This past week, we had the immense pleasure of hosting our cruising friends from our trip to Australia/NZ. We had 4 days of touring, eating and conversation, leaving me very little time to catch up with TV. However, I’ll attempt to make some observations and recommendations:
On the Big Screen
Attended the opening of the Naples International Film Festival where we saw The Last Man on the Moon, a documentary about Gene Cernan, that last astronaut to walk on the moon. Ultimately a sad homage to the now defunct space race, the film is an interesting depiction of life in the fifties, sixties and seventies as astronauts were celebrated heroes and their wives hovered in the background. Cernan stayed for a Q&A session at the end where it became apparent that he is a skillful motivational speaker who totally enjoys the limelight even in his eighties. The film is beautifully made with seamless transitions between archival footage and current special effects as space walks are recreated for us. I was amazed at how much was accomplished in the field of manned space flight almost 50 years ago with much less advanced technology than we possess today.
Watched Spectre, the latest James Bond film. I totally enjoyed this film, as to my mind, Daniel Craig is the sexiest, fittest James Bond ever. The film is a bit sad as it is very self-referential in its homage to the 3 previous Daniel Craig Bond films. Lots of photos of his previous nemeses and femmes fatales. There is a huge plot twist regarding the true identity of this film’s villain and his relationship to Bond. Christoph Waltz does a perfectly respectable job portraying the arch villain and founder of Spectre, Lea Seydoux is a great femme fatale and everyone else playing the supporting characters is also fine. The whole film has the feel of a swan song for Craig as Bond, particularly the ending, which I won’t spoil for you here.
Films on TV
Caught up with the HBO doc, The Diplomat, about the life of career diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Directed by his son, David, this is a great tribute to a complex and extremely gifted man, whose career in diplomacy spanned the Vietnam years, to the wars in the Balkans, to his final disastrous assignment as a negotiator of a peace with Afghanistan and Iraq. Thought provoking and moving, this is a great portrait of a supremely ambitious and confident man whose public achievements far outweighed his private ones.
Tried to watch The Leisure Class on HBO. This original film is so uintentionally awful in its lack of amusing moments that it is too painful to watch. Starring Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project) as a suave and debonair British con man who insinuates himself into the lives of an American political family in order to steal money from a charitable fund who then realizes the error of his ways, this political non-comedy is dismally unentertaining. Be afraid, very afraid….
Streaming on the Internet
Finished watching episode 8 of Downton Abbey which is the last official episode of the series, save for the Christmas special which hasn’t yet aired in the UK. The series comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion with only a few loose ends saved for the Christmas show, I assume.
Watched Undeniable, a two-part British crime miniseries from ITV starring Peter Firth as a doctor accused of committing a murder 20 years earlier. Very well done and economically paced in two hours.
Ash vs Evil Dead has started airing in the US on Starz. Very funny for all Evil Dead aficionados, Bruce Campbell returns in his signature role as a chainsaw-handed monster hunter who returns to the hunt after 30 years of lying low. Hilarious pilot episode.
We are 4 episodes into Master of None, a 10 episode comedy series starring Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) as an LA stand up comedian trying to break into TV and movies. Basically playing himself, this show has remarkable highs and lows. Ansari hired his own parents to play his mother and father on the series, and their amateurish awkward performances drag down the episode called Parents. Much better are the other episodes I’ve watched which feature actors giving accomplished performances. Particularly enjoyed East Indians on TV about the difficulty Indian actors have finding work that doesn’t involve stereotyping and accents.
The Middle, Modern Family, You’re the Worst which all make me laugh. You’re the Worst had a touching and hilarious episode this week as Jimmy’s awful family from England came to stay with him for four endless days.
Fargo (which featured the amazing Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan), The Bastard Executioner, Gotham, The Flash, IZombie (which now has a will they or won’t they sex storyline as Liv and Major try to rekindle their love affair without actually having intercourse as zombies can be created by sexual transmission) and Arrow continue to intrigue. I watched the first couple of episodes of Supergirl and found it delightful. I am hanging in with Blindspot and The Player because of my devotion to their two leads. I only tune in to The Blacklist to see if Tom is on (note to producers – more Tom episodes, please!)The soaps Empire (with its over the top plotting and crazy ass musical interludes), Nashville (which involved the aftermath of Jeff’s death, Deacon’s insane decision to run a bar, Avery’s sadness over his single dad status, Scarlett going Mia Farrow and cutting off her ridiculous wig) and Scandal (with Olivia emerging as a bad ass who is actually running the presidency) still manage to entertain me despite their incredibly ludicrous plot lines. I have fallen in love with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which is a 1 hour musical comedy series featuring parodies of Broadway style musical numbers incongruously set into this tale of a Harvard educated lawyer who follows her old boyfriend from her teen years from NYC to suburban California. The Good Wife continues to intrigue with wonderful story lines and terrific acting. Somehow this show retains its quality after 6 seasons. Chicago Fire is my guilty pleasure show featuring hunky firemen (I’m talking about you, Casey) in scene after scene of deadly jeopardy. Its appeal is inexplicable, yet undeniable.
I have also fallen in love with the PBS Sunday night lineup, starting with Home Fires, the coziest of stories about the wartime activities of British women on the homefront which has come to a season ending as The Battle of Britain begins. Indian Summers is my snoozing show and I manage to stay awake for most of Julie Walters’ scenes. The Guilty, a BBC miniseries about the disappearance of a toddler, follows Indian Summers and has come to an end after 3 episodes. It stars Tamsin Greig (Episodes, Friday Night Dinner) in a most unlikely role as the lead investigating detective. She is equally talented at drama and comedy!
This week was another sad one on The Walking Dead, where we still haven’t heard if Glenn is actually dead. Don’t forget to tune in to the premiere next Sunday of the new AMC series Into the Badlands, a new martial arts drama.The Leftovers is possibly the saddest show on TV. We found out a little more about Nora’s back story in this one and Kevin finally reveals that he is seeing dead people. I have caught up with Homeland and The Affair on the Internet and am still enjoying them both. Saul is having huge problems as the Berlin CIA section chief seems to be framing him as a traitor, Quinn is a damsel in distress and Carrie tries to solve it all and flee for her life. On The Affair, the custody crisis is over, but we’re appalled by Noah’s treatment of Alison at a retreat. Poor Martin almost died of a perforated bowel and there’s a surprise appearance by Sebastian Junger as another writer at the retreat.
I am still loving my regular political comedy series: Real Time with Bill Maher, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I particularly enjoy John Oliver’s show because he has decided not to concentrate on the run up to the US election. It’s still a year away!! I can’t believe how inundated the media is by this, so Oliver’s show is a welcome relief. I have begun to watch BBC World News here on PBS as it’s the only way of finding out what is going on in the world. Also, don’t forget about CBS Sunday Morning which is the most relaxing and inspiring hour on television.
I realize that this post may be a little wordy for my friends who are too busy to watch television, never mind read blogs about watching TV. Let me know if you would prefer more of a list format (10 Shows you should be watching on Netflix, etc.) as there are tons of those lists available and I will gladly incorporate them as part of this blog. Am I too verbose for a lot of you? Let me know what you think.