Bingewatching by the warm glow of the TV…

Well, as luck would have it, I managed to come down with a terrible head cold at the same time as I was prepping for one of those medical procedures which involves spending copious amounts of time racing to the washroom.  As a result, I was able to hunker down and do some serious watching.  Here are some recommendations:

Netflix

The Crown Season 2 I absolutely loved this season.  Princess Margaret is heartbreaking,;Anthony Armstrong-Jones is played by Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey); Edward VIII is both touching and repugnant; Harold MacMillan is brought down by scandal; Philip and Elizabeth struggle within their marriage. Fabulous production values! Wonderful performances from all.

HBO

Smilf I love this series about a struggling single mother in Boston.

Bravo/TNT

Good Behaviour I caught up with this wonderful series that I had started watching in the US.  Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) is terrific as a thief and a con artist whose life is always one wrong turn, one bad decision, from implosion.

Streaming/Hulu

Shut Eye Season 2 I do like this noirish  10 episode series about a fortune teller/con man. Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) stars.

Streaming/Superchannel

Apple Tree Yard This 4 episode miniseries starring Emily Watson comes from the BBC.  A provocative thriller which sees an eminent scientist caught up in a damaging and compromising lie.  Based on the novel by Louise Doughty. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/uk-drama-apple-tree-yard-is-as-steamy-as-it-is-woebegone/article37016227/

Acceptable Risk This 6 episode miniseries is an Irish Canadian coproduction made for Acorn TV.  While not quite as engaging as some British crime shows, this one features Canadian actors!  Watch for Geordie Johnson among others.  When her pharmaceutical executive husband Lee is murdered in Montreal, Sarah Manning (of Dublin) comes to realize that she knows nothing about his past. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/acceptable-risk-is-a-first-rate-fine-scandinavian-style-thriller/article36862360/

Peaky Blinders Season 4 continues its dark madness as Tommy Shelby goes to war against a Mafia hitman. Crazy union activity going on in the background.  This show is totally bonkers.

Amazon

The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel This series is about a NYC housewife in the late 50’s who decides to try stand up comedy.  Very atmospheric, with great music, costumes and set design.  It’s a warm nostalgic trip through a very stylized NYC.  Great performances from a wonderful cast (look for Canadian Luke Kirby) as Lenny Bruce.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about it:

Showcase/SYFY

Happy This totally bonkers show stars Christopher Meloni as an injured hitman who befriends a perky blue flying horse that only he can see.  I’m not sure I will stay with this one.

CBC

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas is a wonderful CBC documentary.  It’s a fun look at the great Christmas songs of the 20th Century that were actually written by Jewish composers.  Here’s a link:

https://watch.cbc.ca/favourite-holiday-flicks/-/dreaming-of-a-jewish-christmas/38e815a-00d6259d69e

Live TV Alert

A Christmas Story Live!  Sunday Dec. 17 on Fox.  If you loved the original 1983 version with Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, you may warm to this live  revival as a musical. Ralph wishes for nothing more than a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas.  This adaptation of the Broadway hit stars Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick and Jane Krakowski.  Enjoy!!

Moment of Zen

I will be recording my soothing CBS Sunday Morning Show as I head out to brunch tomorrow morning to celebrate my mum’s 99th birthday with the whole family at her nursing home.  We are then headed to see the new Star Wars film with our boys, and then attending a neighbourhood party. We are now in a serious countdown toward Christmas!  I must head for the mall!!  Pray for me.

 

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Let it snow!

 

At last, the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful. Now I can warm myself by the glow of the TV without feeling that I must justify staying indoors when the weather outside is balmy.  There are plentiful reasons to binge over the next week. Here are some recommendations:

Upcoming Alert

A Christmas Story Live! Dec 17 on Fox.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about the show:

Netflix

The Crown Season 2  At last the waiting is over.  Season 2 is even better than Season 1 and I thought Season 1 was the best thing I have ever watched on TV.  Treat yourself and curl up on the couch to watch this gorgeously produced series with a cozy throw and a lovely cup of tea.

Dark We finished watching this German time travel series before we left Naples and it looks like there will be a Season 2. It’s very intriguing!  The direct opposite of the above as it is so dark and foreboding.

 

CBC – I’ve Missed You!

The Loch (Available On Demand) In scrolling through all the shows I’ve been missing, I came across this Scottish mystery series.  It starts out promisingly enough with a floating body weighted down by a curling stone (floating bodies seem to be a common theme in recent mystery series this year, Top of the Lake Season 2 being another one). Sadly this series gets weighted down with innumerable red herrings before finally drawing to its painful close.

Top of the Lake Season 2 (Available On Demand) This series starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Nicole Kidman is mesmerizing.  Just as good as Season 1, but now she’s in Sydney investigating a body washed up on a beach.

 

CTV – Catching up with you too!

The Indian Detective Starring Russell Peters, this fish out of water series follows a Toronto cop to India where he smirks his way through solving mysteries.  I used to really like Russell Peters, but I don’t find him as compelling as an actor.  I may not persevere with this one.

Superchannel/Streaming/Epix

Get Shorty This wonderful 11 episode series is a delightfully wry comedy about mobsters making movies in LA.  Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano and Sean Bridgers star.  Very dry humour based on Elmore Leonard’s novel and subsequent film.

Hulu/Streaming

Shut Eye 10 episodes of Season 2 are now available. This a wonderful suspense series about a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling storefronts and runner of various cons.  Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is wonderful as the con artist.

STARZ/W in Canada/ past seasons on Netflix 

Outlander This is still one of the most romantic shows on TV.

Superchannel/past seasons on Netflix

Peaky Blinders This bonkers British crime series isn’t for everyone.  Adrian Brody is a hoot as a Mafia hitman. Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby a gypsy crime lord.

The CW and Netflix

Riverdale This is not your grandparents’ version of Archie comics.  There’s sex, violence and darkness here, but it is a lot of fun.

Arrow OMG, will the happiness between Oliver and Felicity last?  Campy and fun.

Showtime/HBO Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, I can’t look away from this comedy series about the reprehensible Gallagher clan of Chicago.

 

AMC

The Walking Dead The Zombies are still after the survivors.  Tonight’s mid-season finale promises a big showdown between Rick and Negan (the arch villain of the past 3 seasons). I am wrung out by this darkest of dramas.

ABC

Designated Survivor Ludicrous beyond words, I think I am giving up on this one.

FOX

Gotham is a campy thrill ride about the young Bat Man.  Great Fun!

Comic Relief

Saturday Night Live This venerable series still manages to wring laughter from today’s headlines.  The sketches may be a bit lame, but the Weekend Update segment is usually worth a look.

Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee all manage to make today’s news funnier.

Moments of Zen

CBS Sunday Morning, Face the Nation (both CBS), Fareed Zakaria, Reliable Sources (both CNN) all try to explain the inexplicable.

Parting Words

Busy week coming up with a Thornbury Christmas party today, my book group, gourmet group and playgroup (longtime neighbourhood friends, not necessarily theatre lovers) parties all happening and ending next weekend with my mother’s 99th birthday party. So many celebrations! Please remember to pace yourselves over the next couple of holiday week: take Uber instead of driving after festive beverages, and try to avoid the frustration/exhaustion/rage cycle when searching for parking spots at malls. Enjoy this magical season wherever you are!

News Alert: OMG, I forgot about The Crown!!

I was remiss in my rush to publish on Sunday in not saying anything about the Second Season debut of The Crown on Netflix on December 8.  As Season 1 was quite possibly the best thing I have ever watched on TV, if you haven’t caught up with it yet, there is still time before Season 2 starts.

Oh yes, and in case you are still wondering about Dark the first ever German series originally produced for Netflix,  here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/new-netflix-drama-dark-is-a-beautiful-bleak-thriller/article37172474/

Full disclosure on Dark, I have only 2 episodes left to view and can’t wait! Messing with the time/space continuum is never a good thing.

I’ve also had a couple of friends mention recently how much they enjoyed Broadchurch on Netflix. It is a wonderful British crime series (starring David Tennant – Dr. Who, and Olivia Colman – the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown Season 3).  I must admit, Broadchurch was a little dark, even for my tastes.  I suggest counter programming this Christmas season, so if you love British crime and want something more life affirming, try Grantchester (originally made for PBS Masterpiece Mystery/ITV) starring James Norton as the dishy vicar with a knack for solving crimes in a small British village near Cambridge after WWII.  Norton is so popular, his movie schedule may prevent his return for a 4th season of the show.  You may recall him from Happy Valley, another British crime series where he plays a radically different role as a deranged killer.

Speaking of deranged killers, many friends are now enjoying The Fall with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. You can see much more of Dornan in the 50 Shades of Grey films, if you’re wondering why he seems so familiar.  Not that I’m recommending them as they are truly awful.

One of the best crime series I’ve seen recently on Netflix is Mindhunter. Starring Jonathan Groff (Glee), this excellent series is about the origins of the FBI behavioural science unit which developed criminal profiling.  Since Charles Manson is mentioned frequently as someone they would have loved to interview, and since his recent death, this series couldn’t be more timely.

Anyhow, I am now going back to my packing as our flight leaves this evening and I will be racing from the golf course to the limo.  Enjoy your day, and don’t forget about The Crown this weekend if you are a fan.

 

 

Dark or what?

Well, again, the TV schedule is in a bit of a doldrum as new programming is not yet available and many shows are on hiatus.  However, I have rediscovered Amazon and Netflix continues to provide new programs.  My husband pointed out that I have used the adjective “dark” a record number of times.  See if you detect a theme in my TV viewing.  Here are some recommendations:

New Shows Coming to TV

Here’s an article from The Hollywood Reporter about some upcoming new programming:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/18-anticipated-new-tv-shows-2018-1063308

Streaming/Netflix (past seasons)/Superchannel in Canada

Peaky Blinders This bonkers BBC crime show is now in its 4th season.  Starring the charismatic Cillian Murphy, this saga of a British crime family takes endless twists and turns and is always surprising.  Watch for Adrian Brophy as a Mafia hit man this season.

Amazon

Tin Star I had started watching this modern day Western on a trip to Scotland and was unaware until recently that it was available in the US on Amazon. It is a Sky TV production from Britain, but is actually set and filmed in Alberta, Canada and is chock full of Canadian actors.  Although I initially found the premise (a Brit comes to a small Canadian oil patch town as their new Sherriff) a bit unbelievable, I decided to give the show a second chance.  Watch for Genevieve O’Reilly (Glitch), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Christopher Heyerdahl (reliable villain from Hell on Wheels, Damnation, etc.).  The plot is full of cliches and unbelievable coincidences.  Tim Roth as the sheriff seems to be channelling many other roles he has played but he is always watchable.

Netflix

Dark This new original TV series is from Germany (dubbed into English).  A family saga with a supernatural twist set in a German town, where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among 4 families.  Requires close viewing as there are so many characters introduced in the first episode.  Addictive, so give yourself time to watch all 10 episodes. It has been compared to the wonderful Stranger Things. There’s a cave that is reminiscent of the Upside Down.
The Punisher This very dark series from Marvel is definitely not for the faint of heart as it is relentlessly violent and is about a vigilante who is out to avenge the murder of his family.  13 very dark episodes.
Glitch Season 2 I absolutely loved this very dark series from Australia. The second season is now available on Netflix and I found it just as addictive as the first season. Six people have risen from the dead in perfect health. 6 episodes in each season.

Epix/Streaming/Superchannel in Canada

Berlin Station There are two episodes left in the second season of this espionage series.  Starring a great cast that includes the wonderful Richard Jenkins, this season deals with the emergence of a far right party in Germany that seems to be influenced and funded by the US State Department.  Art mirrors life?

AMC

The Walking Dead Perhaps the darkest post Apocalyptic series of all, the survivors are still fighting for their lives.  Now in Season 8!!

TNT

Good Behaviour The second season of this series still has 2 episodes to go.  Michelle Dockery (the haughty  Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) stars as a thief and con artist in South Carolina.  She is wonderful in this terrific suspense series.

USA

Damnation An epic saga about the secret history of the 1930’s American heartland, centres on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden.  This 12 episode series still has 8 episodes to go in its first season.  It is a battle between two brothers on both sides of the labour struggles of the Depression era.  It’s a modern day Western set in Iowa that highlights issues of racism, poverty and sexual inequality. Maybe not for everyone, but I am intrigued by the layers that are lifted off the major characters with each new episode.

Showtime/HBO in Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, the series follows the adventures of the hapless Gallagher clan in Chicago. I can’t look away!!
SMILF I can’t help rooting for this struggling single mom in Boston.

Starz

Outlander There are still two episodes left in Season 3 of this wonderfully romantic adventure series. Jamie and Claire are lovers for the ages.

NBC

This is Us Endlessly maudlin and sentimental, I’m only watching it because my friends are addicted.  I have completely given in to societal pressure.

ABC

The Good Doctor I started watching this one about an autistic young doctor because my friends love it.  Now I’m totally hooked.

Designated Survivor With only 2 episodes left as the season hurtles towards its second season mid-season finale, it has gone beyond ludicrous. Originally, an intriguing premise of a nebbishy guy who becomes President because of a terrorist attack, it has now gone into a strange parallel universe (a la The West Wing), where the fictional president is incredibly articulate and good hearted.  He has a simple answer to each crisis he faces and he is both intelligent and has integrity.  Oh, if only….

Comic Relief

Despite the disappointment of last week’s incredibly lame The President Show Christmas Special (on Comedy Central in the US and Comedy Channel in Canada), I continue to hang in with Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and now increasingly, Seth Meyers, and Samantha Bee.  All four do a great job of skewering the politicians and events of the day. (Other regular pundits, John Oliver and Bill Maher are currently on hiatus).

Zen Moments

CBS has the two most relaxing and informative shows on the air:  both CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes never fail to inform and reassure in these troublesome times.  Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN similarly manages to explain the events of the day and somehow reassure that great minds can deal with these inexplicable events and trends. In these times of almost daily revelations of sexual harassment, it is very comforting to be able to find public affairs programming that reminds us that there are other issues and events we can be thinking about.

Parting Words

We head back to Ontario on Tuesday to celebrate the holidays with our families and friends.  Before then, there is golf to be played, dinners with friends here, and bocce and exercise classes to attend.  Good luck to everyone who is out there madly ordering gifts online and dealing with the pre-Christmas madness in the bricks and mortar stores.  I have been in complete denial thus far re the necessary seasonal preparations.  I think a reckoning is in store for me when I return to the Great White North. Safe travels for everyone who will be on the move in December.

 

Netflix, I just can’t quit you…

As this past Thanksgiving week has not included much original TV programming, it was a great opportunity to catch up with some Netflix and Streaming programs.  I also actually made it out to a real movie theatre twice!!  Here are some recommendations for you:

On the Big Screen

Ladybird This is the ultimate coming of age movie. Irish actress Saiorse Ronin (Brooklyn) plays a teenage girl in Sacramento, CA who is coming to terms with her relationships with her family, her friends, and ultimately who she really is. Delightful in every way.  The performance by Laurie Metcalfe (Rosanne) as her conflicted mother will break your heart.  Tracy Letts (Divorce) is also very touching as her long suffering father. I also loved the very sensitive and unjudgemental way that the film treats the emerging homosexuality of one of its central characters (trying really hard not to spoil things here). There isn’t anything I didn’t love about this film and I recommend it unreservedly.
The Man Who Invented Christmas This movie is not for most children. As our screening was preceded by trailers for at least 6 kids’ movies, it would appear the distributors are marketing it as a kiddie pic, but parents should be aware
that it requires a rudimentary knowledge of Dickens’ work. A neighbouring 12 year old’s overheard comment at the end, was that the movie was very confusing. It’s a biopic of Dickens’ process of writing A Christmas Carol and consists largely of his imaginary conversations with the characters in the book. Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey) is wonderful, but the movie is rather frenetic and chaotic for most tastes. It is a beautiful film that plunges you into the Victorian era of debtors’ prison, workhouses, lame children who die tragically, etc.  It’s a very broad take on a past era.  If you are desperate to get yourself into the Christmas spirit (as I am, because all this Florida sunshine is very distracting when you should be thinking about gift giving), this film may get you into the holiday mood.  The film does emphasize the essential message of the Christmas season of reconciliation, generosity and hope.

Netflix

Godless This epic stars Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jack O’Connell (Unbreakable)and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) in an epic saga of the American west. Beautiful cinematography, terrific casting in all the supporting roles including Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) and Scoot McNairy (Halt and Catch Fire) as an unforgettable brother and sister. This intricately told tale of sin and redemption is beautifully written. It requires a little patience as the first episode is a little slow paced, but the action picks up and the story is intriguing. It’s a great use of Netflix long form storytelling as it takes 7 episodes lasting between 40 and 80 minutes to tell. The many themes that are part of the narrative include sexual equality, racism, homosexuality, power, family, loss and the power of love. It’s complex and languidly paced, but I thought it was a tremendously moving series. A masterpiece in my opinion.

Wanted Season 2  I did get carried away by this terrific Australian suspense series. It’s a female buddy/road story of two women on the run from corrupt cops, honest cops and villainous bad guys. The second season takes place largely in New Zealand and is wonderful to look at. Great casting in all the main and supporting roles. If you’re wondering who the actor playing Will is, you may recognize Dean O’Gorman (Anders from The Almighty Johnsons, a wonderfully funny NZ TV series worth looking for).

A Christmas Prince is a trifle made for family viewing. Every cliche about reluctant royalty is written into this script. No offensive language or scenes make any appearances in this strange little film. I was looking for a film that a houseguest might find palatable, but this film is really almost a parody of its genre about a runaway prince and the journalist who is furtively writing a story about him. Very silly indeed.

The Punisher I am still persevering with this very dark Marvel offering.  A revenge drama, I am now up to Episode 5 of its 13 episode season. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) stars as Frank Castle, the ruthless avenger who is still seeking retribution for the many wrongs done to him and his family.  Not for the faint of heart.

Streaming

Peaky Blinders has returned for a 4th season (it will be available on US Netflix on Dec. 21).  This bonkers British crime series takes place in 1920’s Birmingham, England. Cillian Murphy is a mesmerizing crime lord, Tom Shelby.  Adrian Brophy guest stars as a Mafia hitman from NYC who has come to exact revenge for Shelby’s killing of a family member.

Berlin Station This espionage series is my substitute for Homeland.  Murky and always operating in the grey area between friends and enemies, this series takes place in the new cold war where Neo Nazis are on the rise in Germany, and they may be funded by the US State department.  Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Rhys Iffans, Ashley Judd star.

Apple Tree Yard Oh my, in Britain an affair goes terribly wrong when a married scientist begins an affair with a government spook.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/uk-drama-apple-tree-yard-is-as-steamy-as-it-is-woebegone/article37016227/

HULU and Streaming

Chance Starring Hugh Laurie (House), this self destructive neuropsychiatrist is on the trail of a serial killer.

Showtime and Streaming

Shameless Now in its 8th season, this family dramedy follows the adventures of the Gallagher family led by reprobate Frank (William H. Macy).  For its fans, you simply can’t look away.

SMILF I love this series about a single mother struggling to raise her child in Boston. Great performances and great writing.  Look for Connie Britton (Nashville) as a spoiled rich bitch who employs Bridgette to tutor her children.

The Girlfriend Experience Now in its second season, this series has become very complicated.  Airing in two half-hour episodes weekly, we have two different protagonists in two different storylines.  One deals with politics and the other with the witness protection program.  Still about escorts, this season requires very close attention.

STARZ

Outlander If you haven’t caught up with this romantic series (now in its 4th season) yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It does require suspension of disbelief as a British nurse is transported back in time from the 1940’s to the 1740’s.  Breathtaking!!

NBC

This is Us Maudlin and hopelessly sentimental, I am just watching this to see what all the fuss is about.

The Brave This by the numbers Special Ops show miraculously wraps up most of their complicated extraction dramas within 60 minutes.

ABC

The Good Doctor I started watching this breakout hit just to see what the fuss was all about, and now darn it, I am hooked by this medical procedural.  I adore the lead character for his struggle with autism and Savant syndrome.  Addictive!

AMC

The Walking Dead Now in its 8th season, I hearbye swear, that this is my last season of watching.  I’m so darned tired of having my hopes dashed that this band of survivors will somehow escape the cycle of having their hopes dashed that there will somehow be a way out of this post apocalyptic nightmare.

Comic Relief

Coming up this week on Comedy Central, The President Show returns for “I Came Up With Christmas”, a Christmas special.  I love this series where Anthony Atamaniuk goes far beyond Alec Baldwin’s very superficial parody of Trump’s hair and facial expressions.  Atamaniuk really explores Trump’s behaviour and manages to show his pettiness, childishness, desire to be loved, and thirst for power.  Look for it Thursday night at 10 in the US (it will air in Canada on Wed at 10 on Comedy Network).  I will be continuing to watch my favourites, Colbert, Noah, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries for their efforts to make us laugh at the events of the day.

Parting Words

The weather in south Florida has been remarkable this past fall.  We have one and a half weeks to go before we depart for the wintry north and the Christmas season.  We will glory in golf outings, Mahjong games, Bocce practice, exercise classes and even an upcoming basket ball game in Miami before we leave.  Enjoy the season wherever you are.

 

Heartbreak! I lost a post

I knew my general lack of technical expertise would catch up to me and it just happened as I lost a morning’s worth of blog writing.  I will try to recap, but I sadly assumed my work had been saved as I navigated through the site.  Fingers crossed this time.  Here’s a brief recap of my first attempt to give you some recommendations for the week:

 

On the Big Screen

Thor: Ragnarok I did enjoy this film even though it suffered from CGI bloat.  Despite interminable battle scenes, there is still much humour in this film.  Directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealand director previously responsible for the delightful What we Do in the Shadows (vampire film parody) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (coming of age/buddy film), Waititi has a cameo role in this film as the voice of Korg.  He steals every scene he’s in. Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth also deliver very fine comic performances.

HBO

War Dog This touching documentary recounts the stories of the K9s specifically trained for Special Ops.  The unbreakable bond between their handlers and the dogs is very poignantly retold.

A United Kingdom This touching film tells the story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams put his kingdom into political and diplomatic upheaval.  Very timely, as Mugabe’s stranglehold over neighbouring Zimbabwe finally comes to an end after 40 years of dictatorship.

Netflix

Mudbound  This is a very gritty portrayal of the return of two servicemen to rural Mississippi after WWII.  The film doesn’t shrink from a very stark portrait of racism and takes a very violent turn at the end.  Coincidentally, my favourite film of all time, The Best Years of our Lives (1946) deals with very similar subject matter in a much more sentimental way, complete with Hollywood happy ending.

The Punisher This is the latest in the Marvel franchise that includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  This revenge fantasy is unrelentingly violent in the first three episodes that I watched.  As the season is 13 episodes long, I fear it is a real example of Netflix bloat where long form storytelling unnecessarily draws out a story so that it becomes tedious.

Showtime

SMILF I totally enjoyed this new series about a single mom trying to survive.  It reminded me of The Florida Project, another look at a single mom on the margins.  Frankie, the lead character, is incredibly complex.  She’s bright enough to tutor a Harvard University entrant, yet has a difficult relationship with her mentally unstable mom (played fearlessly by Rosie O’Donnell) and a somewhat loving relationship with her ex.

Here’s what John Doyle had to say in the Globe and Mail:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/smilf-a-small-intimate-show-and-typical-of-top-tv-right-now/article36947806/

 

HULU and Superchannel in Canada

Chance This is the latest series from Hugh Laurie (House).  Here he plays a forensic neuro-psychiatrist on the trail of a serial killer.  Great suspense!

Parting Words

I have departed from my usual format this week so if you want to see some of my usual recommendations, have a look through my archives.  It is US Thanksgiving this week, so I’m going on a bit of a holiday and shortening this post.  So sad that I lost my first attempt.  It’s time to kick back and watch my weekly moment of Zen:  CBS Sunday Morning.  It’s my moment of calm in an otherwise turbulent world.  Enjoy your week wherever you are!!

 

 

Netflix made me do it…

 

Gorgeous weather here has beckoned, and I actually spent a glorious morning birdwatching with a naturalist and several neighbours as we drove golf carts around our course and spotted many varieties of birds. In the meantime when I wasn’t glued to Netflix watching the fabulous Australian series Wanted, I did manage to catch up with a few series and films.  Here are some suggestions for you:

The Big Screen

The Florida Project is a small independent film with only 1 professional actor in it.  Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of a welfare motel in Orlando, Florida. Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadow of Disney World.  The film is poignant in its depiction of life lived on the margins of the American Dream and the Magical Kingdom. The children’s performances are truly magical.

 

Netflix

Wanted is a fast paced Australian suspense series about two strangers who become prime suspects in a murder.  I loved this series for the wonderful performances from the two lead actresses, the Aussie locations, and the incredible suspense that builds as the two characters are relentlessly pursued by both good and bad guys.  I watched the first 6 episodes in 1 day and was delighted to see that the second season is already available on Netflix.  Damn you Netflix, I just can’t quit you!

Streaming

The Hatton Garden Job is a small British caper film based on the true story of the 2015 burglary of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company by 4 elderly men.  The total stolen was valued at 200 million British pounds and has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”   I actually watched it for its stars Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Joely Richardson and then was charmed by its cast of British character actors who played the elderly thieves.
Berlin Station continues its tales of espionage in the new cold war.  Great performances from Ashley Judd, Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Rhys Iffans, etc.  If you are missing Homeland, this is a good alternative.
Good Behaviour stars Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)  as Letty Raines, a thief and con artist whose life is always one wrong turn, one bad decision from implosion.  She hooks up with a charming paid assassin and the thrill ride continues in Season Two of this very entertaining suspense series.
Outlander is truly the most romantic series ever made for TV as an English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.  Season 3 continues to enchant as we follow the story of the two star-crossed lovers through time.  I usually hate the time travel genre, but I have made an exception for this marvellous epic romance.
Chance stars Hugh Laurie (House) as a forensic neuropsychiatrist who reluctantly enters a dangerous and violent world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness. This second season follows the story of a serial killer who is pursued by Chance.

Star Trek: Discovery is the latest reboot of this perennial favourite sci-fi series.  Starring Jason Isaacs as the latest Captain, the series takes place ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, as the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms and as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.

 

ABC

The Good Doctor is about Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome, who is recruited into the paediatric surgical unit of a prestigious hospital.  From the team that created House, this series has actually become a huge hit, and people are intrigued by the main character’s journey.  I resisted watching this one (because honestly, I can’t possibly watch everything worth watching on TV) and it has been the breakout show of this season), however, I am now hooked.
Designated Survivor started out with the intriguing premise of what could happen when everyone in line for the Presidency is wiped out by a terrorist attack and a nebbishy cabinet secretary played by Kiefer Sutherland ascends to the presidency.  The plot lines often veer towards ludicrousness, but I can’t stop watching.

NBC

The Brave is a total guilty pleasure show about good guys confronting bad guys as a special operations unit stages rescues and interventions around the globe.

This is Us I resisted watching this during Season 1, and then relented for Season 2, since it was the breakout hit show of last season and I had to see what the fuss was all about.  Although, I still find it maudlin and overly sentimental, I’m not giving up until I find out how the Dad died.

CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert continues to amuse with Colbert’s humorous take on the news of the day.

FX

Better Things is a raw and poignant series about a single mother trying to survive in LA.  Starring Pamela Adlon, hitherto known for her work with Louis CK.  As a result of his recent notoriety, Adlon has received an unwanted amount of attention for her relationship with him.

FXX

You’re the Worst is a sitcom which enters on two toxic, self-destructive people who fall in love and attempt a relationship.  Now in its fourth season, the series hasn’t maintained the quality it started out with and is actually quite cringeworthy for the most part, but I have to see how this relationship ends.

 

HBO

Real Time with Bill Maher and  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver both continue to amaze me with their satirical comedy on current events.
Tracy Ullman’s Show showcases her amazing skills as a mimic.  Her Judi Dench alone is worth watching for.

 

AMC

The Walking Dead is still on the air in its 8th season.  Who knew you could watch Zombies attack the living for this long?  Same old, same old.  I can’t look away.

The CW

Riverdale,  Dynasty, and Arrow are all pretty silly (especially the lame reboot of Dynasty from the 80’s) but they are awfully entertaining.  I know they are shows for teenagers to watch, but they fascinate me all the same.

National Geographic

The Long Road Home is a new miniseries about American forces occupying Iraq who are ambushed in a Baghdad neighbourhood.  I have recorded the first episode and will watch a few episodes together once I summon the stamina to watch a series about this terrible endless war.

USA

Damnation I actually really enjoyed the first episode of this epic saga about the secret history of the 1930’s American heartland.  It centers on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden.

Starz

The Girlfriend Experience Our journey into the dark side of the escort business continues as the series now divides itself in two with two separate 1/2 hour storylines each airing. In one story, Erica Myles, the finance director at Right to Action, a Republican super PAC, enlists the help of an escort, Anna Garner, in an attempt to gain access to a secret, dark money donor network.  In the second storyline, Bria Jones a former escort, enters the witness protection program in order to escape an abusive relationship. When she is relocated to a small tow in New Mexico, she finds the escort world beckoning her once again.

PBS

Durrell’s in CorfuPoldark, and The Collection make up the PBS Sunday Night Masterpiece Theatre program. Delightful and soothing.  Period costumes and British accents, who could ask for anything more.

Fox

The Orville is a tremendously entertaining Star Trek parody from Seth MacFarlane.
The Gifted comes to us from Marvel’s Universe. Starring Stephen Moyer (from True Blood), it takes place in a world where gutted humans are treated with distrust and fear, where an institute for mutants battles to achieve peaceful co-existence with humanity.
Gotham, now in its 4th season, tells the story behind Detective James Gordon’s rise to prominence in Gotham City in the years before Batman’s arrival.  Campy and kitschy, this show is not for everyone, but I love its over the top performances and crazy plot lines.

Comedy Central/Channel

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is a very funny take on today’s news.

The Jim Jeffries Show is a delightful take on today’s news. As an Aussie, he takes a very sanguine view of today’s headlines.

 

TBS

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is a fearless satirical take on today’s news.

Current Events

CBS Sunday Morning is my Sunday morning alternative to Church worship.
The show takes a relaxed approach to human interest stories and celebrity profiles.  My moment of Zen.
Fareed Zakariah GPS takes a very measured approach to explaining world events.

Parting Words

There are some new shows coming up this November and I will write about them next week.  Until then, get outside and enjoy the weather if it’s wonderful where you are, and if not, stay in, stay warm and enjoy the pleasures of the winter season.

Bingeworthy shows continue…

 

It’s been a busy week as some of my regular activities (golf, Book Group, fitness) have started up and  I’ve also been catching up on some shows I’ve been meaning to watch.  I’ve watched so many of these programs on demand, that I’m henceforth leaving specific time slots for you to track down. Our cable system Comcast Xfinity in Florida includes a voice activated feature that allows you to search for your program simply by naming the show you wish to watch, so it has enabled me to watch whatever I’m interested in very easily. Here are some recommendations:

 

HBO

Spielberg is a wonderful documentary made for HBO.  I can’t recommend it highly enough if you are interested in the evolution of this extraordinary filmmaker .
Real Time with Bill Maher continues every Friday night with new shows in which Maher’s panels deal with today’s political realities.
Last Week tonight with John Oliver on Sunday nights continues to try to elucidate and educate on current events.

Tracy Ullman does hilarious impersonations of celebrities and running characters she has created herself on Friday nights following Bill Maher.

 

Streaming

Star Trek: Discovery takes place ten years before Kirk, Spock and The Enterprise.  The USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.  Fabulous cast includes Sonequa Martin-Green (from The Walking Dead), Jason Isaacs, and Anthony Rapp (the actor who has accused Kevin Spacey of assaulting him when he was 14).

Chance (Season 2) is a suspense series that stars Hugh Laurie (House) as a forensic neuro-psychiatrist who reluctantly enters a dangerous and violent world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness.

Berlin Station is a murky espionage drama set in Berlin with a fabulous ensemble cast that features Richard Jenkins, Richard Armitage, Rhys Ifans, etc.
Good Behaviour is a fabulously entertaining suspense series featuring Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) where she plays a reformed grifter trying to raise her son.
Outlander is still the most romantic show on TV.
The Infiltrator is a Bryan Cranston film about infiltrating the financial system that underwrote the Pablo Escobar cartel.
Thor and Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers: The age of Ultron are all films I have been trying to catch up on before subjecting myself to the latest in the series, Thor: Ragnarok (now in theatres).  Full disclosure, I loved Thor, have set up Thor: The Dark World to record today, and gave up on The Avengers… after about 10 minutes. The latest instalment is directed by the same New Zealand director (Taika Waititi) who did The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What we do in the Shadows, so like those two previous films, Ragnarok is apparently filled with sly humour and has had marvellous reviews.

Netflix

The Centre Will Not Hold is a documentary bio-pic about the life of writer Joan Didion.  It is touching and sad and recreates a literary world that we only dimly remember now. It’s directed with great affection by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.
Alias Grace (like the marvellous Anne of Green Gables) is a CBC production that is now available on US Netflix.  The second Margaret Atwood adaptation of this year (after The Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu), it is a dark, murky and very disturbing murder mystery.
Mascots is a silly mockumentary made for Netflix about the furry creatures who support various teams.  Great cast which includes Chris O’Dowd, Zach Woods (from Silicon Valley), Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins and many other comic actors.

YouTube

An Open Secret is a documentary from 2014 that is an investigation into accusations of teenagers being sexually abused within the film industry.  In light of the Kevin Spacey revelations, this film has achieved a second life on YouTube after sinking from view when originally released.  It’s a terrific film and will open your eyes to this troubling problem. Directed by Oscar nominated Amy Berg (Deliver us from Evil  about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, West of Memphis, Janis: Little Girl Blue), the film exposes Bryan Singer (X-Men director) among many other Hollywood pedophiles preying on child actors.  Berg had great difficulty finding a distributor for this controversial film when it was initially made.  Hopefully, it will find a new audience today.

PBS

The Sunday evening offerings of Masterpiece Theatre include the following British productions:
Durrells in Corfu (Season 2) is a delightful escape to a simpler time as a family of British eccentrics tries to live cheaply in Greece after WWII.
Poldark (Season 3) tells the romantic story of this adventurer in Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War.
The Collection is a gripping family drama and entrepreneurial fable, set in a post-war Paris fashion house.  It exposes the grit behind the glamour of a rising business, spearheaded by two clashing brothers.

Fox

The Orville (an affectionate Star Trek parody created by and starring Seth MacFarlane) follows the crew of the not-so-functional exploratory ship in the Earth’s interstellar fleet, 400 years in the future.
The Gifted takes place in a world where mutated humans are treated with distrust and fear.  An institute for mutants battles to achieve peaceful co-existence with humanity. Stars Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Amy Acker (Person of Interest).

AMC

The Walking Dead is now in its 8th season of harrowing escapes and crushed dreams. Sherriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is still leading a group of survivors to stay alive.

NBC

This is Us follows a unique ensemble, as their paths cross and their life stories intertwine, from sharing the same birthday, to so much more than anyone would expect. As this was the breakout hit of last year, I have caught up with this season, but I do find it a bit maudlin and sentimental for me.

Saturday Night Live continues to try and make us laugh at the pop culture and current events of our times.

ABC

The Good Doctor is the breakout hit of this season, so I have caught up with it by  bingewatching it on demand.  From the same production team as House (starring Hugh Laurie as a master diagnostician with no interpersonal skills), it is not dissimilar in its plotlines which are driven by diagnoses of mysterious ailments.  The big difference is that its star is played by Freddie Highmore, who plays Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome who is recruited into the surgical unit of a prestigious hospital.

CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert provides political humour nightly.

CBS News Sunday Morning (hosted by Jane Pauley) does personal interest pieces including interviews and profiles of actors, political figures, athletes, musicians, etc.  I find it fascinating and inspiring.  The perfect way to spend your Sunday mornings.  An antidote to most of the negativity of our times.

 

The CW

Arrow (Season 6) stars Canadian hunk Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, a spoiled billionaire (& mayor!) by day, and a superhero by night.  Guilty pleasure to the max!

Comedy

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah provides nightly political satire.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (available on TBS in the US) provides political satire every Wednesday night.
The Jim Jeffries Show provides political satire on Tuesday nights.
The President Show stars a Donald Trump impersonator with his own talk show and provides political satire on Thursday nights.

Parting Words

It’s another glorious day in Southwest Florida.  I have signed myself up for a birdwatching expedition later this week, so fingers crossed that our weather stays dry and sunny.  We are playing golf this afternoon and dining with friends after.  Enjoy this wonderful day wherever you are!

Back in Paradise…

We had a very smooth trip down to Naples this past week.  We spent a night in Beckley, WV and then another night in charming Jekyll Island, GA.  No huge accidents or construction or weather delays.  Naples is a little more debris strewn than we anticipated, but our own property damage (mostly to our pool lanai screens and to three trees on our property) is mostly cleaned up.  I didn’t get to watch much TV this past week, but I have been making up by binge watching 9 hours of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix, so here are some recommendations:

On the Big Screen at the Naples Film Festival

The Fabulous Allan Carr is a sweetly sad documentary about the Hollywood producer who had stars in his eyes and dreamed of being a megaproducer in Hollywood from his early days as kid in Chicago.  A fascinating and heartbreaking tale of behind the scenes showbiz.

The Divine Order is a touching film from Switzerland that tells the story of a young housewife who challenges the status quo by fighting for women’s suffrage in 1971 Switzerland.  A must see film for anyone who doesn’t value the right to vote and how hard this struggle has been to win.  It’s a very engaging film with wonderful performances from an ensemble cast.  There’s a hilarious consciousness raising scene where an entire room full of women have their first experiences gazing at their own vaginas for the first time.

Netflix

Stranger Things 2 is a mesmerizing, thrill ride into the joys and sorrows of early adolescence.  The whole crew is back with some new additions to the cast.  Notably Sean Astin as Bob (a beau for Joyce), and Max and Billy (our new human villain).  The kids are growing up and they are so perfectly cast in their roles that you can’t help falling in love with them. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Season 1 yet, you must see it before watching Season 2.  I love this series for its affectionate tributes to landmark films of the 70’s and 80’s.

Riverdale (also on the CW) is a delightfully dark adaptation of the Archie comics.
Dynasty (also on the CW) is a silly politically correct update of the classic 80’s series.

Streaming

Chance is an intriguing suspense series about a forensic psychiatrist starring Hugh Laurie.
Star Trek Discovery is a fabulous prequel to the original series.
Outlander (also available on Starz US and W Canada) is back for Season 3 and is as romantic as ever.
Good Behaviour (also available on TNT US and W Canada) is a fabulous vehicle for Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) as a drug addicted con woman who has hooked up with an Argentinean hitman.  I love this series which is now in its second season.

CBC

Alias Grace is about to debut on US Netflix, so I am keen to continue watching it.

CTV

The Disappearance is a terrific Canadian miniseries that I haven’t found yet in the US.  I will be looking to stream it via the internet. It’s about the abduction of a 10-year-old boy.

The CW

Arrow is a sheer guilty pleasure show for me which features hunky Canadian actor Stephen Amell.

PBS

The Durrell’s in Corfu (Season 2) is a lovable series about an eccentric British family trying to live cheaply on the Greek island after WWII.  Delightful!
Poldark is an epic adventure series set in Cornwall in the 18th Century.
The Collection is a touch odd series about post WWII France and the fashion industry.  Strangely, most French characters speak with British accents.

NBC

Chicago Fire is another guilty pleasure show built around hunky firemen.
The Brave is another guilty pleasure show built around hunky special forces officers.
Saturday Night Live continues to find humour in current events.

FX

You’re the Worst is a very dark relationship comedy about LA misfits.

FXX

Better Things is a bittersweet comedy about an LA single mom.

Fox

Gotham is a dark and campy prequel to Batman.

HBO

Ray Donovan is a wonderfully dark tale of a Hollywood fixer.

ABC

10 Days in the Valley is a dark tale of the underside of Hollywood built around a child abduction.

Comic Relief

Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, and The President Show all try to make us laugh at today’s events on a regular basis.

Audible.com

We listened to The Girl in the Red Coat (by Kate Hamer) during our drive down to Florida. Dark and harrowing, this tale of child abduction has two narrators: the mother and the child who is abducted.  The audiobook is marvellously narrated but I must confess the last chapters were endless.  I found it incredibly draining and wanted it to be over.  I feel overwhelmed by stories of child abductions lately:  The Disappearance, 10 Days in the Valley, The Five, etc. have all been televised recently.  Perhaps I just need a break from this type of story.  Read at your own risk, but I was exhausted by it.

Closing Words

Today we planted our garden, tomorrow George’s golf games begin, Tuesday is the beginning of my ladies’ day golfing, Mahjong will begin on Wednesdays,  Book Club meets again this Thursday, and our Fitness Centre classes will be up and running on Nov. 1 (the roof of the gym is currently being repaired post-Irma).  The weather has been mostly glorious (full disclosure, we actually had a very short-lived tropical storm linger over Naples yesterday) so there is much motivation to actually get outside and enjoy the sunshine. In the meantime, enjoy the fall weather wherever you are.  Safe travels to all our friends who are in various stages of preparing to visit the Sunbelt.

 

On the Road Again…

We are packed and ready for our road trip to Florida tomorrow morning.  We will stop overnight in Beckley, WV and Jekyll Island, Georgia.  We won’t be watching much TV while on the road, but here are a few recommendations in the meantime:

 

Netflix

Riverdale is a darkly irreverent update of the classic comic with lots of murder and sex thrown in.
Dynasty is a silly politically  correct update of the classic 80’s series.
The Five is a British mumble core interminably drawn out 10 part miniseries about a child disappearance.

Streaming

Berlin Station intrigues us with espionage.  Great cast features Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Ashley Judd, Rhys Ifans, etc.

Chance is in Season 2 of this intriguing Hugh Laurie suspense series.
Star Trek Discovery is a fabulous prequel to the original series starring the wonderful Jason Isaac.

Transparent is a bittersweet series in its 4th season following the lives of the comically dysfunctional Pfefferman family and their transgendered patriarch.

ABC

Designated Survivor is a silly suspense series starring Kiefer Sutherland.  I don’t know why I can’t look away from this ludicrous show.

 

CBC

Alias Grace is darkly elegant and murky in this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel.
Kim’s Convenience is delightful and affectionate in its portrait of a Korean family, their convenience store and the neighbourhood it serves.

 

CTV

The Disappearance is yet another dark and disturbing tale of a child disappearance.
Arrow is a delightful yet wacky superhero show starring hunky Canadian actor Stephen Amell.

PBS

Poldark is a rollicking epic about a headstrong adventure in 18th C. Cornwall.  Period costumes and British accents!  Heavenly.
The Collection is a bit odd in its evocation of post-war Paris.  Everyone seems to speak with a British accent!

 

NBC

Chicago Fire has an awfully hunky cast of firefighters. So simple minded, yet so comforting.
The Brave is one of several series that debuted this season featuring special operations forces rescuing people in jeopardy all around the world.
Saturday Night Live continues to entertain us after all these years.

FX

You’re the Worst is a very dark relationship comedy set in LA.

FXX

Better Things is a very dark family comedy set in LA.

Fox

Gotham is a darkly campy suspense series set in Gotham.

HBO

Ray Donovan is a dark drama about a Hollywood fixer.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver features delightful political satire.

Tracey Ullman’s Show is delightful sketch comedy with Ullman impersonating various celebrities and characters.

Bravo

10 Days in the Valley is a dark drama series about yet another child disappearance.

Comedy

Trevor Noah, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee, The President Show all abound on the Comedy Channel.  Catch them if you can.

Parting Words

Since virtually every show is available on demand or through internet streaming, I am leaving out the time slots for these shows. Catch them when you can!  Happy viewing.  Next time I write, it will be from Naples, Florida.  Have a wonderful week!