Homeward Bound

As our time here in Florida draws to an end, we’ve been a little preoccupied with entertaining guests, golfing and generally getting our last beach walks and shopping excursions in.  TV has really quietened down with many shows having midseason finales and not returning until the New Year.  So I will really miss The Good Wife, Hell on Wheels, Scandal and many more.  This week will mark the season finale for Sons of Anarchy, an amazingly powerful program with Shakespearean overtones set within a motorcycle gang drama.

This week will feature new episodes of Madame SecretarySleepy Hollow, Flash and Arrow (2 crossover episodes on Tues/Wed), The Mindy Project, Chicago Fire, Forever, The Middle, Modern Family, Nashville, Peter Pan Live!!!!, Gracepoint, The McCarthys, Elementary, Grimm, Constantine, Saturday Night Live, and CBS Sunday Morning.  Guilty pleasure confession: The Mentalist returns for its final season tonight (you Simon Baker fans know who you are!). We are heading into the pre-Christmas period where Christmas specials start to dominate the schedule.

On Netflix and/or available online for streaming:

We recently watched Begin Again on Netflix (with Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo), a sweet spirited film about making it as a performer in the music business in NYC.  We attempted to watch Night Train to Lisbon on Netflix (with Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston), a dreary European muddle about a teacher in Switzerland who impulsively decides to track down the Portuguese author of a book of poetry he comes across by taking the night train to Lisbon. Murky and impossibly slow. Also on Netflix, I attempted to watch A Long Way Down, (a British film starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette and Aaron Paul).  I loved the book by Nick Hornby but found the movie a little too painful to watch as it’s a pretty unfunny comedy about a suicide pact.  Caught up with The Missing (child abduction mystery from BBC starring James Nesbitt), very sad and disturbing.  Also up to date with The Fall (from BBC starring Gillian Anderson and James Dornan – soon to star in 50 Shades of Grey), an intriguing tale about the pursuit of a serial killer in Belfast.  The Affair will air 8 episodes this season, so there is 1 more to go.  Homeland goes on a short hiatus with no new episode tonight but will continue to 12 episodes after the best episode I’ve ever seen aired last Sunday with a huge cliffhanger ending.

Hope everyone has a wonderful beginning to the Holiday Season this week.  We will be bundling up and heading back to The Great White North on Thurs.  Looking forward to catching up with friends and family!!

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Recovering from my Netflix binge watching

Streaming On Netflix:

OK, I must confess that Friday is a total blur as I watched all 8 episodes of Lilyhammer (Season 3).  I absolutely adore this show which is built around Steve Van Zandt (formerly of The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen’s band) who portrays a NYC Mafioso who is relocated to Norway by the Witness Protection Program where he makes a new life for himself. His face just makes me laugh!

Peaky Blinders (Season 2) is available on Netflix. Possibly the most bonkers show on TV as it is a crime drama set in post WW1 Birmingham, England –  a British costume drama with relentless violence and modern background music. Cillian Murphy is the charismatic star and he and all the Peaky Blinders gang members sport very strange punky haircuts.  Anachronistic to the max!

My regular network and cable picks:

Trying to keep up with all my regular shows (check previous posts for the embarrassingly long list) which hasn’t been easy as I have had company this week and I don’t want to give the impression that I do nothing but watch TV, so I have had to be very furtive, appearing to be doing productive things while the telly is on in the background.  As a result, my TV watching has been very random and fragmented.  I think I have decided to pass on State of Affairs (NBC Mondays at 10) as it does seem very derivative. Still loving Homeland and The Affair. I’m not sure how much I love The Game (seen in the US on BBC America Wed. at  10). It is so John Le Carre.  Seems like it’s shot in black and white (although it is actually in colour) as everything seems very grey and murky.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to find The Missing a new BBC suspense series currently airing on Superchannel in Canada and Starz here in the US.  It stars James Nesbitt and looks very intriguing as it is about a child abduction and the police investigation that carries on for years afterwards.  I have also fallen behind on The Fall (starring Gillian Anderson) the crime series about a police investigation into a serial killer.

Internet film fare:

As a side note to the above comments on The Game, I tried to watch the film, A Most Wanted Man (from the John Le Carre novel, the last of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s films released during his lifetime) this week, and within moments everyone in the room was either asleep or consulting their devices for more engaging fare. If you loved the most recent film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy then you will probably like A Most Wanted Man.  On the positive side, the fake German accents of most of the cast were unintentionally hilarious.

PS:

I have been very distracted by the weather reports coming from Southern Georgian Bay and Western New York.  George and I have been scouring the internet for updates on the Thornbury and Buffalo weather and we have been amazed by the viciousness of this early onset winter.  Drive carefully, y’all!!  You are in our thoughts.  To the skiers – enjoy, looks like you will be skiing before Christmas.

PPS:

Looks like I will have one more post from beautiful Naples, Fl before we return to TO in early December.  Brrrh!!  We take another shot at Thanksgiving this week as we will be celebrating the US version with friends. Mmmm… more turkey and pumpkin pie.  Not to mention the madness of Black Friday shopping.  The  day after Thanksgiving when people are occasionally shot or trampled trying to find bargains in the run up to Christmas shopping.  So festive!

Things not to forget to watch this week

My Brit fix list:

I started watching Season 2 of Peaky Blinders with Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy this past week.  It is available on Netflix for those who have a strong enough constitution.  As John Doyle said in the Globe, it is definitely the anti-Downton British series. Dark, furiously violent, lots of north country accents.  Not everyone’s cup of tea.

I also caught up with Season 2 of The Fall where Gillian Anderson plays a veddy British policewoman in charge of a Belfast hunt for a serial killer played by Jamie Dornan (soon to star in 50 Shades of Grey).  Intricately plotted and incredibly suspenseful. But again, dark and violent, and probably not for everyone.

The Game (from BBC as well) is a British espionage series about MI5 trying to track down a mole and stop a Russian doomsday plot from occurring in 70’s England. Dark and very atmospheric.

Masterpiece Theatre on PBS continues with the Worricker series starring Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, etc.  A lovely spy thriller that returns to British soil after a sojourn in the Caribbean.

True confessions: I am a sucker for costume dramas/period pieces and anything with British accents, so I’m pre sold on all of the above series, but as I say, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Domestic fare I am enjoying:

The Affair (with Domenic West and Ruth Wilson) continues with its Rashomon storytelling as does Homeland (Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin) which had an incredible twist last week that had viewers wondering if they were hallucinating (no spoilers, as I’m getting very close).

And new this week:

For those of you who have been enjoying The Blacklist with James Spader, the same production team is debuting a new suspense series called State of Affairs (Monday at 10 on NBC) starring Katherine Heigl (the rom com actress).  It kind of looks like an incredibly corny mash-up of Madam Secretary, Covert Affairs and Homeland. Be warned as Katherine Heigle is one of those actresses people kind of end up hating for some reason.

Also, returning for Season 3 on Netflix on Nov 21:

Lilyhammer, the fish out of water series starring the inimitable Steve Van Zandt (from The Sopranos, Bruce Springsteen’s band, etc.).  Hilarious series about a mafioso who is sent to Norway by the Witness Protection Program.

In the theatres quick movie update:

I saw Interstellar this past week starring Matthew McConaghey, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon and a lot of other wasted talent.  Directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception, Batman, Memento).  OK, I hate movies that deal with time travel and this is kind of the ultimate time travel plot.  Makes absolutely no sense!! I will never get that 3 hours of my life back.  Go at your own risk.

OK, folks. You are on your own this week.  I have my son Jon and his girlfriend Jules visiting this week, so check my last week’s ongoing recommendations for the regular shows I am watching during the week.  We are off to do a beach walk now as there’s a blue sky and the high is predicted to reach 84 so we’d better get out there! I need to save my energy for a busy Sunday evening as there is much to watch tonight.

Just a couple of additions to yesterday’s post

I totally forgot about Sons of Anarchy which is thundering towards its series finale.  So Shakespearean in its tragedy! Tuesdays at 10 on FX here in the US and on Superchannel in Canada.  Also John Doyle’s Globe column today announces the season two return of two wildly different British crime series:

Peaky Blinders (from the BBC starring Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Sam Neill, etc. available on Superchannel in Canada, while I will be finding it online in the US)

The Fall (also from the BBC starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan – from 50 Shades of Grey, available on Bravo in Canada, while I will be finding it online in the US)

Doyle gives a great analysis of Peaky Blinders in his column today:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-brace-yourself-for-this-brilliant-anti-downton-drama/article21505166/

If you haven’t watched season 1 of either series, I recommend you do so without further delay.  I suspect Peaky Blinders which is a little mad anyway, will be completely nonsensical if you plunge right into season 2.  The Fall is a much more traditional crime series, but the buildup of tension in season 1, as the police search for a serial killer, lays the groundwork for what is to follow.

Also, a little sad news re Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  He announced that last night’s episode, show 24, would be the last for this year and that the series is going on hiatus for the rest of the year and will return in Feb. 2015.  Catch up with it On Demand if you can.  The show is very topical, but because of the depth of their main stories, it may age better than Colbert or Stewart which deal with news stories on a daily basis.

Starting to take Sundays in stride

Now that I’ve been doing these posts for a while, my level of hysteria is starting to die down.  I’m no longer afraid of pushing the wrong key and deleting my entire post. It’s an unusually grey and blustery day here in SW Florida – perfect for snuggling in front of my computer.

A few thoughts on the past week’s viewing:

Olive Kitteridge aired in two two-hour segments this past week on HBO.  Very sad, but Frances McDormand’s face as this very dour hypercritical and judgemental woman was a wonder to behold.  I can’t imagine anyone else being more perfect for the role of this unforgiving and unyielding character.  The book was much more complex, but just as sad for those wondering if they should read it.  The Pulitzer Prize winning novel was a masterpiece of a portrait using the narrative technique of 13 different characters’ perspectives.

The Game debuted this past week on BBC America.  Loved this period piece that is a bit reminiscent of The Americans. It tells the story of MI5’s operations in the early 70’s in England shortly after the defections of Kim Philby, Burgess and Maclean, etc. when every spy service worried about moles.  It is very John Le Carre-esque, as it depicts the old boy network running England and the spy services, in tones of grey and sepia.  Very atmospheric! (Wed 10 pm BBC America)

Downton Abbey season 5 continues airing on Sunday evenings on ITV in the UK.  So enjoyable!  Society is changing and major events are unfolding in the lives of both the upstairs and downstairs characters.  Trying not to spoil it for everyone. (you should be able to find this online)

Masterpiece Theatre: Death Comes to Pemberley.  Loved the costumes and performances, but it was a bit snooze inducing for me.  Even with Matthew Rhys and Matthew (hubba, hubba) Goode.

Homeland: Incredibly intriguing.  Loving the story lines which are about spy craft, drones, etc. all set in Pakistan and the middle east.  Poor Saul is in a bit of a pickle.  However will they rescue him? (Sunday Showtime in the US at 9 pm)

Walking Dead: Oh my gosh. Two sets of survivors to follow again, not to mention Beth’s attempts to leave the hospital (Sunday 9 pm AMC)

The Affair: Love and death in the Hamptons told from two different points of view. (Sunday 9 pm TMN in Canada, 10 pm Showtime in the US)

My watch list for this week:

CBS Sunday Morning: my Zen experience for the week (9 am Sunday)

Fareed Zakaria GPS: my world affairs primer for the week (10 am Sunday on CNN)

Madam Secretary: can’t look away from this incredibly dumb show about a woman who can solve most world crises in 44 minutes (making room for commercials) (Sunday 8 pm CBS)

The Newsroom: can’t look away from this show that is making its season premiere today; I know people love Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue, but his shows always seem incredibly artificial to me with people making memorized long speeches delivered in rapid-fire monotones instead of talking like normal human beings (Sunday 9 pm HBO)

Masterpiece Contemporary: Worricker: Turks & Caicos – the marvellous Bill Nighy stars as a retired British spy in the Caribbean (PBS Sunday 9 pm)

Masterpiece Classic: The Paradise continues.  British accents and costumes=ecstasy! (PBS Sunday 8 pm)

The Good Wife: still loving it. Alicia, Diane, Cary, Peter, Kalinda, Eli, etc.  All still interesting to me! (CBS Sunday 9 pm – time can vary because of football)

Gotham: so fabulously dark with great new villains emerging weekly (Fox  Monday 8 pm)

Sleepy Hollow: got to love the fabulous Ichabod Crane aka Tom Mison as he adjusts to 21st century America (skinny jeans, texting, driving, etc.) after being asleep for a few hundred years (Fox Monday 9 pm)

Jane the Virgin: love this sweet tale of a young girl who finds herself pregnant after a doctor accidentally impregnates her using an in-vitro technique instead of taking a Pap smear (The CW Monday 9 pm)

The Blacklist: 1/2 season finale – can’t look away, despite evil genius James Spader’s droll wit and generally annoying qualities (NBC Monday at 10 pm)

The Flash: still giving this show a chance although his superpower still strikes me as a little lame (Monday 8 pm The CW)

The Mindy Project: still loving Mindy and her obliviousness to her own flaws; as long as she thinks she’s a goddess, she is one as far as I’m concerned (Fox Tues 9 pm)

Chicago Fire: hunky firefighters (NBC Tues 10 pm)

Person of Interest: hunky former CIA agent (CBS Tues 10 pm)

Forever:  immortal medical examiner (ABC Tues 10 pm)

The Middle: lovely midwestern working class family (ABC Wed 8 pm)

Arrow: hunky superhero (The CW Wed 8 pm)

The 100: attractive young people in space (The CW Wed 9 pm)

Modern Family: still funny (ABC Wed 9 pm)

Nashville: deliciously soapy (ABC Wed 10 pm)

Red Band Society:  despite its initial promise, I think this may have degenerated into a teens only show (Fox Wed 10 pm)

Gracepoint: so grim and sad (a bit like AMC’s The Killing for which I sacrificed many unenjoyable hours of TV watching). I’m only watching to see how the ending turns out as apparently, it will differ from the British original Broadchurch‘s ending (Fox  Thurs 9 pm)

Scandal: she looks great in white! (ABC Thurs 9 pm)

How to get away with murder: beyond ludicrous + the angriest black woman on TV (ABC Thurs 10 pm)

Elementary: incredible tension between Holmes and Watson (CBS Thus 10 pm)

Grimm: monster of the week show (NBC Friday 9 pm)

Constantine: murky and ludicrous comic book adaptation (NBC Friday 10 pm)

Bill Maher:  so politically incorrect (HBO Friday 10)

Hell on Wheels: love that Mr. Bohannan! (AMC Sat 9 pm)

Saturday Night Live: Woody Harrelson hosts (NBC Sat 11:30)

Set your PVR or Remember:  Monday – Thurs Jon Stewart 11 pm & Stephen Colbert 11:30 pm on Comedy); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sunday, times will vary depending on length of previous program, tonight – Sunday 11:15 HBO)

Recent Films:

Heading into the 4th and final day of the Naples International Film Festival which is a forum for mostly independent films.

Loved:  Song One with Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn (you will hear of this British actor/singer)

Hated:  Lovesick a lame film that was neither romantic nor comedic with Matt LeBlanc

Loved:  Like Sunday, Like Rain with Leighton Meester (of Gossip Girl) and a wonderful young actor named Julian Shatkin

This afternoon I’m off to see the final film, Alex of Venice (with Chris Messina, my fave from Mindy Project)

Happy TV/Film Watching everybody and have a great week regardless of the weather.  Remember, miserable days are great for staying in and catching up with great TV and movies!

Crazy Sunday just got even more complicated with the premiere of Olive Kitteridge!

I just caught up with John Doyle’s latest column in the Globe on Olive Kitteridge premiering tonight on HBO at 9 pm. He gives it a rave review:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-hbos-new-masterpiece-is-the-unforgettable-olive-kitteridge/article21410666/

I loved the book which was tremendously complex about life in a small town in New England with the very complicated character of Olive Kitteridge at its centre.  The TV story is told in 4 hours and I can’t imagine a better actress to portray the prickly Olive than Frances McDormand (Fargo, Laurel Canyon, etc.) Richard Jenkins (6 Feet Under, The Visitor, etc.) plays her gentle husband Henry.

As I can’t wait for On Demand to watch this show (and sadly our cable package here doesn’t include time shifting options) it means very difficult decisions have to be made on the other Sunday night shows I would otherwise be recording or viewing. Shows I must relegate to later watching include:

  1. Masterpiece Theatre – Death Comes to Pemberley
  2. The Good Wife
  3. Homeland
  4. The Affair
  5. The Walking Dead
  6. Madam Secretary (this show actually annoys me but I can’t look away)
  7. Satisfaction

I will be rewarding myself at 11 pm with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO which I’m sure will take a close look at Tuesday’s midterm election here in the US.  This past week, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a great segment on US campaign finance which skewered Koch Industries’ shameless commercials about what a great company they are.  As they are the major financiers of prominent Republican candidates, the segment made no bones about how US public officials are bought and paid for by special interest groups through the PAC system of campaign finance.  The segment featured a spot-on parody ad of the original and seemed very much in line with John Oliver’s informative and educational examination of specific issues.  It would appear that the student has become the master as before hosting his own show, John Oliver was a reporter for The Daily Show for 7 years. Although Jon Stewart has never presented himself as anything other than a political comedian, this particular spot was much less glib than usual.

Overnight I am also recording the Los Angeles Jaguar Britannia BAFTA Awards  (BAFTAS are the British Academy Awards) which will air on BBC America here.  It will be hosted by Rob Brydon (The Trip to Italy, The Trip, etc.).  Usually very funny! In the past, Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais have made hilarious appearances.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Jane the Virgin which airs tomorrow at 9 pm on The CW, you might want to give it a look.  A very sweet but devilishly funny parody of a telenovela. I will be catching up with Gotham, Sleepy Hollow and because I can’t look away, The Blacklist.

Enjoy this beautiful day!  Southwest Florida is having a bit of a cold snap (I’m not just saying this to make my Canadian friends feel better).  It was 10 C overnight and will reach a high of 71 F.  OK, I know I have mixed my Celsius and Farenheit but that just shows how confused I am.  There’s a cloudless blue sky and sun, perfect for beach walking!