A Helpful Update…

A friend sent me this email which you might like to bookmark as the site will be updated periodically to keep track of the finale dates of your favourite shows.  Truly worth a look:

http://www.tv.com/news/2014-tv-season-finale-dates-cbs-abc-nbc-fox-cw-fx-amc-142834434461/

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Before I forget…

I have to say, before going into my recommendations for this week, that last night’s Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer was very touching.  I had wondered how he could possibly subject himself to public scrutiny as he goes through his transformation and to my mind Jenner is incredibly brave.  He said that part of his motivation is to save lives.  There are many teenagers and very vulnerable people dealing with gender issues that he hopes will be encouraged and inspired by his experience.  He truly is an Olympian.  I was a bit perturbed by his confession that he is a Republican, which seems somewhat incongruous given the socially conservative bent of many Republicans.  However, if he can use his very public profile to influence prominent conservatives to be more tolerant and open minded, then perhaps his political stance will be very beneficial to the transgendered movement.

I must apologize for forgetting to remind people that last week’s The Americans episode was the season finale.  Incredibly suspenseful with many developments and revelations.

Arrow, Gotham and The Flash all had great episodes with big moments and lots of advancement of their story lines.

Anyhow, back to my recommendations for the week:

CBS Sunday Morning, Call the Midwife, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, Nurse Jackie, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Night Shift, Chicago Fire, Outlander, American Odyssey, and Salem are all competing with each other for audiences on Sunday.  Premiering on CraveTV this Sunday evening is a new series called Happyish with Steve Coogan (Philomena, The Trip, etc.) Oh woe is me!!  I do not subscribe to that streaming service and will have to find the show online.

Forever, Nashville, The Middle, Modern Family, Scandal, Elementary, Father Brown, and The Blacklist, American Crime, Grimm, Bill Maher and Vice are all midweek favourites for me.

I actually attended a film yesterday (haven’t seen many on the big screen lately) and thoroughly enjoyed Woman in Gold.  Although my husband had reservations re Ryan Reynolds’ performance as a struggling lawyer, I loved the film.  Helen Mirren is wonderful as the octogenarian Austrian woman attempting to regain possession of the famous Klimt portrait of her Aunt Adele that was stolen by the Nazis.  This is a feel good film of the variety that I usually denigrate, but I did enjoy this one.  It is based on a true story and I was especially fond of this one because I had visited the Neue Gallerie in NYC last summer and had viewed the Klimt portrait, so I felt a real sense of joy at seeing this story brought to the screen.  It is a great depiction of an underdog going up against a powerful opponent.  Although most audience members know the outcome of this story from the beginning, it is sensitively and suspensefully told and I was totally immersed in it.

On the small screen this week, I watched the film Mr. Turner about the revered British landscape artist.  This is exactly the type of film that needs to be seen in an actual theatre as its elegiac pace is far too conducive to afternoon napping when viewed from the comfort of one’s own down-filled couch.  This is truly an art film which conveys the creative process of an artist who became renowned for the use of light in his paintings.  Sadly I snoozed through almost the whole film but managed to get a sense of what an innovator Turner was.

On the other hand, I also happened upon the film The Guest on Superchannel.  For those of you who are still mourning the loss of Matthew on Downton Abbey (played by Dan Stevens), you must seek out this little suspense film.  Stevens plays a returning Iraq war veteran who insinuates himself into the home of a dead war buddy’s family.  The slow reveal in this film, as Stevens exposes the true colours of his character, is a joy to watch, especially if you enjoyed Stevens’ very likeable performance on Downton.  He couldn’t portray a more different character and he has been working out and losing weight in all the right places. As with his drug dealer character in A Walk Among the Tombstones (known primarily for featuring one of James Gandolfini’s last performances), Stevens is making a real attempt to show that he has range. I like!!

Enjoy the week!  Spring looks like it is just around the corner.

Back to reality…

George and I had a wonderful drive home from Florida and managed to spend 2 days in beautiful Charleston, SC on the way.  A highlight was a walking tour of Charleston with a terrific guide who gave us a real taste of southern viewpoints on the Civil War, states’ rights, cultural differences between the North and the South, etc.  The city is full of beautifully restored Colonial architecture and is a paradise for foodies with great restaurants everywhere.  We stayed in a very charming B & B which featured a wonderful breakfast and afternoon tea.

I had lots of responses to last week’s blog re my 13 hour investment in Daredevil on Netflix.  George reminded me that he made a 4-day/16 hour investment in watching The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA last weekend.  So there!  We are ideally suited for each other in our opposite obsessions!  We complement each other which is especially convenient  when you have two TVs to watch.

I did manage to catch up on a little TV on the way home and saw the final episode of Justified on FX.  Nicely done and very satisfying in its catch up epilogue. Gotham on Fox returned last Monday and I managed to see only a bit of the show before falling into a coma (through exhaustion rather than boredom).  Arrow on the CW had a cliffhanger ending with Thea’s life in the balance and Oliver pondering his new direction. Nashville on ABC had an epic episode with Christina Aguilera making her debut, the hapless Teddy getting ensnared in his own misdeeds, Deacon coming to terms with his illness, Avery and Juliette struggling with being new parents, etc.  Still watching Elementary on CBS because I get a kick out of Jonny Lee Miller no matter how inane the plot may be.  Caught Scandal on ABC which amuses me with its outstandingly ludicrous plot lines.

I did watch the season debut of Game of Thrones on HBO last week and look forward to the unfolding of the plot in future episodes.  Jon Snow seems to be ascending in his relationship with the Wildlings, Daenerys seems to have lost control of her dragons, Tyrion has emerged from his box, Cersei is as nasty as ever, Jaime is the soul of reason, Littlefinger seems to be up to no good, etc.  A good update of most characters.

The Good Wife on CBS gets more and more complicated as poor Kalinda seems about to take a fall, Alicia is under scrutiny for election misconduct, etc.  Still interesting!

Mad Men on AMC is very melancholy this year.  Don keeps making the same mistakes with women and seems haunted by all his previous relationships.  Good news for me is that the execrable Jessica Pare as Megan Draper seems to be fading into the background as they move on with their divorce. Peggy is moving on with her romantic life. Pete Campbell is still peevish.  Aaron Staton as Ken Cosgrove gets the ultimate revenge. I’m still intrigued at how this show is going to end its final season.

Call the Midwife on PBS is still incredibly moving and each episode has me in tears with its depiction of the poor souls of East London dealing with a host of medical, financial, and social issues.

I’m trying to hang in with Wolf Hall on PBS but it does make me very sleepy.  I guess I just don’t care that much for the intrigues of Henry VIII’s court and his leaving the Catholic Church for the charms of Anne Boleyn in his efforts to produce an heir. Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell is one of the least charismatic actors who might have been cast. Damian Lewis fails to charm as Henry VIII.  Having real difficulty staying with this one.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO has really established itself as a funny, intelligent current events show that both informs and amuses.  I did nod off during last week’s look at the IRS, but again, that could have been exhaustion rather than boredom.

Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO is beginning to wear on me with his incredible snarkiness toward anyone he disagrees with.  His pro legal marijuana stance was a big part of Friday’s show as he promoted a mock campaign to make 4/20 (April 20) a National Holiday for those who enjoy smoking pot, based on the legend that a group of Northern California high school students would meet up after school every day at 4:20 to smoke.

Vice on HBO is an intriguing look at current events and continues to tell uncomfortable truths about stories dealing with contemporary issues like drugs, the environment, immigration, etc.  Very thought provoking.

Still trying to sort out my Sunday evening viewing as there really are so many worthwhile shows on at the same time.  I will have to use on demand functions to watch Silicon Valley and Veep on HBO, Outlander on Showcase, Salem on Space, etc.  So much to watch, so little space on the PVR!  Have a wonderful week!!

Daredevil Binge! I Can’t Believe I Watched the Whole Thing!!

On Friday, Netflix debuted all 13 episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil.  It is a sad reflection of what an absolute couch potato I am, that I have to confess that as of about 9:30 pm on Saturday evening I had finished watching the whole series.  I did manage to play golf, go for a wonderful bike ride along the Gordon River Greenway, spend some time in our pool and hot tub and pack for our return home tomorrow.  So for those of you who are wondering how someone can manage to watch all that TV and still function, I must honestly reply, I don’t know how I do it!

As for whether Daredevil was worth the time investment, I would say absolutely yes.  The series stars Charlie Cox (a British actor previously known best in North America for his role in Boardwalk Empire as Owen Slater, henchman to Nucky Thompson) as Matt Murdock.  Blinded in a chemical accident since the age of nine, Murdock has become a lawyer and opened a practice with his friend Foggy Nelson.  Together, they decide to take on cases of innocent people who need their help. They recruit a client as their secretary and begin the process of mounting a case against a huge conglomerate run by a shadowy figure.  The real pleasure of this show is the time it takes to paint a portrait of all its characters.  Along the way, Murdock becomes a masked vigilante by night, confronting villains only with his fists and amazing ability with martial arts.  Charlie Cox is mesmerizing in the role, his partner played by Elden Henson (best known for Hunger Games Mockingjay) is immensely likeable and their assistant Karen Page (played by Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood) is wonderfully appealing. The cast of characters includes Rosario Dawson, as  Claire Temple, a nurse who tends to Matt’s many injuries after his battles; Vincent D’Onofrio as the villainous Kingpin/Wilson Fisk; Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley, Fisk’s loyal henchman; Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich a crusading reporter.  Each actor is perfectly cast and despite the limitations of the genre, they all manage to be convincing in their roles.

What makes this series so different from the many others in this superhero genre is its darkness and the incredible vulnerability of its lead character.  In its many beautifully choreographed martial arts battles, Murdock takes tremendous beatings and is grievously injured again and again.  These scenes are far from cartoonish and the audience must suspend disbelief that Murdock’s flying fists and acrobatic fighting skills can triumph over bullets and other lethal weaponry. We really root for the good guys in this series.  Even the bad guys are painted in more than one dimension as we see how Fisk became the monster he is revealed to be, and we see his gang of confederates as fully realized human beings.

There is a real thread of humanity that runs through this series so that it is far more than a mythic superhero story.  Murdock is relatable in his vulnerability and Cox’s subtle portrayal of his development as a hero keeps us watching and cheering for him to survive and conquer.

This type of show may not be your cup of tea (I admit to a fondness for Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, etc.), but I urge you to give it a try if you have Netflix.  I loved it!!

While I am in recovery from this recent bout of TV addiction, I have set my PVR for my Sunday selections:  CBS Sunday Morning, Fareed Zakaria, Game of Thrones (which makes its season debut tonight along with Silicon Valley and Veep on HBO), Call the Midwife, The Good Wife, Wolf Hall (which I think I snoozed through last week), and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (I am still reeling from his interview in Moscow with Edward Snowden last week).

I won’t be watching much TV this week as our next few days will entail 12 hours a day of driving, and a couple of days of sightseeing in Charleston, SC as we make our way back to Toronto.  It’s been a wonderful winter here in Florida, but it’s high time we hightailed it back to the north and reconnected with our family and friends whom we have really missed.  See you soon!!

Mainstream TV watchers are OK too!

After reading a TV.com column this morning, I realize that most avid TV watchers watch very different programming than I do. Here’s their list of the most popular shows on TV right now:

Arrow – a pure guilty pleasure show for me and it stars a handsome Canadian!

Game of Thrones – returning next week – seriously sexy, violent and addictive epic fantasy series

Marvel’s Agents of Shield – super heroes and villains; I stopped watching in Season 1 only because I was already watching too many shows in this genre

Grey’s Anatomy – watched this season 1 and then gave up as it seemed to be retreading story lines and romantic relationships

Coronation Street – although my family has always loved this show, even the theme music (seriously depressing) has turned me off; every time I have tuned in, these northern Brits are always gossiping in the pub. Seriously, don’t people find this repetitive?

The Vampire Diaries – watched in season 1 and gave up as I already cared far too much about what happened to the vampires on True Blood

The Big Bang Theory – have never watched, but I know it has millions of devoted viewers

Supernatural – watched this in seasons 1 & 2 and then got tired of some of its ongoing story lines; have always enjoyed a monster of the week format though

How I Met your Mother – I never watched this show, but I know people were seriously addicted and it will live on in reruns forever

Once Upon a Time – I watched it in season 1 and then found it got a little repetitive and was perhaps aimed at a pre-teen audience

Criminal Minds – I have found this show to be a little more depraved in its exploration of deranged minds and to be a little more disturbing than I am comfortable with as its such a formulaic show; I have wondered if deranged people look on it as a manual for how to commit grisly murders

The Blacklist – a guilty pleasure of mine, I always root for Tom Keene to keep reappearing

The 100 – OK, I love this post-apocalyptic drama for its depiction of attractive young people seeking to resettle earth

The Mentalist – Simon Baker won me over with his adorable dimples way back with The Guardian; I lost interest in this show when it repeatedly went back to the ludicrous Red John storyline

The Good Wife – I think this is one of the best written and best acted shows on TV

NCIS– way too formulaic for me

Vikings – enjoyed the first 2 episodes and then never seemed to be able to follow this show

Castle – another show starring an adorable Canadian, but I stopped watching after the first year or so as I really didn’t care about solving their crime cases; got to love Nate Filion though!

Revenge – watched in season 1 but it got way too ludicrous and repetitious for me

Bones – watched season 1 because of my David Boreanaz fixation from his Buffy days; this mystery series got too repetitious for me very quickly

If you want to read the rest of the TV.com column (which goes on for pages and pages) you can find it on:

http://www.tv.com/shows/

As for my current TV watching, it’s Sunday night madness again.  I am looking forward to tonight’s Mad Men return on AMC and all my usual Sunday night faves including Call the Midwife, The Good Wife, the debut of Wolf Hall on PBS Masterpiece Theatre at 10 pm, and a new episode of John Oliver This Week Tonight on HBO at 11 pm.

George and I finally caught up with the film Force Majeure this week, an intriguing French Swedish coproduction about a vacationing family in France for a ski trip who have to come to terms with Daddy’s cowardice in the aftermath of an avalanche.

I am looking forward to the Season 2 debut of Outlander, the impossibly sexy story of the Scottish Highlands (Canadians can watch on Showcase) which I will be streaming this week.

This is our last week in Florida and so far we’ve been filling it with as much beach, pool and golf time as possible.  We start our drive home in 1 week and are looking forward to seeing friends and family soon.  In the meantime, Happy Easter everyone!