Confessions of a binge watcher:
This weekend has been a bit of a blur so far. I finished watching all 13 episodes of Bloodline last night on Netflix. This noir family saga set in the Florida Keys is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on TV. It stars Kyle Chandler (best known for his starring role on Friday Night Lights, which is possibly one of the best network series ever made and is available on Netflix), Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepherd and the amazing Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn. It was very smart to cast the relatively unknown Mendelsohn in the role of the prodigal black sheep son who returns to his family after a long absence. His performance keeps us on the edge of our seats in every scene and he is so charismatic that it is impossible to not look at him whenever he is on screen. I have to say watching this series in Florida is a total treat. For my shivering friends in the north, the palm trees, beaches, mangroves, sunrises and sunsets will make you long to be here and may actually warm you up. Of course, at the heart of all those scenes of paradise, is a family whose darkest secrets will come to light. Today’s Decider column has a great article on the show which you can read here:
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is another Netflix original series that debuted this winter. The pilot episode is screamingly funny and worth watching for its Matt Lauer segment alone. In the first episode, four women are rescued from a cult whose members lived underground believing that society has been wiped out in an apocalypse. Their are many hilarious moments as the women reintegrate into society. Today’s NY Post has an article on the show which you can read here:
Netflix and HBO have forced the big broadcast networks to develop more challenging fare. American Crime (starring Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton) on ABC is a prime example of grittier programming that focuses on race and justice issues in a way that really does push the envelope for a procedural crime series. There is no denying that there is a huge appetite for comfort food shows that wrap up their story lines in one hour and leave viewers feeling satisfied that the crime has been solved and the perpetrators duly tried. Shows like Blue Bloods on CBS are beloved by their viewers as the formula series always ends with a family dinner table variation on The Walton’s tried and true “good night John Boy” ending. HBO’s The Jinx (about the real life crimes of Robert Durst, black sheep scion of a NYC real estate dynasty) forces viewers to watch unpleasant truths reveal themselves over the course of 6 challenging hours of interviews and painstaking research. As has been widely reported, the star of the show, having apparently forgotten that he has a live microphone attached, admits his guilt in the last moments of the show. Off camera, after the series has aired, the police finally make an arrest more than thirty years after his first murder. There is nothing comforting about this ending, as Durst’s $100 million dollar fortune has previously bought him acquittals through the use of the best lawyers money can buy and a jury system that can be hoodwinked very easily.
I must also confess to a couple of inaccuracies in my Paddington review last week. My eagle-eyed husband reminded me that Paddington was originally from darkest Peru (not Africa) and that the villain of the piece is played by Nicole Kidman (and not Tilda Swinton). So sorry about that!
On the film front, I did manage to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (same as the first, a little bit darker and a little bit worse). Also, the producers managed to bamboozle poor paunchy Richard Gere into appearing as the enigmatic romantic newcomer in a shameless attempt to pander to American audiences. So embarrassing for him! My huge objection to this movie and its predecessor is that the hotel owner character played by Dev Patel is such a broad caricature of the obsequious Indian, sucking up to superiors and generally acting like a complete buffoon. There are so many wonderful Indian films that truly depict Indian society (please watch The Lunchbox which is now on Netflix). Again, I know there is a huge appetite for comforting films that leave audiences with a satisfying happy ending and, in particular, there is a market for generic British comedies with wonderful casts (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, etc.) playing eccentric but loveable characters. Bah humbug, I say!!
We also streamed Exodus: Gods and Kings this week and found it thoroughly entertaining. Starring Christian Bale as Moses and a heavily eyes made up Joel Edgerton as Ramses, this version of the story really tries to differentiate itself from the Charlton Heston version. Obviously CGI has made special effects much more seamless than they were in the 50’s. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the plagues visited on Egypt (especially the crocodiles as I sit here in Florida surrounded by alligators) and the parting of the Red Sea by the forces of nature is pretty suspenseful, even though we know how the story ends. Also, you may enjoy the appearance of the aforementioned wonderful Ben Mendelsohn in character actor mode as a very effeminate Viceroy who wreaks vengeance on Moses.
I’m still watching my favourites: The Good Wife, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, IZombie (newly debuted, it’s a comic zombie series), The Slap, The Blacklist (featuring the always hammy James Spader who seems to be growing more similar to William Shatner, his co-star on Boston Legal, with every episode), Elementary, Forever, Arrow, Vice, CBS Sunday Morning, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Jon Stewart, The Nightly Show, etc.
OK, I leave you with a reminder to set your recording devices for the return of Mad Men. It is only two weeks away and these will be the last episodes of the series. Over the past 7 years, the series has dealt very subtly with the question “Who is Don Draper?” Played brilliantly by Jon Hamm, Draper has been portrayed as a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Its depiction of 60’s culture has chronicled societal changes including race issues, the Kennedy era, sexuality, women’s and family issues, etc. Oh yes and it’s set in the world of advertising and features an incredible amount of drinking and smoking. Enjoy!