Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1

March 18, 2018

Released this week on disk, Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s book, The Handmaid’s Tale exceeds all expectations. Why? Well first there’s the obvious: the production value swings off the charts – writing, directing, acting, costumes, set design, cinematography all outstanding. The tenor of the production brought literal chills to my body. By episode three I was curled up in a ball on the sofa. The Handmaid’s Tale might possibly be the first excellent television series I don’t suggest binging on. Let the terror settle in a bit similar to how Hulu released it – one episode per week. But the real reason I felt wrecked to my core was that this 1985 Sci-Fi novel now reads as a warning to our potential future. And not something in the distant future we need to pay heed. Instead it feels very much like the possibility of what might happen to our country if Trump walks away from the Presidency for even more greed and power leaving the executive branch shattered and ripe for Pence and his insane far-right christian cronies to take over the country once and for all declaring martial law on all of our freedoms. And by all I mean every woman, all men who don’t follow strict heteronormative behavior, people of color, the poor and disenfranchised and my own personal group – LGBTQ folk. So the creators at Hulu have done their job well scaring the shit out of me and making The Handmaid’s Tale a call to arms. Each of us is required to do what we can to keep these lunatics not only at bay, but to bury this hatred for diversity and freedom once and for all. Love truly must win in all its beautiful colors and permutations.

Shout out to a crazy great cast including Elizabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Amanda Brugel, Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Ann Dowd (shudder), and Alexis Bledel (shattering her Rory Gilmore curse forever). Words cannot describe how visceral my reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale has been. It deserves all the praise your friends have doled out, it deserves all the awards, it’s deserves attention and it deserves to be an artistic warning to every decent human being to do everything in their power to crush this hatred and darkness in humanity once and for all. 5 out of 5.



March 14, 2018

How do you take a British mystery show starring a group of great actors such as Michael Kitchen, Sophie Okonedo, and Phyllis Logan and make it crappy? By turning it into a B-movie horror show the moment the tension begins. Such is the fate of Alibi, a British series on Acorn TV available through your public library’s hoopla platform. I was hoping for fun, for suspense. Instead I was gifted with schlock. What a waste of talent. 1 out of 5. Next.

Nailed It!

March 13, 2018

Netflix new food contest show, Nailed It! showed so much promise in theory thanks to the inclusion of NYC chocolatier Jacques Torres. Unfortunately the fun of this show – taking regular people and making them attempt to recreate confection masterpieces loses its gleam due to tacky stunts from the show’s host Nicole Byer. To her credit, I’m sure she’s just following what the producers tell her to do. But the over-the-top, loud-mouthed antics rubbed me the wrong way. Some finesse would have gone a long way. I realize Nailed It! is a comedy show about the failures of baking. Turning down the LOL track would have helped the series succeed. 1 out of 5. Next.

Versailles: Season 2

March 12, 2018

I made it through the first two episodes of Versailles: Season 2, the Canadian english language series based on the reign of Louis XIV. The first season was fun and soapy. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. This second season simply didn’t hold my attention. Even the king’s gay brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans couldn’t make me continue with the series. For viewers who like their historical costume drama heavy on the soap and light on the serious, Versailles might be just right. I’m saying goodbye. It was fun while it lasted. 3 out of 5.

Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4

March 11, 2018

Breezed through the 10 half-hour episodes of Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4. It started out quiet, not sure where it was headed. I’m glad I stuck around because once they got to Japan, everything fell into place. Lots of great moments as Lola Kirke’s Hailey continues to discover herself, Rodrigo continues to unravel, and Gloria and Thomas find their footing,  expertly walking the line between complicated supporting character and punch line. This was the season John Cameron Mitchell guest starred as an annoying choreographer. He nailed that role. It was also the season the writers made it clear how difficult it is for women to be conductors. The producers balanced the gender gap between writers and directors which always makes me feel better about supporting a project. My only issue with the writing is poor Cynthia. Saffron Burrows has second billing in the credits but the writers seem unsure what to do with her character. I have a hard time understanding that. To me, Cynthia has always been fascinating and could have her own show. I give Mozart in the Jungle a 3.5 and leave it at that.

Babylon Berlin: Season 1

March 10, 2018

Season 1 of the Netflix imported German historical drama, Babylon Berlin landed this month in the U.S. making it the most expensive television series ever produced outside the United States. Created by Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run, The Princess and the Warrior), and Achim von Borries, is it worth the cost? You bet. The series weaves a complicated and compelling story based on novels by Volker Kutscher. Taking place in 1929 during the Weimar Republic, Babylon Berlin follows police inspector Gereon Rath played by Volker Bruch, who has been transferred from the city of Cologne to Berlin, and aspiring police inspector Charlotte Ritter played by Liv Lisa Fries. Both actors embody their characters seamlessly and carry the show effortlessly. Babylon Berlin explores the intersection of traditional Weimar Germany with the rise of frustrated and dangerous voices including communists and Nazis. The take-away every other country in the world should learn from Germany is that the art coming out of this modern-day European power never downplays their past. Germans own their atrocities and don’t ever want to repeat them. Rath and Ritter finds themselves uncovering corruption within their own police force, probing for poisonous gas and gold in train yards, searching for murdered and missing communists, enjoying moments of bliss in nightclubs, and managing complicated family relations. Gereon Rath fills the role as outsider, unraveling the mystery along with the audience. He suffers silently from PTSD due to World War I trauma. Charlotte Ritter unravels the complicated journey a woman had to go to through in order to free herself from poverty and make a place in the world. Personally, Charlotte’s story ruled the series. Babylon Berlin‘s story and characters span every aspect of 1929 German society. Where it falters stems from too much money which makes one scene in particular way too Hollywood action film for my taste. But I can certainly forgive the transgression. I found the story captivating and confusing in the best of ways. Babylon Berlin made me think as well as enjoy – my favorite way to watch television. 4 out of 5 for this Netflix giant.

Note: Netflix presents the 16 episode arc as Season 1. When originally released in Germany, the 16 episodes were split into two seasons. So right now, we are wondering whether Netflix will produce a third season for Germany which would be our Season 2. Stay tuned.

The Deuce: Season 1

February 28, 2018

David Simon‘s (The Wire, Treme) new HBO series, The Deuce released on disk this past week. Simon’s series offers a gritty, heady, intelligent look at NYC’s sex trade during the birth of the porn industry. The Deuce starts out quietly. The huge signature ensemble cast features street hookers, pimps, police, bar owners, college students, journalists, and young gay men all discovering their lives weaving in and around the sex industry of the early 1970’s. Simon takes his time showing us the changing landscape of business and pleasure in one of the world’s most outrageous neighborhoods. Costuming, props, set design, hair and make-up are all so spot-on, you’d swear you were thrust back in time to the post-hippie era when free love could come for anyone at a price and women and queers were beginning to feel their power. The city was still run by criminals, but other voices are beginning to be heard. Stellar acting from Maggie Gyllenhaal, luminous in the pivotal role of Candy. James Franco plays double duty as twins Vincent who’s smart and a hard worker and Frankie who’s proud of being a fuck-up. I hate to say this after all the posing Franco’s done over the years but damn that boy can act. The Deuce features Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey), Dominique Fishback (as my heart Darlene), Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (The Wire), Margarita Levieva, Emily Meade, Method Man, Kayla Foster, Don Harvey, Chris Bauer (The Wire, True Blood), Chris Coy (Treme), Natalie Paul, Michael Rispoli, Kim Director, Pernell Walker (Ruby!), Tariq Trotter, and Ralph Macchio (yes, him). Told you it was an ensemble. Chris Coy plays quiet, sexy, out and proud Paul with dignity and mischief. Everyone fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Deuce moves slow and steady through the subtle changes which affected the avalanche of what has become a 97 billion dollar industry. David Simon gives due respect to the industry’s beginnings and the characters who made it all happen. 4 out of 5 for The Deuce.

Lost in Television Series

February 22, 2018

I haven’t posted much this week. I’m juggling three outstanding television series and will take my time working my way through them:

Babylon Berlin: Season 1 (Netflix)
Rita: Season 4 (Netflix)
The Deuce: Season 1 (HBO on DVD from the library)

Tykwer’s Babylon Berlin pairs a huge German and Russian cast with complicated political and historical story lines. Add the over the top production design and you’ve got a runaway hit.

Rita continues to fascinate and charm me. I’m in love with this Danish series.

The Deuce is the newest series from The Wire and Treme creator David Simon. I’m completely hooked after the first three episodes. The Deuce slowly works its way into your heart as only David Simon can do.

Full reviews coming, I promise.
What are you watching?

Netflix Reboots Lost in Space

February 21, 2018

Had no idea this was happening: Netflix reboots the 1965 television series, Lost in Space. My first thought was how will they cast and write the Dr. Smith character without making him an awkward and offensive gay stereotype? No, I don’t hate fem men. And I am fine with LGBT characters being evil. But the original Dr. Smith character hearkens to a time in film and television history where gay people were either punch lines or villains. So Netflix has two words for my concern: Parker Posey. Yup, the producers turned the character on its head and made him a woman. Genius. Brilliant. And if anyone can play evil and fun simultaneously, it’s Parker Posey. Now I can’t wait to watch the reboot. Also looking forward to Toby Stephens (Cambridge Spies) as the Dad.

Lost in Space launches April 13 on Netflix.

Read Nerdist’s take on Parker Posey as Dr. Smith.
Bonus question: who is actor Toby Stephens mother? (Hint: she’s British acting royalty.)

Watch the Lost in Space trailer on YouTube.

Rita: Season 3

February 18, 2018

Season 3 of our beloved Rita continues the journey of play not-by-the-rules, but by breaking them. Danish school teacher Rita knows best for her family, friends, and co-workers. Season 3 focuses more on Rita drifting into unknown waters as her children fly the nest and she’s back to being single. Rasmus might be gone from Rita’s bedroom, but lucky for us not from the series. Helle takes over as Headmaster of the school, Hjørdis and Uffe settle in to their relationship, Jeppe has his first live-in relationship with boyfriend David, and Rita meets a not exactly what she imagined new man named Said. Rita goes on a journey with her students this year which challenges her intimacy with strangers while making the audience wonder why she can’t have similar relationships with those in her personal life. Such a great show which goes darker than normal in this third season. When you get to the end, you realize why. Big changes ahead for our gal. Does that include her finally quitting smoking? Tune in to see. 4 out of 5 for this incredible television series from Denmark.

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