Yes, it is summer and TV is really slow (with a couple of exceptions below) but that means it is time for catching up on my watch list before the Emmys.
Big Little Lies (HBO) – S2 ♦♦1/2
Yes, it came back and unfortunately, (unlike the Leftovers) when it left the book behind, the story didn’t get better. Who knows how much of the fairly messed up season was due to the fact that the Director’s (Andrea Arnold) vision was altered in post-production by Season 1’s Director John-Marc Vallee and creator David E. Kelly but there was clearly something “off” all season. What is perhaps even more troubling is that the ending left an opening for a S3. Please let it rest in peace.
That being said, it is summer and watching Meryl Streep in all of her passive aggressive glory go up against the Monterey 5 was absolutely riveting and made me come back each and every Sunday. These actresses are all great to watch and I can’t fault any of the performances (unlike the screenwriting and Directing). Each actress pretty much got an opportunity to go up against the great Streep with Laura Dern doing a particularly awesome job despite the encounters generally failing to make any sense in terms of the overall plot. I really wish they hadn’t cut out Reese Witherspoon throwing the ice cream cone at Streep but we can’t have everything!
So let’s take BLL for what it is, a summer beach read on the small screen with great acting and not so great writing/plot etc and revel in the acting. Let it reside in the annals of TV history with no renewal. There are so many wonderful projects that Witherspoon’s production company is involved with that I can’t help but imagine some great new female-focused shows to counteract all of the DC, Marvel and other male oriented programming out there.
Stranger Things S3 (Netflix) ♦♦♦
Stranger Things S3 is basically the same as Stranger Things S2 except the kids are a little older (creating more teenage hormones/dating), a major death in the finale and some irritating character developments. However, it works better overall than the darker S2. We have a new character played by Maya Hawke (Ethan’s daughter) who adds spark to the group as did Sadie Sink (Max) in S2. The teenage lovebirds, Nancy and Jonathan don’t seem to work this year any better than last time and they could be written out of the show with no repercussions. Wyonna Rider seems to overact in many episodes and I got really tired of Hooper’s constant anger directed at Eleven and Mike who are now “together”. What happened to this kind generous man who adopted this troubled child? Despite all of this, I quickly binged through the 8 episodes and found it perfectly engaging summer fare.
I’m not sure how many seasons Stranger Things can milk from the Upside Down in this one small little town but as long as we keep getting terrific new characters and if it can get out of this one geographic location (as suggested by the final scene), I will look forward to this Netflix favorite.
The Bodyguard (Netflix) ♦♦♦♦
As I said, summer is catch up time for me and I caught up with the Bodyguard which I loved. It helped that Richard Madden (his career has ignited since being killed off early in Game of Thrones) was in every frame and did a fantastic job. How he could win the Golden Globe for best Actor and not even get nominated for an Emmy is just ridiculous but more on the Emmys below. This is a really intense, 6 episode BBC police type thriller where it is almost impossible to determine the good guys from the bad ones until the final credits roll. I’m so glad I ignored some of the critics and watched this and if you haven’t yet caught up with the Bodyguard, see it while the summer TV schedule is light – you won’t regret it.
Mrs. Wilson (PBS) ♦♦♦♦1/2
Mrs. Wilson is a 3 part Masterpiece Theater mini-series that came and went this spring with no fan fare. Ruth Wilson (the Affair) plays the part of her real-life grandmother who found out shortly after his death that the man she was married to for over 20 years had led a secret life. Ruth Wilson is spellbinding as she slowly uncovers the truths about her husband (Iain Glen from Game of Thrones) and reacts to every new revelation with such intensity that the viewer feels every emotion. Iain Glen is wonderful as her author/spy/bigamist husband who is amazingly likable! GOT fans who are missing Sir Jorah will find joy in being able to see him again. The supporting cast is superb – Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve) and Keeley Hawes (the Bodyguard, the Durrells of Corfu) put in masterful performances.
Mrs. Wilson is virtually impossible to find unless you have access to PBS’s library but I did purchase it on iTunes for $8 and for the price of going to a movie, you can own 3 hours of a wonderful miniseries that you can watch whenever you want!
Other Things I’m watching this Summer:
CNN’s the Movies is a nice little series (playing now) in which they cover important movies by decade starting in the 80s although they will go back and do the 70s later. The 70s are generally considered to have produced the best movies of the century so I guess they are saving the best for last. If you are a film buff and want to wax nostalgic for films you have seen catch this series. It is on “On Demand” as well as Sunday nights with repeats here and there.
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox Mondays) is my favorite Reality TV show (and I only watch two) and is as good as ever. It is just finishing up the last cuts before going to the live shows and this perennial Emmy winner for choreography just gets better each week with the contestants receiving the highest level of professional training. I love the dancing but usually struggle some with the judges who aren’t my favorite part of the show.
Jane the Virgin is down to the last episode or two and is, in my opinion, one of the best shows of the decade. I’ll have more on it when it ends but for now, I am enjoying each and every moment of airtime.
The Good Fight S1 (CBS Sundays) has come to regular network TV for the summer. I will never subscribe to CBS All Access (CBS’s pay streaming service) as I don’t watch any CBS shows and I can certainly live without the new Star Trek series which is apparently quite good and the crown jewel of the streaming platform. However, I loved the Good Wife and the Good Fight has had very good reviews so it is great that CBS is showing the first season on network TV this summer. I’m sure they are doing it to drive viewers to All Access but I won’t take the bait. The show is great, Christine Baranski is great and Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones) is a wonderful addition. You don’t need to have seen the Good Wife to enjoy this series but for those who have, you’ll love the cameos by some of the judges and lawyers who were on the original series. Enjoy!!!
The Emmys – or What I must Watch/Finish Before They Air
There are a few shows that I feel I must see before the Emmys in September – most of which I have already started. I thought the nominations, as usual, had the good, the bad and the ugly but I’ll spare you the commentary for now. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen these well regarded and represented shows, you should join me in watching them.
Fosse/ Verdon (FX) – I have seen half of the episodes. It is good and Michelle Williams is just amazing so I absolutely will finish this one and report back
Russian Doll (Netflix) – Russian Doll came out when there were many shows I was watching. I saw a couple of episodes, liked them but never finished so I will go back.
Fleabag (Amazon) – I saw Season 1 ages ago and I liked it but don’t remember a thing. S2 (and final season) came out this spring to critical acclaim and I will go back, watch S1 and then move on to S2 before the Emmys. It is supposed to be fantastic.
When They See Us (Netflix) – This Ava DuVernay series about the Central Park 5 drew the second most Emmy nominations after Game of Thrones and I can’t wait to watch it even thought the subject matter is really tough.
Note: Thank goodness I have seen Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, Killing Eve, the Good Place, and other contenders as it will be tough enough to get through all of these in the next month!
Shows I gave up on:
The Spanish Princess – Fabulous costumes can only take you so far and the acting, writing and everything else in the show is not very good.
Les Miserables on Masterpiece – Just too dark. Prefer the play and even the movie (sans Russell Crowe singing)
The Magicians – I know that the critics are loving this series which they believe has just gotten better and better but I became lost once they left the books behind and so am officially giving up. This might be a show that, if this genre appeals to you, would be good to binge in order to fully engage in the story and be able to follow all the permutations as the series improves but becomes more complicated with no breaks. Having to wait between seasons, forgetting what happened before, just confused me.