Back from LaLaLand

Live on Stage

Jimmy Kimmel (ABC, nightly Mon-Fri at 11:30)  We got an insider’s view of the show from  Backstage in the Green Room.  Hipsters abounded here as people from the hinterlands mingle with LA locals and partake of free refreshments while the show is being taped.  I hardly watched the show on the monitors as the actual crowd was so entertaining.  For the final musical segment, performed by Grammy winner Leon Bridges, the backstage crowd is ushered into the actual theatre to form an audience for the live band. Great fun!

CBS

Grammy Awards (available on demand, aired Feb. 10) We had the great pleasure of watching the Grammy  Awards with our niece and nephew (who’s in the record business). Great performances and only 9 awards presented during the almost 4 hour telecast. Oscars: are you listening?

Streaming

The Wife (1 h 39 min)  A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.  Stars Glenn Close who is nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. I watched this film with my movie club and we had a great discussion afterwards.  A very thoughtful film about a long and difficult marriage.  Great performances from a stellar cast that includes Jonathan Pryce and Max Irons. Annie Starke (Close’s daughter) plays her character as a young woman.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (1 h 57 min) Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomqvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.  Claire Foy stars as Salander. It is amazing that Foy takes on a character so different from her role a Elizabeth II in The Crown. In the absence of a current Bond movie, this film might fill your need for an action flick. Otherwise, it’s a pretty routine action film.

Cold War (1 h 29 min, in Polish with English subtitles)  How to describe this amazing film?  A musical romance.  In the 1950’s, a music director falls in love with a singer and tries to persuade her to flee communist Poland for France.  Intriguing and mesmerizing.  Totally original film.  The closest film I can think of is LaLaLand which seems downright pedestrian in comparison with this unique Polish film. This is the Polish Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film.
Widows (2 hr 9 min) Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.  I am not a fan of this film as I do not care for heist films.  Viola Davis is one very angry black woman and Liam Neeson is her husband.  Deeply flawed film.  If you are dying to see a crime flick with lots of car crashes and explosions, this is the one for you!
Star Trek: Discovery 
Berlin Station
Cardinal

Amazon Prime

Daddy’s Home 2 (1 h 40 min)  Execrable!!! Having finally gotten used to each other’s existence, Brad and Dusty must now deal with their intrusive fathers during the holidays.  Stars Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow and Linda Cardellini.  OMG, we tried to find something light to watch which no one had seen and this was our disastrous choice.  Watch at your own risk!!
Catastrophe

Comedy Central

The Other Two
Corporate

Cinemax

Strike Back

ABC

The Rookie
The Good Doctor

CBS

FBI

NBC

New Amsterdam
Chicago Fire

TBS

Miracle Workers (new series, 7 episodes) A comedy set in the officers of Heaven Inc.  When God plans to destroy the Earth, two low-level angels must convince their boss to save humanity.  They bet him they can pull off their most impossible miracle yet:  help two humans fall in love.  Starring Steve Buscemi and Daniel Radcliffe.

TNT

I am the Night

FOX

The Passage
The Resident
Gotham
The Orville

THE CW

Arrow
Riverdale

Showtime

Shameless
SMILF
Counterpart

PBS

MARGARET: The Rebel Princess (Documentary 2 episodes) how the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, for better or worse, fully embraced the great social changes of the 1960’s and 70’s, which reshaped both England’s social norms and the way people saw the royal family.
Victoria on Masterpiece

HBO

Breslin & Hamill: Deadline Artists (Documentary, 1 h 48 min) The story of NYC journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. This doc has had great reviews as it proposes that a former news cycle is repeating itself now.
True Detective

FX

You’re the Worst

Comic Relief

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returns from hiatus tonight at 11; Real Time with Bill Maher has returned on Fridays at 10; Colbert, Noah, and Samantha Bee all make me laugh at the news.

Closing Words

The Academy Awards air on Feb. 24.  Get your last minute viewing in!  Download a ballot from ABC and get ready to vote!!  I have much viewing left to do:  I will be watching At Eternity’s Gate (last days of Van Gogh starring Oscar nominee, Willem Dafoe). Aside from that I will be catching up on lots of shows that I recorded while we were away.  By the way, our weather in LA wasn’t the greatest (cold and damp just like the Rogers and Hart song The Lady is a Tramp) and we actually had flash flooding in Palm Springs while we were there.  Nevertheless, we had some very special visiting time, including a very memorable Valentine’s Dinner with our friends.  Hugs to all of you who may be a little cold and tired of winter.  To everyone else, enjoy your week wherever you are!!

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Superbowl Sunday!

OK, I must admit that as the rest of the world (or at least the world of SW Florida) goes gaga over football today, I am still doing my Academy Award countdown.  As a nod to the football fans, I have purchased some very fine guacamole and chips at a local gourmet store, but as everyone hunkers down for the game, I will be awaiting the fabulous commercials and enjoying the half-time show, while catching up with my own counter programming on Netflix, Amazon, etc. Here are some suggestions for your week:

Animal Planet

Puppy Bowl (today at 3 pm) more counter programming for me as I enjoy the sweet playfulness of tiny rescue dogs frolicking on my screen; dropping in for 10 or 20 minutes of cuteness generally suffices for me.

Amazon Prime

The ABC Murders (3 episodes) In 1933, retired detective Hercule Poirot is targeted by a taunting killer who sends letters signed “ABC”, which Poirot must decode in order to discover the identity of the murderer.  Starring John Malkovich, Rupert Grint, Tara Fitzgerald, Andrew Buchan, Shirley Henderson and many other fine British actors.  I was intrigued by this very different take on Agatha Christie’s detective.  Loved it!
Generation Wealth (1 h 45 min; documentary) From Lauren Greenfield who directed Queen of Versailles, one of my favourite documentaries ever.  In this film, she investigates the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen.
A little fragmented, as many people’s stories are profiled, it’s a story of excess, and as with her previous film, it’s hard to look away.
Catastrophe (Season 4; 6 episodes) Hilarious series about a couple who get married after a one-night stand that results in pregnancy.  Set in London and starring an American (Rob Delaney) and an Irishwoman (Sharon Horgan).  Absolutely delightful but quite raunchy and may not be to everyone’s taste.

Netflix

Russian Doll (8 episodes) A cynical young woman in NYC keeps dying and returning to the party that’s being thrown in her honour on that same evening. She tries to find a way out of this strange time loop.  Full confession:  I hate the Ground Hog Day genre, also I am not a huge fan of Natasha Lyonne.  I may not return to this one, but the first episode was well told.
Conan Without Borders (Season 1; 6 episodes) Conan goes on the road where he has great fun being his goofy self in Cuba, S. Korea, Mexico, Israel, Haiti, and Italy; absolutely delightful!

Cinemax

Strike Back (Available on HBO/Crave in Canada; Season 7; 10 episodes) Six months after their last mission, three members of the British special-ops Section 20 team are reunited for what they think is a routine “cleanup” exercise in Malaysia.  Things get complicated when their new commanding officer, a borderline burn-out named Alexander Coltrane (and played by the delicious Jamie Bamber), learns that a British operative, in possession of intel about a downed Russian plane, has been killed in Kuala Lumpur after meeting with a covert Russian operative.  Anyhow, enough about the plot.  I am a huge fan of Jamie Bamber and have been following his career since I first saw him on Battlestar Galactica in 2004!  He starred in the UK version of Law & Order; Body of Proof; Perception; Monday Mornings; The Smoke; NCIS; Fearless; Marcella and many more. This show is 1 hour of pure adrenalin, non-stop action and mindless mayhem.  A total release of testosterone by all the cast members (even the women).  Enjoy at your own risk.

Streaming

Cardinal (CTV in Canada; Season 3; 6 episodes) A very noir crime series set in North Ontario’s wilderness; a police detective is haunted by his wife’s suicide while a serial killer is on the loose.

Berlin Station (Superchannel in Canada; Epix in the US; Season 3; 10 episodes) Daniel Miller has been missing in action (presumed captured or dead) through most of this season; he had a very bad time in episode 8 (seemed to take a fatal bullet), so it looks like Richard Armitage’s film career may be taking off! I will miss him as he was my main reason for staying tuned to this Homelandesque  espionage series.

Star Trek Discovery (CBS All Access in the US; Season 2, 14 episodes) Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) is the new Captain this season and we’re hot on the trail of a very young Mr. Spock.  Michelle Yeoh keeps popping in and out as the series creators are setting her up for her own spin-off series and Ash Tyler (Voq played by Shazad Latin) makes a return appearance in Episode 3.

Comedy Central

Corporate (Season 2; 10 episodes) This hilarious satire on corporate life takes aim at all facets of society, media, and of course, corporate life.  The last episode where the team was tasked with marketing makeup to men was screamingly funny.
The Other Two (Season 1; 10 episodes) This hilarious satire on show business focusses on the two older siblings of a 12 year-old internet sensation who are both struggling to survive in NYC. Devilishly funny and features the marvellous Ken Marino as the phenomenon’s unscrupulous agent. Molly Shannon plays the mom of all 3 siblings.

Fox

The Passage (10 episodes) Ooh a secret government program goes awry and Vampires are the result!! Loved the book by Justin Cronin and am enjoying the TV adaptation.
The Orville (Season 2; 14 episodes)  Hilarious Star Trek parody from the mind of Seth MacFarlane.  I love this show and thought that the most recent episode was as fine as any Star Trek episode (fans of Singing in the Rain must watch A Happy Refrain which is Season 2, Episode 6).  Fabulous!!!
Gotham (Fifth and final season) The Batman origin story.
The Resident (Season 2, 22 episodes) The plot lines are getting more and more ludicrous, but I can’t look away.

FX

You’re the Worst (Season 5; 13 episodes) This series comes to an end as we watch Jimmy and Gretchen hurtling towards their wedding date.  This series could also have been named Catastrophe.

ABC

The Good Doctor (Season 2; 18 episodes) I would forgive this autistic doctor anything.  Freddie Highmore is very lovable in this series, no matter how silly the plots may be.

NBC

Chicago Fire (Season 7; 16 episodes) Hunky firefighters come to the rescue.

PBS

Victoria (Season 3; 8 episodes)  This sumptuous series must stand in for The Crown until it returns.

HBO

True Detective (Season 3; 8 episodes) I must try and watch this series when I am more alert.  It lulls me off to dreamland every time I watch.

Showtime

SMILF (Season 2; 10 episodes) A hapless single mother tries to find her way in life.
Shameless (Season 9; 14 episodes) A hapless family tries to find their way in life.

STARZ

Outlander (Season 4; 13 episodes) This series aired its last episode this past week.  Catch on demand if you like time travelling romantics.
Counterpart (Season 2; 10 episodes)  Bat shit crazy as the space time continuum has really been breached on this one. Still trying to make sense of it all.

TNT

I am the Night (6 episodes) Inspired by true events, “I Am the Night” tells the gripping story of Fauna Hodel, a teenage girl who is given away at birth, and grows up outside of Reno, Nevada.  Investigating the secrets of her past, she meets a ruined reporter who is haunted by the Black Dahlia murder case.  Intriguing!

The CW

Arrow (Season 7; 22 episodes) I have no excuse for watching this lame action series except for Stephen Amell, a Canadian actor who is the star.
Riverdale (Season 3; 22 episodes) I have no excuse for watching this sexy teen drama.  A real update of the Archie comics.

The Comedians

SNL, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, Roy Wood Jr (This is Not Happening on Comedy Central), Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert.  They all make me laugh at the day’s events.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning (40 + seasons) I am saving this one for after I publish. 90 minutes of soothing and inspiring stories.

Closing Words

It’s been a great week of all our usual activities, including beach walking and a Trivia Contest where our team was triumphant over at least 100 other attendees!  This week I am hosting my movie club and 23 women have signed up to watch The Wife, starring Glenn Close who is nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars.  We will be heading to Los Angeles and Palm Desert next weekend for a week and so I likely won’t publish for another 2 weeks.  Enjoy the season wherever you are. Don’t forget to keep watching the nominated films! Hugs to everyone.

 

Rain, rain, go away….

Naples has been having an extraordinarily dry winter with almost no rain at all, so the last couple of days shouldn’t really come as a surprise that we have been having an almost constant and much needed drizzle. It’s a great time to catch up on your viewing as you now have 1 month before the Oscars on Feb. 24.  Some suggestions follow below:

Pre-Oscars Alert: Screen Actors Guild Awards air tonight at 8 on TNT

This very enjoyable awards show highlights only acting awards!  What could be more engaging!!

Broadway Musical Live Alert:  Rent on Fox tonight at 8

Rent Live (on Fox tonight at 8)  OK, I confess.  I’m addicted to Broadway Musicals.  I know, I should lower my expectations, but I’m beside myself with excitement over this latest live musical on Fox.  The story of several friends in NYC facing financial poverty, homophobia AIDS, and, of course, rent.  A modern take on Puccini’s La Boheme, it stars Vanessa Hudgins who appeared as Mimi in the 2010 Hollywood Bowl run of the show. Enjoy!!

On the Big Screen

Vice (2 hr 12 min) Christian Bale portrays Dick Cheney, the man behind the throne in Republican politics.  His transformation into this character is pretty mesmerizing as he ages from a young alcoholic underachiever into the mature Cheney beset with heart problems and addicted to breakfast pastries.  He conveys the naked ambition and unscrupulousness of this mysterious figure.  Great performances from Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, and many others. As with Adam McKay’s previous film, The Big Short, the movie itself is a little disjointed and very superficial and almost lecturey in its depiction of the history of Cheney’s era. Lots of montages and a very weird use of a mysterious narrator played by Jesse Plemons.  I am not a big fan of Mr. McKay’s directorial efforts, but Bale’s performance (and makeup, hair and prosthetics) are all wonders to behold.

Live on Stage

Pink Martini at Artis Naples
This fabulous band from Portland, Oregon has been performing for 25 years.  Their style of music combines many genres:  international, classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop.  The orchestra showcases versatile performers from all over the world who are virtuosos on their many instruments.  China Forbes is the main vocalist and her soaring voice is featured in many of their songs which are performed in 25 different languages. The band has performed all over the world in very diverse venues like the Governor’s Ball at the Academy Awards, the Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Centre, the Boston Pops and with over 70 symphony orchestras all over the world. We have seen this band perform in Toronto and would follow them anywhere.  They are one of my favourites and it is incredibly difficult to categorize them as they perform so many different styles of music. You have to hear them for yourself!  We just downloaded their latest album called Je Dis Oui! and are addicted to it.

Streaming

A Discovery of Witches (made for Sky TV in Britain and airing on Sundance Now in the US, 8 episodes) Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, The Good Wife) stars in this tale of witches, vampires and demons.  I was extremely disappointed with this very silly and juvenile example of the fantasy genre.  A great cast that includes Lindsay Duncan, Alex Kingston, Trevor Eve and many other British actors is wasted.  Matthew Goode (whom I generally adore) shows 1 glassy-eyed expression throughout.  It is somewhat reminiscent of the Twilight genre as it explores the impossible love between two species.  Also, the cliffhanger ending is an outright steal from the Outlander series.  Stay tuned for Season 2, if you loved this one. I found it derivative and just plain silly.
Star Trek Discovery (CBS All Access, Season 2, 14 episodes)  Loving this great science fiction series which now has a new captain in Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels).
Cardinal (made for CTV in Canada, on Hulu in the US, Season 3) Stars Billy Campbell as Detective John Cardinal who is now coping with a wife who has apparently committed suicide and who is now receiving taunting greeting cards blaming him for her death. Set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay, the series is filmed largely in the area around North Bay, Ontario, and is full of beautiful panoramic shots of Canada’s wilderness. I love this haunting crime drama which is based on the mystery novels of Giles Blunt.
Catastrophe (Amazon Prime, Season 4, 6 episodes) The catastrophic marriage based on a 1-night-stand continues as the couple faces alcoholism and parenthood.  It’s actually a very witty British comedy filmed in London.

Netflix

Black Earth Rising (8 episodes) Kate Ashby was rescued as a child from the Rwandan genocide by her renowned international lawyer and adoptive mother Eve. Living in London and working as an investigator for lawyer Michael Ennis, Kate investigates the circumstances leading up to her mother’s death.   I have to admit that I am not loving this one which features a good cast that includes John Goodman and Harriet Walter.  I find the storyline incredibly disjointed and I do not find the lead actress Michael Cole to be engaging. I think I may be giving up after watching about 5 episodes.

Lifetime

The Bad Seed (2018 remake of 1956 original) The Lifetime Network actually has made a series of TV movies that deal with crime and damsels in distress.  I loved the original version of this film and quite enjoyed this remake that stars and was directed by Rob Lowe.  The young girl who plays the heroine, McKenna Grace, is absolutely fabulous as a psychotic pre-teen and should have a long future ahead of her in showbiz if she sticks with it as she has already gone on to star in the Sabrina series, and Designated Survivor.

HBO

True Detective (Season 3, 8 episodes)  I don’t know why I keep snoozing through this series.  Three time periods plus elegiac pacing seems to send me off to dreamland.  I will try and stay awake through tonight’s episode # 4.

Comedy Central

Corporate (Season 2)  I love this very dark satire on corporate life. A large spectrum of issues are covered from social conformism to corporate culture critique to nihilism and passing through all the stages in-between. Hilarious, poignant and down-right horrific at times.  It does make me laugh, when I’m not cringeing.
The Other Two (10 episodes) An aspiring actor and his sister Brooke, a former professional dancer, try to find their place in the world while wrestling with their feelings about their 19-yr-old brother Chase’s sudden rise to internet fame. This series just premiered last week and has had rave reviews.  I am trying to catch up with it.
Drunk History (60 episodes)  I finally caught up with this series which has been on the air since 2013.  I was intrigued by the cast of the first episode of this season which dealt with the Frankenstein legend (Seth Rogan, Elijah Wood, Jack McBrayer, Will Ferrell, Evan Rachel Wood) and was mildly amused.  Likewise, Episode 2 takes on the National Parks and I was intrigued by the subject matter, particularly of The Everglades segment as I had recently watched the PBS American Experience series called The Swamp. I loved the comedic portrayal of Marjory Stonemason Douglas. I think this series is best appreciated if you have had too much to drink beforehand as it does come off as a little sophomoric, but it has its comic moments.
Roy Wood Jr. No One Loves You (1 hr Comedy Special available On Demand) If you like Roy Wood Jr’s comedic bits on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, you will enjoy this stand up comedy special.  He is a wry observational comic who seems perpetually exasperated.  Originally from Birmingham, Alabama he comments on the Black Experience in America.  I think his understated brand of comedy is hilarious.

Showtime

SMILF (Season 2, 10 episodes) This series about a single mom trying to come to terms with her past, her present and her future may not be for everyone.  Frankie Shaw is writer and star of this one and it features Rosie O’Donnell as her mom, Connie Britton as her sometime employer.  The subject matter is pretty dark for a comedy as it deals with suicide and molestation.  You’ll either love it or hate it.  I’m intrigued.
Shameless (Season 9, 14 episodes)  This is the last season to star Emmy Rossum as Fiona.  Actually, the description above is pretty apt for this series as well.  Dark material is given a comedic touch as a scrappy, fiercely loyal Chicago family makes no apologies for their outrageous behaviour.

STARZ

Outlander (Season 4, 13 episodes)  A tale of love across the ages.  Tonight we find out in the season finale what happens to poor Roger who’s been taken by the Mohawks.
Counterpart (Season 2, 10 episodes)  I am totally confused by this show and watch it only for JD Skinner’s dual performance.  We have now found out how the parallel worlds were created,  but I’m still foggy about what is happening in the rest of the world outside Berlin.  This is a series you have to suspend your disbelief about and just go with it.

Fox

The Resident (Season 2, 22 episodes)  People do insist on having their diseases, medical emergencies, etc.  I can’t look away from this one as it stars Canadian Bruce Greenwood as villainous hospital head, Randolph Bell.
Gotham (Season 5, final season, 12 episodes)  The origin story of Batman comes to an end. I love Ben Mackenzie’s performance as Police Chief Jim Gordon.
The Orville (Season 2, 14 episodes) I love this clever parody of Star Trek written by and starring Seth MacFarlane.

ABC

The Good Doctor (Season 2, 18 episodes)  More mystery diseases and medical emergencies.  This time the leading character is autistic!  I love Freddie Highmore’s performance.
The Rookie (Season 2, 20 episodes)  I love Canadian Nathan Filion’s charming performance as the world’s oldest police rookie.

NBC

New Amsterdam (Season 1, 13 episodes)  More mystery diseases and medical emergencies. This time the leading character is dealing with Stage 4 throat cancer!  I’m not making this up.  I love Ryan Eggold’s performance as the stricken Medical Director.
Chicago Fire (Season 7, 16 episodes) All kinds of emergencies!  I love both the leading men, Jesse Spencer (Australian masquerading as Chicago native) and Taylor Kinney (former fiance of Lady Gaga).  I have no other excuse for watching this lame procedural..

CBS

FBI (Season 1, 13 episodes)  All kinds of crimes are prevented &/or solved in the weekly 1 hr time period.  Typical of Dick Wolfe’s procedural world.  This one stars Canadian actress Missy Peregrym as Special Agent Maggie Bell.

FX

You’re the Worst (Season 5, final season, 13 episodes) A catastrophic romance will either end in marriage or not.  I love the two leads, Chris Geere and Aya Cash. Not for everyone.

Comic Relief

I am still recording all the comedy shows:  Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher.  They make me laugh, no matter how awful the news may be.

Moment of Zen

I haven’t yet treated myself to CBS Sunday Morning, but I will as soon as I publish this.

Closing Words

My, my. I have had a lot to say this morning.  Clear evidence that the rain has allowed me to watch even more TV than usual.  I still managed to squeeze in a little Bocce, Mahjong and Golf, but I confess, my couch potato instincts may have gotten the better of me this past few days. To friends and family in the North, stay warm.  Be careful on those icy sidewalks. Hugs to everyone!!

The Good Life continues in beautiful Naples…

It has been another gorgeous week of wonderful weather here, although I must confess my Sunday beach walk today has been cancelled because Naples finally got some rain overnight and it is still gloomy and very damp outside.  I know this doesn’t compare with the Arctic chill our part of Canada is receiving right now and I’m hoping my family doesn’t have to deal with icy roads and transportation snarls.  The week has been full of the usual activities which have included dining out, golf and bocce for us. We actually went to see some live theatre and, as usual, I am madly trying to squeeze in some small screen time.  Here are my recommendations for you:

Live on Stage

Kyle Riabko made his Naples debut at Artis Naples with his concert performance of Richard Rodgers Reimagined. We had seen him on stage in London in his show Close To You, a reimagining of Burt Bacharach’s songs done in a full scale theatrical musical and had loved him. He got a very warm reception from the Naples crowd, which was small at the 6 pm show. I hope more people opted for the 8:30 show. Riabko, who hails from Saskatchewan, is a talented musician and singer who can make the songs of Rodgers and Bacharach sound like they were written yesterday.

Streaming

I am still watching a number of series from British TV that are currently available on Acorn and Britbox.
Butterfly,  Injustice and Mayday are among the shows I have streamed. Most are in the crime genre, but Butterfly is not as it’s about an 11-year-old boy who wants to live life as a girl. A very sensitive look at how a family deals with this issue.
Berlin Station (Season 3 Epix and Streaming)  I only watch this show for Richard Armitage (Strike Back) and his character is missing (presumably being held by the Russians), so I am quickly running out of patience with his absence from the show.  He’d better appear tonight or I will be very annoyed.
Catastrophe (Season 4 Amazon) Raunchy and witty show about a couple whose 1-night-stand leads to pregnancy and marriage while they are still virtual strangers.  Hilarious chaos ensues.
Star Trek Discovery (Season 2, 14 episodes)  This series had its second season debut this past week.  Now starring Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, the ship continues its mission of trying to unravel the mystery of seven mysterious red signals that have appeared across the universe. I loved Mount for his lead performance in Hell on Wheels and have great expectations for him in this new starring vehicle.

Fox

The Orville (Season 2, 14 episodes )  Hilarious parody of Star Trek from Seth MacFarlane who also stars.
The Gifted (Season 2, 15 episodes) Full disclosure:  I only watch this series for the performance of Stephen Moyer who was so mesmerizing in True Blood.  I fast forward through many of the segments which feature terrible CGI special effects to represent the skills the mutants possess.  Moyer, however, is strangely wooden in this one.  Far preferred him as a vampire rather than as a mutant with wonky skills.
Gotham (Season 5, final season)  This is the origin story of Batman as he goes from being a teenager into a full grown superhero.

FX

You’re the Worst (Season 5, final season) Will they or won’t they get married is the question after 5 tumultuous years of on-again, off-again courtship.

HBO

Real Time with Bill Maher (Season 17)   This political satire series returned on Jan. 18 for another round of interviews and panel discussions.  Maher’s snarkiness sometimes gets to me, but I do enjoy the interactions between left and rightwing panelists.
True Detective (Season 3, 8 episodes) This instalment tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.  Dark and brooding.  I confess to snoozing through large parts of this one. This season stars Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff and Scoot McNairy.

PBS

Victoria (Season 3, 8 episodes) The workers across Europe are rising up.  In France, Louis Philippe has been deposed.  He asks Victoria for protection, as does her half sister.  In Britain the chartists want a vote.  Victoria goes into labour with her 6th child.
American Experience: The Swamp (31 seasons of this series, you can watch on demand or stream from PBS) This episode tells the dramatic story of humanity’s attempts to conquer the Florida Everglades, one of nature’s most mysterious and unique ecosystems.  Home to a profusion of plants and animals found nowhere else on the continent, the Everglades was an immense watershed covering the southern half of the Florida peninsula.  In the 19th century, however, most Americans believed swamps were filled with diseases and noxious reptiles and saw them as obstacles to the nation’s progress.  The idea of draining the Everglades became the goal of many entrepreneurs, politicians and salesmen who saw great potential in turning the massive wetland into a profitable enterprise.  The Swamp explores the repeated efforts to transform what was seen as a vast and useless wasteland into an agricultural and urban paradise ultimately leading to a passionate campaign to preserve America’s greatest wetland.

NBC

Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, New Amsterdam These three series all star actors who I am fascinated by (Jesse Spencer on Chicago Fire, Oliver Platt on Chicago Med and Ryan Eggold on New Amsterdam). Otherwise I have no excuse for watching these lame and predictable shows.  They are my TV comfort food.

ABC

The Rookie, FBI As with the above comments, I have no excuse for watching these two procedurals that recycle decades of crime plot lines.  I adore Canadian actor Nathan Filion as the world’s oldest police rookie.  I am following Canadian actress Missy Peregrym’s career as she plays the lead in this series as a blank faced all business FBI agent.

Starz (and streaming)

Counterpart (Season 2, 10 episodes) Still mystifying and bat shit crazy, this espionage series explores a world where two parallel universes seem to meet in Berlin.  Head scratching stuff, led by a terrific cast that includes J.K. Simmons and Olivia Williams.
Outlander (Season 4, 13 episodes)  Still the most romantic series on TV where people are willing to travel across time to be with their soulmates.  I actually hate the time travel genre, but this one has me hooked.

The Comedians

Still watching the opening monologues of Colbert, Noah and now Bill Maher, who has returned from hiatus.  They allow us to laugh at the craziness of the daily news cycle. I do also record The View, just to see how they handle the hot topics of the day. Joy Behar is my favourite panel member on the show as she knows how to wring a great one liner out of most news stories.

Moment of Zen

I haven’t yet treated myself to my Sunday morning 90 minutes of heaven, CBS Sunday Morning.  As soon as I proofread and publish this, I will sit down for an inspiring and informative morning of profiles and human interest stories.   A kinder and gentler (and longer) version of 60 Minutes.

Alert:  Set your Recording Devices

There are some returning series:

Shameless, (tonight at 9 on Showtime); SMILF, (tonight at 10:35 on Showtime); Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (Jan 23 at 10:30 on TBS); Suits (Season 8 continues Jan 23 at 10 on USA)

Awards show:  25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, (Jan 27 at 8, on TNT)

Live musical: Rent (on Fox, Jan 27 at 8)

New mini-series: I am the Night (starring Chris Pine, based on the Black Dahlia murders Jan 27 at 10 on TNT)

Closing Words

I had the great pleasure this week of reconnecting with two of my Florida based cousins as we reminisced about my mother.  They remembered Milly as the feistiest of the 5 Cantor sisters and admitted to being a little afraid of her.  She was a force to be reckoned with and I have been thinking about her everyday. Although dementia made for a very long goodbye to her, I will feel a void where my weekly visits with her used to be. Best wishes to everyone dealing with medical issues and warm wishes to my friends in the north who are undoubtedly trying to stay warm in extremely chilly weather. Hugs to you all.

So little time, so much to watch…

Well it’s been a glorious week here in Naples.  Beautiful weather, lots of activities, enough time to catch up with some of the shows and movies I’ve been meaning to watch and we actually made it out to a real movie theatre (Silverspot at the Mercato in N. Naples, one of my favourites) to see a film that will likely get some Oscar nods.  I’m now in the first stage of my Oscar countdown as I try and see all the films that will likely be nominated.  Here are some viewing suggestions for you:

On the Big Screen

The Favourite (1 hr 59 min) Starring Olivia Colman (soon to be the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, also known for Broadchurch, The Night Manager, etc.), Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz.  In early 18th C. England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah Marlborough, governs the country in her stead.  When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Full of great performances and witty dialogue, this film will intrigue lovers of period drama.  Watch for the unforgettably hilarious dance scene which could have been directed by Baz Luhrmann. A film that’s very hard to categorize as comedy or drama but incredibly entertaining.

Netflix

Breath (1 hr 55 min) Based on Tim Winton’s award-winning and international bestselling novel set in mid-70’s coastal Australia.  Two teenage boys, hungry for discovery, form an unlikely friendship with a mysterious older adventurer who pushes them to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.  Stars Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh.  Full disclosure, I would watch anything with Simon Baker (The Guardian) so I adored this coming-of-age film with great performances from the two boys.  If you love surf films, this one’s for you.
And Breathe Normally (1 hr 35 min) Two women’s lives will interest while trapped in circumstances unforeseen.  Between a struggling Icelandic mother and an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau, a delicate bond will form as both strategize to get their lives back on track. I loved the scenes that showed the rugged and desolate Icelandic landscapes.  A very touching character study.
Roma (2 hr 15 min)  A year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970’s.  Directed by Alphonso Cuaron, this is a love letter from Cuaron to the woman who raised him, the family maid.  Full disclosure, the first time I watched this film, the elegiac pace lulled me into a deep sleep that lasted most of the 2 hrs plus running time.  This week I tried again in the company of 15 women in my movie club and managed to stay awake for the whole thing! Here are my thoughts on this film which I wrote about to a friend as she wondered why so many people love this film. It’s an art film. Subtle and nuanced. Very understated if you don’t count the earthquake, riot, near drowning, forest fire, etc. It’s a memoir of Cuaron’s childhood where he was raised by his maid. Just a portrait of a way of life. Lots of very subtle shadings – the character of the father, the role of the grandmother, the way the mother totally depended on her maid. Lots of references to a corrupt and failing country – the training of paramilitary forces, the expropriation of the land belonging to the maid’s indigenous mother, a student demonstration that turns into a riot.
It’s a movie that needs to be closely watched. I slept through the entire thing the first time I tried to watch it. This time with a group of women watching it with me, I watched it with my whole attention. We had a great discussion afterwards.
For a completely alternative view of this film (and for those of you who may watch it mystified about all the fuss), here’s a review from L.A. Review of Books:
Sex Education (8 episodes)  A teenage virgin who lives with his sex therapist mother teams up with a smart and edgy high school classmate to start their own health clinic.  Full disclosure: I gave up during the first episode, which I felt was very much aimed at a teen audience.  I felt a number of the teen characters were played by much older actors and quickly decided this series was not for me.  However, it has had terrific reviews and here is one of them:
7 Days Out (6 episodes) A series that documents behind the scenes of some of the largest events in the world. So far, I have only watched Westminster Dog Show episode and found it to be a lovely overview of some of the owners and trainers who compete.  Wonderful scenes of glorious dogs!

Streaming

I have been enviously looking at the pop-up ads for Acorn and Brit Box subscription streaming services of British TV content.  I finally got a look at some of the series they advertise. Most, but not all, of these are in the crime genre:
Butterfly (3 episodes) Stars Anna Friel.  11-year-old Max identifies as a girl and wants to live her life as Maxine.  Her estranged parents Vicky and Stephen attempt to work out how best to cope with and support this huge life decision.  Very sweet series which presents a very sensitive view of the dilemmas that face families coping with transgender issues.
Suspects (23 episodes) Fiction made to feel like documentary, this crime series is entered on a team of three detectives – each with their own distinctive style of working.  A bit grim (the first episode I watched dealt with a missing 2-year-old girl).  Very realistic! I really did think I was watching a documentary at first.
The Loch  (6 episodes) The search for a serial killer becomes a matter of life and death for detective Annie Redford, who is trying to cope with her first murder case. I realized a few minutes into this one, that I had seen it before, probably on TVO or PBS and had thoroughly enjoyed it.  The setting is Loch Ness, so the scenery is beautiful.  A terrific tangled tale of crime.
Blood (6 episodes) Stars great Irish actor Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty) Cat Hogan returns to West Meath, Ireland, upon her mother’s sudden death – she has an accident at home and died (or was it an accident?).  Blood is about old secrets, older betrayals, mind games and the lies family tell each other. Terrific tale of a dysfunctional family and the secrets and lies that damage and distort.

Regular Fare I’m following

Dirty John (8 episodes, Bravo) Terrific true life tale that started as a true crime podcast.  Debra’s seemingly perfect life is disrupted as she falls for a handsome doctor who sweeps her into a whirlwind romance.  But her handsome new beau pulls Debra into a sinister game of psychological manipulation.  Connie Britton, Eric Bana, Juno Temple, Jean Smart and Julia Garner all deliver terrific performances in this mesmerizing nourish tale of a woman who descends into a downward spiral once she engages with a devilish con man.
Outlander (Season 4, Starz, streaming) Oh my, the romance continues in the New World.
Counterpart (Season 2, Starz) Mind bending mystery series about a parallel world involved in a Cold War with our own. The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.
FBI (12 episodes, CBS) Procedural drama about the inner workings of the NY office of the FBI bringing to bear all the Bureau’s skills, intellect and mind-blowing technology to keep NYC and the country safe.  Great cast in this completely routine crime series includes Jeremy Sisto and Sela Ward.
The Rookie (20 episodes, ABC)  The series follows John Nolan, a 40-year-old man who moves from his comfortable small-town life to LA to pursue his dream of being a police officer for the LAPD.  He must navigate the dangerous, humorous, and unpredictable world of a “young” cop determined to make his second shot at life count.  Nathan Fillion is his usual charming self in the lead role.
New Amsterdam (12 episodes, NBC) A new medical director breaks the rules to heal the system at America’s oldest public hospital.  Ryan Eggold is a charmer in the lead role.
Chicago Fire (Season 7, NBC)  I only watch this idiotic and predictable show from the procedural factory of Dick Wolff, for the two lead actors, Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney.  Sigh….
Chicago Med (Season 4, NBC) I only watch this entirely lame medical procedural for the performances of Oliver Platt and Colin Donnell. Also from the procedural factory of Dick Wolff.
Berlin Station (Season 3, Epix and streaming) Follows Daniel Miller (Richard Ermitage), who works in the CIA station in Berlin.  Great cast includes Leland Orser, Michelle Forbers, Rhys Ifans Richard Jenkins, Tamlyn Tomita and Ashley Judd.  If you love espionage series, this is the one for you.
Catastrophe (Season 4, Amazon)  American boy Rob gets Irish girl Sharon pregnant while they hook up for a week while on a business trip to London.  Catastrophe and chaos ensue in this cheeky and bawdy series from the UK.
The Orville (Season 2, Fox) Delightful parody of Star Trek from Seth MacFarlane who also stars.
Gotham (Season 5 – final season) Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne face the chaos Gotham City has become, as villains who survived the attack on the city begin to resurface and claim various territories.  If you want to see the origin story of Batman, this series is for you.  Stars Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning (on air since 1979, CBS) I love this peaceful anthology show for its insightful and inspiring segments.  This morning’s show featured Key Lime Pie, M. Night Shymalan, etc.

The Comedians

The Christmas holidays are over and Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah are back.  I love watching the highlights of James Corden and Seth Meyers on Youtube.

Closing Words

It was a great week for dining out and catching up with friends.  Looking forward to our regular activities here this week (golf, mahjhong, bocce, etc.)  We are off to the theatre this week to catch Canadian singer Kyle Riabko at Artis Naples doing a Rogers and Hammerstein tribute.  How I love show tunes!!  Have a wonderful week wherever you are.  To my Canadian friends, stay warm up there and be careful on the roads.  Hugs to everyone.

Back in the sunny south…

Well, it was a very eventful 7 weeks or so spent back home in Ontario.  From George’s surgery, to Christmas celebrations, to the death of a dear friend, to New Year’s celebrations, and finally to the death of my dear mother Amelia at age 100.  She passed away in her sleep of complications of old age.  She lived a long and challenging life that included the break up of a marriage, raising her family as a single mother, the premature deaths from cancer of my brother and sister, and then finally a long decline as the result of a fall that began when she was 89 and ended 11 years later.  Dementia blurred the grief she felt over the loss of two children as her memories faded. She was a woman of very strong character which sustained her throughout her long life.  Amelia will be missed by her family for her often hilarious and usually unsolicited opinions and her terrifying glare when she was displeased. She was truly the strongest woman I have ever known and she will be terribly missed.

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Anyhow, I did manage to keep up with a few series and shows over the holidays, so here are some suggestions for you.

On the Big Screen

Mary Poppins Returns (2 hr 10 min)  Well, I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t completely enamoured of this film.  I love musicals, but the music in this one doesn’t really compare to the original with its unforgettable songs.  You do not come out humming.  Emily Blunt is wonderful as a much slyer more mysterious Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda copes with his cockney accent much more gracefully than Dick Van Dyke.  Way too long for me, so I wonder what children will think about this one.  I really needed something positive over the holidays and this one didn’t give me the lift I needed.

Netflix

Call My Agent (In French with English Subtitles. Season 3, 6 episodes) I just binge watched the entire third season of this series.  What a delight!  This office of talent agents in Paris tries to cope with their celebrity clients (Monica Belucci, Jean Dujardin are two of the stars this season) and their office politics.  A truly funny escape from reality.
The 12th Man (In Norwegian with English Subtitles. 2 hr 15 min) Based on a true story, this action film tells the story of 12 Norwegian saboteurs who are immediately killed on landing in Northern Norway by the Nazis with the exception of 1 who gets away. The survivor Jan goes on the run towards the neutral territory of Sweden.  However, the brutal weather conditions turn out to possibly be an even greater foe than the Nazi patrols.  Wonderfully engrossing film.  Available on Netflix in Canada and Amazon Prime in the US.
You (11 episodes) Originally aired on Lifetime, now on Netflix. This very noir series stars Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) as a clever bookstore manager who relies on his savvy Internet know-how to make the woman of his dreams fall in love with him.  Completely addictive!
Derry Girls (Northern Irish accents abound, you may have to activate captions, 7 episodes) A totally delightful series that recounts the personal exploits of a 16-year-old girl and her family and friends during the Troubles in the early 1990’s.  Laugh out loud funny!
Shtisel (From Israel, in Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles, Seasons 1& 2, 24 episodes) The story of an ultra-othodox family in Jerusalem.  Shalom Shtisel, the father of a large family, is dealing with his younger son who he wants to see married soon.  His daughter, Giti, is dealing in secret with marital problems while his other son Zvi Arie tries to patch things up.  I really fell in love with these characters and binge watched the two seasons.  I miss the Shtisel family terribly.
Bad Seeds (In French with English subtitles, 1 hr 40 min) Stars Catherine Deneuve.  Wael (Kheiron) a former street child, makes a living from small scams with his adoptive mother and partner-in-crime Monique (Catherine Deneuve).  When this unconventional duo swindles the wrong guy, Victor, an old acquaintance of Monique now in charge of a support organization for troubled teens, they have no choice but to become his interim secretary and educator in order to redeem themselves.  This little film is lighter than air and has a very positive message of redemption.
Wanted (From Australia, Season 3, 6 episodes) Two women are falsely accused of murder, and go on the run across Australia in a car filled with stolen money.  The saga of these two women who were in the wrong place at the wrong time continues with numerous twists and turns.  Completely addictive!

Series still being watched

Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes) Ray finds a chance at a new life on Staten Island.  Darker than ever!
Counterpart (Starz, Season 2, 10 episodes) Stars J.K. Simmons as a hapless UN employee who discovers the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension that’s in a Cold War with our own, and where his other self is a top spy.  The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.  Mind bending but intriguing and J.K. Simmons is splendid in his dual role.
Outlander (Starz, Season 4, 13 episodes) This romantic series follows the adventures of an English combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.  Possibly the most romantic series ever made for TV!!
Berlin Station (Streaming from Epix, Season 3, 10 episodes) Now the CIA agents are on assignment in Estonia to thwart a Russian takeover.  Got to love that Richard Armitage as the main swashbuckler! This series is my go-to replacement for Homeland which is presently on hiatus.
Gotham (Fox, Season 5, 12 episodes) Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne face the chaos Gotham City has become, as villains who survived the attack on the city begin to resurface and claim various territories.  I love this series about Batman’s origin story.

Closing Words

It’s been a challenging past few weeks.  Being back in Florida is a much needed escape and refuge from a difficult holiday season.  After a shopping trip to Costco today, we are off to practice Bocce as our league begins this week. The week includes my first golf game in many weeks, fitness classes and lots of catching up with friends.  We pick up our new MiniCooper tomorrow and I can’t wait to drive it.  I have loved driving my Countryman SUV in Canada and look forward to driving my new 4-door hardtop version in Florida.  TV Alert for tonight:  The Golden Globes air on NBC at 8 pm.  These very entertaining awards provide much head scratching amusement as they feature much more diverse categories than the Oscars.  The celebrity audience eats and drinks while the awards are in progress and generally relaxes.  There is often no rhyme or reason for some of the awards voted upon by a mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association that does not divulge its criteria for awards selection or even its membership.  Total escapism!  Enjoy your week wherever you are. Keep watching your TV Guides.  Many shows are returning from hiatus this week and will continue to do so throughout January. Hugs to my family and friends dealing with bereavement and medical issues’

Christmas has come and gone…

Christmas has come and gone and it’s Boxing Day as I write this! We’ve had get togethers with 2 bookclubs, our fitness group, a Birthday/Christmas get together over lunch at Lambton, a high school girlfriends get together, several dinners and parties with neighbours and numerous family get togethers. This year we celebrated Hungarian Christmas in Port Perry, Etobicoke Family Christmas with our children’s in-laws in Toronto, and finally Thornbury Winter Wonderland Christmas with our children up north. 

It’s been a wonderful holiday season and we’ve been very happy to be around for dear family and friends dealing with illness and bereavement. For quiet moments during your holidays, here are some viewing suggestions.

On demand

Captain Fantastic (1 hr 48 Min) In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent. Viggo Mortensen leads a wonderful cast in this exploration of parenting and living off the grid.

Crave TV  

Escape at Dannemora (7 episodes) Full confession – I have given upon this bleak based on true story miniseries despite its outstanding cast (Benicia DeL Toro, Paul Dano, Patricia Arquette). Too dark and sad for me.

Counterpart (Season 2, 8 episodes) Counterpart is about a mysterious world hidden beneath the surface of our everyday existence. Howard Silk is a lowly cog in the bureaucratic machinery of a Berlin-based United Nations spy agency. When Howard discovers that his organization safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a shadow world of intrigue, danger, and double cross – where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world. The show explores themes of identity, fate and lost love, posing the eternal question, “what if our lives could have been different?”

Streaming

A Simple Favour (1 hr 34min)  Ooh, dark and twisted in a fun and entertaining way, Stars Christina Hendricks, Henry Golding, Blake Lively. This dark noir suspense thriller is extremely entertaining,

Berlin Station (Season 3, 8 episodes) we’re in Estonia a lot this year as Russia tries to pull another Crimea and take Estonia back.

Outlander (Season 4, 10 episodes) This romance for the ages continues in The New World,

Johnny English Strikes Again (1 hr, 29 min) About 1 hr too long.  For Rowan Atkinson addicts only, this James Bond spoof is awfully silly, but his hilarious face does make you smile.

Venom (2 hr 14 min) Only Tom Hardy could star in this mad mess of a superhero movie from Marvel. Bat shit craziness ensues when an extraterrestrial parasite infests Hardy’s body. Many innocent vehicles were destroyed by CGI effects in this endless insanity.

Netflix

Bird Box (2 hr 4 min) Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.  Stars Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich.  Incredibly suspenseful, but very similar to A Quiet Place. Somewhat naughtily, some critics have already referred to this as A Blind Place.

Happy as Lazzaro (2 hrs 5 min) This is the tale of a meeting between Lazzaro, a young peasant so good that he is often mistaken for simple-minded, and Tancredi, a young nobleman cursed by his imagination. Life in their isolated pastoral village Inviolata is dominated by the terrible Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna, the queen of cigarettes. A loyal bond is sealed when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping. This strange and improbable alliance is a revelation for Lazzaro. A friendship so precious that it will travel in time and transport Lazzaro in search of Tancredi. His first time in the big city, Lazzaro is like a fragment of the past lost in the modern world. Mesmerizing and very hard to describe this fable of an innocent man.

Tidelands (8 episodes) Australian! Tidelands follows the story of a former criminal who returns home to the small fishing village of Orphelin Bay. When the body of a local fisherman washes ashore, she must uncover the town’s secrets while investigating its strange inhabitants, who are a group of dangerous half-sirens, half-humans called “Tidelanders”.

Dogs of Berlin (8 episodes) From Germany! Dogs of Berlin tells the story of two contrasting Berlin police detectives who become a team against their will – and are forced into a territorial battle with the Berlin underworld that confronts them with their own human weaknesses and criminal activities – and into a final decision on which side of the law they’re actually on. I knew bed th S very dark and twisted tale of the new Germany where new Nazis fight Turkish immigrants for control of their new country.

Roma (2 hrs 15 min) The film’s events take place in 1970 and 1971, predominantly in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Cleo (named after the Cléo character in Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7) is a maid in the household of Sofia, whose household consists of her husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia’s mother, Teresa, and another maid, Adela. Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. Among scenes of Cleo’s life with the family – her cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up – it becomes clear that Sofia and Antonio’s marriage is strained. After a brief return, Antonio leaves again, saying he is going to Quebec for a few weeks. In their time off, Cleo and Adela go out with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón, to the theater. At the entrance, Cleo and Fermín decide to rent a room instead of seeing the movie. Fermín, while naked, shows off his martial arts skill using the shower curtain rod as a pole. At another date, both couples meet in a movie theater, where Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant. As the movie is about to end, Fermín says he is going to the rest room and will be back, but then does not return and is nowhere to be found when Cleo goes outside. Cleoy reveals the same concern to Sofia, who takes her to get checked at the hospital where Antonio works. The doctor there confirms her pregnancy..Full disclosure- I did watch this in the evening and managed to snooze through much of it while my husband stayed Alert and described it as a masterpiece. I will likely be viewing it again with my Florida Movie Club in January.

HBO

Ray Donovan (Season 5, 10 episodes) Oh my. Dark as ever, Ray is in NYC this year and his work as a fixer for a duplicitous power broker (Susan Sarandon) continues with terrible repercussions for everyone.

Regular Broadcast Fare

The Rookie (ABC) Love this show about the world’s oldest police rookie starring charming Canadian Nathan Fillion.

FBI (CBS) Comfort food police procedural from the Dick Wolf assembly line.

The CW

Riverdale This show started out as a bitingly sharp satire on teen dramas and has increasingly gone goofy with its emphasis on supernatural and occult themes.

Superchannel

National Treasure: Kiri (4 episodes) A drama dealing with the abduction and murder of a young black girl, soon to be adopted by her white foster family, and the trail of lies, blame, guilt and notoriety which follow. Sarah Lancashire and Steven Mackintosh star in this noir series.

You may find some of the end-of-year lists interesting:

Features and series to binge watch over the holidays from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-28-shows-to-binge-on-netflix-and-amazon-over-the-holidays/

Worst of 2018 TV list from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/article-the-worst-of-the-worst-2018s-biggest-film-failures/

Acknowledged best of TV list from NYTimes:

Best of 2018 TV list from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-the-year-in-tv-great-content-amid-the-toxic-trumpian-politics-of/

Great End of year hidden gem list:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-six-unheralded-tv-gems-you-wont-see-on-the-best-of-lists/|

Closing Words

OMG, this has been a tough blog to write. My 10 year old laptop has died, forcing me to type this on my IPad. Aargh…editing is so much harder as fonts and style are much harder for me to control.  Anyhow, I am wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Years holiday. Much health and happiness to everyone for 2019. Hugs to you all.

 

 

A week of tears and laughter…

It’s been a whirlwind week of get togethers with friends, medical appointments, retirement parties, fitness and line dance classes and most meaningfully, the funeral of a very longtime friend who passed away after a one year struggle with cancer.
Judy was my neighbour of 37 years. She and her husband Bob had three girls to our two boys. Judy was part of my neighbourhood group of play girls. We formed a close knit network of friends when the kids were babies and over the years we became a real sisterhood. Judy had a great sense of humour and she was the ultimate realist who always told it like it really was. She did not suffer fools. We adored her for her frankness and kindness. She was very accomplished in her field as a tax partner in an accounting firm. She was supported in her career by her husband of 43 years, Bob, who ran the household while Judy excelled in her career and was able to take on volunteer roles with charities close to her heart. Her girls always came first and she never missed a dance competition or a horseback riding lesson. Her girls adored her as did her friends. Truly one of the strongest women I know, Judy fought her disease with all her courage and strength in order to have as much time as possible with her family, including a new granddaughter born in September. She died at home surrounded by family. We will miss her dearly.
God knows we all need distractions, so here are some suggestions:

Netflix

Narcos: Mexico (11 episodes) The rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico.  Engrossing, suspenseful, powerful.  I couldn’t look away.
Dumplin’ (1 hr 50 min) Willowdean (Dumplin’) the plus-sere teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.  This film answers the question of what has happened to Jennifer Aniston’s career.  She plays the mom in this feel good film that manages to touch on all the cliches of every teen movie that features an underdog rising above the mean girls.  Very trite and not at all true.  If you want to watch a movie that is lighter than air, this is the one for you.
Mowgli (1 hr 44 min) A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins. I must admit that I did enjoy this all star live action version (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, etc) of The Jungle Book story, but I did laugh at the review by John Doyle in the Globe:

Amazon Prime

The Marvellous Mrs. Maizel (Season 2, 10 episodes) A housewife in the 1950’s decides to become a stand-up comic.  I must admit, I snoozed through the first few episodes in Season 2, but it gradually grew on me.  One of my favourite British actors joins the cast in Episode 7 as an artist who is interested in Miriam. You will root for Mrs. Maizel to succeed.

Streaming

Blackkklansman (2 hr 15 min) Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorade Springs, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.  This is another way too long, unevenly paced film from Spike Lee whose films are often deeply flawed. Great cast features John David Washington (son of Denzil) and Adam Driver.

Audible.com

Becoming by Michelle Obama (19 hours 5 minutes).  Obama writes with a refreshing candor, as though her keen awareness of her celebrity is matched only by her eagerness to shed the exhausting veneer that helped enable her husband’s political rise.  If you are in need of inspiration to live your best life, read this.  You will be overcome with admiration for this wonderful woman who rose from very humble beginnings to become the first black First Lady.  Incredibly accomplished in her own right (Princeton, Harvard Law), Obama is unsparingly honest in depicting her family, her difficulties in her marriage and her incredibly strong work ethic.  I am in awe of her.  She is a wonderful narrator of her own story, so I heartily recommend listening to this on audible.com.

Regular Fare

This is the time of year when the ten best lists start to come out.  Here’s one from Vanity Fair:

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/12/best-tv-shows-2018-top-10-list

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

I missed by very favourite show today, CBS Sunday Morning, as we were running off from Thornbury this morning to my friend’s funeral.  If you do get a chance to see it, watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

While happy to be home and spending lots of time with our family and friends, it has been a rather melancholy time.  Sending warm hugs to all my friends dealing with medical issues (including poor George who is still a little tender and sore after his surgery). Best wishes to all of you during this festive season!!

 

Let the bingewatching continue…

George and I have been enjoying a few days of quiet in our Thornbury home north of Toronto.  It was a beautiful winter wonderland when we drove up but the weather has gotten milder and milder and today it’s supposed to be drizzly all day.  Perfect for bingewatching! Here are some suggestions for you:

On the Big Screen

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (1 h 46 min) A terrific film about the literary world. When biography writer Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception as she discovers how lucrative literary forgery can be.  An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.  Melissa McCarthy plays it straight here as the acerbic, down on her luck writer.  She is abetted in her forgery by the marvellously funny Richard E. Grant (a British character actor most famous for his 1969 film Withnail & I and many others).  Both actors are rumoured to be Oscar nominees this year. Watch for Jane Curtin who is marvellously wry as Marjorie, Israel’s exhausted and exasperated literary agent.

NetFlix

Narcos: Mexico (10 episodes) This miniseries explores the origins of the modern drug war by going back to its roots, beginning at a time when the Mexican trafficking world was a loose and disorganized confederation of independent growers and dealers.  Witness the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980’s as Felix Gallardo takes the helm, unifying traffickers in order to build an empire.  When DEA agent Kiki Camarena moves his wife and young son from California to Guadalajara to take on a new post, he quickly learns that his assignment will be more challenging than he ever could have imagined.  As Kiki garners intelligence on Felix and becomes more entangled in his mission, a tragic chain of events unfolds, affecting the drug trade and the war against it for years to come.  Stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna.  This series is full of wonderful performances by actors who are perfectly cast in this rogues’ gallery of criminals and law enforcement officers.

The Last Kingdom (Season 3, 10 episodes) The setting is England roughly around 800-900 A.D. The conflict involves the Vikings who are eager to take more ground and the native English peoples, the Saxons, who desire to hold the ground they have and repel the Vikings from England.  The main protagonist, Uhtred Ragnarsson, is a fictional character although his birth place and enemies who contest him are real figures.  Stars Euro actor Alexander Dreymon as the delicious Uhtred, Ian Hart, Eva Birthistle.  A terrific action packed series that depicts this shrouded in mystery era as the birth of a nation.

Amazon Prime

Patriot (Season 2, 8 episodes) Follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose latest assignment – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.  The series features many wonderful character actors in supporting roles (Kurtwood Smith, Terry O’Quinn, Gil Bellows, among them).Michael Dorman is wonderful as the lead character.  I get a special kick from his folk songs which are a kind of therapy for him as he tries to process the two sides of his life – cover and actual intelligence officer.

Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-patriot-an-unheralded-gem-of-a-mad-melancholy-spy-drama/

And all the other shows I try to keep up with:

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

 

Closing Words

The next few weeks are going to be a blur of medical and dental appointments combined with non-stop house party action and dinners with friends.  Please send all your friends and family members who are dealing with medical issues your most supportive thoughts and prayers, and even more so, your best baking and casseroles.  For many who are struggling, this festive time of year is very challenging.  Hugs to you all.

Winter Wonderland goes briefly on break…

After a couple of days of brutal cold, we are now having some very mild early winter weather.  It’s a perfect day to get my Christmas urns in order for our Thornbury house and a good friend/floral designer is coming over this morning to “help” me.  I will have coffee ready for her.  In the meantime, I have to admit I have been bingeing on lots of new TV offerings.  Here are some recommendations for your week:

On the Big Screen

The Toronto International Film Festival has come out with personal recommendations for audience members (based on a brief survey and their algorithms) and I received this personalized list this week.  I loved Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Kindergarten Teacher (now available on Netflix) and First Man.

Top 5 Recommendations:

  1. Green Book (39.8%)
  2. ROMA (36.3%)
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk (34.9%)
  4. The Kindergarten Teacher (29.1%)
  5. First Man (28.1%)

More than 75% of people asked for their recommendations to focus on “Overlooked Gems” so they could discover films that may not get the attention of Hollywood blockbusters. Here’s what they’ve discovered:

Top 5 Overlooked Gems:

  1. Float Like a Butterfly (43.9%)
  2. Let Me Fall (15.2%)
  3. The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia(15.2%)
  4. Rosie (11.8%)
  5. Before the Frost (10.4%)

Get your own Personal Top 5 and see if it compares: join.TIFF.net/2018/

We hope you’ll love this tool as much as we do. Please let us know what you think of your results by emailing us at loyalty@tiff.net.

TIFF

P.S. – We can’t leave out one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, and one of the most talked-about films coming out of TIFF:

Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born (17.9%) was #6 in the overall recommendations, just shy of the Top 5. See if it’s on your list of recommendations.

Netflix

The Last Kingdom  (Season 3, 10 episodes)  Oh how I have missed this action packed Dark Ages story.  The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alred.  Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred.  Born the son of a Saxon nobleman and a Danish mother, he treads a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.  Untred is played by the glorious Alexander Dreymon.  Sigh… I love this gorgeous French/Swiss Englishman.  If you like Vikings, you will love this series.
The Kominsky Method (8 episodes)  Starring Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin and Nancy Travis.  An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Douglas and Arkin are wonderful together as longtime friends who have a love/hate relationship.  Great writing that ties together themes of loss, addiction, aging and relationships.  This is a truly adult series that manages to make you laugh and cry.  I loved it and binged on all 8 half/hour episodes in one evening.
Dogs (6 episodes) This wonderful documentary series focuses on our relationships with dogs.  From a therapy dog, to a dog left behind in Syria when his master leaves the country. to a Labrador retriever that faithfully accompanies his master on daily fishing trips, to an examination of the dog grooming industry and its superstars, to a dog rescue shelter in Costa Rica and a dog-adoption service that rescues dogs from Texas shelters and matches them with new owners in NYC. Get our your hankies.  Heartwarming and life affirming.  Here’s what the Globe had to say about it:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2 h 13 min) An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West from the Coen brothers.  Dark and quirky, this blackly comedic series could also have been called 100 Ways to Die in the West if that title weren’t already taken.  The great cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan.  Fascinating in its oddness.
Trevor Noah:  Son of Patricia (1 h 3 min)  Noah’s South African roots and upbringing merge into his recent American experience making for funny and human juxtapositions and observations.  Here’s what the Globe had to say:
The Kindergarten Teacher (1 h 36 min) Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gael Garcia Bernal.  A kindergarten teacher in NYC becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy.  I saw this very dark film at TIFF and found it very intriguing.  Gyllenhaal is luminous in this and you fear for her as she spirals downward.  What starts out as a lovely film about a dedicated teacher becomes a real film noir.

My Usual Obsessions

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
Patriot (Amazon, 2 seasons) A blackly humourous tale of espionage
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I haven’t managed to watch yet:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV), Narcos (Netflix), Warriors (Netflix), etc.
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

Thanks so much to all of you who have kindly enquired about George’s recovery from his recent (thoroughly routine) surgery.  He gets better every day! As you may guess, I have had a bingewatching buddy!  The poor man was hostage to my fiendish preference for new series on Netflix when he would have been divinely happy to watch any number of sporting events on TV.  Special hugs to my distressingly large number of friends and family who are dealing with medical issues.  Enjoy this week of mild winter weather, wherever you are!!