthony Atamanuik as Trump and it’s very funny.  Give it a look!!

Zen TV

CBS Sunday Morning (9 am Sundays on CBS) continues to be my most relaxing hour and a half of TV. Gotta love its take on popular culture.

Fareed Zakaria GPS is a level headed look at current events every Sunday on CNN at 10 am.

Sunday Night with Megan Kelly debuted tonight (NBC at 7).  I thought she was very brave interviewing Putin (surely the scariest man on earth).  The rest of the show was remarkably like 60 Minutes with a team of investigative reporters assigned to segments about elephants in Africa, pharmaceuticals that kill people, etc. I really enjoyed the show!

Closing Words

I’m looking forward to showing our Florida friends what their neighbours to the North are really like when we’re not basking in the Florida sunshine.  Enjoy your week, whatever it holds for you.  Fingers crossed that the taste of sunshine and warmth we had this weekend continues.  Everything looks so much better when the sun is shining!!