Just a few thoughts before I lose them completely….

Watched the first few episodes of Transparent this week.  This show is an Amazon Prime original content series and so may be a bit more difficult to find in Canada.  Absolutely loved it.  Jeff Tambor stars (familiar as Larry Saunders‘ sidekick, George Bluth on Arrested Development and a million other character roles in films and TV).  This series is about an LA family and their reaction to Dad’s decision to come out as someone who wishes to transgender from male to female.  Unbelievably touching and funny at the same time.

Watched episodes 4-6 of Downton Abbey Season 5.  Whoah!  Big revelations!  Romantic intrigue! Dark clouds still circling Mr. and Mrs. Bates – as usual!  Very enjoyable.

Caught Episode 8 Season 7 of Sons of Anarchy.  The suspense is building towards an explosive finale. So Shakespearian. Jax’s revenge actions in the wake of Tara’s murder are all coming back to bite him in the ass.

Boardwalk Empire’s series finale closes on a very satisfying full circle moment.  I am so relieved that Sunday night may be opening up a little bit.

Walking Dead finally closes the circle on the Terminus group.  The gang decides to split with some going to Washington, DC to work on a cure and the others staying with Rick.  Carol is mysteriously missing by the end of the episode.

The Good Wife has a bittersweet ending where Alicia assumes Will Gardiner’s office as the new firm moves into the now vacated Lockhart Gardiner premises.  Poor Cary is still the subject of a witch hunt by the States Attorney’s office.

Jane the Virgin is still sweet and lovable in tone despite the murder of a major character last week. I am seriously in love with the character Alba Villanueva (played by Ivonne Coll) who is the abuela (grandmother) in the show.  She speaks all her dialogue in Spanish with English subtitles.  This show manages to be charming and educational at the same time!  All the performers are endearing, even the villains.  Jane’s dad, character Rogelio de la Vega (played by Jaime Camil), is hilarious as a narcissistic star of a telenovela.  Canadians will recognize Carlo Rota (star of Little Mosque on the Prairie and many other character roles in films and TV) as Mr. Solano.

Reminder to watch Red Band Society tonight and the deliciously soapy Nashville.  I will be recording guilty pleasure show Arrow (starring Canadian actor Stephen Amell), and then the show about attractive young people in space, The 100, as well as my favourite comedies, The Middle and Modern Family.

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My first international blog post

Writing to you from sunny Naples, Florida where the sky is blue and the temperature is in the eighties.  I have just programmed my PVR here to set up my usual Sunday recordings. I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the Sunday shows I have been watching and a recommendation on a show I’m looking forward to seeing for the first time.

  1. Masterpiece Theatre – Death Comes to Pemberley – shown in 3 hour-long parts on PBS, this is PD James’ sequel to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Costumes, English accents, and murder…. Need I say more? Stars my two favourite British Matthews, Matthew Rhys (from The Americans) and Matthew Goode (from The Good Wife).  Could be a snoozefest but I will look forward to it regardless.
  2. The Good Wife – loving the new, more aggressive Alicia Florek and the twists and turns the plot is taking with all the characters; Diane Lockhart still has the best clothing and jewellery on TV!
  3. Homeland – not missing Brody one bit; fascinating to watch Clare Danes navigate her career in counterterrorism despite her bipolar disorder, total lack of motherhood instincts, worst love life ever, addiction to white wine and Ambien, etc. I’m enjoying the Islamabad setting and the slant the show is taking because of its immersion in this region.
  4. Boardwalk Empire – last episode on Sunday; it’s been a long road for Nucky Thompson and the few other characters who have survived all 5 seasons on this show; I found last season to be a bit boring but I have been riveted by the final season.  I will miss these folks and the depiction of absolute crime and corruption in the roaring twenties.
  5. The Affair – intriguing premise as the two lead characters each give their account of their ongoing relationship while being interviewed by police regarding a crime they seem to be involved in.  How amazing that these two British actors (Dominic West and Ruth Wilson) have been cast as quintessentially angst filled Americans.
  6. The Walking Dead – now in its 5th season, the show has veered in the direction of humanity this season, showing that the humans rather than the dead pose the greatest threat to each other; supporting players have been receiving much more attention and sweet Carol has now taken centre stage as a total badass.
  7. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Oliver has emerged as a very engaging commentator on the insanity that is our culture: from discussions of elections, the GM controversy, net neutrality, immigration reform, LGBT rights, income inequality, nuclear weapons, payday loans, Scottish independence,  to Miss America, etc., Oliver skewers these subjects with great insight and humour; he informs and educates while making us laugh.
  8. Madam Secretary – this show annoys me with its neat hourlong solution to immense problems in a somewhat cartoonish way; last week’s episode where the Canadian ambassador was depicted as a bit of a boob, comic relief from the negotiations with Iran over nuclear capability, really offended my delicate Canadian sensibilities; I kind of like Tea Leoni (she has spunk!) but her “have it all lifestyle” seems too idyllic with the perfect family in the background; this show tries to tick all the boxes with a conspiracy theme  (who killed her predecessor?), romance among the co-workers, Leoni battling with her boss the President (played with a steely edge by Keith Carradine) and his scary Chief of Staff (played by all purpose villain Zeljko Ivanek).  It’s kind of a hodge podge of The West Wing and its rapid-fire dialogue and every other political drama that has ever been on TV.  Give me Veep any day!!
  9. Satisfaction – an intriguing start (debuted in Canada last week on Showcase); strangely reminiscent of Hung which starred Thomas Jane as a well-endowed fellow who begins a career as a male escort; stars Matt Passmore (hunky Australian from The Glades); deals with a marriage in trouble and the consequent actions of the couple; the pilot episode was fascinating and it will be interesting to see if this show can keep its momentum.

Happy watching everyone!

It’s almost Sunday again…

Just a quick intro to my site name, What’s Lorraine watching.  My husband and several friends suggested that Brunswil just wasn’t catchy enough, so when you read my posts you will see that there is a new catchier site name that kind of describes my blog.

It’s going to be a crazy week for me as I leave for the drive to Florida on Wednesday and will probably arrive there on Friday.  TV will obviously take a back seat for me (no pun intended) so I will attempt to keep up with what I can before I go. Once I’m in Florida, we will activate our Comcast cable there and it should be pretty easy to watch most shows I’m following On Demand as all the cable and network shows are usually available on demand within 24 hours of airing.  I am a little spoiled in Canada because Rogers has purchased the rights to most of the top cable shows that originate on networks like HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc. and they can be viewed on HBO Canada.  In the US, subscriptions to these premium cable networks have to be purchased separately.  Oh the agony!!  In the meantime a little reminder for you of shows I’m following and will have to catch up on at some point:

The Knick (last episode of Season 1 aired last night)

Hell on Wheels

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

CBS Sunday Morning

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Masterpiece Classic

Masterpiece Mystery

Homeland

The Affair

The Good Wife

Madam Secretary

Outlander

Boardwalk Empire

Gotham

Jane the Virgin

Sleepy Hollow

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Stephen Colbert

The Mindy Project

Covert Affairs

Sons of Anarchy

Chicago Fire

The Middle

Red Band Society

Modern Family

Legends

Nashville

Dominion

Scandal

Gracepoint

And oh yes, The Walking Dead returned last Sunday. For a great article on this show, I’m including a link to John Doyle’s column in today’s Globe:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-10-reasons-why-the-walking-dead-is-a-massive-hit/article21154069/#dashboard/follows/

I know my list of shows is daunting.  Many friends have told me shamefacedly that they don’t even have time to read my blog, nevermind, keep up with any of the shows I’m watching. To each his or her own. I’m just putting these shows out there to let you know that there is a lot of tv that is worth watching. You don’t have to just channel surf aimlessly until you find something that tickles your fancy.  That is a pretty inefficient way to watch tv.  Remember, most 60 minute shows have about 20 minutes of commercials and 30 minute shows have about 10 minutes of commercials.  I try not to watch anything in real time and I record as much as possible on a PVR so that I can watch when it’s convenient for me.  In the meantime, enjoy the fall weather (after a glorious autumn, today’s weather in Thornbury is a little bleak, windy and wet), whether it’s indoors on blustery days or outdoors when the sun is shining and takes a little of the chill out of the air.  I will post a new blog when I get settled in the sunny south.

Oops…Sunday Night Madness strikes again!

In my post-Thanksgiving turkey trytophan-induced delirium yesterday, I quite forgot myself and managed to absolutely neglect to watch or record a couple of shows I was following.  Homeland, which made its season debut last week, was on and I completely forgot about it.  No matter as it will repeat on Superchannel this week.  I have decided that life is too short to watch Janet King (the bleak Australian courtroom series featuring a Lesbian prosecutor getting to the murky bottom of an assisted suicide case) and Strange Empire (the bleak CBC homegrown Western featuring women in the wild Canadian west).  Too many anachronistic hairstyles and attitudes for me.  Unrelentingly grim!  Sorry CBC TV, I was trying to be loyal and I have failed.  Still listening to tons of CBC radio though! (OK, satire lovers, catch up with Podcasts of the hilariously deadpan This is That, a total parody of CBC radio).

I was distracted last night by the opportunity to catch up on Downton Abbey episodes 2 & 3.  Woo hoo!  Love is in the air for the most unexpected characters.  Hitherto witless kitchen maid trying to upgrade her education with tutoring from local rabble rousing teacher; evil Thomas seems to be signing himself up for a self-improvement course; haughty Lady Mary goes off to Liverpool for a sexy week; sweet Lady Cora seems to be considering a relationship with an admirer; even the mighty Dowager meets up with a man from her past.  Poor Bates, just when you think the black cloud hovering over his head has lifted, finds that he’s still a person of interest in the unsolved murder of the servant who assaulted his wife.  Oh the misery…

The Walking Dead on AMC (not for zombie lovers only) made its season debut last night.  Amazingly, the whole Terminus experience seems to have resolved itself in 1 hour (or has it?).  Most unlikely for this show, not to drag out dark suspense and despair interminably.  Hmmm…a positive episode that is ultimately uplifting…this can’t last long (or can it?).

The Affair (originates on Showtime in the US, but on HBO Canada here) made its debut last night.  I absolutely love Dominic West who stars.  For those who watched The Wire, his disapproving father-in-law (whom he despises) is played by the same actor (John Doman) who played his disapproving boss on The Wire.  Too hilarious.  This show’s hook appears to be the Rashomon narrative technique whereby the two major characters give very different accounts of their relationship.  Intriguing…

Also last week, there was the season debut for Arrow and series debut for its spinoff series The Flash.  Loved them both.  In the same vein, I am continuing to enjoy Gotham which creates a dark world for the pre-Batman Bruce Wayne character to grow up in. Ben Mackenzie (formerly of The OC and Southland) shines as a youthful Inspector James Gordon who tries to do the right thing in this corrupt town.  Also still enjoying Forever (the Ioann Gruffud drama about an immortal medical examiner in NYC) and Sleepy Hollow (featuring the dreamy Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane who awakens hundreds of years after being killed in the American Revolution to a world of skinny jeans and cellphones; this show walks a fine line between humour and the supernatural and does so in a very charming way). And of course, I am still watching The Good Wife.  A great courtroom drama which still manages to surprise and introduce fresh plot twists and character development even into its 6th season.  Excellent writing and casting.  Rarely predictable.

There are some new shows debuting this week.  Jane the Virgin (an American adaptation of a comedic telenovela from Latin America) starts tonight on the CW.

Some film recommendations:

Watched Maleficent on TV this weekend.  Absolutely loved it.  Angelina Jolie (whom I still haven’t forgiven for the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston thing) is amazingly perfect in it. A beautiful retelling (OK, feminist and revisionist) of a classic fairy tale.

Saw Gone Girl last week.  Can’t recommend highly enough. Just as well told as the book. Perfect casting. A great noir film.

A quick word about Westerns/CBC debuts Strange Empire tonight

When I was growing up, Westerns were incredibly popular on TV. I would come home from school and watch endless reruns of Wagon Train, Rawhide, Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, etc.  The list goes on forever!  They have made a mild resurgence on TV in recent years and many are available on Netflix:

  1. Longmire – aired on A&E and was recently cancelled but you can catch past seasons on Netflix
  2. Hell on Wheels – currently airing on AMC; a terrific series about the building of the Union Pacific railroad; past seasons available on Netflix
  3. Justified – currently one of my favourite shows on TV (new season will premiere on Superchannel in 2015) and past seasons also available on Netflix; Timothy Olyphant stars as Raylan Givens a US Marshall in Kentucky; this is truly a modern Western where instead of fighting outlaws on the range, Givens does battle with oxycontin and meth dealers and their organized crime superiors in the backwoods of Kentucky

In his column in the Globe today, John Doyle raves about Strange Empire which premieres on CBC tonight at 9.  He describes it as “the most substantial, serious and thrilling thing since Intelligence arrived on CBC a few years ago.”  The link to the complete article is here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-strange-empire—a-remarkable-rugged-western-drama/article20918020/#dashboard/follows/

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

I am sending the link to John Doyle’s column from yesterday’s Globe and Mail. He previews tonight’s double episode Season 4 premiere of Homeland (9-11 pm on Superchannel).  Spoiler alert (he reveals plot points of the Season 3 finale for those who haven’t caught up yet).  He also previews Janet King airing tonight at 9 on CBC.  Apparently it’s an Australian courtroom drama (great news for those who loved The Rake, The Slap, Secrets and Lies, The Amazing Johnsons – OK, that one was from NZ, etc.) I know this super complicates TV viewing, so if you possibly can, you might time shift your viewing or PVR recording and catch Janet King in the Atlantic timezone, etc.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-homeland-is-back-as-a-brilliant-spy-thriller/article20917250/#dashboard/follows/

Gracepoint – My thoughts on this show:

One of my friends commented that my site has a lot of content, but little of my personal opinion, so here goes.  I am weighing in on Gracepoint (airing Thurs 9 pm on Fox and Global), the Americanized version of Broadchurch, an 8-part British crime series that aired last year in Canada.  Still starring David Tennant whose accent is now American rather than Scottish, it deals with the same crime:  the murder of a young boy in a small seaside town (now on the US west coast, although Gracepoint was apparently filmed on Vancouver Island). I’m willing to give this adaptation a chance as the cast includes Anna Gunn (Walter White’s wife on Breaking Bad) as the detective assisting Tennant.  So far, all the performances and dialogue are convincing.  There is an air of dread that hangs over this mystery.  The first episode follows the template of the British series, and that’s not a bad thing. As opposed to many American crime series, the tone is low key.  We are hooked by a very sad death and a family’s loss.  Having just watched two new American series Stalker and Scorpion (not to mention the execrable Mysteries of Laura, and How to Get Away with Murder) last week, the understated style of the British crime series is much appreciated.  Characters are not cartoonish, there has been no grisly, sensationalized violence in the depiction of the crime that has taken place.  Shows like the enormously popular The Blacklist and The Following depict grotesque acts of violence and are over the top in their characterizations of the evil villains who commit these crimes.  Perhaps showing that ordinary people can commit terrible crimes is even more disturbing in the world where Broadchurch and Gracepoint are set.  Having watched the original, I am fascinated to see the differences between the two series.  I personally don’t have a problem with spoilers (as it is so far adhering pretty closely to the plot points of the original), so I will continue to watch Gracepoint despite the enormous amount of criticism it has received for being a bad translation of the original, but you can make your own decision.  Heaven knows there are enough other shows to capture your attention.

If you are enjoying The Honourable Woman….

I realize that I only sent out an email blast re The Honourable Woman, an 8 part series from BBC currently airing on CBC Tuesday nights.  If you have missed the first few episodes, you can catch up on CBC.ca or CBC On Demand if you are a Rogers or Bell subscriber with On Demand features.  I confess that I have been able to watch all 8 episodes and I found it very gripping from beginning to end.

If you enjoy this series, I would also recommend the following series on Netflix:

  1. The Politician’s Husband.  I am a sucker for British TV dramas and I loved this one which is really about the role reversal between two British politicians when the wife’s career is more successful than her husband’s.  This will also appeal to House of Cards fans who love the intrigue behind the scenes of politics.
  2. I have mentioned Happy Valley previously in my blog  and I am about to start watching Southcliffe  and Hinterland, two other British crime series.
  3. George Gently. British period crime drama.  New episodes air on Thurs on our local PBS affiliate, but you can catch up on previous episodes on Netflix.

And now for something completely different on Netflix:

Lilyhammer with the incomparable Steve Van Zandt (familiar from The Sopranos and fans of Bruce Springsteen).  I absolutely loved the first two seasons of this show.  It is about a Mafioso on the run who is sent to live in Norway by the Witness Protection Program.  A great fish out of water story with much of the dialogue in Norwegian with English subtitles. Hilarious!

On Network TV:

This season, NBC ran a great little comedy called Welcome to Sweden which starred Greg Poehler (Amy’s brother) as a NYC accountant who follows his girlfriend back to Sweden (true story apparently although in real life Greg Poehler is a lawyer by profession).  His Swedish as a Second Language classes will make Canadians giggle as he realizes that many of his fellow students (especially the ones from Iraq) are vehemently anti-American and he masquerades as a Canadian, as a result.  Not yet available on Netflix, but it may be available On Demand.

On Cable networks:

I also loved a new comedy called You’re the Worst which is still running on FXX on Thursday night.  A very adult comedy about two hipsters in LA who meet at a wedding and begin to date (despite all odds).  Not yet available on Netflix, but it may show up at some point.  It has been renewed for a second season on FXX.  Very ribald.

Sunday just got even more complicated! Homeland returns

Two new episodes of Homeland are airing on Superchannel in Canada on Sunday from 9 – 11pm.  Sorry, those of you who do not subscribe to this channel will have to stream or download from another source. Also, a friend who just subscribed to this blog mentioned two PBS shows that I have really enjoyed in the past.  The latest episodes of Paradise are airing on Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday nights and George Gently is available on Thursday nights from our local PBS affiliate. George Gently is also available on Netflix for those of you who would like to catch up with this British period crime series.

For those of you who are watching Outlander, this Sunday’s show features the big wedding between Claire and Jamie.  It has been very romantic right from the start with this couple, but they are finally going to act on the incredible chemistry between them.  Woo hoo!

Don’t forget about Good Wife, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, The Strain, etc. if you are following any of these shows.  A friend was very annoyed with me for not reminding her to watch Red Band Society on Wednesday night.  I try, but honestly, the PVR is such a great tool for remembering to record favourite shows.  If you don’t have a PVR, maybe you need to diarize your favourites on your calendar (preferably an electronic one that will alert you to diarized events like your favourite shows airing). Just a suggestion!

I just returned from seeing Gone Girl directed by David Fincher.  If you have read the book, you may agree that the director did a great job bringing these characters to the big screen.  Ben Affleck is terrific and Rosamund Pike is in a breakout role as Amy. All the secondary characters are well cast from the venal TV commentators played by Sela Ward and Missi Pyle to Amy’s parents played by David Clennon and Lisa Banes,  Tyler Perry as Nick’s lawyer, Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister, Kim Dickens as the police detective, etc. Fabulous casting, and the script closely follows the book’s plot, streamlining where necessary. Loved it!