It has been a great week of golf, mahjong, end of season parties for my fitness group and my gourmet group and a fabulous 50th anniversary party for friends. It was a real pleasure this weekend to spend time under the stars dining with longtime friends and sharing soothing beverages around the campfire. It was a rather busy week which included a great family birthday dinner at one of Toronto’s best rated restaurants, Edulis, located on Niagara St. in the trendy Bathurst and King area. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a great week for TV watching, but I do have a few recommendations:
After our wknd company departed today, and we had finished 3 loads of laundry, George and I collapsed in front of the TV and managed to binge our way through the last 5 episodes of House of Cards on Netflix. Still not as crazy as the Trump White House, but pretty enthralling nevertheless. I am in awe of Robin Wright’s incredible posture. Of course, Claire Underwood’s ramrod posture is perfectly in keeping with her steely resolve, but she is my posture idol anyway. There are many Shakespearean echoes in this season, and evil absolutely runs amuck. This is perhaps the darkest series around these days, but it is having trouble at being as entertaining as the actual shenanigans coming out of Washington. There are cheeky echoes of the Trumpian distractions (impeachments, obstructions of justice, election tampering, etc.) and you will chuckle when you see real-life journalists from CNN, MSNBC, etc. interviewing fictional characters from the show. Sadly, this fifth season of the show is not quite the escapist entertainment it was in its first season.
A Man Called Ove (film adaptation of the novel by Fredrick Backman) is now available on Netflix. This charming film about a curmudgeon and his redemption is a wonderful adaptation of the novel. You will not like this leading character at first, but you will root for him by the end, so stay with it.
Movies to Stream
You might get a kick out of some of these films that are so bad, they’re good:
Crazy Rich Asians (the novel by Kevin Kwan) is our current read on Audible.com. Soon to be a major motion picture, this social satire pokes fun at the old money world of the super rich in Singapore. Very entertaining look at rich people problems (also the name of one of the two sequels in Kwan’s Singapore trilogy).
Moments of Zen
As always, I adore my CBS Sunday Morning (Sundays at 9 am) show as a gentle way to while away a peaceful Sunday morning. This morning’s show included a very moving segment about a woman who has survived two heart transplants with a lot of support from her friends which reduced me to tears.
Sunday nights are incredibly satisfying as the PBS lineup currently includes 3 British series:
My Mother and Other Strangers (period nostalgia) at 8; Grantchester (dishy vicar in a small town) at 9; Prime Suspect: Tennison (Masterpiece Mystery) at 10 (a prequel to the wonderful Helen Mirren series).
Sunday Night with Megan Kelly at 7 pm features an interview wth JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, a terrific look at a segment of the US population that voted heavily Republican in the Trump election.
Downward Dog, (Tuesdays at 8 pm) a comedy about a talking dog and his owner is one of the most charming shows you’ve probably never seen. Its cancellation after one season has been announced, but it is being shopped to other networks. The owner is played by Allison Tolman (formerly of Fargo Season 1) and her boyfriend is played by Lucas Neff (formerly of Raising Hope). Great performances and clever writing.
Fargo (available on demand on FX) aired the last episode of its third season. A restrained bloodbath compared to its first two seasons. Ewan McGregor is terrific in dual roles, David Thewlis is terrifying as the villain, but the two female leads Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, steal the show whenever they appear.
Better Call Saul (available on demand on AMC) aired the last episode of its second season. This series has had a slow burn effect in its depiction of Jimmy McGill’s metamorphosis into the nefarious Saul Goodman. This prequel to Breaking Bad is a very noir experience as we watch the protagonist and many of the secondary characters evolve into the characters they become in Breaking Bad.
Preacher returns for its second season on AMC at 10 pm Sunday night.. It is part of a current trend in fever dream entertainment that includes Legion, Mr. Robot, Twin Peaks, American Gods and numerous other shows. These shows are bat shit crazy and you will either love them or hate them. Preacher‘s great cast includes Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, both of whom you will recognize from their many film appearances.
The Handmaid’s Tale (now available on demand) had its first season finale last week. An adaptation of the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, this very dark dystopian series features a searing portrayal by Elizabeth Moss in the leading role. It is chilling and ends on a cliffhanger that will be followed by a second season. TV has taken a very dark turn lately with several series that deal with dark mysterious worlds. The Leftovers, Incorporated, and The Man in the High Castle are all examples of dark tales of a world gone terribly wrong.
Veep and Silicon Valley have their season finales on Sunday night. These brilliant comedies feature very clever scripts and hilarious performances. Kumail Nanjiani is my favourite SV performer and he is also on the big screen right now playing himself in a comedy he both wrote and starred in about his own life, The Big Sick. I can’t wait to see this comedy that also stars Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. Great reviews!!
National Geographic Channel
On the bright side (especially if you’re a fan of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb), National Geographic’s series Genius about Albert Einstein (now available on demand) had its finale last week. Amazing performances by Johnny Long and Geoffrey Rush as the young and old Einsteins respectively. This series portrays a deeply flawed man who cares more for the problems of the world than he does for his own family. An epic that follows Einstein’s life from childhood to death, it spans two world wars and the Cold War.
Animal Kingdom has aired the first 4 episodes of its second season (on TNT in the US and you can catch Season 1 on Netflix. This terrific crime series stars Ellen Barkin as the grandma/crime boss of a Southern California gang of career criminals. Incredibly gripping, you will be able to catch this season on Bravo later this year.
There are a couple of series making their debuts/season returns on the summer tv schedule:
Younger returns to TVLand for its 4th season on June 28. It’s about a 40-something woman who pretends to be 26 in order to get a job in the publishing industry. It stars the forty something Sutton Foster in the leading role and she is completely believable as a 20-something. Fabulous and funny! Try and stream it online if you don’t have access to TVLand. The season will air on Bravo in Canada sometime later this year.
CBS is introducing a new season of the incredibly silly series Zoo Thurs June 29. Cheesy special effects and ridiculously lame scripts are the norm for this series where genetically modified creatures have run amuck and are taking over the world. I can’t look away!
Similarly insane in its concept, Salvation, an asteroid disaster series will debut on CBS on July 12. Can’t wait!
On the comedy front, Stephen Colbert is currently in Russia filming segments for The Late Show on CBS M-F at 11:35. I will also be tuning in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO Sunday at 11, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO Friday at 10, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on Wed at 10:30, Jim Jeffries on Comedy on Tues at 10:30, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah M-Th at 11:00 and The President Show Thurs at 11:30 following Trevor Noah.
This week will be pretty full with the usual activities plus our end of season bookgroup party, a golf outing to Owen Sound, dinner with longtime friends, etc.
I am looking forward to having our family gather in Thornbury next weekend for Canada Day festivities. Thornbury is hosting a number of special events for Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration and we will be looking forward to watching a very special fireworks display on the holiday.
Until next week, enjoy this spectacular weather (often including amazing thunderstorms) and make the most of the days that do not have torrential rainfalls.