Father’s Day Celebration

It’s been a rough couple of weeks as my husband and his family have been very involved getting his mother settled into a new assisted living facility after her recent hospital stay.  She’s awfully confused, but she is finally resting in a new room surrounded by her favourite pieces of art, photographs and furniture.
Today we had the great pleasure of celebrating Father’s Day with our children and we spent the day in Niagara-on-the-Lake dining and watching the musical Grand Hotel.  More info follows below:

Live Theatre

Grand Hotel at the Shaw Festival is frankly not one of the more memorable musicals I’ve ever seen.  It ran on Broadway for 3 years starting in 1989 but it is a rather lacklustre musical set in 1928 Germany (rather like Cabaret).  It also has a narrator (like the emcee in Cabaret), but there the comparisons end.  It never really comes alive; it misses the opportunity to paint a picture of what was happening in Germany at that time; despite some terrific performances, it lacks any major showstopping tunes, and has a very peculiar plot centred on characters that kind of lack charisma.  Anyhow, going to musicals at Shaw and Stratford is a family tradition and I loved the opportunity to spend the day with my children.

Streaming

The Band’s Visit (Israel 2007) is for those who watched the Tony Awards and were intrigued by the musical that won 10 awards including Best Musical. This little film inspired the Broadway show about a police band from Egypt that visits Israel to play at the opening of an Arab cultural centre and accidentally winds up in the wrong town. Very sweet and understated.
Animal Kingdom (Season 3 – 13 episodes) Oh my! This California family commits crimes in order to stay together.
Younger (Season 5 – 12 episodes) Yikes!  The shit is about to hit the fan as Liza’s deception has been revealed to her boss Charles, whom she really really likes.

Netflix

Tabula Rasa (9-episode miniseries from Belgium).  How fabulous the ending of this show was! I never saw it coming! Great mystery about a woman with amnesia who is implicated in the disappearance of a man. There is absolutely no comparison to Marcella or Safe two Netflix mysteries which both had very contrived endings.
Fauda Season 2 (12-episode season from Israel). Mesmerizing story about undercover Israeli operatives trying to stop a terrorist. Non-stop suspense!
Tesla (documentary film from American Experience on PBS) What an intriguing genius this man was.  His inventions are still coming to fruition in the form of cell phones, wifi, etc.  A heartbreaking study of a mad genius who was truly ahead of his time.
Five Came Back (3-episode miniseries)  The wartime contributions of five prominent Hollywood film directors during WWII are profiled.  With narration by Meryl Streep and commentary from Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, Lawrence Kasdan and Steven Spielberg.  Magnificent and heartbreaking to see the real life footage that these directors compiled.  I was so gratified to see the tribute to my favourite film, The Best Years of Our Lives, which was commented on by Steven Spielberg, as it is also one of his favourite films.  This 1946 film directed by William Wyler is a touching look at 3 WWII veterans trying to readjust to civilian life.  Bring a hankie.

HBO

 

New mini series alert: Sharp Objects (based on Gillian Flynn’s novel) is coming to HBO next week:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-jean-marc-vallee-dives-deeper-and-darker-into-prestige-tv-with-new/

The Affair (Season 4 – 8 episodes) This series returns tonight and is apparently now set in California!

Billions (Season 3 – 12 episodes) Wow! What an ending to this season. Very intriguing and satisfying as the cat and mouse game was getting a little stale.
Patrick Melrose  (4 episode miniseries) You can still catch up with this one which is worth watching for Benedict Cumberbatch’s tour de force performance.

Bravo

Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2 – 13 episodes) What an episode this past week! Canada had a starring role!

AMC

Dietland (10 episode miniseries) A very intriguing black comedy that combines the story of the self-awakening of a struggling fashion magazine ghostwriter with the mystery of who is killing a series of sexually abusive men in NYC.

FX

Pose (8 episode miniseries) I am fascinated by Evan Peters’ role as the married man in love with a transsexual woman in this world of 1986 which looks at the ball culture world and the transvestite/transexual culture that was emerging.

Superchannel

Deep State (8 episode miniseries) Dark and murky intrigue in the Middle East.
Mr Mercedes (10 episode miniseries) Terrific ending to this tale of a retired cop on the trail of a serial killer.

W

Nashville (Season 6 – 16 episodes) The melodrama of this long running series now in its final season continues as the band deals with its Yoko Ono wannabe.
Imposters (Season 2 – 10 episodes) This dark comedy focuses on a female con artist who marries people and then disappears with their money.  It’s rapidly coming to an end and has sadly been cancelled but will likely live on via Netflix for those who haven’t yet discovered it.

Comic Relief

Still loving my late night entertainers Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Oliver, etc.  They keep me sane!

Closing Words

It’s going to be a busy week!  Aside from the usual golf, mahjong, canasta, etc. I am hosting 5 of my high school girlfriends at our place in Thornbury as we all celebrate our 65th birthdays together.  There will be lots of food and laughter!  Finally, we are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary next weekend with two other couples who also got married 45 years ago.  More food and laughter!  Have a wonderful week and special hugs to everyone dealing with health issues.

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Ah….The Tony Awards!!

I am eagerly awaiting tonight’s big show The Tony Awards (8 pm on CBS).  They will be hosted by the immensely talented and likeable Josh Groban (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) and Sarah Bareilles (Waitress) who both made Broadway debuts in the last couple of years.  There is no single standout show like Hamilton this year, so it will be a great opportunity to see what’s being honoured on Broadway this year without one single show earning most of the awards.  Here are some other recommendations for your viewing pleasure:

Streaming

A Fantastic Woman This lovely film starring a transgendered actress (played by Daniela Vega) is the Chilean film that won the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars this year.  It is a wonderful movie about a transgendered woman in Santiago, Chile whose partner dies suddenly of a brain aneurism and who is then plunged into a terrible situation where she is suspected of causing his death and hounded by the police and her partner’s family.  Inspiring and surprising.

Netflix

Fauda Season 2 George and I watched all 12 episodes of this season in 2 days, so that’s an indication of how addictive this Israeli series is.  The Israeli operatives are Arabic speaking infiltrators in the West Bank of Palestine.  The great irony of this show is that the Israelis and Palestinians are so indistinguishable from each other that they can pass as each other.  In this season, the Palestinians have been studying Hebrew at university and begin to pass as Israelis in their own undercover operations. Mesmerizing!
Marcella Season 2 Last night we watched the first 4 episodes of this British crime series starring a strong female character (Anna Friel) to use Netflix’s own terminology.  There is a serial pedophile/child murderer on the loose.  Here are a couple of articles on Netflix’s tradition of showcasing strong female characters to helm crime series and the Cannes festival’s crime films:
Ali’s Wedding I did enjoy this gentle Australian film about the Melbourne Muslim community.  Look for heartthrob Don Hany (most recently seen as a terrorist in Strike Back) playing a lovable cleric and patriarch.
The Invitation I usually steer clear of suspense films built around people being lured to remote mountain hideaways, but I am following the career of Logan Marshall-Green (striking lookalike to Tom Hardy) so I couldn’t resist this one.  Evil’s afoot!

FX

Pose I can’t imagine there is a huge audience for this series about 1980’s NYC and the vogue phenomenon (celebrated in famous documentary Paris is Burning and Madonna’s song Vogue). Time will tell whether Ryan Murphy’s series is watched by the same audiences who loved Glee, American Horror Story, etc.

HBO

 
Patrick Melrose This 4-part series starred Benedict Cumberbatch as a man so brutally damaged by his pedophile father that he struggles with drug and alcohol addiction his entire life.  I feel more like I survived this miniseries rather than enjoyed it.
 
The Fourth Estate This great 4-part miniseries is about the NYTimes coverage of Trump’s first year in office.  A celebration of the free press and its dedication to exploring all the news that’s fit to print.
CB Strike I love this miniseries based on Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling’s pseudonym) thrillers.  Great atmospheric detective series based in London.
Vida Wonderful series about two Latina sisters in LA.
Sweetbitter Charming series about a young woman trying to make a living working in a fancy NYC restaurant. Even more poignant in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death.

Superchannel

Mr. Mercedes A very scary look at a retired detective’s pursuit of a serial killer.

W

Imposters This charming and now cancelled series about con artists is drawing to a close.

Recently Returned for new seasons:

Animal Kingdom Season 3 The first 2 episodes of the latest season of this gritty crime series about a family of California miscreants have aired.  Catch up if you dare on Netflix.  Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman star and both are totally convincing as career criminals heading up their crime family.

Younger Season 5 I love this series about a 40-something passing as a 20-something to get work in the furiously competitive world of publishing in NYC.
 
Nashville Season 6 The last 8 episodes of this series are now airing. Hurting songs ensue as all the storylines are wound up before the series comes to a permanent end.

Giving up on

I’m now introducing a new heading for shows that I can no longer struggle through either because they are too darned bleak for me or so incomprehensible that I can no longer hang in with them.  This week, my two nominees are Legion and Westworld. I no longer care who does what to whom. There are not enough hours in the day…. Honourable mention goes to Reverie, a series so ludicrous, I only lasted one episode

Comedy

The usual suspects (Samantha Bee, Colbert, Noah, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Jim Jeffries – on hiatus).  They make me smile no matter how dire the news.

Zen Moment

I’m eagerly anticipating this morning’s CBS Sunday Morning as it will highlight this year’s aforementioned Tony Awards.

Closing Words

Today I’m heading to a baby shower for a friend’s daughter.  My life long friends will all be there to celebrate this truly joyous event.  My mother-in-law will shortly be moving into a beautiful assisted living facility in Unionville after a harrowing 3-week stay in hospital. Our fitness group is celebrating the end of another season with a luncheon this week. I am hosting a tea party later this week for my friends and fellow golfers in the Thornbury area.  More mahjong and more golf are in the forecast this week.  On the whole, life is pretty good.  Hugs to those facing serious medical challenges.  Enjoy this wonderful weather wherever you are.

 

New and Noteworthy…

 

CB Strike This detective series debuted this past week.  Afghanistan war veteran turned private detective Cormoran Strike solves brutal murders with the help of his trusted assistant Robin Ellacott.  I loved the first episode and am intrigued with the relationship between Strike and his assistant, the gritty London locations, and the whole picture of British society that is depicted.  Very impressed, so far.
Succession This series debuts tonight and follows a dysfunctional American global-media family.  Great cast features Brian Cox, Hiam Abbas, Kieran Culkin, etc.  Think the Murdoch family meets King Lear.  Lifestyles of the rich and ruthless. Black comedy ensues!
The Fourth Estate This 4 part documentary series takes you behind the scenes of journalism.  The incredible first episode focuses on the NYTimes coverage of Trump’s first year in office. Episode 2 concentrates on the NYTimes coverage of James Comey’s memoir.

Unexpected change of plans…

This past week ended up being a crazy week for us which resulted in our leaving Thornbury prematurely to head back to Toronto.  George’s mother went by ambulance to hospital following a fall and we raced back to the city to meet her in the emergency department. We’re still waiting for more test results and they are observing her for possible heart ailments. In light of that, I am a little discombobulated re recommendations for your viewing pleasure but I will do my best. I will try to concentrate on programming that may have escaped your attention.

Streaming

Killing Eve This terrific BBC series is airing now on BBC America and will come to Bravo later this season. It stars Canadian actress Sandra Oh as an MI6 operative on the trail of a Russian serial killer. Both the cat and mouse in this spy tale are women! Here’s an article from the NYTimes about this great series:

Netflix

Safe I am still enjoying this British series about a teenager who has disappeared, but I must admit, Michael C. Hall’s British accent is beginning to grate on me.  The series is set in Manchester, but most of the characters speak as though they are from London.  Hall has chosen a Contemporary Received Pronunciation accent and he does wobble a bit almost veering into Cockney at times. Why wouldn’t they just hire a Brit? Better than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins though!
Seven Seconds This 10-episode Netflix original suspense series begins when tensions run high between African American citizens and Caucasian cops in Jersey City when a teenage African American boy is critically injured by a cop.  I can’t believe they are going to take 10 episodes to tell this story as we already know who the perpetrator and victim are.  Interesting casting as one of my favourite Aussie actors David Lyons (Revolution) has been cast as the villainous head of the narcotics squad. I honestly don’t know if I will stay with this one as the first episode was very grim to watch.

Amazon

Loudermilk This 10 episode comedy series centers on Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston), a recovering alcoholic and substance abuse counsellor with a bad attitude.  I did watch all 10 episodes of Season 1 in two days, so that’s how much I enjoyed this one.

HBO

A Dangerous Son This documentary follows three families, each coping with a child affected by serious emotional or mental illness.  The families explore treatment opportunities and grapple with the struggle of living with their child’s condition.  Heartbreaking.
CB Strike This week will feature the premiere of a new 8-episode  BBC series based on JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith novels the Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil. War veteran turned private detective Cormoran Strike solves brutal murders with the help of his trusted assistant Robin Ellacott.  Ooh a new British suspense series to devour!
Westworld Season 2 is action packed and complex.  The robots are revolting! Put away that electronic device and give it your full attention!
Sweetbitter I am loving this 6-episode series about a young woman who learns how crazy it is to work in a restaurant in NYC.
Vida I am loving this 7-episode series about two sisters in East LA.
Billions The cat and mouse game between US Attorney and Hedge Fund King continues in its third season.
Patrick Melrose This 5-episode miniseries is based on the Parrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn.  Benedict Cumberbatch delivers his usual tour-de-force performance as a man who survives childhood sexual abuse to become a world class addict in maturity.

The CW

The 100  and IZombie I love both of these series which are aimed at a much younger demographic.  They are both fun escapist guilty pleasure series.

W

The Good Fight Great show about a struggling law firm. Sequel to The Good Wife.

Bravo

Hard Sun This 6-episode suspense miniseries from the BBC tells the story of two detectives with opposing viewpoints who are forced to work together in a pre-apocalyptic criminal world.
The Handmaid’s Tale Dark and post-apocalyptic tale of a future where women are enslaved to bear children for their sterile overseers.  Harrowing!
Imposters Great show about con artists.

FX

Legion This series is now so seriously bat shit crazy that even Dan Stevens’ dreamy blue eyes are no longer a sufficient draw for me.
The Americans There is only one episode left in this amazing 6-season series.  The FBI is closing in on Elizabeth and Philip Jennings who are Russian agents firmly embedded in their American covers as an all-American family living in Washington, DC.

Superchannel

Mr. Mercedes Wow, this series from Audience is terribly dark as it tells the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down. The great Irish actor Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) are engaged in a cat and mouse game that leaves a trail of destruction.

Space

Colony This scifi series is now in its third season.  Aliens have invaded and taken over various regions in the US.  A resistance rises to fight back.
The Expanse This scifi series is now in its third season.  Earth and Mars are at war and there is a mysterious weapon being developed whose capacity for destruction is unprecedented.

Comic Relief

Still enjoying my favourite satirists (Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Jeffries, Oliver) who manage to find comedy in the events of the day.

Closing Words

Summer is finally here! Time to dig out those summer clothes, slather on the sunscreen and enjoy the great outdoors. Looking forward to a week of golf, fitness,  and gatherings with friends. I am hoping that my mother-in-law feels better soon as she recovers in hospital. Hugs to all of you facing medical challenges!

They’re married!

Superchannel

Deep State This series from Britain debuts tonight.  What happens when a man who believes he has retired from MI6 is called back to do one more job to regain his life, only to discover that this job may mean he has no life to go back to.  Stars Mark Strong.
Mr. Mercedes This 21 episode series from Britain tells the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down.

W

The Good Fight This wonderful sequel to The Good Wife is set in Chicago and continues with Christine Baranski playing Diane Lockhart.  Her struggles this season include killings of lawyers, her marriage, living with the reality of Trump politics, etc.

Comic Relief and Zen

As always, I recommend keeping abreast of current events through the filter screen of comedy, including Colbert, Noah, Bee, Oliver, Jeffries, Maher and Meyers. Both CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes continue to provide palatable human interest stories and current events coverage while informing and inspiring.

 

Closing Words

We are off to collect our flowers today from Riverside Greenhouse in Heathcote for my annual foray into container gardening. I know some people love gardening and find it both therapeutic and relaxing. Me, I find it a very easy way to throw my back out!! Fingers crossed that our weather continues to gently warm up and that overnight deep freezes are a thing of the past as I’m not up for dragging heavy pots across my garden to put them to bed for the night. It looks like it will be a great week and we will be continuing with all our regular activities which now include Canasta which a very patient group of women are teaching me.  Hugs to all my friends dealing with medical challenges.  Have a wonderful week wherever you are!

Lots of new programming…

This week I’m going to concentrate on what’s new and noteworthy.  It’s been a very busy week with two golf course celebratory openings (both Lambton and the Georgian Bay Club welcomed back their members with exhausting golf events), lots of time with friends including a rousing Trivial Pursuit night, a night at the movies, etc.  Spring has finally sprung here, so in addition to being outdoors every possible moment, here are a few recommendations for your weekly viewing:

On the Big Screen

Finding Your Feet I attended this British comedy with a group of friends who almost all enjoyed it thoroughly.  It’s aimed at the same audience of older viewers who enjoyed the Marigold Hotel films, Victoria & Abdul, Quartet, etc.  This feel-good film is profoundly predictable.  There are dance scenes that will make you squirm with discomfort (especially the one involving motorized wheelchairs), surprise disclosures of terminal illness, glossed over depictions of Alzheimers, etc.  This film is so contrived that it’s difficult to give it praise for some of the things it does well.  I loved the scenes of London that included Bif’s small flat and Charlie’s canal boat.  The cast is superb and includes Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Tim Spall, and Joanna Lumley. There is little nuance here, but it is one of the few films today that is aimed squarely at an adult audience, so if you want a lame romantic comedy to attend when you are feeling out of touch with today’s super hero movies, here’s an alternative film to see.

Streaming

The Greatest Showman is a musical with Hugh Jackman that was released to almost universal scorn from critics but was loved by many audiences.  The songs are melodic, every single one done in an overblown showstopping way; the choreography is hiliariously contemporary for a story taking place in the early years of the century.  The film is done at a fever dream pace which never slows down.  My husband and I found it delightfully entertaining and I must admit, I could watch the aerial lovesong between Zac Effron and Zendaya again!

New on PBS

Little Women is one of my favourite books from childhood and this latest TV adaptation debuts tonight on Masterpiece Theatre.  I am eagerly anticipating this British adaptation of the classic novel.  Fingers crossed that this one holds up although the advance reviews favour the 1994 film adaptation directed by Gillian Anderson.

New on Netflix

Safe is a new 8-episode TV series original to Netflix.  It stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as a  widowed British surgeon whose daughter disappears from a gated community outside London.  Once you get over the shock of Hall’s accent, the show is pretty watchable.  Dark secrets will be uncovered….
The Chalet I just started watching this one yesterday and am already up to Episode 3 of 6 episodes.  I have to admit I am loving this Gallic suspense series.  A reunion of childhood friends at a remote chalet in the French Alps soon turns into a desperate struggle for survival as they get cut off from the rest of the world and a shocking dark secret from the past surfaces.

New on HBO

Vida is a 7-episode series.  This show follows the life of two Mexican-American sisters, Emma and Lyn, from the Eastside of Los Angeles who couldn’t be more different or distanced from each other.  Loving it!
Patrick Melrose is a 5-episode series from Showtime which is based on the novels of Edward St. Aubyn.  The first episode “Bad News” debuted last night and is a graphic depiction of a 22-year-old dealing with heroine and cocaine addiction.  Benedict Cumberbatch is the star and is compulsively watchable in his struggles.
Sweetbitter is a 6-episode series about a young woman who learns how crazy it is to work in a restaurant in NYC. Great cast features Ella Purnell as the achingly beautiful star, Tom Sturridge playing the mysterious Jake and Paul Sparks (House of Cards) as the imperious restaurant owner.

Regular Viewing

Superchannel

Mr Mercedes Brendan Gleeson stars as a retired police detective playing a cat and mouse game with the psychopathic killer who drove a Mercedes into a crowd.

HBO

Rellik continues to tell the story in refers of how a team of detectives try to hunt down a serial killer.

Bravo

Hard Sun is a 6-episode series showing two detectives with opposing viewpoints who are forced to work together in a pre-apocalyptic criminal world.  Tom Sturridge (Sweetbitter) stars.

CTV

The Detail is a 10-episode police procedural about three female homicide detectives who solve crimes while also dealing with their personal lives.

Fox

Gotham is now in its fourth season. It’s an original story showing Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon and all the Batman villains before they became the icons of the comic books.  Dark, gothic and campy, this show is full of humour.  Love it.

The CW

The 100 is now in its fifth season showing incredibly attractive young people trying to survive in space after an apocalypse.  Great cast features Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco,   Henry Ian Cusick, etc.
Riverdale is nearing the end of its second season.  Its a darker, sexier, more violent Riverdale than was ever depicted in the Archie comics.  Compulsively watchable!

Comic Relief

Colbert, Noah, Bee, Jeffries, Maher, and Oliver are all my mainstays when I need to see the funny in today’s news.  Shoutout to Seth Meyers whose “A Closer Look” segments can be found on You Tube.

Zen Moments

CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes are two newsmagazine shows that always inspire and inform.

Closing Words

It’s a busy week for Royals Watchers.  The big wedding is coming up next Saturday May 19!  I will be having a pre-wedding send-off for the couple by holding a Royal Luncheon featuring fascinators and scones for my long-time friends. It’s been a return to routine with fitness, walking group, Mahjong and golf.  Enjoy this very fine weather wherever you are.  Special hugs for my friends dealing with major medical challenges.  Happy Mother’s Day to all my family and friends who are being celebrated today.  Put your feet up with a good book, movie or TV show after being feted by your family.  Enjoy the accolades!

Uplifting and satisfying…

OK, I realize that last week’s blog was kind of sad.  I was truly in a malaise about the state of affairs on TV.  Everything is so bleak.  Characters are so flawed. Plot lines are dense and confusing.  Storylines are told in so many episodes when things could be condensed and told in far less time.  As a result, I am going to concentrate on viewing experiences this week that are a little more positive.  Here are some recommendations:

Live Theatre

Fun Home (short for funeral home) is the musical that is currently playing at the CAA Theatre in Toronto. It was the 2015 Tony Best Musical Award winner.  While the music is not always terribly memorable or melodic, the show is incredibly moving as it tells the story of a family that struggles with the sexual identities of both a father and a daughter.  The three actresses cast as the daughter from childhood to middle aged are wonderful and their harmonies when they get to sing together will bring a tear to your eye. Worth seeing.

Heartwarming &/or Good vs Evil

Here are some shows you might like to catch up with as they avoid some of the nihilistic tendencies of many of the shows that are getting me down:
Call the Midwife 
The Good Fight I must make special mention of this season’s current story line as it has featured an investigation into the existence of the Golden Showers videotape and there is a great article in The Daily Beast:
Billions
Howard’s End
Rise
Arrow
Gotham
The 100
Mr Mercedes
The Americans
The Crossing
Designated Survivor
Chicago Fire
Chicago Med
The Resident
The Good Doctor
Silicon Valley
Modern Family
The Handmaid’s Tale
Rellik
Imposters

Plus Special Mention of Nearly All PBS Programming

Although I did mention Call the Midwife as leading the list above, PBS is also the home of much entertaining programming that doesn’t depress or confuse.  Their  dramas and mysteries on Masterpiece Theatre and Masterpiece Mystery will provide many hours of viewing bliss and all are available through shop.pbs.org:

Dramas

Victoria, The Child in Time, Man in an Orange Shirt,  Little Women (upcoming), Downton Abbey, Poldark, Breathless, A Room with a View, Great Expectations, Edwin Drood, Mansfield Park, Anna Karenina, Birdsong, Poldark, The Durrells in Corfu, The Collection, My Mother and other Strangers, King Charles III, Home Fires, To Walk Invisible, Mr. Selfridge, Indian Summers, Churchill’s Secret, Foyle’s War, Sense & Sensibility, Worricker, Arthur & George, Wolf Hall, The Forsyte Saga, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Jewel in the Crown, Inspector Lewis,  The Paradise, Poirot, The Escape Artist, Silk, Upstairs, Downstairs, Love in a Cold Climate, Bleak House, I, Claudius, Far from the Madding Crowd, Page Eight, Wuthering Heights, Any Human Heart, The Diaries of Anne Frank, Goodnight Mister Tom, Cranford, Little Dorrit, God on Trial, The Last Enemy, Northanger Abbey, The Wind in the Willows, Elizabeth 1: The Virgin Queen, Middlemarch, Pollyanna, Our Town, Wives and Daughters, Last Tango in Halifax, etc.

Mysteries

Endeavour, Grantchester, Prime Suspect, Tennison, Sherlock, Wallander, Inspector Lewis, Miss Marple, Case Histories, Zen, Framed, Endgame, Collision, Heat of the Sun, The Turn of the Screw, A Thief of Fire, Coyote Waits, Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries, Rebecca, Skinwalkers, The Tunnel, Unforgotten (which is one of the few Masterpiece Mysteries I have hated), Dark Angel, Midsomer Murders, Marcella, The Widower, etc.

Plus PBS public affairs series

PBS News Hour, Nova, Frontline, American Experience, Independent Lens, Great Performances, etc.

Public Affairs across the other broadcasters

CBC offers a host of great programs like The Fifth Estate, The Passionate Eye, The Nature of Things, CBC Docs POV, etc.

CTV offers  WFive.

TVO offers The Agenda, and innumerable documentaries, historical series, science and technology shows, etc.

CBS offers my very favourite show CBS Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes, Face the Nation, etc.

NBC offers Meet the Press, Today, Dateline, etc.

CNN offers Fareed Zakaria GPS, Reliable Sources, State of the Union, etc.

ABC offers Good Morning America, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Nightline, etc.

Special Shout out to Netflix

Netflix has become a provider of some great shows like The Crown, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Peaky Blinders, Making a Murderer, Jessica Jones, The Great British Bake Off, The Good Place, The Fall, Sense 8, Luke Cage, Riverdale, The Honourable Woman, The Killing, Love, Queer Eye, Ozark, Tabula Rasa, Portlandia, Sons of Anarchy, Bloodline, 13 Reasons Why, Shameless, Luther, Broadchurch, Grace and Frankie, Extras, Daredevil, Everything Sucks, Rectify, Mindhunter, Master of None, American Crime Story: People vs OJ Simpson, The Walking Dead, Godless, Better Call Saul, Mad Men, Freaks and Geeks, Breaking Bad, etc.

Don’t forget about Amazon Prime Video

I keep forgetting that we actually subscribe to this network and that I have seen several of their shows like The Man in the High Castle, Mozart in the Jungle, Red Oaks, Orphan Black, Goliath, Catastrophe, Mr. Robot, Transparent, Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Justified, The Americans, Veep, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, etc.

Comic Relief

You have to hand it to the political satirists who can interpret the day’s events and manage to add comic spin. My favourites are Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, John Oliver, and Seth Meyers. SNL had a great opening sketch this past week which actually featured Stormy Daniels playing herself in a telephone conversation with Trump and his hapless lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Closing Words

It’s a beautiful day in Thornbury today.  Yesterday was spent walking our golf course and dining with friends.  Today it’s errand running and then a trip into Blue Mountain village for dinner with friends.  This week will be a mixture of golf, mahjong, both a Trivial Pursuit night with my fitness friends and a movie night to see Finding Your Feet, dental appointments and some miscellaneous get-togethers with friends.  Enjoy this beautiful spring day wherever you are!  Hugs to my friends dealing with medical challenges.

 

 

 

 

I can’t keep up with Bleak TV….

Bleak TV

Oh my gosh! After a season in the sun, I have returned to the great white North only to find that there is no escape from the wasteland of bleakness that assaults our TV screens. I am literally counting the days until Little Women makes its debut on PBS on May 13. I need something heartwarming not soul destroying to watch. Everything is noir, all major characters are deeply flawed. Help me, I think I’m drowning. I now understand why most friends have taken to watching home decor and cooking shows. They have happy endings! In the meantime, here are some suggestions for you:

On The Big Screen

A Quiet Place is a film for those who actually want to pay money to be terrified for 90 minutes. So intense that you will feel you must eat your popcorn completely silently (hey, maybe you should anyway), we are in a post apocalyptic world where the alien invaders can track us by the sounds we make. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski star and are wonderful in this sci-fi thriller. Not for the faint of heart.

Shows that are New to me

Rellik (on HBO) is a British crime series where the crime is being investigated in reverse chronological order, and the lead character is terribly scarred by an acid attack.  Dark, very dark.

Caught (on CBC) is a Canadian crime series starring the lovable Newfoundland actor Allan Hawco (Republic of Doyle) as a career criminal who breaks out of jail to hook up with his partner for one more drug deal.  Dark, yet comic at the same time.

Burden of Truth (on CBC) is an icky sweet legal series about a big city lawyer who returns to her hometown to take the case of a group of girls suffering from a mysterious illness.  Slightly nauseating and starring Kristin Kreuk (Smallville).

The Detail (on CTV) is a crime series about 3 female homicide detectives solving crimes while also dealing with their personal lives.  I like this one, particularly because it stars Wendy Crewson as the tough as nails homicide chief detective.
Mr. Mercedes (on Superchannel) is going to be very tough going for Torontonians as it opens with a scene where a psychopathic killer drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd.  The series follows the efforts of a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down.  Dark, very dark.  Stars Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Mary-Louise Parker, etc.
Lost in Space (on Netflix) is a goofy reboot with terrific special effects.  Stars Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, and Parker Posey.  Total escapism and family viewing to boot!!
Wild, Wild Country (on Netflix) is a relentlessly grim 6-part documentary on a cult in Oregon that ran rampant in the 1980’s before it imploded and sank with few traces after law enforcement became aware of its stockpile of weapons and free sex bad habits.  I found this way too long and painful to watch.  My husband was fascinated for some strange reason.  I far preferred The Path, the recent miniseries on Hulu about a strange cult in upstate New York (starred Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancey, Michelle Monaghan). Fiction was far more enthralling than fact for me.

Returning Shows

Westworld Season 2 (on HBO) Yikes, it’s hard to remember where Season 1 left off. Oh my, there was a robot/host revolt and many died.  There are parallel timelines at play.  It’s all very confusing.  Watch very closely.  Read a recap of Season 1 and try not to multitask while watching.  Compelling performances from Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, etc.  Dark, very dark.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2  (on Bravo).  OK, I must admit, although I have the first two episodes recorded. I am not up to watching them just yet. The extreme bleakness of this series scares and depresses the hell out of me. Every actor is way too good at showing the nightmare quality of their lives (Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Elizabeth Dowd, Joseph Fiennes, etc) The US has become a theocracy, ruthless in its punishment of anyone who defies the rule of law. Here’s what John Doyle has to say about it:
The Expanse Season 3 on Space. OK we’re lost in space on this. Earth is at war with its neighbours and there is no rule of law. Intriguing, dark and bat shit crazy at the same time.

Dark &/or Bat Shit Crazy Shows

OK, just for fun, I thought I would make a list of shows that depict a world where everything has gone to wrack and ruin. There is some kind of apocalypse and either zombies, robots, criminals, corporate corruption, superheroes/mutants, or evil spirits have come to rule (I am sure I am leaving many shows out, but these are the only ones I have actually watched):
Westworld
Legion
The Walking Dead
I-Zombie
Happy
Preacher
Gotham
Arrow
Supernatural
Into the Badlands
Riverdale
Corporate
The Expanse
Mr. Robot
Mr. Mercedes
Just at the moment, I am feeling a little fragile and am having trouble watching these relentlessly dark shows. Coincidentally, just when I am experiencing a malaise about the difficulty of keeping up with the amount of TV content that is flooding the airwaves these days, I came across an article in the most recent Vanity Fair magazine by Nicole Sperling about how difficult a job being a TV critic has become in this era of peak/bleak TV (I read VF on Texture, so you may have to hunt this one down on your own by searching the Internet if the link below doesn’t work):
“Critical Mission” Vanity Fair, May 2018

Shows that are actually heartwarming and sometimes inspiring

Call the Midwife (on PBS)
Little Women (on PBS – I hope as I am waiting for it breathlessly)
Anne of Green Gables (on CBC On Demand and Netflix US)
Rise (on NBC)
Chicago Fire (on NBC)
Chicago Med (on NBC)
Modern Family (on ABC)
The Middle (on ABC)
The Durrells in Corfu (on PBS on demand)
Poldark (on PBS on demand)
In fact, most things PBS airs, try to elevate the spirit, rather than deflate it.
The Good Doctor (on ABC)
The Resident (on Fox)
Silicon Valley (HBO)

These three intriguing shows below fall in between bleak and inspiring

Billions (on Showtime US and TMN)
Homeland (on Superchannel)
The Americans (on FX)
The last 3 shows are in the grey area between good vs evil, but at least sometimes good prevails.
Oh my gosh, now I understand why so many of my friends are addicted to formula TV like Law and Order or Bluebloods. It’s TV that doesn’t challenge or provoke. Sometimes there are happy endings. I will never make fun of you again for your addictions to The Great British Bake Off, Queer Eye, any home decor show, etc.
I need me some feel good TV right now, so I’m going to immerse myself in the kinder gentler world of CBS Sunday Morning and see if I can get myself out of my funk! Later, it will be 60 Minutes, and then the Holy Grail of feel good TV, Call the Midwife!!

Closing Words

Maybe I just haven’t been getting enough air.  Resolve to get outdoors more!  Starting with a walk with my fitness group tomorrow, first golf game of the year at Lambton with friends, birthday celebration with family, exercise with fitness group, evening out with my book group, etc.  Maybe, everything people have been telling me my whole life is true:  TV really isn’t all that good for you!  Resolve to watch less TV or at least happier TV.  Resolve to read more books, and not just Nordic Noir either!  Am presently listening to James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty (boy is he ever sanctimonious, no wonder Trump hated him) and just finished re-reading Bill Browder’s Red Notice (ooh Russia is even more evil and scary than we ever suspected, a total kleptocracy!).  Have a wonderful week wherever you are and enjoy this fine spring weather.  Hugs to all my friends facing medical challenges.

 

 

Back home again…

Last week in Paradise…

Well, the suitcases are out and ready to be packed as we are leaving next Sunday, so I am obviously procrastinating on packing by writing this blog. I procrastinated on writing this blog yesterday by spending a good part of the day golfing in 90 degree heat and then recovering by floating around my swimming pool.
This past week we went on a lovely Naples Conservancy Cruise through the mangrove bays around the gulf with lunch at Pelican Bend on Isle of Capri. We were very lucky to see many nesting Ospreys and their fledgelings as well as frolicking dolphins.  This week our film group is going to see Finding Your Feet on Wednesday. I will be hosting a farewell Mimosa session for our fitness group. The night before we leave we will be going to a farewell neighbourhood party next Saturday night. We will be on the road back to the Great White North next Sunday!

On the Big Screen

Our film group is headed to the actual theatre this week to see Finding your Feet, a generic English comedy about a woman finding herself after discovering that her husband is having an affair with her best friend. In the mold of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, all Hugh Grant comedies, all Judi Dench/Maggie Smith conedies, I am assuming that one forgets the plot lines of these movies on leaving the theatre. Our film group just watched two in-house films Loving Vincent and The Florida Project which were extremely memorable and stay with you long after viewing them.  Sometimes you just have to go and see something that is lightly entertaining.

New Show Alert and Old Shows Return

True confession:  I now have so many programs stored on my PVR that I think I have passed the point of no return.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to watch all the shows I have recorded, and there is little chance that I will be able to watch the new shows that continue to debut every day of the week.  There has been almost no rain this winter in southwest Florida, so no excuse for staying indoors and couch potatoeing away days on end.  Maybe some of you are stuck indoors and actually have time to watch TV and may appreciate this list of new shows that are appearing on the schedule:
Unforgotten is a mystery series that premieres Sunday nights on Masterpiece; originally produced for ITV in Britain it’s an 18 episode miniseries starring British stalwarts like Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Trevor Eve, Mark Bonnar, Gemma Jones, etc.
Howard’s End is a 4 episode miniseries that premieres Sunday nights on STARZ; focussing on the social and class divisions in early 20th C England, it stars Matthew Mcfadyen and Hayley Attwell.
Killing Eve is a 9 episode suspense miniseries debuting on BBC America on Sundays; it stars Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and Fiona Shaw
Paterno is a TV movie that debuted this weekend on HBO; it stars Al Pacino as Joe Paterno the longtime Penn State football coach who got caught up in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal
The Crossing is a 12 episode science fiction mystery that debuted on ABC last week; it stars Steve Zahn in the role of a lifetime as the sheriff of a small town that sees refugees from a war-torn country 180 years in the future who start showing up in the present to seek asylum in his town
The Child in Time is a 130 minute film from BBC that debuted on PBS last week and stars Benedict Cumberland and Kelly McDonald as parents whose little girl has disappeared.  Sad, elegiac and confusing. For Benedict Cumberland fanatics only.
The Expanse returns to SyFy channel for its 3rd season this week;  it is a mind blowing space series starring sultry Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and Steven Strait in a world that is constantly at war with other worlds and within itself
Imposters returned to Bravo last week for its second season; it’s a dark comedy that focuses on a female con artist who marries people and then disappears with their money; this show is funny and smart and has a great cast that includes Uma Thurman and Brian Benben
Legion returned for its second season last week; it is a bat shit crazy series on FX from the Marvel Universe that stars Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as the superhero mutant son of X Man Xavier; David Haller is a troubled young man diagnosed as schizophrenic, but after a strange encounter, he discovers special powers that will change his life forever
Tracey Morgan The Last OG is a sitcom that debuted last week on TBS and stars Tracy Morgan as an ex-felon who is shocked to see just how much the world has changed when he is released from prison for good behaviour after a 15-year stint and returns to his newly gentrified Brooklyn neighbourhood; I hated Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock, but actually enjoyed him in this very silly fish out of water series
Trust is a miniseries about the Getty kidnapping on FX that debuted a couple of weeks ago; starring Donald Sutherland as JPGetty, the richest man in the world; it differs from the feature film starring Christopher Plummer, in that it’s told in long story form over 10 hours and seems to indicate that JPGetty III is complicit in his own kidnapping as he tries to repay a Mafia debt; great cast (Hilary Swank is Getty III’s mom) and well worth watching
Splitting up Together is a newish sitcom on ABC that stars Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson; it’s the story of a couple whose marriage is reignited by their divorce; I liked it, I really liked it
Suits has returned to conclude its (yawn) 7th season; Princess Meghan and Patrick J. Adams will leave the series at the end of this season, so that is the only reason to watch anymore; I now officially hate every other character
The Americans has returned for its last season on FX and it’s darker and more complicated than ever; the Berlin Wall is falling and with it Communism, so the lives of our characters are about to change

Streaming and Netflix

Annihilation is a science fiction film about a biologist who signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply; starring Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh this movie is a total waste of time.  For Natalie Portman fanatics only
The Commuter is a suspense film about a businessman who is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home; ludicrous and action packed; for Liam Neeson fanatics only
The Titan is a truly awful science fiction film starring Sam Worthington; when I give up on a film after 15 minutes, it’s usually because I have decided that life is truly too short to be spent watching something exasperating and boring
The Looming Tower is a 10 hour miniseries from Hulu about the events leading up to 9/11; it stars Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard as adversaries in the FBI and CIA who are constantly battling over turf in an attempt to head off terrorist attacks against the US; heartbreaking and powerful, this is must see viewing
Wild Wild Country is a 6 hr miniseries that tells the story of what happens when the world’s most controversial guru builds a utopian city deep in the Oregon desert and conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal. A true story!

Regular addictions

Sunday nights are now incredibly complicated by the fact that programmers seem determined to present their best content all at the same time.  It’s going to take me all week to finish viewing last night’s programs:
Call the Midwife
Barry
Billions
The Good Fight
Homeland
The Kennedy’s on CNN
The Child in Time Masterpiece Theatre
Silicon Valley
Jesus Christ Superstar (ok, this special was on last week, but it was fabulous and is available on demand from NBC)
Here and Now
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Howard’s End
Killing Eve
Unforgotten
The Walking Dead
Trust

The rest of the week

OK, some of following content is formulaic and juvenile, but I just can’t look away!
60 Minutes
PBS Frontline
CBS Sunday Morning
Riverdale
Roseanne
The Terror
Corporate
Designated Survivor
Gotham
Arrow
IZombie
Rise
Legion
Hap and Leonard
Real Time with Bill Maher
Unreal
Jim Jeffries
Samantha Bee Full Frontal
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Closing Words

I will be taking a bit of a break from blogging as most of next week starting April 15 we will be on the road and out of television range. We plan to spend two nights in Savannah, Georgia and three days visiting friends in Pinehurst, NC. We should be arriving back in Toronto by April 21. It has truly been an amazing season of extraordinary weather with friendship, golf, mahjong, book group, film group, fitness, bicycling, touring, hosting and general good times. Fingers crossed that it will be daffodil time and that the snow and ice will be long past when we return home to family and friends next week. Best wishes to all our fellow Snowbirds who are on the road in the next couple of weeks. It will be hard to say goodbye to Paradise. Hugs to all my friends facing medical challenges.