Unexpected change in plans…

This was a week we hadn’t planned to spend in Ontario as we were supposed to be celebrating the 4th of July with friends in Cape Cod. However, our son David gave his dad tickets to Bob Dylan’s Wednesday performance at the ACC in Toronto so we modified our plans and rescheduled our Cape Cod visit to coincide with an August trip to Cape Breton to attend a wedding.

Full confession: I have never been a big Dylan fan. I loved his contemporaries on the sixties and seventies folk scene (Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, etc), but I didn’t care for Dylan’s scratchy growl as I’m more of a melody fan myself. I was actually a huge Leonard Cohen fan and preferred him as a poet and songwriter. However, this concert made me a Dylan believer. He sang in a tuneful and melodic voice and was backed up by a band that was incredibly musical as well. What a surprise! The Guardian review of his show at the London Palladium, gives you a real taste of what the show was like.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/apr/30/no-room-for-nostalgia-as-bob-dylan-keeps-show-on-the-road

Here’s a sampling of his playlist in Toronto
From the Great American Song Book:

Make You Feel My Love
Stormy Weather
Autumn Leaves
That Old Black Magic
Once Upon A Time

From his classics:

Don’t Think Twice, It’s alright
Blowing in the Wind
The Ballad of the Thin Man
Accompanied by a great band with a wonderful sound, it was a very respectful audience; he gave a 1 1/2 hour performance in wonderful voice and was actually warbling. As a bonus, I sat next to a Turkish diplomat who was attending a niece’s university graduation and it gave me a great appreciation for how well loved Dylan is by the whole world.

On the big screen

Baby Driver is an adrenalin fuelled thrill ride with a great soundtrack and terrific performances by leads Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, etc. This is a genre defying heist/coming of age/romance/action flick. Truly original for most of the film, I enjoyed it and left the theatre feeling pretty energized.

 

Wonder Woman is a delightful campy approach to the Wonder Woman origin story. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are perfectly cast in the lead roles. Danny Huston is magnificently evil and watch for Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen in roles as Amazon mentors to Wonder Woman.

 

Movies to Stream at home

Logan is a painfully long farewell to the Wolverine character in the X-Men series. I can’t believe George and I watched the whole thing!
Get Out is a fabulous suspense movie by the wickedly talented director Jordan Peele

Kong: Skull Island is much more engaging than I thought it would be and does star Tom Hiddleston (for goodness sakes, if you haven’t watched him in The Night Manager, please do so immediately!)

HBO has a great documentary on Cary Grant, for those of you who still can’t get enough of him.

 

Series to stream at home

Because I have had a serious espionage obsession since my teen years when I read all of the James Bond novels (not to mention my current fascination with Dan Silva’s Mossad novels), I was curious to catch up with The Bureau, a French series currently in its 3rd season on Sundance. Dark and murky! I have only made it to episode two so far, as viewing it on my Ipad seems to trigger episodes of narcolepsy.

Amazon Prime

I keep forgetting I actually have the app for this on my IPad. I caught the first episode of Good Girls Revolt (Mad Men without the advertising world and Jon Hamm); the first 4 episodes of A Crisis in 6 Scenes (a Woody Allen series that is quirky to the max); Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle (we’re now in Venice and Monica Bellucci is a famous opera diva). Not crazy about any of these three series so far, although I did love the first two seasons of Mozart in the Jungle and recommend it unreservedly.

 

 

CBC

Airfarce 150 Birthday Canada features a terrific La La land parody and a great Ed Robertson/Chris Hadwick duet of “if I had a gazillion dollars” (adjusted for inflation).

Pure – I binged on this one on demand. Crazy Mennonite crime series. I far preferred Banshee which HBO Canada aired for several seasons. Apparently the Canadian Mennonite community was outraged by the inaccuracies of this series, but it made for good fun all the same! My favourite parts were when the Mennonites were forced to use modern technology against their will. Total fish out of water scenes.

Baroness Von Sketch has returned with new episodes of this hilariously female centric sketch comedy show.

 

 

Netflix

Bloodline I finally binged on Season 3 of this once wonderful series. OMG, the last two episodes are quite possibly the most painful 2 hours of television I have ever watched. Disappointment alert:  This will spoil your enjoyment of the first two seasons as the Rayburn clan goes seriously downhill, and the last two episodes take a Dallas turn where you wonder if the whole story was some kind of fever dream. Such a sad ending for a series that had so much impact in its first two seasons.

W

Nashville – this incredibly melodramatic series is now offering pure corn!  Sadly, I can’t look away.

ABC

Downward Dog sob. I have watched the last two episodes of this show’s first season and I can’t express how sad I am that the show has been cancelled by ABC. Find it on demand if you can and enjoy this talking dog fable.

NBC

The Night Shift, ok, I have now given up on this hokey by the numbers mishmash of a medical soap opera set in an ER department at night with nods to veterans from the US wars in the Middle East. Despite TC’s devilish good looks, I don’t care anymore whether he accomplishes his mission in Syria.

CBS

The last few summers, CBS has featured some disaster themed shows (Under the Dome) and now Zoo – which includes hilariously fake scenes of animals attacking humans.
In this same vein, stay tuned this week for the Wednesday July 12 premiere of Salvation about an asteroid colliding with earth!

PBS

Sunday Night lineup of My Mother and Other Strangers, Grantchester, Tennison. Simply the three most blissful hours of my week.

AMC

Preacher has more batshit craziness of any show on TV at the moment

FX

The Strain (dystopian vampire apocalypse series) seems to be returning to wreak more mayhem next Sunday July 16.

Closing thoughts

We are off to the Shaw Festival this week to see My and My Girl, their big musical of the season. We are headed back to Toronto today for a family reunion with my brother’s and sister’s kids and our own kids.  This only happens about once a year as my nieces now have to travel in from LA and this year, Costa Rica.  Looking forward to seeing everyone!  Hopefully, the threatened rain will hold off long enough for us to enjoy a backyard barbecue.  For everyone else, enjoy this great weather, and if it rains, well you know what to do….

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Summer Doldrums…

What a great week! Despite a little more rain than I would like, it was a terrific week for dining with friends, community Canada Day events in Thornbury, campfires under the stars, and the best darned fireworks show enjoyed with family. We got to see our kid’s Mastador (part Mastiff/part Labrador) learning to swim after tennis balls in Georgian Bay. He is our grand dog after all, so we are very proud of him. Despite the rain, I managed to sneak in 18 holes of golf at the beautiful Cobble Beach course in Owen Sound as well as 9 holes with my Tuesday ladies in Toronto. Mahjong was pure bliss as we were able to enjoy a spectacular thunderstorm that hovered over my backyard as we experienced it from the safety of my breakfast room.

TV’s a little in the doldrums these days as many series are on hiatus, however, here are some suggestions for you:

Streaming/Netflix

The Lost City of Z is a true story of a 20th century adventurer who spends several expeditions in Bolivia looking for a lost city (a contemporary of Hiram Bingham on whom the Indiana Jones stories are based and who discovered the lost city of Machu Picchu). A little slow, but beautifully told. Charlie Hunnam is wonderful in the lead role.

GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is a new series that debuted on Netflix this weekend about lady wrestlers. Truly original and quirkily funny!

 

Shows you may not have caught up with yet

Younger has begun its 4th season in the US and will air on Showcase later this season. Our heroine’s secret (she’s a 40-something pretending to be a 20-something) is partially out and chips are starting to fall.

Outlander (a time shifting historical fantasy set in the time of the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland) will return to Showcase later this season. A friend asked me why I didn’t write about this show, so I’m including it here.  It is simply the most romantic show that has ever been on TV.  You can catch up with earlier seasons on Netflix if you haven’t managed to find it yet.

Game of Thrones (the show with the dragons) will return to HBO for its 7th season on July 16.  If you haven’t watched yet, I believe you can screen earlier seasons on demand.  This is must-see viewing for my family, however, I believe most of my peers are not so keen on this medieval fantasy genre, but we are enthralled by it.  This is going to be a very short season of only 7 episodes as the series writers have now caught up with the source material in the novels.  Season 8 will be the last season.

 

PBS

Ahhh… I am looking forward to tonight’s all British lineup of My Mother and Other Strangers (period nostalgia) at 8, Grantchester (dishy vicar in a small town) at 9, and Prime Suspect: Tennison at 10 (a prequel to the Helen Mirren series).

NBC

Sunday Night with Megan Kelly at 7 is about to air its third show. Kelly goes head to head with the venerable 60 Minutes on CBS with an investigative journalism show that is awfully similar in format and style. I did enjoy her early segments on Vladimir Putin and Alex Jones, so I’m willing to see how she does.  She must be getting quite a chuckle out of the latest Trump tweet madness on the theme of ladies who bleed too much.

ABC

Downward Dog (this was on the schedule on Tuesdays at 8) has two more episodes that should have aired even though the series has been cancelled, so stay tuned. I am very sad as I loved this show narrated by a talking dog with soulful eyes named Martin.  Sad.  You may have to look for it by streaming.

AMC

Preacher has begun its second season and will air new episodes on a Monday nights at 10. Totally crazy, this is a comic book based series that you will either love or hate. Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga star.

HBO

It’s a holiday weekend in North America, so little new programming is happening. You might want to catch this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight at 11 with John Oliver as he should have some choice words about Trump’s declining mental state.

Bravo

For those of you able to access this show by streaming, Animal Kingdom (Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman) is a wild ride with a California crime family led by an amoral and avaricious grandma. Ellen Barkin is mesmerizing in the lead role. It will appear on Bravo later this season. You can catch up on Netflix with Season 1, if you haven’t managed to watch this series yet.

CBS

Zoo has begun its third season on Thursdays as summer programming. Totally silly with cheesy special effects, but for some reason, I can’t look away from this ridiculous show.

Political Comedy

Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert are on holidays. Bill Maher is also taking holidays (the whole month of July). Full Frontal with Samantha Bee airs a new show on Comedy Wed. At 10:30. The President Show (Thurs at 11:30 on Comedy following Trevor Noah) also seems to be on hiatus. Slim pickings!!  I may have to turn to CNN and MSNBC for my comic relief.

Zen Moment

So looking forward to CBS Sunday Morning today as it gives me a gentle push into a new week. Today’s segments include John Mellencamp, the Grand Canyon, Summer Music, Storm Chasers, flowers in Tombstone, Arizona, Herman Wouk, Watermelons, Goats in Trees in Morocco. Can’t wait to be soothed and inspired.

Closing Words

We are off to see Bob Dylan at the Air Canada Centre this week! Our nieces and nephew and family and our children are dining with us for a mini-reunion in Toronto. This is a big deal as one niece is flying in from LA and another is struggling to make it home after 7 months in Costa Rica.  It has been a lovely holiday weekend with our children visiting us in Thornbury.  Backyard BBQ’s and frolics in the pool and hot tub.  Sunset walks to the pier and a visit to the ice cream parlour on our street.  What could be better?  Enjoy your week and these magnificent long summer days. Just remember to take an umbrella.

Whirlwind week…

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:

Streaming/Netflix

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:

https://theringer.com/the-50-best-good-bad-movies-a9add81b5b7f

Audible.com

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.

PBS

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).

NBC

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.

ABC

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.

FX

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.

AMC

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.

HBO

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.

Bravo

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

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!

 

Political Comedy

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.

Closing Words

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.

Recovering from company…

As lovely as it was to show off our city and countryside to our American friends, it was just as heavenly to have a little down time this past week to recoup and just enjoy the quiet.  Much napping was done and George picked up his new Ford Explorer (which will be our car for driving back and forth to Florida and Thornbury), and I picked out a new Mini Cooper Countryman SUV.  So cute!  I pick up my new car tomorrow afternoon.  Fingers crossed that all goes smoothly. We still haven’t made it out to the movies to start catching up with our summer blockbusters, but I did manage to watch a little TV this past week. Here are some recommendations:

Netflix

Animal Kingdom season 1 is now available on Netflix. As season 2 has begun airing in the US, those of you who want to catch up with this terrific crime series (Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman) can see it on Netflix before it begins airing Season 2 on Bravo later this season.
House of Cards is airing its Season 5 episodes on Netflix.  I think audiences will honestly have a hard time engaging with its dark storyline in light of the madness that is hitting the news media everyday re Trump’s America.
Bloodline is airing its third and final season on Netflix.  Still dark and brooding, this series continues to take us down its noir storyline in sultry Isla Morada, Florida.
The Girl With All The Gifts is a wonderful and original zombie story from England about a post-Apocalyptic world where a fungus has brought about a zombie Apocalypse and a group of survivors tries to develop a cure.  Very suspenseful and starring a wonderful group of actors that include Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton and a terrific child actress named Sennia Nanua in the leading role as Melanie.

Amazon Prime

First of all, I keep forgetting that I can actually watch this channel from an App on my iPad.  We are Amazon Prime customers, so see if you can get the app.  Some of their shows are terrific:  Flesh and Bone, The Man in the High Castle, Goliath, Bosch, Transparent, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Good Girls Revolt, Patriot, Mad Dogs, Alpha House, The Night Manager, Mr. Robot, The Expanse, Red Oaks, Sneaky Pete, Mozart in the Jungle, etc.

American Gods is like no other series I have ever seen.  Old gods versus new gods amidst humans who scarcely understand where they fit in.  Ian McShane is wonderful as the god behind this story. New episodes air weekly!
I Love Dick comes from the creative team behind Transparent. It’s a savage social satire of the artistic life and the poseurs who pretentiously act like artists.  Not for everyone, but give it a try.  Very naughty sexual triangle!

Comedy

Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show airs M-Th at 11:00.  I love his sense of humour! He skewers Trump nightly.
The Jim Jeffries Show airs Tuesday at 10:30.  This irreverent Australian is having a very good time making fun of the lunacy of US politics.
The President Show airs Thursday at 11:30.  You have to see this show to believe it.  A wonderful Trump impersonator has real guests on his show and takes  a devastating look at all things Donald.
Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal airs on Wednesday at 10:30.  Bee is fearless in her weekly attacks on the US political scene.

PBS

PBS has returned from its fundraising hiatus with some new summer programming on Sunday nights.

Masterpiece Theatre:  My Mother and Other Strangers, Episode 1 airs tonight at 8 pm. Rose meets Captain Dreyfuss.  Emma goes on a date and incites an international incident.

Masterpiece Mystery:  Grantchester, Season 3: Episode 1 (Christmas Episode) It’s the week before Christmas, 1954.  Vicar Sidney Chambers is engrossed with holiday duties, but distracted by an impossible situation – how can a vicar and a woman carrying her estranged husband’s baby ever make it work?  He is one dishy vicar with a knack for solving crimes!!!

Bravo

The Handmaid’s Tale This dark dystopian adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel is chilling and stars the wonderful  Elizabeth Moss in a story of female oppression under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.  Particularly timely given the Trump administration’s intent to roll back Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, etc.

NBC

The Night Shift returns for its 4th season this Thursday June 22. It is a throwback tv series in which a group of doctors from the Army return to work the night shift at a hospital in San Antonio.  All the usual TV Doctor show cliches but starring a very dishy Irish star named Eoin Macken as the lead doctor.  Guilty pleasure to the max!!

CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Monday – Friday at 11:35) has taken the lead among the late night talk shows because of his relentless attacks on Trump.  Must see nightly viewing!!
CBS Sunday Morning is playing in the background as I write this.  This wonderfully soothing show has been airing since 1979 and is now hosted by Jane Pauley.  Celebrity interviews, human interest stories, current events, pop culture, the arts, etc. are all covered in wonderfully inspiring and moving ways. The moment of nature at the end of the show is my Zen moment every Sunday.

HBO

Veep and Silicon Valley both air on Sunday nights. Terrific writing and performers in two very funny shows.

Audible.com

We are currently listening to the comic novel Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.  The Ibooks store describes it as the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the mot massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

Bonus Reads: Irreverent Editorials on Recent Events in the US

I was very impressed by this recent editorial in Maclean’s Magazine following the latest mass shootings:

I came across this story in Texture and thought you’d find it interesting: “America’s mass delusion” Maclean’s, June 19, 2017.

https://read.texture.ca/dl/content/mme/2017-06-19/ri/3462bcab-e02e-3541-9430-041a4a4f53c7/?src=iOSShareMail

 

In addition, my husband sent me this editorial from today’s NYTimes regarding the Trump administration’s fixation with a ban on Muslims and illegal immigrants:

Closing Thoughts

We just had a lovely Father’s Day lunch today with our children and extended family.  We’re celebrating our son David’s 35th birthday with a special dinner for him on Wednesday.  My gourmet group of almost 30 years is gathering at our place in Thornbury next weekend and 15 of us will be dining under the stars in our backyard.  Fingers crossed that the spectacular summer storm we experienced last night doesn’t make a repeat appearance next Saturday!  There were tornado warnings and one did touch down near Creemore.  That would be way too much excitement.  In the meantime, get out there and enjoy this wonderful summer weather between raindrops.

 

 

Southern Ontario touring with Americans

Our pals from Florida and North Carolina are headed to the airport as I write this.  I’m a little weary, having spent most of the last week showing our friends the sights in Toronto, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Stratford, and Thornbury.  We got to tour down memory lane as we revisited the haunts of our past lives as students at U of T where we showed them our colleges, toured through Hart House and then meandered up Philosopher’s Walk to Yorkville where we shopped and had the most expensive Gelato ever!

We also walked through Chinatown, Kensington Market,  the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Eaton Centre, The Distillery District, and many spots along Bloor St.  We feasted on Schnitzel at Country Style, Dim Sum at Mother’s Dumplings, French food at Merlot, etc.  We wanted to immerse them in all things Canadian, so we sampled Tim Bits, Poutine, Butter Tarts, etc.

They got to play golf at the Georgian Bay Club in Thornbury and we enjoyed Sunday night dinner with them and our kids at Lambton in TO. As well as seeing two plays in Stratford (Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore), we took them to see Second City’s Monday night show (Canada: The Thinking Man’s America).

Perhaps nicest of all we got to introduce them to some of our Thornbury pals with a dinner under the stars in our backyard followed by s’mores around the campfire.

Our last bit of touring came on our drive back to Toronto on Sunday with a little detour to the Cheltenham Badlands (1501 Olde Base Line Road between Creditview and Chingcousy Roads).  This little bit of Ontario geography is pretty magical.  Hidden away in Caledon, these rolling red hills are made of shale which has turned red because of iron oxide deposits and they are exposed because of erosion. Just off the Bruce Trail, they are part of the Niagara Escarpment and the roads are being reconfigured to allow for parking and better protection of this incredible area.

Our friends both confessed to not watching any TV except for sports and the occasional Netflix program, so I haven’t watched much myself this past week.  I did get them to watch The President Show (follows Trevor Noah on Thursdays at 11:30 on Comedy) as I wanted to see their reactions.  Although they both voted Republican, they are completely non-political and took the full frontal attack on Trump and his cronies with good humour.  We didn’t discuss politics very much (as we have learned from our Florida visits that it never ends well) and we also learned that many Americans seem to just tune out the daily barrage of news about the political scene.  They seem to have a sense that America will emerge from this period of total craziness the same way it always does and that “this too shall pass.”  I even got them to watch most of the Tony Awards last night which thankfully remained mostly apolitical.  For more on the Tonys (which I think went pretty smoothly under the leadership of Kevin Spacey as host), here’s an article I meant to send out yesterday:

 

We also intended to take them to see Wonder Woman, however, we were exhausted from attending Stratford, so here’s an article re the upcoming Summer films instead:

https://flipboard.com/@TheAtlantic/-your-2017-summer-movie-preview/f-ff02620e84%2Ftheatlantic.com

Live on Stage

Canada: The Thinking Man’s America (at Second City on Monday nights) was a great introduction to our friends about how Canada sees its relationship with its powerful neighbour.  It was a very sweet and gentle explanation about how insecure we are, generally not terribly patriotic, etc., i.e. totally opposite from Americans in most respects.  Although Americans were made fun of in a gentle way, I don’t think our guests were unduly offended.

Guys and Dolls (Stratford Festival Theatre) is a fabulous production of the classic Frank Loesser musical which opened on Broadway in 1950 and was remade as a film in 1955 starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.  Great dance numbers (directed and choreographed by Donna Feore), wonderful songs and tremendous performances.  Who could ask for anything more?

HMS Pinafore (Stratford Avon Theatre) is a classic Gilbert and Sullivan show.  First performed in 1878, the show is still funny with great songs and more sailors’ hornpipe dance numbers than I could ever have imagined in one show.  Word of advice, when attending two shows in one day, if possible, see the more sedate show first at a matinee.  We had toured Stratford, had a picnic lunch by the Avon River and then seen Guys and Dolls at the matinee.  We followed that up with a quick change at our lovely B&B, a boozy dinner and then the 8 pm show of Pinafore. Needless to say, we did close our eyes a few times during Pinafore, so see this show at the matinee if you are able to squeeze in two shows in one day.

TV Viewing in furtive bits and pieces

The rest of the week was hectic.  I only caught up with some of my late night comedy favourites after heading to bed.  Real Time with Bill Maher‘s Friday night show (HBO) was fascinating in its emphasis on Maher’s apology for his N-word usage.  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had great fun last night in his interpretation of the Comey testimony and his analysis of the prospects of Brexit now that Theresa May has a shaky coalition government.  The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy) continued to satirize the Washington melodrama, and I missed a new Samantha Bee Full Frontal (Comedy) program entirely!!  Much catching up to do On Demand.

Fargo and Better Call Saul (on FX and AMC, respectively continued in my absence.  I did catch the Gotham (Fox) season finale and Batman has finally emerged!!

I finally finished watching the first season of the very black comedy series Fleabag (streaming) and loved its very British sensibility.

We were able to get our friends to sit through a screening of War Machine (Netflix) with a gravelly voiced Brad Pitt playing a thinly disguised version of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who gave a career ending interview to Rolling Stone Magazine while he was commander of US forces in Afghanistan. This movie was a hybrid of a war movie and a satirical anti-war movie as it makes clear that the forces on the ground in Afghanistan did not understand their mission under Obama which was to wind down the US presence there. Very odd and Pitt’s performance is a little odd and one-note.

I was able to get my friend Lois to agree to watch another Netflix program from the BBC. Planet Earth is simply one of the most gorgeously photographed documentary series I have ever seen.  We watched The Seasonal Forest episode and gasped at seasons of fledgeling ducklings plunging out of their nests, cicada bugs going through their 17 – year spring awakening, martens hunting for squirrels, etc.  The Circle of Life is enacted every day in the forests.

I caught a bit of my Sunday morning Zen experience with CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.  Our friends were amazed that Jane Pauley is still cute as a button at 67. I adored the segment on the 40th anniversary of the Broadway musical Annie. The segment on the coast guard rescue of a Long Island fisherman thrown overboard was incredibly moving.

Closing Words

We will return to our regular routines of golf, mahjong, visiting mothers and the rest of our families and commuting between TO and Thornbury this week.  We are off to pick up a new Ford Explorer SUV for George today and I am going to test drive some Mini Cooper Countryman SUVs.  I love the car’s cheerful and irreverent  demeanour.  I’ve been driving an Audi Q5 for the last several years and as we have moved into a condo with an underground parking lot with columns that seem to jump out at you from nowhere, I am looking for a shorter, narrower vehicle.  This cute little Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 and I have fallen a little bit in love with it.  If it turns out to be a disappointing ride, I will likely revert to an Audi Q3 which seems to be most highly rated for its quiet ride and safety features and I have thoroughly enjoyed my Q5 over the years, even though it has been stolen and had a tree fall on top of it. Not to mention the odd close encounter with pillars.

Summer is definitely here now with temperatures in the high eighties and low nineties (oh my gosh, one week with Americans and I have forgotten my Celsius), so enjoy this glorious weather!

 

Our North Carolina friends visit Canada for the first time…

We had a lovely Thornbury weekend, celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary with some longtime friends. We hiked the Loree Forest portion of the Bruce Trail, sampled flights of beer, wine and cider at the Thornbury Cidery, and then had our traditional lobster dinner followed by dessert and an amazing red wine around the fire pit under a cloudless star filled sky.

It’s going to be a busy week of sightseeing and theatre going as we take our Florida neighbours (summer home is Pinehurst, NC) on their first ever tour of Southern Ontario (not to mention Canada!). We’re going to introduce them to Toronto’s multicultural diversity by taking them on the subway, touring St Lawrence Market and Kensington; Yorkville and the Eaton Centre; Chinatown, Little India and Greektown; Little Portugal; the Lakeshore; Casa Loma; High Park, etc. We may take them to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake if they are keen. We are headed to Stratford to see Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore and stay overnight in a B&B. We’ll finish our tour with a weekend in Thornbury, some golf at the Georgian Bay Club and a backyard barbecue with friends. It doesn’t look like a good week for TV so you’ll all have to watch on my behalf.

Summer Previews

Here’s a helpful summary of new shows coming this summer:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/25-exciting-new-summer-tv-shows-to-make-sure-you-never-see-the-sun?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

On the Big Screen

The Exception with Christopher Plummer is opening in limited release this week.  I saw it at TIFF last year and absolutely loved it.  A German soldier tries to determine if the Dutch resistance has planted a spy to infiltrate the home of Kaiser Wilhelm (Christopher Plummer, who steals every scene he’s in) in Holland during the onset of WW11, but falls for a young Jewish Dutch woman during his investigation.

Streaming/On Demand

Sleeping Giant is a Canadian film from 2015 which has been described as a masterpiece.  While spending the summer in cottage country on the shores of Lake Superior, three teens cope with boredom by testing the limits of their experience.

Fleabag This wonderful British comedy series can be streamed from Amazon.  It’s a six-part series adapted from the award-winning play about a young woman trying to cope with life in London while coming to terms with a recent tragedy.  Very naughty!!

Animal Kingdom This very dark series has returned for its second season on TNT and will be seen in Canada on Bravo.  It’s a fabulous story about a crime family in Southern California led by a most unmaternal granny played by the still attractive Ellen Barkin.  Very noir!!

Netflix

House of Cards Here’s a terrific analysis of how this season of House of Cards is having difficulty making fiction as interesting as fact:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/under-trump-house-of-cards-sees-capitolgains/article35123619/?ref=https://www.theglobeandmail.com&

Bloodline continues its noir story of a family of adult siblings who find that their pat secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep of a brother returns home.

All my favourites

You can still catch Genius (National Geographic), Fargo (FX),
Better Call Saul (AMC), and The Americans (FX) before their seasons come to an end.

Still Star Crossed debuted last week on ABC.  It’s the continuation of Romeo and Juliet, picking up from their untimely deaths.  My head is still reeling from the insanity!

Gotham  (Fox) is one of my favourite guilty pleasure shows!

Sunday Night Madness

Things have slowed down as PBS takes a break and several series are ending their seasons including The LeftoversVeep and Silicon Valley.  John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight returns for a new episode tonight.

Comic Relief

Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher HBO) got into a bit of trouble last week for using the N-word in a very unfunny joke.  He’s still not in as much trouble as poor Kathy Griffin for her stunt with a decapitated Donald Trump. She has now lost many jobs and seems genuinely apologetic for her actions.
Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal (Comedy) continues her full-on attack of all things Trumpian.
Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show (Comedy) continues to poke fun at the regime.
Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show  (CBS) was on a vacation break last week but returns for new shows this week.
The President Show (Comedy) has been flying under mot people’s radar since it debuted 6 weeks ago (Thursdays at 11:30).  Here’s how IMDB describes it:  The losers dominating late-night are in for a rude awakening when the smartest, handsomest, most winningest president of all time enters the fray to address the nation.  The President Show brings television back to the people – by putting a plutocratic billionaire behind the desk. It stars a comic named Anthony Atamanuik as Trump and it’s very funny.  Give it a look!!

Zen TV

CBS Sunday Morning (9 am Sundays on CBS) continues to be my most relaxing hour and a half of TV. Gotta love its take on popular culture.

Fareed Zakaria GPS is a level headed look at current events every Sunday on CNN at 10 am.

Sunday Night with Megan Kelly debuted tonight (NBC at 7).  I thought she was very brave interviewing Putin (surely the scariest man on earth).  The rest of the show was remarkably like 60 Minutes with a team of investigative reporters assigned to segments about elephants in Africa, pharmaceuticals that kill people, etc. I really enjoyed the show!

Closing Words

I’m looking forward to showing our Florida friends what their neighbours to the North are really like when we’re not basking in the Florida sunshine.  Enjoy your week, whatever it holds for you.  Fingers crossed that the taste of sunshine and warmth we had this weekend continues.  Everything looks so much better when the sun is shining!!

Busy week, but a few recommendations anyway….

It was a great week for catching up with my fitness ladies, book group, mahjong group, and my lady golfers on Tues., Thurs., and Fridays. What a glorious weekend we just had!!!  For a refreshing change the weather was gorgeous, and sunny with blue skies.  We attended a retirement party for a dear friend in Toronto, did a very fun car rally for the charity Hope Air in Collingwood, and then I had the great pleasure of attending a baby shower for the daughter of a longtime friend in Toronto.  Truly, not much TV got watched this week, but I have a few warnings and recommendations as follows:

Dirty Dancing Remake Alert

A remake of this 1987 film aired on CTV (ABC in the US) this past week.  Although it will be available on demand, my warning is be afraid, very afraid of catching up with this one.  If you fondly remember Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, you are in for a disappointment with this lacklustre and pointless recasting.  The new leads (Abigail Bresling and Colt Prattes) are sadly lacking in charisma and there is absolutely no chemistry between them. Unfortunately, Breslin is really not much of a dancer and even in the final scene where she leaps into her partner’s arms, the choreography is so simplified to match her skill level, that it is actually unintentionally funny. It was a very bad idea to remake this, and once seen, it cannot be unseen.

Twin Peaks Sequel Alert

The two-hour premiere of this returning series aired last Sunday night on HBO (Showtime in the US).  It is even more batshit crazy than the original and that’s saying a lot.  I have always had an inexplicable liking for Kyle McLachlan, who has always had an otherworldly look about him.  The new series picks up 25 years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town are stunned when their homecoming queen is murdered.  Full of incredibly creepy images, the sequel is almost totally inscrutable in its first two hours.  There are dopplegangers, mysterious people in boxes, people on oxygen, etc.  TV has come a long way in 25 years, with mysterious apparitions almost becoming the norm.  Lost, Mr. Robot, Legend, Fargo, and True Detective (to name a few) all have fantasy and fever dream aspects to them.  TV has gone a little nuts in the past few seasons, and Twin Peaks is at the forefront of nuttiness!  Watch if you dare.

Some upcoming series debuts and returns….

Animal Kingdom returns to Bravo soon!

This great series (adapted from the terrific Australian film made in 2010 which starred the unforgettable Ben Mendelsohn who has since made Bloodline so memorable) returns for its second season on May 30 on TNT in the US if you can access that.  Otherwise, it will have its Canadian return on Bravo later this season. It stars Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a California crime family.  The action begins when her 17-year-old grandson moves in with her and the rest of the Cody clan after his mother dies of a heroin overdose.  Great performances from Scott Speedman as the lieutenant to his mom, and Shawn Hatosy as the loose cannon son with a prison record and psychiatric issues.  Barkin is terrifying as a grandma who thrives on controlling every aspect of her children’s lives and work.

Still Star-Crossed

This new series which is a sequel to Romeo and Juliet from Shonda Rimes will debut on ABC on May 29 at 10 pm. I have given up on every Shondaland production I’ve ever watched (Gray’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Catch, etc.) however, I do love costumes and British accents, so you never know!

World of Dance

This dance competition show debuts on May 30 at 10 pm on NBC.  Jennifer Lopez is one of the judges.  I currently do not watch any reality show competitions, but I did have a soft spot for So you Think You can Dance, so you never know!

Fear the Walking Dead

Season 2 returns to AMC on June 4. For zombie lovers only.

Nightcap

This comedy about a fictitious late-night TV show returns on June 7 at 8 pm on Pop in the US.  Real life guests include Julianna Margulies, Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore. I think you are going to have to download or stream this one in Canada.

Queen of the South

This cartel drama returns to USA in the US (Showcase in Canada) on June 8.

Younger

I love this comedy series (starring Sutton Foster) which returns for its 4th season on June 28 (TVLand in the US) It will be available on E in Canada at a later date .  It is about a 40ish woman who passes herself off as a millennial in order to get a job in publishing.

 

Netflix Alerts

Master of None has returned with Aziz Ansari and I have found this second season to be even more enjoyable than the first.  I love the Italian flavour of his Modena experiences (the first episode is a charming parody of Vittorio De Sica’s neorealism classic, The Bicycle Thief).  It’s addictive, so be careful.  I’m up to episode 8!

 

Bloodline has returned for it’s third and last season.  The steamy Florida Keys make the perfect setting for this noir tale of a family of adult siblings who find that their past secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep of a brother returns home.

House of Cards will return on May 30 for its 5th season. Frank and Claire Underwood will stop at nothing to achieve their political ambitions.  Murder, blackmail, and manipulations of every kind fuel their revenge plots.  You must watch this season to see how the writers will be able to keep the level of mayhem on this series competitive with the real life events that are unfolding in the Trump presidency.

Other Shows I like

I am a huge fan of Better Call Saul (AMC), The Americans (FX) and Fargo (FX).  These series are all dark and suspenseful, so possibly not for everyone.  I love the intricate plotting and the surprising twists and turns of these continuing stories.  The plots are layered and nuanced and generally unpredictable.  Great performances and great writing.

I’m also enjoying Genius (National Geographic) a biography of Albert Einstein; The Handmaid’s Tale (Bravo) which is Margaret Atwood’s dark dystopian view of the future;  Harlots (Superchannel) a British miniseries about two competing brothels in 1763 London; Veep (HBO) a delightful political comedy; Silicon Valley (HBO) a delightful comedy about tech geniuses; The Leftovers (HBO) is the very sad tale about the Rapture and the pain that is felt by those who are left behind; The White Princess  (Superchannel) tells the story behind the rise of the House of Tudor and is an adaptation of a Philippa Gregory historical novel.

Current Events

I find that political satirists provide the most palatable version of the news these days, so I’m hooked on Last Week Tonight on HBO Sundays with John Oliver; The Daily Show on Comedy Mon – Thurs with Trevor Noah; The Late Show on CBS Mon – Fri with Stephen Colbert; Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal on Comedy Wednesdays; Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO on Fridays. For my moment of Zen, I always try to catch CBS Sunday Morning (which airs on CBS every Sunday morning at 9 am).  It’s a gentle way to spend a Sunday morning reflecting on popular culture in the most relaxing way.

Parting Words

We have some very good friends from Pinehurst, NC joining us for their very first trip to Canada next week.  We’re going to tour Toronto with them, take them to Stratford for a theatre getaway and introduce them to life on Georgian Bay.  Really looking forward to introducing these two Americans to Canada!  Have a wonderful week wherever you are and fingers crossed, we will have many more sunny days from now on.

 

 

 

A little of this, a little of that….

Well, it’s been a great week.  Got to play three rounds of golf in TO and in Thornbury.  Made it to a live theatre production in Collingwood, and of course, caught up on a bit of TV viewing.  Here are my recommendations:

Live on Stage

Theatre Collingwood at the Gayety Theatre has kicked off its Summer Theatre Festival with a production of Sexy Laundry, a two character play from Theatre Orangeville.  This comedy is about married life after 25 years of ups and downs. Great performances by the two actors and a very engaging evening of entertainment that is both amusing and poignant.

Streaming

Hap and Leonard is a swamp noir tv series that originates on Sundance in the US.  The first two seasons (16 episodes) have aired and I must highly recommend this series.  Set in the late 1980’s, Hap and Leonard is a darkly comic tale of two friends who have overcome tragic beginnings and have ended up becoming entangled in crimes they didn’t commit.  Great performances from James Purefoy as Hap and Michael Kenneth Williams as Leonard.

Brockmire is a comedy series from IFC and stars Hank Azaria as a famed major league baseball announcer who suffers an embarrassing and very public meltdown live on the air after discovering his beloved wife’s serial infidelity .  He decides to reclaim his career and love life in a small town a decade later. This is hilariously raunchy stuff for adults only!

Netflix

Master of None starring Aziz Ansari has returned for its second season of episodes loosely based on Ansari’s real life.  In the latest episodes, Dev (Ansari) is living in Modena (Italy) and his adventures continue.

Bloodline will return for its third season on May 26!  According to IMDB, John faces the real situation. He is caught and tells all real stories to the police.  Kevin escapes and may never be back. Meg stays in low profile, but is still haunted by the bad karma.  The mafia starts interrupting John’s family.  Can’t wait!! I love this dark and dangerous tale of family secrets in the Florida Keys.

House of Cards will return for its fifth season on May 30. It will be fascinating to see how this political drama deals with the political spectacle that is simultaneously unfolding in reality.  Season 5 will begin with President Underwood in the midst of a re-election campaign, his ever-formidable wife Claire at this side.  The biggest obstruction on the road to a second term is Frank’s sordid past, which is dangerously close to being exposed for the world to see amid a maelstrom of controversies and accusations.

Jamaica Inn comes to Netflix from the BBC and stars Jessica Brown  Findlay (the doomed Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey).  Set on the Yorkshire Moors, this dark and brooding mystery is based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel.  A young woman moves in with her aunt and uncle and soon discovers unsavoury happenings in her new home.  I lasted through 2 episodes of this murky 3 episode miniseries.

Norm McDonald Hitler’s Dog, Gossip and Trickery is a 1 hour comedy special currently available on Netflix. I realized about 20 minutes in, that I really like Norm McDonald in small doses.  An hour is simply too much!

John Doyle gives the new Netflix true crime series The Keepers a rave review:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-netflixs-new-true-crime-series-the-keepers-is-an-unsettling-stunner/article35010727/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Telegram (UK) gives some Netflix recommendations:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/on-demand/0/the-best-tv-shows-on-netflix-uk2/

Other Debuts

Animal Kingdom  is a dark and brooding suspense series set in a Southern California beach town where a crime family is headed up by a most ungrandmotherly Ellen Barkin.  The second series of 12 episodes is set to debut on May 30 on Bravo in Canada.  If you haven’t caught up with season 1 yet, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to find it.

The Wizard of Lies premiered last night on Sat May 20 on HBO.  A chronicle of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which defrauded his clients of billions of dollars. Stars include Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro and Hank Azaria.

Twin Peaks the noir masterpiece originally directed by David Lynch will return after 26 years on May 21 on TMN in Canada.

Dark Angel will debut on PBS Masterpiece on Sunday May 21. It is a two-part drama shown in its entirety and is about the Victorian serial killer Mary Cotton (played by Anna from Downton Abbey – Joanne Froggatt).

Shows I’m Still Keeping up with

Genius is an 11 episode miniseries biography of Albert Einstein both as a young man and the wiry haired genius who went on to solve the secrets of the universe.  On National Geographic and Showcase in Canada.

The Handmaid’s Tale from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel is an 11 episode miniseries airing on Bravo in Canada.

Harlots is an 8 episode miniseries from Britain’s ITV that is airing on Superchannel in Canada.  Starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sibyl on Downton Abbey).  It is about the war between two competing brothels in London during the 18th century. For adults only!

Call the Midwife is the heartwarming PBS series that is now in its sixth season.  Get out your hankies of this wonderful series that chronicles the lives of a group of midwives living in East London in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s.

Veep is an acerbic comedy series now in its sixth season on HBO.  One year after losing the presidency, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) attempt to secure her legacy.  Created by Armando Iannucci (comic genius behind Alan Partridge, In the Loop, The Thick of It, etc.), the show is brilliant in its no holds barred skewering of political life.

Silicon Valley is now in it fourth season on HBO. The guys struggle to find funding for Pied Piper’s video chat app.  A lovable group of nerds dealing with the cut throat wheeling and dealing of SV.

The Leftovers is in its third and final season on HBO. Will there be a second apocalyptic catastrophe?

The only way I can watch the news these days…

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver continues to entertain as John Oliver brings his persona to this weekly news satire program on HBO on Sunday nights.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs nightly on Comedy Mon-Thurs.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs Mon – Fri on CBS.

Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal airs Wednesdays on Comedy.

Real Time with Bill Maher airs Fridays on HBO.

CBS Sunday Morning airs Sunday mornings and its personal interest pieces, interviews with actors, political figures, athletes, musicians, etc. keeps me sane and inspired. This morning’s episode on Amsterdam was sublime.

The Best Shows you Should Be Watching

Better Call Saul is the prequel to Breaking Bad on AMC.
The Americans is in its fifth season on FX.  Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.  Very timely…

Fargo is in its third season on FX.  Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota.  Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, ND.

Assorted Reading on Media

As I am an unapologetic Anglophile, I thought you might enjoy reading about the best British tv series:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/best-british-tv-shows-time/

Closing Words

Looking forward to my upcoming Book Group discussion (My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout), listening to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles on Audible.com (tells the story of a Russian aristocrat living under house arrest in a luxury hotel for 30 years), just finished A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson (memoir about seven generations of Juliet Nicolson’s literary family).  Despite the dire weather predictions of rain for the next 5 days, I am looking forward to a couple of games of golf and the retirement party of a dear friend.  We will be attending a charity car rally next weekend in Collingwood, so cross your fingers for me as most of my friends know how hopelessly directionally challenged I am.  Have a wonderful week regardless of your plans.  If it rains, stay in and read or goodness knows, there are plenty of good programs available for watching!

What a week!

We spent three days in NYC last week.  We saw three wonderful plays (School of Rock, Present Laughter and Waitress).  Each play was totally enjoyable in its own way.  School of Rock is the stage adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber of the movie starring Jack Black.  Great energy and tunes.  Terrific performances by the child musicians as well as an incredible performance by Eric Petersen in the lead role.  How he does what he does for 8 shows a week is mystifying!  Present Laughter starred Kevin Kline in the classic Noel Coward comedy.  He is incredibly charismatic and hilariously funny as a physical comedian.  Our final show was Waitress written by Sarah Bareilles and she also stars in the show.  This touching musical is a wonderful adaptation of the original film.  A small town waitress dreams of running her own coffee shop.  While in NYC we did two great walking tours (Upper West Side and Lower East Side, went to the Fricke Museum, shopped till we dropped and went to great restaurants (Becco, Cafe Un, Deux, Trois, and Barbetta), all in the theatre district natch.  We stayed at The Iroquois Hotel.  We had previously stayed there in 1975 on our very first trip to NYC together.  It was a fleabag hotel then and is now one of NYC’s top boutique hotels.  On 44th St. between 5th and 6th it’s perfectly located in the midtown theatre district. If you get a chance to visit NYC, I highly recommend it.

It’s been a tough week to catch up with my recordings, but here are some of the shows I recommend.

 

Debuts

Charles III  debuts on PBS tonight.  It hypothesizes what the reign of Prince Charles might be like if his mother ever retires.
Berlin Station will debut later this month on Superchannel.  I watched it earlier this year in the US.  It is murky Berlin espionage at its most challenging.  Richard Armitage stars!

I’m Still Keeping up with…

Genius on National Geographic Channel. Great biography of Alfred Einstein.
The Handmaid’s Tale on Bravo.  This dark dystopian tale about the future is tough to watch.
Harlot on Superchannel is a terrific tale of brothel life in 1763 London.

The White Princess is a television adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novel about the rise of the House of Tudor on Superchannel.

Billions season finale on HBO came to a close last Sunday with a face off between Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti.
Call the Midwife and Home Fires are Sunday night’s most heartwarming shows on PBS.
Veep is a dark look at US politics on HBO.
Silicon Valley is a whimsical comedy about tech life on HBO.

The Leftovers is the saddest show on TV.  The aftermath of the Rapture continues on HBO.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a joyous review of the week on HBO on Sunday nights.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah skewers the political scene Mon-Thurs on Comedy.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert pokes fun at current events Mon-Fri on CBS.

Better Call Saul is the Breaking Bad prequel that is alternately heart breaking and darkly comedic on AMC
The Americans comes to a suspenseful conclusion on FX.
Fargo continues its noirish tale of midwestern bloodbaths on FX.

Great News is a very silly NBC comedy starring the wonderful Andrea Martin.
Gotham is a silly crime show on Fox showing the rise of Batman and all the villains.
Arrow is a superhero series about a dishy guy who’s awfully good with a bow and arrow on the CW.
The 100 is about attractive young people lost in space on the CW.

Streaming

Hap and Leonard began its third season on Sundance.  A great story about a mismatched odd couple in Texas in the late 1980’s starring James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams.  This show is addictive and has been described as swamp noir.  There are alligators!  I binged on 8 episodes of Season 1 this past weekend, and Season 3 has just begun!

Closing Words

After getting back to Thornbury this weekend, George and I participated in the men’s and women’s opening events at our golf club.  Because I am such a high handicap golfer I had the great good fortune to be matched up with three wonderful players and we came in third!!!  Unbelievable for me.  The best possible way to play golf (well for me anyhow).  Today we had Mother’s Day visits with our 93 and 98-year-old mothers and my children are going to bring Thai food over for dinner.  A great day for counting our blessings that we still have our mothers in our lives and we are able to celebrate these events with our own children.  A beloved niece called from Costa Rica to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, so life is very good.  Enjoy the week, whatever you may have planned.

 

I can’t believe I watched the whole thing…

Well, this week has been one of a deluge of biblical proportions. We decided to head up to Thornbury to make sure there was no water damage due to the incessant rains.  As I write this on Sunday morning, there is a possibility of snow flurries in the forecast.  Thankfully, our sump pump has been working nonstop and our home is warm and dry.  The weather has been most conducive to cocooning and I have been bingeing on Netflix for much of this weekend.  My recommendations follow:

Amazon Prime Video Alert!!!

I was astonished to find out last week, that my Amazon TV app works in Canada!!

American Gods is a bizarre series starring Ian McShane which debuted this past week. It is about a recently released ex-convict named Shadow who meets a mysterious man who calls himself “Wednesday” and who knows more than he first seems to about Shadow’s life and past. It’s going to take a while to figure this one out.

For those of you considering joining Amazon Prime so that you can access their video library of original content, here’s just a sampling of their titles:

Patriot  (espionage miniseries)

Tom Clancey’s Ghost Recon (suspense miniseries)

Goliath (legal miniseries)

The Night Manager (seriously, if you missed it on AMC, catch it here!)  Tom Hiddleston  and Hugh Laurie star in this terrific suspense series.

Sneaky Pete (Giovanni Ribisi and Bryan Cranston star in this suspense miniseries).

Fleabag (comedy miniseries from the UK)

Mozart in the Jungle (Gael Garcia Bernal stars as the maestro of a NYC symphony orchestra in this comedic miniseries)

Transparent (Jeffrey Tambor stars in this groundbreaking and heartbreaking miniseries about a transexual male transitioning to female in his 60’s)

I could go on, but the above is just a sampling of their original content that is worth watching.

Netflix

Dickensian is a 13-part series from the BBC.  I must confess that I managed to watch all 13 episodes this weekend!! I have a weakness for British costume dramas and this one is tailor-made for watching on a rainy day.  It’s a mashup of all of Dickens’ novels.  Characters from Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Bleak House, The Old Curiosity Shop, and A Christmas Carol all mix and mingle in what is essentially a murder mystery. Great British character actors abound, led by Stephen Rea, Peter Firth, Anton Lesser, etc. Make yourself a cup of tea,  turn on the fireplace, wrap yourself in an afghan and enjoy this one.

The Last Kingdom is a 16 part series that chronicles the rise of England under Alfred the Great.  A BBC co-production with Netflix, the 8 episode second season is currently available.  If you like hunky Danes fighting AngloSaxons circa 800-900 AD, you will love this.  The main protagonist is a fictional character who is part Saxon and Dane who is struggling to claim his birthright.  Played by Alexander Dreymon who grew up in France, Switzerland and the US, he is a fantastically romantic leading man.  I managed to finishing watching all 8 episodes of season 2 this past weekend!

Bravo

The Handmaid’s Tale is the latest adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a woman forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. If you like your futuristic tales dark and terrifying, this miniseries is for you! Great performances from Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Yvonne Strahovski, etc.

If you didn’t manage to catch Hugh Laurie in the Hulu series Chance, it begins airing tonight directly following The Handmaid’s Tale.  This terrific suspense series is about a forensic psychiatrist who gets involved in a noirish relationship with a femme fatale.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-hugh-laurie-is-very-good-as-another-flawed-doctor-in-chance/article34906274/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

 

Superchannel

Harlots is a production from Britain’s ITV. Set in London 1763, it tells the tale of rival brothel owners.  Full of naked women and men, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but so far, I have found it fascinating. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-harlots-is-vigorously-bawdy-from-the-female-perspective/article34881555/

CBC/On Demand

After catching up with the marvellous and delightful series Anne last weekend (which I binged on in its entirety), I caught the first couple of episodes of Bellevue. This 8-episode miniseries is a mystery set in a small blue-collar town with a dark secret.  Kind of a Canadian Twin Peaks.  It stars Anna Paquin, Shawn Doyle and Allen Leech (Tom from Downton Abbey!!!). Seriously dark and very murky, I actually had trouble seeing my screen as so much of the series is filmed at night.  This one requires real perseverance.

 

HBO

Billions has its season finale tonight.

Veep continues with Julia Louis Dreyfus playing a former president who is obsessed with securing her legacy.

Silicon Valley continues its story of techies trying to survive in the jungle that is known as Silicon Valley.

The Leftovers is one of the saddest series ever made about the aftereffects of The Rapture.  Now we’re in Australia!

 

PBS

Call the Midwife and Home Fires are two of the most heartwarming British nostalgia series ever made.  If you are home on Sunday evenings, make yourself a cup of tea, get cosy in front of the fire, and grab a hankie.

ABC

American Crime aired the last episode of Season 3 last week.  This series is dark and  disturbing as it follows 3 different crimes in each season. Great performances from its repertory cast featuring Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, Lili Taylor, etc.  Very challenging tv, but worth pursuing.  You can catch the first two seasons on Netflix.

AMC

Better Call Saul is continuing its second season prequel of events leading up to Breaking Bad.  Bob Odenkirk is alternately tragic and hilarious as the ne’er do well lawyer with a self-destructive streak.  Great cast of character actors includes Michael McKean, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito and many others in supporting roles.

FX

The Americans is in its fifth season of unbearable suspense during the Cold War days of the 1980’s. Very timely now that there is so much focus on Putin and his influence in today’s cold war.
Fargo is in its third season of completely independent storytelling (each season tells a different story, completely independent from the original film).  This season follows a twisted sibling rivalry that leads to murder, mobsters and cutthroat competitive bridge in a small Midwestern town.  Ewan McGregor heads up a terrific cast that includes Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis and Michael Stuhlbarg. Intrigue abounds!

NBC

Great News is a completely silly sitcom starring the great Andrea Martin in her first leading role in a series.  She is the only reason to watch this often lame comedy series.

Fox

Gotham has returned from hiatus with tales of a young Batman and all the supporting players and villains.  I have a soft spot for Benjamin Mackenzie as the young Jim Gordon.

The CW

Arrow stars Stephen Amell as a superhero who is awfully good with a bow and arrow.  He has all the charisma that Jeremy Renner lacked in the Avengers series.  Very silly stuff, but obviously, I am not the only one (well perhaps the only adult female) who is watching it as it is in its fifth season!
The 100 is in its 4th season and it  follows impossibly attractive young people who are lost in space.

Comic Relief

Stephen Colbert is dancing on the edge these days with his anger against
Trump and that is making for great ratings for him on The Late Show (CBS); Trevor Noah leads his comedic attacks on The Daily Show Mon-Thurs on Comedy; Samantha Bee attacks on Wednesday on Full Frontal on Comedy; Bill Maher attacks Fridays with Real Time on HBO; John Oliver attacks Sundays on Last Week Tonight on HBO.  I also record new episodes of Saturday Night Live on NBC and watch it when I am in need of a comic fix. All in all, I find these series so much easier to watch than CNN.

Zen Moment

I record CBS Sunday Morning and watch it at a moment when I need spiritual soothing.  I also record Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN and watch it for his lucid explanations of world affairs.

Closing Words

Do not despair because of our cold rainy weather in the north;  surely all this rain must be a harbinger of flowers and green grass to come.  Enjoy the season for its respite from endless snow in the north and heat and humidity if you are still in Fthe south.  Drive safely wherever you are, and take a few moments to relax and reflect on how grateful we should be to live in a land where we are lucky enough to take our freedoms and privileges for granted.  We enjoy wonderful health care and a civility of public discourse that many of our neighbours do not have.  Count your blessings! We are off to NYC this week to see some art, and of course, some theatre.  We have tickets for Kevin Kline in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.  We’ll be heading to the half-price ticket wicket in Times Square to see what else we can find. Enjoy the week, wherever you are.