Another week of not keeping up…

I have had the great pleasure this past week of having my two sons and new daughter-in-law come to visit in Naples.  The weather wasn’t exactly fabulous, but it sure was more pleasant than the cold northeast.  It was a week of hiking and bird and alligator watching at Corkscrew Audubon Sanctuary, sunset drinks and dinner on the beach, great meals out at the Chapel Grill, Crackling Jacks, Burger Fi, Brio Tuscan Grill, Hoots, First Watch, etc.  We made it to the Ford Edison Museum in Fort Myers, a concert at Naples Artis featuring The Hit Men (some original members of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, Tommy James and the Shondells, etc.), we shopped until we dropped at Waterside Shoppes, Costco, Miramar Outlets, Total Wines, Mercado, Coconut Point Mall and even made it to some model homes on a beach walk day that was so windy they closed the Naples Pier.  I did squeeze in some fitness classes, golf and Mahjong when time permitted. Did I get a chance to watch much TV?  Not really.  Did it matter?  Not at all.

On the big screen

We did have a family movie outing to see Deadpool, the new Marvel anti-super-hero movie starring Ryan Reynolds.  Reynolds is great in the role, although I did have to suspend my disbelief when he becomes a mutant and resembles a more attractive John Malkovich.  It’s really hard to make Ryan Reynolds ugly.  Even though he looks like he’s been sandpapered, he’s still pretty easy on the eyes.  Morena Baccarin (Gotham) is lovely as the love interest and Ed Skrein who plays the generic English villain looks like someone to watch for in future roles.  Apparently he’s a British rapper and appeared briefly on Game of Thrones as Dario before being replaced by the more telegenic Michiel Huisman; he also was in a Transporter film where he replaced Jason Statham (whom he resembles greatly), but the film was not a great success.

On the Specialty Channels

Now as for TV, I guess I have to thank my lucky stars that the NBA Allstars Weekend took over our television last weekend.  As I am not a great fan of watching sports on TV, it gave me a chance to catch up with some shows I had been missing.  These are shows that appear on pay subscription services here, that we do not subscribe to (economies have to be made somewhere), so thanks to my brilliant son David, who downloaded them for me, I am now much more up to date with Black Sails on STARZ (aargh, the pirate show featuring Toby Stephens), Shameless on Showtime (the show about a struggling downtrodden  family in Chicago) and Billions on Showtime (starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giammati as two enemies in a cat and mouse game set in the financial industry in NYC).

Vinyl (produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger) and starring Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde and Ray Romano, which tells the story of the recording industry in NYC starting in the 1970’s, debuted on HBO last weekend.  Although I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, John Doyle has good things to say about it:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-vinyl-is-electrically-alive-profoundly-good-tv-drama/article28741643/

More adult fare

This past weekend featured the return of The Walking Dead on AMC.  Yikes!  Bullets flew, a perfectly aimed rocket propelled grenade saved 3 characters, and the populace of Alexandria made a stand against the walkers.  It was suspenseful and satisfying.  I won’t say more as that would truly be spoiling it, but try to keep up, those of you watching this series.  Negan, the new villain to be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the investigator currently romancing Julianne Margulies on The Good Wife) is about to make his debut.  The Good Wife is now in its last season and it looks like it will go out with a bang.  Peter Florek is apparently under investigation by the FBI, so the series may come full circle, as it began with Florek leaving office in disgrace with Alicia at his side.  Who knows?  Also, I keep forgetting to mention Suits which is seen on USA here.  Gotta love that Mike, who is still trying to get away with his Harvard law grad impersonation.  I have started watching Outsiders a show on WGN here that is about the struggle between an Appalachian hillbilly clan and big coal that wants to blow the top off their ancestral mountain lands. As this show is kind of a combination Justified meets Sons of Anarchy (two of my favourite shows), I find it very entertaining.

Awards Shows

We had a family viewing of The Grammy Awards which included the painful spectacle of Adele singing off key when a microphone malfunctioned, Justin Bieber struggling to unstrap a guitar, Lady Gaga doing a masterful impersonation of David Bowie, etc.  Although there was a little more rap music than I am comfortable with (so much poetry in that Kendrick Lamar fellow!), I did enjoy the scene from Hamilton on Broadway.  Dying to book a trip there to catch up with shows I have been longing to see.

I also caught the BAFTA  Awards on BBC America (the British Academy Awards).  Hosted by Stephen Fry, they are filled with humour and are often a preview of the Oscars.  Attended by many British film stars, they are hugely entertaining. The Revenant was a big winner this year, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you might get a little more out of the Oscars if you try and catch it beforehand.  Oh yes,  just a reminder that the Oscars will air on ABC (CTV in Canada) on Sunday Feb. 28, Red Carpet at 7:30, Awards at 8:30.

My regular addictions

As my children cannot fathom my fascination with crazily juvenile shows, I have had to be very surreptitious in my addiction to Shannara, Teen Wolf, Arrow, The 100, Grimm, etc. We did enjoy a family viewing of The X Files latest episode called Babylon, although this past week’s show has incited controversy as its plot involves a terrorist conspiracy by Islamic militants.  What, Islamic militants plotting terror attacks?  Whoever heard of such a thing?  Has The X Files suddenly become Homeland?  Racial profiling is the charge against the show and it was a very interesting departure for Mulder and Scully (and their ironic doppelgänger counterparts played by Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell) who reminded us that the FBI does more than investigate alien sightings and otherworldly conspiracies.

 

Now for something slightly less embarrassing

On the slightly highbrow end of my TV favourites, I did catch up with Mercy Street on PBS Sundays and American Crime on ABC Wednesdays.  They are both serious and very watchable shows dealing with difficult subject matter.  The hospital in Mercy Street is a place where patients routinely undergo amputations under horrifically unhygienic conditions and then are left to starve while tended to by woefully undertrained caregivers.  American Crime tells the story of a teenage boy in a private school who is sexually assaulted during a basketball party and the aftermath of that assault. At the other end of the scripted drama genre, American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson on FX Tuesdays is a strangely entertaining drama of “spot the celebrity being played by a famous actor”.  Nathan Lane has entered the scene as F. Lee Bailey and a moustachioed Evan Handler has dropped by to play Alan Dershowitz.  Both are hugely entertaining as is John Travolta playing a grotesque Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer playing the pathetic hanger on Robert Kardashian, and Courtney Vance is channeling the flamboyant Johnnie Cochran who makes the entire trial about race. The show is at once repellant and mesmerizing.

Comedy and public affairs

Samantha Bee has entered the comedy arena with her show Full Frontal on TBS on Monday nights.  This incredibly smart Canadian comedienne is hilarious in her skewering of the American political arena.  This week’s realization that she actually agrees with some of the statements made by Donald Trump was pure agony.  Her interviews with Syrian refugees are heartbreaking and should fill people with shame for the lack of compassion and ungrounded terror the prospect of these refugees is now eliciting. John Oliver returned on Sunday nights with his HBO show Last Week Tonight and the controversy around Antony Scalia’s replacement was a major subject.  It is getting dizzying watching Colbert, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher, etc. give their particular spin on the controversies of the day. I look forward to my week back home in Canada and a bit of a break from the total immersion in US politics that having a home in Florida entails. As always, my Sunday mornings of zen include CBS Sunday Morning and Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN. both shows that calm down the fiery rhetoric for a brief time.

Back to Canada

Tomorrow, we are going home for a week to check on our mums, catch up with appointments and friends,  and host our annual Snowshoe and Chili party in Thornbury.  Please keep your fingers crossed for us that the Polar Vortex that sent a big chill over the northeast last week has passed and that we have dry roads for our journeys. Enjoy the week wherever you may be.

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I Can’t Keep Up…

We’ve had overnight guests, dinners with lots of neighbours and friends, and now our children are visiting, so TV has definitely had to take a back seat. I am writing this just as the Superbowl Half Time show has ended (hey, I though Coldplay did a pretty good job keeping up with Beyonce and Bruno Mars.  Maybe they’re not as boring as everyone says). This week did feature some really enjoyable new shows, so here’s what I’ve been able to keep up with, plus I’m going to include some useful links to guide you in viewing new series and those you may not have discovered yet.

Here’s John Doyle’s article on midseason shows making their debut:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-midseason-tv-is-here-so-filter-your-choices-accordingly/article28485756/

Don’t forget to watch The Walking Dead when it returns next Sunday Feb. 14. I adored Grease Live which debuted last Sunday night on Fox.  Watch it on demand if you missed it.  A very lively addition to the annals of modern live TV musicals as it reinvented the genre with amazing sets and camerawork.  Great performances from the leads and supporting players.

The True Crime genre took over scripted TV with some new shows this past week:

The People vs OJ Simpson  (FX Tuesdays) is a Ryan Murphy production that stars Cuba Gooding JR, David Schwimmer, John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance and many others.  It will run for 10 episodes and was very engaging viewing that transports you back in time to what was then seen as the crime of the century.

Here are John Doyle’s two excellent articles on the OJ series:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/race-at-the-heart-of-fx-miniseries-the-people-v-oj-simpson-author-says/article28455982/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-the-people-v-oj-simpson-an-instant-classic-of-tv-storytelling/article28461425/

Madoff aired on ABC and will be available on demand.  Starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner, it was also great viewing as it shows Bernie Madoff’s incredible ruthlessness and overall sociopathic behaviour in fleecing his many victims. Dreyfuss is absolutely chilling and Danner is perfect as the oblivious spouse who took pride in having no knowledge of her husband’s business affairs.

Don’t Forget to Watch these two fairly highbrow shows that you can tell your friends about when they say there is nothing worth watching on TV (and that is why they only read books):

Mercy Street  (PBS after Downton Abbey Sunday nights) continues to tell its Civil War era hospital stories featuring drug addicted doctors, sex crazed nurses, psychopathic cooks, struggling freed slaves, expropriated Confederate property owners, etc.

War and Peace (a BBC coproduction with A&E, Lifetime, History in the US) concludes on Monday nights with its final episodes this week, but also available on demand .  This star studded extravaganza featured sumptuous costumes (many fur hats), ballroom scenes, duels,  and English accents.  I was enchanted!

My ongoing embarrassing addictions:

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that teenagers are the obvious target audience for much of my sci-fi/fantasy viewing, but I can’t look away from Arrow (CW), Teen Wolf (MTV), The Expanse (the final episode of this season aired this past week on SYFY), The Shannara Chronicles (MTV), The 100 (CW),  Lucifer (Fox and abominably ludicrous but the British star, Tom Ellis, is kind of charming), The X Files (Fox), and last monster of the week show, Grimm (NBC). Sleepy Hollow (Fox) returned this week and is as silly as ever. I only watch it for its dreamy British star in the Ichabod Crane role (Tom Mison).

Much more adult oriented, but still addictive:

The Good Wife (Alicia comes to terms with Eli’s betrayal on CBS), Suits (returned with an exposed Mike last week on USA), Younger (my new favourite show about a 40 year old single mom who must pass as a 26-year-old in order to get a job on TVLand), Me, You and the Apocalypse (NBC), Black Sails (STARZ), Shameless (Showtime), Billions (Showtime), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW), Outsiders (WGN), Shades of Blue (NBC), The Blacklist (NBC), Elementary (CBS). And perhaps best of all, is this year’s season of American Crime (ABC).  Searing and hard to watch starring last year’s stars Felicity Huffman, Tim Hutton, Regina King and Lili Taylor, in a story of a high school student’s attempt to deal with being sexually assaulted by his schoolmates.

Comedy and Public Affairs

Bill Maher (HBO), Trevor Noah (Comedy) and Stephen Colbert (CBS) all make me smile.  John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight returns next Sunday Feb. 14. CBS Sunday Mornings soothes and informs and Fareed Zakaria GPS (CNN) explains the world.

Films

I have succeeded in seeing almost all the nominated films for this year’s Academy Awards so I haven’t been focused on seeing movies this past week or so.  However, I did come across this hilarious column by veteran movie reviewer, Rex Reed, where he names his worst films of 2015.  I strongly disagreed with a few of his choices, but he is very funny.  See what you think:

Rex Reed: The 10 Worst Films of 2015

This week will feature many excursions, exercise classes, golf and mahjong games and lots of visiting with family, but I’ll be squeezing in my favourite shows when time permits.  Have a wonderful week!!!