OK, now I can barely keep up with all the new shows that are starting to make their appearance! Here is my summary of shows to watch for and some recent finds I have discovered.
At the movies:
Me Before You is a touching love story about a young woman who is hired to be a companion to a man who has been paralysed in a road accident. Take lots of tissues as it’s incredibly moving as we see the two total opposites begin to care for each other. The film is particularly timely as it deals with the right to die with dignity and Canada has just now passed legislation permitting assisted suicide for the gravely ill. The film manages to be funny and inspiring despite the inherent sadness of its story. Game of Thrones watchers will love the performance by a very brunette Emilia Clarke (the very blonde Daenerys on GOT) as the lead character Lou. The great cast is rounded out by Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), Janet McTeer and Charles Dance (also Game of Thrones).
By sheer coincidence, I am observing Pride Month, by writing about a few Netflix films and series that explore gay themes. (I’m also attending the Rufus Wainwright Luminato Judy Garland tribute concert later this week).
Tab Hunter Confidential is a wonderful documentary about the 1950’s studio created heartthrob who was outed by Confidential magazine and whose film career never recovered. Although hitherto fiercely private about his personal life, he emerges in this film as a fully realized human being with an indomitable spirit. He also appears to be ageless as he was a very youthful 83 year old when this film was made in 2015.
Interior: Leather Bar is a docufiction film directed by James Franco. It explores the process of making a film about the sexually explicit deleted scenes of the 1980 film Cruising by William Friedkin. It uses the idea of recreating the lost footage as a plot point to explore the process of making such a film, depicting issues such as the actors’ level of comfort or discomfort with the material, the conflict between creative freedom and censorship, and the ways in which the cinematic representation of LGBT issues and people has evolved since Cruising was originally released in 1980.
Orange is the new black has returned to Netflix for its fourth season. This is a series you either love or hate depending on whether its premise engages you. It is the story of Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money to her drug-dealing girlfriend. Featuring a very diverse cast, this series shows mainstream audiences a view of America’s female prison underclass as it shows the backstories and struggles of its characters. Alternatively funny and tragic, it manages to make these women’s stories very relatable.
Shomi On demand:
Playing House originally aired on USA Network in 2014. It tells the story of two lifelong friends who decide to raise a baby together after one of them discovers that her husband is having an online affair with a muscular German woman. These two best friends face the challenges of their past, present and future together. Delightful and surprising, I found it to be a great exploration of friendship.
Created for Hulu, Casual is a comedy series about a bachelor brother and his newly divorced sister living under one roof again. Together, they coach each other through the crazy world of dating while raising her teenage daughter. I love this series’ look at dating and parenting. Very original characters and storylines.
Animal Kingdom was created for TNT. It is an American series adapted from the Australian film of the same name (which incidentally introduced Aussie actor Ben Mendelson of Bloodline to American audiences in his breakout role as Pope). This series centers on 17-year-old Josh Cody, who moves in with his freewheeling relatives in their Southern California beach town after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. It is reminiscent of Bloodline in its depiction of a troubled family with very dark secrets. The cast is led by Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman and Shawn Hatosy. It explores a world of crime, drugs, unfettered sexuality and California dreaming. Probably a little raw for most.
Guilt was created for Freeform (formerly ABC Family). It’s loosely inspired by the real-life Amanda Knox case of an American student abroad accused of murder. It’s had lukewarm reviews but it does star an always interesting Billy Zane as the defence lawyer, so I will have to record it and watch it in a free moment.
Father Brown and Vera are two wonderful British crime series that air on our local PBS affiliate on Saturday evenings. They are the tv equivalent of comfort food for me.
The Tunnel is the latest tv adaptation of The Bridge. A British-French coproduction set primarily in Folkestone and Calais where detectives Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dilane) and Elise Wasserman (Clemence Poesy) are called to investigate the death of a French politician. When a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, the pair is forced into an uneasy partnership as they seek out a politically-motivated serial killer who draws them into his own personal agenda. Here’s what John Doyle has to say about this series in the Globe and Mail:
Masterpiece Endeavour is set in the 1960’s and follows a young Endeavour Morse in his early years as a police constable. Working alongside his senior partner Dt Fred Thursday, Morse engages in a number of investigations around Oxford.
OK, the list is getting pretty long of the HBO programs I am following. What can I say? They include two comedy/current affairs shows:
Real Time with Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I am addicted to both these programs. Maher puts together fascinating panels with differing views and Oliver gives very insightful analyses of major issues affecting the world. Both shows manage to amuse and inform. Vice is another current affairs show that sometimes enrages as it tackles incredibly difficult subjects all around the world.
Game of Thrones has only 2 episodes to go in its sixth season. Ramsay Bolton and Jon Snow are headed for the showdown of the season in “Battle of the Bastards”. Who will live? Who will die? Who will win the battle? Which characters will succeed or fail in their various quests for revenge, love, freedom, and power? All I can say, is that I hope it will involve dragons. Bring on the dragons!!
Outcast is a new series that explores the theme of demonic possession. Probably not for everyone, but I love this sort of thing.
Penny Dreadful is a Sunday night staple for me. Does it get any better than a show that features vampires, werewolves, demons, Frankenstein and his monster, Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Grey and various monster hunters? I guess I watched those Abbot and Costello monster movies a little too much as a child.
Veep, Silicon Valley, and Sensitive Skin are all great little comedies that also air on Sunday nights.
Preacher follows the story of a preacher who enlists the help of a vampire to find God after a supernatural event at his church. Hyper violent and fast paced. Based on a comic book series by the creator of The Walking Dead, this series sometimes borders on being incomprehensible, but I am still watching it to see where it goes.
Hell on Wheels is a western that tells the story of the building of the transcontinental railroad through the adventures of Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier and slaveholder. I love the raw romanticism of this series, which I believe is now in its fifth and last season. Anton Mount is very watchable as the daring Bohannon.
The American West is produced by Robert Redford. It’s an 8-part docudrama that depicts the wilderness, frontier lawlessness, and bloodshed of the 40 years between the end of the American Civil War and and after the turn of the 20th Century, when the west was won. From Jesse James and Crazy Horse, to Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill, the characters at the centre of this violent, blood-soaked period in American history are explored as each episode follows the stories and struggles of the West’s most infamous outlaws as they fight for their land and identity. Loving it!!
Brain Dead stars emerging star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Tveit and Tony Shalhoub in a comedy from the makers of The Good Wife. A government employee discovers that the cause of the tensions between the two political parties is a race of extraterrestrial insects eating the brains of the politicians. Very funny.
American Gothic starts this week on Wednesday night. It centres on a prominent Boston family reeling in the wake of the chilling discovery that someone in their midst is linked to an infamous string of murders. As shocking secrets from the past and present are revealed, their mounting suspicion and paranoia that one of them is a killer threatens to tear the family apart. It stars Justin Chitin (Shameless) and my beloved Antony Starr (Aussie hunk from Banshee).
Follow the Money is a 10 episode Nordic Noir from Denmark. A mystery series about the wind energy company Evergreen, where we are following a policeman working on a case where he is trying to figure out what is going on inside the dirty dealings of Evergreen. A woman who works for Evergreen’s legal department stumbles upon a secret that can change everything… Conspiracy ensues… Apparently it takes three episodes to become really engaged with this series, so be patient.
Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds – A Tale of Three Cities (Vienna, Paris, New York). If you missed this series, it’s available on TVO.org. A wonderful depiction of three different eras in three different cities. Originally created for BBC4 and narrated by Dr. James Fox it tells the story of three cities in three exceptional years, cities whose artists and thinkers, writers and musicians set the world on a new course.
CBS Sunday Morning is usually on as I write this blog, but today I’m recording it to savour for another time and am actually writing to a Bill Evans soft jazz piano background in an effort to see whether I can write faster if visually undistracted. My computer unexpectedly updated itself this morning (taking at least an hour to do so), so I have been frantically writing before company arrives.
Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN today features interviews with Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg, Russia. Feared, revered, and always outspoken, he will talk about Syria and Russian/US relations. Hmmm… he’s pretty scary. No wonder he admires Trump so much.
In closing, may I say, it’s been a glorious week. I got out to see an actual movie, I played golf 4 days in a row, I actually won a mahjong game and I got to go to a local fish fry at a neighbourhood church followed by a campfire in my neighbours’ beautiful back yard last night. This week coming up is full of family celebrations as we celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary, our son’s David’s birthday and, of course, today is Father’s Day. So celebrate in your own fashion, but by all means, get out and enjoy this particularly fine weather we are so lucky to have.