Now I know that for most of my American friends, the year’s biggest night of TV celebrations is happening tonight with The Stupor Bowl (a great excuse for watching terrific commercials and consuming thousands of calories of super loaded Nachos). For me, the best night of TV is The Oscars on Feb 26, and I am busily trying to see as many nominated films as possible. It was a pretty hectic week as I entertained a friend from Toronto, did my usual fitness, bocci ball, golf and went to my first pickle ball clinic with one of our tennis pros. While entertaining my friend, we went on Naples’ best unsung boat cruise and did the sunset harbour tour using the Naples Shuttle which takes you around the Gordon Harbour and drops off and picks up at all the waterfront restaurants. Yesterday I attended the Naples Garden Club House & Garden Tour which was a wonderful tour of 4 fabulous homes and gorgeous gardens which shows you how the other 1 percent of Neapolitans live. Wow!!! Now for some recommendations:
Films currently On Demand or Streaming:
The Edge of Seventeen is a charming coming of age film starring the immensely talented and likeable Hailee Steinfeld. I loved this upbeat and delightful film.
Nocturnal Animals starring the ubiquitous Amy Adams (nominated for Best Actress in Arrival) and directed by Tom Ford, this dark challenging film within a film utterly defeated me. I found it so thoroughly unpleasant that I had to stop watching it after 30 minutes.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a thriller based on a series of Lee Childs novels. Starring a newly puffy-looking Tom Cruise, this by-the-numbers action flick is totally unengaging and we turned it off after an hour, not really caring whether Cruise was successful in beating the bad guys or not, since these formula films always end in success as there will be an inevitable sequel. (Ooh, run-on sentence alert!)
The Santa Clarita Diet debuted this weekend and stars Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as a married couple of realtors who realize that the wife has become a zombie. Not nearly as amusing as the CW series IZombie which is currently on hiatus. SCD is a 1/2 hour sitcom which isn’t nearly as funny as it tries to be. For serious zombie enthusiasts only.
The Path starring Aaron Paul is an exploration of life inside a cult. It is an intriguing look at a crisis of faith and has returned for its second season.
Witness for the Prosecution is the latest rendition of the Agatha Christie short story. Starring Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall it’s the story of the prosecution of the accused murderer of a wealthy glamorous heiress who is found dead in her London townhouse. Shown as a two-part miniseries in England, it has been put together as a two-hour film for North American audiences and is available here by subscription to the Acorn service which provides British television to American audiences. I’m not sure of how the series will air in Canada, but it is terrific and worth looking for through various streaming services.
Black Sails has returned from hiatus and tells the story behind Treasure Island. Great for lovers of pirate tales.
Suits (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and continues to tell the story of Mike who is newly released from prison for masquerading as a lawyer and who is trying to get a new start in life.
Colony (Thursdays) has returned from its hiatus for its second season. It’s the story of resistance after the Earth is invaded by aliens. Great suspense series.
The Expanse (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and began its second season with a 2-hour debut episode. Reminiscent of great space series like Battlestar Gallactica, it stars Thomas Jane as a police detective in the asteroid belt, Shohreh Aghdashloo as a UN executive and Steven Strait as the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter. The three major characters slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Intrigue in space!
Nashville (Thursdays) which was dropped by ABC has resurfaced on Country Music Television. The soap opera continues: Juliette has found God, Avery has restarted his performance career, Rayna and Deacon are struggling with their girls, Maddie is having an interracial romance, Scarlett is as fragile as ever and is back with Gunner, etc.
Outsiders airs on Tuesdays (produced by Paul Giamatti) and has returned for its second season. Hillbillies in Appalachia fight big coal.
Legion debuts this week (Wednesday) and stars Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey!!!) Legion, based on the Marvel Comics, is about a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his early 30’s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep. David spends the ret of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change. The pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.
Taboo (Tuesday) is dark and mysterious and stars the enigmatic Tom Hardy as a man on a mission who has returned from the dead to fight for his father’s estate and carry on a war of revenge with the East India Company.
The Young Pope (Sunday and Monday) continues its story of the most unlikeable pope ever. For serious Fellini and Jude Law fans only.
Father Brown, Mercy Street and Victoria (Sunday) all continue on my local PBS station. Ahh… costume dramas and period pieces. Heavenly!!
The Affair and Homeland both air on Sunday nights. I believe both shows are repeating episodes tonight rather than lose their audiences to the aforesaid Stupor Bowl and hence waste new episodes.
Grimm (Friday), Emerald City (Friday), Blacklist (Thursday) are all guilty pleasure shows for me.
Inspiration and Insight
I have often mentioned my addiction to CBS Sunday Morning as my Sunday morning ritual. It uplifts and energizes me with its human interest stories and cultural segments. 60 Minutes (CBS Sunday nights which is a harder edged sister show to CBS Sunday Morning) is an American institution which features segments of investigational journalism on world affairs and culture. Fareed Zakaria GPS (CNN Sunday morning) informs every week as he looks at world affairs. PBS offers a wealth of documentary programming through its American Experience series on Tuesdays. Recent episodes have focused on Rachel Carson, who was one of the first environmentalists; Command and Control an examination of the security issues around the US nuclear program, etc. If you have access to ON Demand features or PBS.Org, I encourage you to have a look at their archives. Frontline and NOVA also offer wonderful documentaries on important issues. Face the Nation (hosted by John Dickerson Sunday morning on CBS) offers insight and analysis on the top issues of the day. Politicians, government leaders and international newsmakers are welcomed to a roundtable discussion of current events. Great discussions abound.
SNL (Saturday on NBC) has provided some real bright spots in our dystopian political landscape. Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonation has become must-see TV in the cold opening segment; this week’s cameo by Melissa McCarthy was a delightful surprise as she did an incredible parody of Sean Spicer. Next Saturday’s show will be hosted by Alec Baldwin, so set your PVRs now.
Seth Myers (Late Night airs nightly after Jimmy Fallon on NBC) has become a mainstay of YouTube with his insightful and hilarious A Closer Look segments where he skewers politicians with scathing comedic criticism.
Trevor Noah (The Daily Show Mon-Thurs on Comedy) continues to poke fun at our society. Not nearly as beloved as his predecessor Jon Stewart, Noah (biracial from South Africa) amazes me with his ability to entertain and inform in a delightfully refreshing way.
Stephen Colbert (The Late Show Mon-Fri on CBS) is usually hilarious in his skewering of the political landscape.
Samantha Bee (Full Frontal Wed on PBS) has made me so proud to be Canadian. She is sharp tongued but hilariously so in her comedic critiques of US politics. She will be hosting an alternative White House Correspondents Dinner on TBS on April 29.
We are off to Palm Springs to visit longtime friends later this week. Tomorrow we are headed up to the amazing Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for our annual search for alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors and the fabulous Painted Bunting can be seen throughout the year. There’s a wonderful boardwalk trail where sharp eyed visitors can also see nesting owls, wood storks, etc. This week I had the somewhat shocking experience of finding a rather large alligator in a spot of rough terrain which was exactly where my golfball landed, so I hope I get to see some gators in the wilds of the Everglades at Corkscrew. In the meantime, have a wonderful week whether you are in the North or the South.