Time is now racing by…

We are leaving Florida on April 11, so we are cherishing every day we have left here.  I had a longtime friend come and visit this past week, and two dear couple friends are visiting us before we leave.  Today is the day of our neighbourhood street party, so neighbours are starting to say good bye to each other as we start our journeys home. It will be wonderful to see our family and friends at home in Ontario, but we just wish we could bring our Florida weather home with us.  Oh well, hoping for spring weather and daffodils on our return.

My visiting friend this past week informed me that she never watches TV, so I enticed her to watch a couple of films with me instead.  I did spend some time this weekend trying to catch up on my 83% full PVR, but I still haven’t gotten around to all my recorded programs, so here come a few recommendations for items you may be overlooking:

On the Big Screen

Last week I raved about the new live action version of Beauty and the Beast (which I regard as a masterpiece in the Disney canon that includes, Up, Ratatouille, The Jungle Book, etc.  If you are a B&tB fan, you may enjoy this article:

Why Belle Should Have Chosen Gaston

On Demand

20th Century Women is a sweet and gentle memoir about a teenager growing up in a very unconventional 1970’s household headed up by single mom Annette Bening. Wistful and slow paced, it’s a portrait of women behaving unconventionally during the heady times of the emerging women’s liberation movement and the hallucinogenic 70’s. A very different sort of coming of age movie.

I am JFK Jr – A Tribute to a Good Man.  This documentary (which originally aired on HBO) is an homage to America’s fallen prince and the Kennedy legacy.  It is the story of a young man destined for greatness, but determined to be good in a world filled with high expectations.  Featuring cinematically shot interviews with John’s friends ranging from the famous, like Robert De Niro and Cindy Crawford, to the controversial – Mike Tyson and Larry Flynt.  The vintage footage of young John in the White House, on vacation with his family, and rare footage of him in the years after his famous father’s assassination are rather poignant.

Worth Seeking Out

Con artists are trending this year (Good Behaviour on USA, Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime, Imposters on Bravo) and Shut Eye is an addictive Hulu series starring Jeffrey Donovan as a scammer who develops a real ability to predict the future.  I binged on all 10 episodes this past week.  Beware, you may get hooked!

NETFLIX

Iron Fist has been very controversial for its white washed casting of a blonde blue eyed Brit (Finn Jones from Game of Thrones) in what was originally depicted in the comics as an Asian.  I must confess that I have bingewatched several episodes of this highly addictive martial arts series and have found it mindlessly enthralling regardless of its politically incorrect casting.

Recent Debuts

AMC

Into the Badlands returned to AMC for its second season last Sunday night and I still haven’t caught up with it.  This martial arts based series is about a mighty warrior and a young boy who search for enlightenment in a ruthless territory controlled by feudal barons.  Not for everyone, but I liked its badass kookiness. The Walking Dead is nearing its season finale and things are starting to look bad for Negan.

FX

This network continues to delight with its miniseries like Fargo (returning shortly for Season 3), American Crime Story, and this year’s Feud about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.  Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are amazing in their depictions of the two stars. The Americans (Tuesdays) is still dark and thrilling and this year, and, because of our new found focus on Putin’s Russia (yet another journalist shot to death recently), continues to be more timely than ever.

Amazon Prime

Several trusted friends have now told me how much they have enjoyed Z: The Beginning of Everything. This is a biography series based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20’s.  Starring Christina Ricci as Zelda Fitzgerald, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F.Scott Fitzgerald and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage – made in heaven  and lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time.

 

ABC

American Crime (Sunday nights) has returned for its third season with a wonderful cast (headed by Felicity Huffman) and is focusing this year on human trafficking. Powerful stories of individuals caught up in this shameful practice, the series is beautifully written and acted.

 

CBS

With the notable exceptions of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden and of course my moment of Zen show CBS Sunday Morning, I rarely find myself drawn to the network’s hugely popular line up of police procedurals and 1/2 hour sitcoms.  John Doyle has a wonderful Globe column on how CBS programming is generally of high appeal to Trump followers:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-the-soul-of-trumps-america-is-clearly-visible-in-the-cbs-schedule/article34409186/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

 

NBC

Guilty pleasures abound on this network for me.  Chicago Fire on Tuesdays (hunky firefighters abound) had a hilariously overwrought episode this past week about a gang of black teenagers taking the entire firehouse hostage.  Chicago Justice on Sundays (also simplistically overwrought) features the blonde and handsome actor Philip Winchester heading up the State Attorney’s dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators as he navigates heated city politics and controversy head-on, while fearlessly pursuing justice.  Sadly, I am finding The Blacklist: Redemption on Thursdays (starring Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen) almost unwatchable as the team of covert mercenaries solves problems that governments “don’t dare touch”.

Despite my digs about guilty pleasures and formulaic programming on Network TV, John Doyle has another great column on Network TV:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-no-new-hits-but-network-tv-is-not-dead-yet/article34377838/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The CW

If you haven’t yet caught up with Riverdale (Thursdays), see if you can catch it on demand.  Dark and subversively comedic, it’s an Archie’s comic brought to life for millennials.  I also enjoy The 100 on Wednesdays about attractive young people lost in space.

PBS

This wonderful network seems to still be in fundraising mode, but our local affiliate is airing To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters at 9 pm tonight.  British sisters Charlotte (Finn Atkins), Emily (Chloe Pirrie) and Anne (Charlie Murphy)  Bronte write classic 19th-century novels while dealing with their troubled brother (Adam Nagaitis).  Looking forward to this Brit costume drama.  Sigh… English accents and period costumes are my favourites!!

Showtime

When I set up the above program to record tonight, it knocked out two Sunday night favourites of mine, Billions and Homeland (which are both easily time shifted). Both shows originally starred Brit Damian Lewis (red haired, small mouthed).  Although he is long departed from Homeland (still starring Clare Danes as a slightly crazed heroine), he is still playing a ruthless capitalist hedge fund owner (is there any other kind?) on Billions.

TBS

Canadians should be deservedly proud of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal (Wednesday nights) where Bee fearlessly kicks ass on a weekly basis as she turns her comic gaze on  the political quagmire that has descended upon America.

HBO

Famed for its original programming of high quality dramas (currently Big Little Lies), challenging sitcoms (currently Girls and Crashing).  HBO also is home to two political comedy series (Real Time with Bill Maher on Fridays and Last Week Tonight on Sundays with John Oliver).

Closing Words

I usually write this blog while watching my favourite program of the week, CBS Sunday Morning.  Today’s episode opened with a segment on the polarization of  political news coverage in the US media.  Fascinating stuff.  I then usually catch up on all the other news of the day with Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN.  Zakaria gives a calm and usually dispassionate focus on world events (although last week he went a little nuts using the term bullshit to repeatedly call out the Trump administration’s fast and loose way with the truth).  In conclusion, try not to watch too much political coverage as it will only raise your blood pressure.  Enjoy this beautiful spring weather!!

 

So much to watch, so little time….

OK, true confessions.  I haven’t even watched last week’s Sunday recordings, never mind all the regular weekday stuff. We’ve been partying with lots of friends and have eaten and drunk more these past few days than I care to recall.  I am still feeling the effects of my St. Patrick’s Day special Paddywack cocktails, so from out of my alcohol induced haze, here are some recommendations:

 

On the Big Screen

Beauty and the Beast is not to be missed.  Lush, romantic and full of wonderful songs, this movie couldn’t have been any more enjoyable.  Even if you don’t have a child or grandchild to accompany you, treat yourself to this lovely experience.  It’s beautifully cast, has gorgeous costumes and spectacular sets.  Enjoy!!  By the way, the audience broke into spontaneous applause at the end. Stay for the closing credits, as you will be amazed at the talent behind this film:  Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, etc.  Magical!!

New on Netflix

Iron Fist debuted this weekend.  Starring Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones), and continuing the Marvel series tradition of heroes with mad martial arts skills, Danny Rand is a young man bestowed with mad martial arts skills and a mystical force known as the Iron Fist.  Try it, you might like it!!  I just binged on the first 4 episodes and I am totally hooked.

Hotel Beau Séjour debuted on Netflix recently.  A noir series that begins when a girl wakes up in a hotel room and she finds her own dead body in the bathtub.  She tries to solve her own murder but realises that nobody except 5 people can see her.  She unravels a web of secrets in her seemingly tranquil village.  From Belgium with English subtitles. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-euro-noir-is-alive-and-well-in-the-excellent-hotel-beau-sejour/article34329832/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

New on Hulu

Shut Eye is a 10 episode miniseries about the world of gypsy fortune tellers and con artists.     Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) plays Charlie Haverford, a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling storefronts and contracts, who works for a Roma family (headed by Isabella Rossellini) that controls the business in the greater chunk of Los Angeles.  A blow to the head from a client’s angry boyfriend intersects with a hypnosis session while auditioning a new “clairvoyant,” and suddenly, a man whose entire life has been based on fraud begins to see and feel some very real and fundamental truths.  Loved the first couple of episodes!!  Addictive. Here’s a great article from the NY Times:

HBO DOCUMENTARY

Tickled is a documentary from New Zealand.  Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn’t stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction. This is a true spellbinder that reveals how difficult it is to make a documentary film in the face of extremely hostile subjects.

A Note about PBS

In checking the TV Guide, tonight’s regular PBS lineup (Masterpiece Theatre, Masterpiece Mystery, etc.) is being preempted by the usual array of fundraising specials.  Now, more than ever, PBS needs your support.  If you enjoy their excellent lineup of children’s programming, scripted dramas, evening news, public affairs programs, etc., you may want to think about making a donation or at least letting your voice be heard with your elected federal representatives to let them know how important funding the Corporation for Pubic Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts is to you.  These are very worrisome times for those of us who have come to depend on programs like Downton Abbey.  Please support your local PBS station.

Regular Recommendations and shows you might want to catch

Please check last week’s recommendations for regularly scheduled programs.

I did manage to watch the new John Lithgow mockumentary on NBC Tuesdays, Trial and Error, and found it a bit lame and silly, but will give it another chance this week.

If you haven’t caught Riverdale on The CW Thursday (Archie comics revisited), see if you can find it on demand.  Very clever and funny.

American Crime on ABC Sundays has returned with a season about human trafficking. This show is incredibly well written and acted and the series stars a repertory company made up of incredibly powerful actors like Felicity Huffman, Regina King, etc.  This season focuses on an undocumented Mexican worker who discovers modern servitude thriving in an agricultural community; a woman who learns the shocking truth behind a family’s wealth; a social worker who wants a young prostitute to testify against her pimp in court.  

Colony on USA Thursday nights, couldn’t be more timely in its depiction of a world colonized by extraterrestrial tyrants and their human surrogates who carry out their bidding.

Outsiders on WGN Tuesdays (produced by Paul Giammatti) is a great series about poor Appalachians fighting big coal.

Underground on WGN Wednesdays has returned for its second season and continues the search for freedom by slaves headed North.

Imposters (Bravo on Tuesdays) is a dark comedy that focuses on a female con artist who marries men and then disappears with their money.  This terrific new show is very entertaining as her victims band together to hunt her down.

Some Closing Words

I started this blog for my friends who frequently asked me what they should be watching.  Imagine my surprise when I found this fantastic article by an entertainment writer who is frequently asked for TV recommendations.  I love her choices:

How to Recommend TV Shows to Everyone in Your Life

Our time here in Florida is coming to an end.  We have visitors coming during our last 3 weeks here, so it will be very busy.  In the meantime, enjoy beautiful spring weather if you’re in the north (I believe tomorrow is officially the last day of winter, despite the occasional March snowstorm) and for my Florida friends, enjoy our incredibly beautiful endless summer.

 

 

 

I have run out of breath…

I’m having a quiet Sunday. The time change (and several ensuing power outages in our community) has sent our electronics reeling, screwed up our PVR settings, made it very difficult to retrieve email, etc.  Now that things have evidently returned to normal, I am hurriedly composing this blog entry before the power fails again sending my work to oblivion!  So here goes:

Coming to the Big Screen this week

Beauty and the Beast, now a live action musical from Disney, arrives on March 17 when I will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day, so I will be seeing it at our local multiplex on March 18.  It has had rave reviews and of course, stars Dan Stevens as the Beast (Matthew Crawley from the sorely missed Downton Abbey), as well as Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson . Can’t wait!!!

New Shows

Another show that made its debut last week (which I didn’t catch until after it had aired) was Time After Time. A TV adaptation of the 1979 film with David Warner and Malcolm Macdowell which has HG Wells hurtling from Edwardian London into modern day Manhattan as he uses his time machine to try and stop Jack the Ripper from killing in present day NYC.  A ripping yarn so far, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode.  ABC on Sundays at 9 pm. Here’s what John Doyle has to say about it:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-hollywoods-fascination-with-jack-the-ripper-endures/article34168174/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

American Crime will make its Season 3 debut on ABC tonight.  This terrific series deals with difficult subjects in a very effective and engaging way.  This season will concentrate on human trafficking.  Performers from season to season include a repertory company composed of Felicity Huffman, Regina Davis, Tim Hutton, and many more.  Here’s what Deadline.com has to say about it:

‘American Crime’ Season 3 Review: John Ridley’s Anthology Series Remarkable In Scope

Trial and Error debuts on Mar 14 on NBC at 10. Starring John Lithgow, this mockumentary is about a murder suspect on trial for killing his wife and looks very funny as it is a cross between Parks and Rec and Making a Murderer.

Love from Judd Apatow returned to Netflix on Mar 10. Tales of love and woe for millennials.

Iron Fist joins the Marvel Netflix line-up on Mar. 17.

 

CNN Alert

Farid Zakaria GPS is my go-to expert on World Affairs every Sunday morning at 10.  On Monday night he has a special program about Vladimir Putin called The Most Powerful Man in the World.  Hopefully, more light will be cast upon the alleged influence of Russia on the American political process.

My usual obsessions

Last week I gave a rundown of my nightly PVR recordings.  I exhausted myself doing that, but if you are curious please have a look at them.  I will just highlight now some shows you may be watching that haven’t received much attention:

Sunday

Homeland on Showtime at 9

Big Little Lies on HBO at 9

Feud:  Bette and Joan on FX at 10

The Arrangement on E at 10

Crashing on HBO at 10:30

Girls on HBO at 10

Billions on Showtime at 10

Monday

Humans on AMC at 10

Taken on NBC at 10

Tuesday

The Americans on FX at 10

Outsiders on WGN at 9

Imposters on Bravo at 10

Wednesday

Legion on FX at 10

Designated Survivor on ABC at 10

The Expanse on SyFy at 10

Underground on WGN at 10

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS at 10:30

Thursday

 The Catch on ABC at 10

Colony on USA at 10

Friday

Grimm on NBC at 8

Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO at 10

Saturday

SNL on NBC at 11:30

Comic Relief

OK, so I know it’s a stretch to say SNL hasn’t received much attention, but for comic relief don’t forget about Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sundays at 11 on HBO, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert most weeknights at 11 and 11:30 respectively on Comedy and CBS. Trevor Noah also has a new NETFLIX special called Trevor Noah Afraid of the Dark which is a live performance on Broadway.

Concluding Words

It’s been a little smoky in Southwest Florida this past week because of brushfires and lack of rain.  The weather is supposed to cool this week and they are forecasting rain, but that is  not nearly as dire as the weather forecast for the northeast which is showing very cold temperatures and snow.  Safe driving to all my family and friends!  Enjoy the week, wherever you may be.

 

 

Premiere Alert #2: Designated Survivor Returns

I am so embarrassed!  I thought I had been overly wordy in my last blog post, so I was perhaps a bit quick to publish before I became even more verbose.  However, as a result, I omitted mentioning the return of Designated Survivor (Wed. night at 10 pm on ABC) starring Kiefer Sutherland.  For those of you who have been breathlessly waiting to see how this suspense series develops, wait no more. Set your PVRs.

Premiere alert…The Americans returns!

Unfortunately in my morning post, I missed including The Americans Season 5 return this Tuesday at 10 pn on FX. This riveting series has been described as one of the best on TV.  Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, it tells the story of two Soviet intelligence agents who pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.  With our daily news being filled with reports of Russian involvement in the American political process and responses of McCarthyism being levelled at the media and all who call for investigations into Russian interference, this series which is set in the 1980’s couldn’t be more timely. Enjoy!!

So much catching up to do…

Well, the Oscars came and went last weekend. As for the fiasco of the botched Best Film award presentation, I feel rather sanguine about it now.  I was delighted to hear that LaLaLand was announced as best picture.  I really enjoyed this lovely musical.  Wistful and full of imaginative touches, I found it a wonderful escape from today’s troubles.  I loved the French musicals The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg that were major influences on this bittersweet love story.  When the mixup became apparent, I was very pleased to see that Moonlight, a truly original film that depicted the life of a young black man in Florida, had been recognized for its courageous storytelling.  In my opinion, the mixup gave both films an opportunity to be honoured.

A Documentary recommendation:

I wrote earlier this year about a wonderful documentary Score that I saw at the Naples International Film Festival.  This film will go into wide release in May, and here is an excerpt from an article from another blogger, Victoria Weisfeld, on this terrific doc:
“The heart of many a memorable motion picture is the musical score that presages, enhances, and evokes emotions as the story unfolds.

In Score, a new documentary set for wide release in May, filmmakers Kenny Holmes and Matt Schrader feature leading film music composers—including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, Quincy Jones, Danny Elfman and Alexandre Desplat—who describe the extraordinary artistry and execution in crafting a memorable score.

Whether they’re talking about their contemporaries or the greats of yesteryear, the composers express a profound admiration that’s born of an intimate understanding of what makes a work groundbreaking or indelible,” wrote Sheri Linden in the Hollywood Reporter.”

 

 

In the Concert Hall

Last night we attended a concert at Artis-Naples, the local symphony hall, of The Hit Men: Legendary Performers with Frankie Valli, Carole King, Cat Stevens and More. Performing with The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.  This was a very enjoyable evening of music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s performed by a wonderful group of journeymen entertainers.  It was a trip down memory lane for all of us baby boomers in attendance, as so many hits that we grew up with were beautifully performed.

Now, on to TV recommendations:

TV Premieres this Week

Feud airs tonight on ABC.  Directed by Ryan Murphy, it stars Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and is about their legendary rivalry during their collaboration on the film What Ever happened to Baby Jane.  The series explores how the two women endured ageism,sexism, and misogyny while struggling to hang on to success and fame in the twilight of their careers.

Here’s John Doyle’s article on the series:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-in-feud-two-screen-sirens-battle-each-other-and-hollywoodageism/article34200220/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Arrangement airs tonight on E! Purportedly based on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Scientology marriage, the series is about TV actress Megan Morrison who is offered a $10 million marriage contract with Hollywood’s biggest star.This looks like the guilty pleasure show of the year!

Chicago Justice (which is the latest Dick Wolf show set in Chicago, following Chicago PD, Chicago Fire and Chicago Med) debuted this past week on NBC and episode 2 makes its regularly scheduled Sunday night appearance tonight. Although putting this very routine legal drama on the Sunday night schedule  may be very unwise (where it has to compete for an audience against the juggernaut shows of HBO, Showtime, STARZ, AMC and PBS), the show does star Philip Winchester.  This dreamily handsome guy got his start on US TV in 2008 when he starred in Crusoe, and he has since played leading roles in Strikeback and The Player as an action star.  It will be interesting to see how long this legal series will last up against some of the best shows on TV.  Sometimes you just need to watch a very handsome guy pretend to be a lawyer.

Taken premieres on NBC next Saturday night.  If you ever wondered how Liam Neeson acquired that “particular set of skills” as CIA operative Bryan Mills, here’s a picture of the action hero as a young man as former CIA agent Mills deals with a personal tragedy that shakes his world, and he fights to overcome the incident and exact revenge.

My usual obsessions:

Today my XFinity recorder gets a workout!  It can record 6 events at one time which comes in very handy when the networks insist on putting their very best offerings on at the same time, so here is my list of what I will be recording today:

9 am CBS News Sunday Morning

10 am Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN

8 pm Mercy Street on PBS

8 pm The Missing on STARZ

9 pm Big Little Lies on HBO

9 pm Homeland on SHOWTIME

9 pm Chicago Justice  (episode 2) on NBC

9 pm Victoria on Masterpiece on PBS

9 pm Black Sails on STARZ

9 pm The Walking Dead on AMC

10 pm Girls on HBO

10 pm Billions on Showtime

10 pm Feud: Bette and Joan on ABC

10 pm The Arrangement on E!

10:30 pm Crashing on HBO

11:00 pm Last Week Tonight on HBO

OK, if you’re overwhelmed at the list above (and thinking I might need some kind of TV intervention), just imagine how challenging it is to try and keep up with these shows.  I still haven’t caught up with the shows from last week as we had the great pleasure of hosting our son Jon for 10 days and had company for golf and dinner this week!

As for my other regular viewing during the week, here’s a rundown:

Monday

7:30 VICE News Tonight on HBO

8:00 24:LEGACY on FOX

10:00 Humans on AMC

11:00 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy

11:35 The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS

Tuesday

7:30 VICE News Tonight on HBO

9:00 Outsiders on WGN

10:00 Imposters on Bravo

10:00 Chicago Justice  (episode 3) on NBC

11 and 11:35 Trevor Noah on Comedy and Stephen Colbert on CBS

Wednesday

7:30 VICE News Tonight on HBO

10:00 The Expanse on SyFy

10:00 Legion on FX

10:30 Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS

11 and 11:35 Noah on Comedy and Colbert on CBS

Thursday

7:30 VICE News Tonight on HBO

9:00 Riverdale on the CW

9:00 Nashville on CMT

10:00 Colony on USA

11 and 11:35 Noah on Comedy and Colbert on CBS

Friday

7:30 VICE on HBO

8:00 Grimm on NBC

10:00 Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO

11:35 Colbert on CBS

Saturday

9:00 Taken on NBC

11:30 Saturday Night Live on NBC

In Conclusion

Well, that was exhausting!!  Not to mention a little embarrassing, as I have disclosed the many shows I record on a daily basis.  There has been very little rain here and as a result there have been numerous brushfires north of us in the Fort Myers area.  It has been a sublime winter in Naples so far.  Very few of our golf, pickle ball and bocci games have been rained out.  In short, there has been very little cool and miserable weather suitable to staying in and hunkering down on the couch to veg out with guilty pleasure TV viewing.  I am looking forward to the opening of the new Disney live action version of Beauty and the Beast (dreamy Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey is the beast) that is going to open here in Naples on March 17.  It has had wonderful advance reviews!!  George has asked me to round up some ladyfriend volunteers to come and see it with me, so start thinking about it. Whatever your plans, have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

The Oscars are finally here!!!

We will be watching the show tonight with some of our Florida neighbours.  There will be games and valuable prizes!  I did a little prep by watching the BAFTA (British Academy) awards and the Independent Spirit Awards last night.  For a summary of the Indy awards you can read this article from the NY Times:

 

The red carpet fun starts very early tonight on ABC (the show is filmed in LA which is 3 hours earlier than eastern time), but I will be tuning in to the coverage as of 7 pm.  The awards presentation itself starts at 8 pm.  Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, it should be very interesting to watch, as politics will likely play an important role. Again, the NY Times ran an article this week on why Kimmel will likely be a good host for a political Oscars telecast:

 

And now for my other recommendations:

On the Big Screen

John Wick: Chapter Two (starring Keanu Reeves) was two hours of unrestrained mayhem.  I accompanied my son Jon to his choice of movie and I found the level of killing (at least 200 in the body count according to my son) mind boggling.  Who knew there were so many professional killing squads?  My heart was stolen by Ruby Rose as an adorable mute assassin with a bad ass haircut and incredibly expressive sign language skills.

The Founder (starring Michael Keaton) is the story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence and ruthlessness. The movie is ultimately very sad as the two brothers see themselves obliterated from the business they started.

Inspirational Documentary

Becoming Warren Buffett is the perfect antidote for living with the craziness of today’s politics and watching the ruthless rise of Ray Kroc’s takeover of McDonald’s.  Produced for HBO, the film shows how the legendary investor started out as an ambitious, numbers-obsessed boy from Nebraska and ended up becoming one of the richest and most respected men in the world. His charitable activities are truly inspiring.

Inspirational Museum

My son accompanied me to the Southwest Florida Holocaust Museum.  Our book group read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah last month and I really wanted to know more about resistance movements during WWII, so I was able to convince my son to join me on a visit to this incredibly moving museum. From the Yelp page:

History cannot be denied.  Everyone needs to visit, whether young or old, if only to refresh one’s moral consciousness.  This Museum houses a sobering collection of letters, photographs, and artifacts donated from the personal holding of SW FL Families and survivors of the mid-20th century Nazi hate and death campaigns in Europe.  There is an Audio Guide, and Volunteer docents convey compelling detail, steeped in both largely known and obscure facts. Pastor Martin Niermoller’s quote is at the door, and is most poignant:

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

I had long resisted visiting because I thought it would be too painful, but I’m very glad I went and I’m so proud of my 31-year-old son for seeing it with me.  A long way from the John Wick film.

Debuts This Week

When We Rise debuts on ABC on Monday at 9 pm.  An 8-part miniseries, it chronicles the gay rights movement in the US, beginning with the Stonewall riots in 1969. Based on Cleve Jones’ 2016 memoir of the same title, it stars Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Carrie Preston.

My Usual TV Recommendations

There will be many other shows competing for audiences tonight as counter programming is being offered for new episodes of The Walking Dead, Homeland, Billions, Black Sails, The Missing, Big Little Lies, Girls, Crashing, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  PBS has decided to rerun all the Victoria episodes this evening for those of you who have missed it so far.

As for my usual weekly obsessions, have a look back through the archives of this blog.  I am including John Doyle’s latest article on what’s hot on TV as he seems to be enjoying one of my latest faves, Riverdale (the subversive take on Archie comics):

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-whats-hot-now-riverdale-gay-rights-and-the-real-world/article34129024/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Comic Relief Team

On Wednesday night, Conan O’Brien has a Prime Time Special on TBS at 10-11 pm.  Conan Without Borders: Made in Mexico.  In light of the negative news surrounding the state of the US-Mexico relationship, Conan decides to strike a positive note by hosting a show in Mexico City with an all Mexican staff, crew, guests, and audience.  It should be hilarious!

Closing Words

We entered a whole new world of TV viewing this week, as George and Jon headed to the Xfinity store to pick up our new Xfinity X1 box.  Voice activated and state of the art, it makes your old cable system and PVR seem like antiques.  I am still getting used to all the new features, but I have to confess that I am loving what it can do at the touch of a finger and it has the best voice activated system I have ever encountered.  Even better than the Amazon Alexa which I thought was pretty cool.  Available to Comcast subscribers, Rogers subscribers can look forward to this service later in the year as they have just licensed it as well.  Oh yes, and I received a lovely new iPad Pro (9.7″) for my birthday last week and now my old iPad seems like an antique as well.  Tomorrow we are off for a little boating in the Everglades as our 10 days of excursions with our son is winding down.  He has now discovered the worlds of Pickleball, Bocci, and he even got his dad to purchase new tennis racquets this week.  I will be playing golf and Mahjong as usual (plus attending our book group – the tearjerker Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes) and we will be welcoming some visitors from our Thornbury gang of friends.  Other good friends are arriving this week to begin their month-long rental stay at Treviso Bay, so the good times will continue to roll.

Have a wonderful week wherever you are and don’t forget to tune in to the Oscars tonight (or even better, record it and avoid all the commercials)!!

So much catching up to do…

We had a wonderful time with our friends in Palm Springs.  We visited them 5 years ago when they first bought their beautiful mid-century modern home there and we were honoured to be with them on this last visit as they have sold up, lock, stock and barrel and are moving on to new adventures.  Very bittersweet for all of us.  We enjoyed perfect weather and had some great hikes, incredible meals and many toasts with festive beverages.I didn’t watch much TV, so I had a lot of catching up to do when we got home this week. Here are my recommendations:

On the big screen

Elle with Isabelle Huppert. Nominated for Best Foreign Film (France) at the Oscars, this thriller will have you on the edge of your seat with its plot twists and turns.  On the surface, it’s a rape revenge fantasy, but underneath it’s a savage look at life among the Parisian bourgeoisie.  I loved it, but it’s probably a little dark for most people. Just watch it for Huppert’s performance, for which she has been honoured as best actress at many festivals and competitions.

ON Demand

As I flew back from California on United Airlines this week, I took another look at Me Before You (based on the novel by Jo Jo Moyes).  I had originally seen the film before I read the book (it’s on my Florida Book Club list for March).  Having now read the book, I cried my eyes out from almost start to finish while watching the movie.  It’s a beautiful adaptation of a lovely novel about a caregiver and her patient who come to care deeply for each other.  Bring out your hankies!  Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin are perfectly cast in the major roles.

Streaming

The Path (Hulu) continues its harrowing tale of life inside a cult.

Amazon

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.  It’s a little jarring to hear very British accents in the roles of Parisians, but you eventually get over the weirdness of that.  Intrigue abounds.

FX

Legion has aired its first two episodes about a mutant with astonishing powers.  From the Marvel Universe, Dan Stevens is almost unrecognizable from his Downton Abbey days as Matthew Crawley. Not for most of the people in my life, but I am intrigued by this sort of thing.

Taboo continues with its dark and mysterious ways. Tom Hardy is charismatic as the mysterious protagonist on a revenge mission against the East India Company.

Starz

Billions has returned with Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Their cat and mouse game continues as the billionaire hedge fund manager and the state prosecutor try to ruin each other.

Black Sails (aargh!) continues its final season. Revolution is coming to Nassau. Long John Silver comes to life in this prequel to Treasure Island.

WGN

Outsiders tells the story of Appalachian hillbillies who are fighting big coal’s attempt to blow the lid off their mountain.  Fascinating stuff.

HBO

Little Big Lies debuts tonight.  Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.  Here is a rave review from The Daily Beast:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/16/big-little-lies-reese-witherspoon-is-so-damn-good.html?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

Girls with Lena Dunham (special guest star Riz Ahmed showing off his rapping skills) and Adam Driver returned for its final season last week.  Here’s John Doyle’s take on it:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-girls-final-season-is-as-real-and-riling-as-ever/article33983628/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Young Pope aired its last two episodes last week.  I haven’t gotten around to watching them yet and frankly, I’m holding off. A thoroughly reprehensible protagonist (Jude Law) whose self-serving amorality induces shudders.  I will watch this when the weather prevents any other type of activity.

Showtime

Homeland is heating up!!  Will Quinn completely recover?  Why does Saul keep getting himself dragged out of cars with a hood over his head?  Will Carrie (Claire Danes) save the world from terrorism again?

The Missing returned for a second season (Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey are the leads for Season 2) last Sunday.  Here’s John Doyle’s recommendation:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-the-missing-is-a-brilliant-thriller-about-unbearable-suffering/article34010031/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

FOX

Imposters has aired its first two episodes.  A delightful black comedy/revenge fantasy about a team of grifters who operate by targeting vulnerable souls and then fleecing them for everything they have, including their dignity.  The fun starts when the victims join forces to exact their revenge.  Here’s John Doyle’s take:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-lets-all-root-for-an-amoral-anti-heroine/article33911109/

Speaking of saving the world from terrorism, a new version of 24 has returned with a former Special Forces officer out to stop a series of sleeper cell attacks.  He’s no Jack Bauer, but he’s a great character in his own way.

NBC

I still haven’t caught up with my pure guilty pleasure shows Grimm, Emerald City and Blacklist, but it’s only one week until Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) gets his own spin-off series, The Blacklist Redemption (debuts Feb. 23).

PBS

I still haven’t caught up with Mercy Street and Victoria, but I will relish watching both of them.

The CW

Arrow and The 100 are both in full swing.  For science fiction and fantasy fans.

Riverdale has emerged as an extremely watchable mystery series that has turned the Archie comic book series into a very intriguing look at life in a seemingly idyllic small town and the darkness that lies beneath it.  I am loving it!

The News Shows/The Political Comedy Shows

Well, I simply can’t stop watching my favourite new channel CNN as it covers the amazing unfolding story of this new presidency.  The recent press conference was totally fascinating to watch.

On NBC, Seth Meyers: A Closer Look segments have become must see viewing:

Likewise Bill Maher’s Friday night Real Time series has featured provocative speakers and roundtable discussions:

Milo Yiannopoulos Brings Out The Hate On Post-Show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ Segment – Update

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee are also must see viewing for their comedic take on the latest political insanity.

My Moments of Zen

I am about to turn on my favourite show of the week, CBS Sunday Morning. It soothes and comforts me.  Ah……  I finally caught up with BBC’s series Planet Earth.  BBC America is rerunning the whole series as Planet Earth II is about to debut.  The most astonishing nature photography I have ever seen.  Lose yourself amongst penguins, polar bears and caribou, when the worries of today’s world seem overwhelming.

Final Words

I am headed to the airport later this morning to pick up my son Jon for his 10-day visit with us.  We have many excursions planned, so I hope the boy doesn’t think he’s going to be lying by the pool the whole time he’s here.  He’s going to be my bocci and pickle ball partner.  We are off to purchase some tennis racquets so that we can actually try out our numerous tennis courts here.  I may drag him to some fitness classes and try and get him to join me for a round or two of golf. Of course being my son, he wants to see some films in luxurious surroundings (The Mercato where you can wine and dine while watching films in very comfortable leather seats).  This happens to be my birthday week, so we’ll be celebrating with friends at a neighbourhood spot.  Hoping you all have a wonderful week, and don’t forget to try and see some of the Oscar nominated films.  It makes watching the show so much for fun!! Set your PVRs for next Sunday, February 26 if you are going to be away!

Only 3 weeks to go before the big night…

Now I know that for most of my American friends, the year’s biggest night of TV celebrations is happening tonight with The Stupor Bowl (a great excuse for watching terrific commercials and consuming thousands of calories of super loaded Nachos).  For me, the best night of TV is The Oscars on Feb 26, and I am busily trying to see as many nominated films as possible. It was a pretty hectic week as I entertained a friend from Toronto, did my usual fitness, bocci ball, golf and went to my first pickle ball clinic with one of our tennis pros. While entertaining my friend, we went on Naples’ best unsung boat cruise and did the sunset harbour tour using the Naples Shuttle which takes you around the Gordon Harbour and drops off and picks up at all the waterfront restaurants. Yesterday I attended the Naples Garden Club House & Garden Tour which was a wonderful tour of 4 fabulous homes and gorgeous gardens which shows you how the other 1 percent of Neapolitans live.  Wow!!! Now for some recommendations:

Films currently On Demand or Streaming:

The Edge of Seventeen is a charming coming of age film starring the immensely talented and likeable Hailee Steinfeld. I loved this upbeat and delightful film.
Nocturnal Animals starring the ubiquitous Amy Adams (nominated for Best Actress in Arrival) and directed by Tom Ford, this dark challenging film within a film utterly defeated me.  I found it so thoroughly unpleasant that I had to stop watching it after 30 minutes.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a thriller based on a series of Lee Childs novels.  Starring a newly puffy-looking Tom Cruise, this by-the-numbers action flick is totally unengaging and we turned it off after an hour, not really caring whether Cruise was successful in beating the bad guys or not, since these formula films always end in success as there will be an inevitable sequel. (Ooh, run-on sentence alert!)

Netflix

The Santa Clarita Diet debuted this weekend and stars Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as a married couple of realtors who realize that the wife has become a zombie.  Not nearly as amusing as the CW series IZombie which is currently on hiatus. SCD is a 1/2 hour sitcom which isn’t nearly as funny as it tries to be.  For serious zombie enthusiasts only.

Hulu

The Path starring Aaron Paul is an exploration of life inside a cult.  It is an intriguing look at a crisis of faith and has returned for its second season.

 

BBC/Acorn

Witness for the Prosecution is the latest rendition of the Agatha Christie short story. Starring Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall it’s the story of the prosecution of the accused murderer of a wealthy glamorous heiress who is found dead in her London townhouse.  Shown as a two-part miniseries in England, it has been put together as a two-hour film for North American audiences and is available here by subscription to the Acorn service which provides British television to American audiences. I’m not sure of how the series will air in Canada, but it is terrific and worth looking for through various streaming services.

 

STARZ

Black Sails has returned from hiatus and tells the story behind Treasure Island.  Great for lovers of pirate tales.

USA

Suits (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and continues to tell the story of Mike who is newly released from prison for masquerading as a lawyer and who is trying to get a new start in life.

Colony (Thursdays) has returned from its hiatus for its second season.  It’s the story of resistance after the Earth is invaded by aliens.  Great suspense series.

SYFY

The Expanse (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and began its second season with a 2-hour debut episode.  Reminiscent of great space series like Battlestar Gallactica, it stars Thomas Jane as a police detective in the asteroid belt, Shohreh Aghdashloo as a UN executive and Steven Strait as the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter.  The three major characters slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt.  Intrigue in space!

CMT

Nashville (Thursdays) which was dropped by ABC has resurfaced on Country Music Television.  The   soap opera continues:  Juliette has found God, Avery has restarted his performance career, Rayna and Deacon are struggling with their girls, Maddie is having an interracial romance, Scarlett is as fragile as ever and is back with Gunner, etc.

WGN

Outsiders airs on Tuesdays (produced by Paul Giamatti) and has returned for its second season.  Hillbillies in Appalachia fight big coal.

 

FX

Legion debuts this week (Wednesday) and stars Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey!!!) Legion, based on the Marvel Comics, is about a troubled young man who may be more than human.  Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years.  Now in his early 30’s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep.  David spends the ret of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change.  The pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.

Taboo (Tuesday) is dark and mysterious and stars the enigmatic Tom Hardy as a man on a mission who has returned from the dead to fight for his father’s estate and carry on a war of revenge with the East India Company.

 

HBO

The Young Pope (Sunday and Monday) continues its story of the most unlikeable pope ever.  For serious Fellini and Jude Law fans only.

 

PBS

Father Brown, Mercy Street and Victoria (Sunday) all continue on my local PBS station.  Ahh… costume dramas and period pieces.  Heavenly!!

SHOWTIME

The Affair and Homeland both air on Sunday nights.  I believe both shows are repeating episodes tonight rather than lose their audiences to the aforesaid Stupor Bowl and hence waste new episodes.

 

NBC

Grimm (Friday), Emerald City (Friday), Blacklist (Thursday) are all guilty pleasure shows for me.

Inspiration and Insight

I have often mentioned my addiction to CBS Sunday Morning as my Sunday morning ritual. It uplifts and energizes me with its human interest stories and cultural segments.  60 Minutes (CBS Sunday nights which is a harder edged sister show to CBS Sunday Morning) is an American institution which features segments of investigational journalism on world affairs and culture.  Fareed Zakaria GPS (CNN Sunday morning) informs every week as he looks at world affairs. PBS offers a wealth of documentary programming through its American Experience series on Tuesdays. Recent episodes have focused on Rachel Carson, who was one of the first environmentalists; Command and Control an examination of the security issues around the US nuclear program, etc.  If you have access to ON Demand features or PBS.Org, I encourage you to have a look at their archives.  Frontline and NOVA also offer wonderful documentaries on important issues.  Face the Nation (hosted by John Dickerson Sunday morning on CBS) offers insight and analysis on the top issues of the day. Politicians, government leaders and international newsmakers are welcomed to a roundtable discussion of current events.  Great discussions abound.

Comic Relief

SNL (Saturday on NBC) has provided some real bright spots in our dystopian political landscape.  Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonation has become must-see TV in the cold opening segment; this week’s cameo by Melissa McCarthy was a delightful surprise as she did an incredible parody of Sean Spicer. Next Saturday’s show will be hosted by Alec Baldwin, so set your PVRs now.

Seth Myers (Late Night airs nightly after Jimmy Fallon on NBC) has become a mainstay of YouTube with his insightful and hilarious A Closer Look segments where he skewers politicians with scathing comedic criticism.
Trevor Noah (The Daily Show Mon-Thurs on Comedy) continues to poke fun at our society.  Not nearly as beloved as his predecessor Jon Stewart, Noah (biracial from South Africa) amazes me with his ability to entertain and inform in a delightfully refreshing way.
Stephen Colbert (The Late Show Mon-Fri on CBS) is usually hilarious in his skewering of the political landscape.
Samantha Bee (Full Frontal Wed on PBS) has made me so proud to be Canadian.  She is sharp tongued but hilariously so in her comedic critiques of US politics. She will be hosting an alternative White House Correspondents Dinner on TBS on April 29.

In Conclusion

We are off to Palm Springs to visit longtime friends later this week.  Tomorrow we are headed up to the amazing Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for our annual search for alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles.  A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors and the fabulous Painted Bunting can be seen throughout the year.  There’s a wonderful boardwalk trail where sharp eyed visitors can also see nesting owls, wood storks, etc.  This week I had the somewhat  shocking  experience of finding a rather large alligator in a spot of rough terrain which was exactly where my golfball landed, so I hope I get to see some gators in the wilds of the Everglades at Corkscrew. In the meantime, have a wonderful week whether you are in the North or the South.