TV: Broadchurch, Legion, Casual and Orange is the New Black

Season Premiers:

Broadchurch – Season 3 (BBC America) 

Broadchurch Season 1 was one of the best murder mysteries I’ve seen in years.  Olivia Colman (Mrs. Miller) and David Tennant (Alec Hardy) played detectives investigating the death of a young boy, Danny.  Everything about it was excellent.  Unfortunately, the brilliance of the first season did not extend to Season 2 where the show went off the rails.  Part of the problem was the fact that the showrunners decided to drag the trial for Danny’s murder out over an entire second season and it resulted in a very unsatisfactory outcome making the frustration with the season’s pace even more of an issue.  In the meantime, the best feature of the show, the interplay and relationship between Miller and Hardy was missing as each was bogged down in their own serious personal issues.  Finally, the new case they were involved with was not very interesting or compelling.

For some reason, after that disaster of a second season, Broadchurch was renewed for a third and final season and I, being the sucker that I am, tuned in for the premier and I’m so glad I did.  The hour flew by as Miller and Hardy set out to investigate a new case involving the rape of a middle-aged woman.  The victim, Trisha (played by Julie Hesmonhalgh) gave one of the most emotional performances of the year as the detectives slowly took her through the steps of recounting what occurred.  Miller and Hardy seemed to be mostly back to normal and Colman radiates on the screen.  I am excited about where this show is going in its final season and can’t wait for the next episode.  I am cautiously optimistic that Broadchurch has found its mojo from season 1.

Note:  For those who aren’t familiar with some of the more distinct British regional accents, I recommend you put on the closed captioning.  Also, for those who have not seen it, S1 &S2 are on Netflix and I think you could watch Season 1, skip to 3 and then decide if you want to go back and do S2. 

Clearing out the DVR

Legion Season 1 (FX)

Well the first thing I should mention is that watching 3 episodes of Legion as they aired and then letting the rest pile up on the DVR and not getting back to this trippy show until months later was not a smart idea.  I was already at a disadvantage not knowing the Marvel world which spawned the Legion story.  When I tuned in to Noah Hawley’s most bizarre tale, I found it hard to follow but kind of hung on because it was so unusual.  Returning months later, I was completely overwhelmed with confusion.  To add insult to injury, my comic book expert daughter who watched the show refused to help me understand what was going on.  She told me that I took up too much of her time with Flash which was a much simpler show to explain to a non-comic book person.

I will say that the cinematography is amazing and although I never actually took LSD, this show seems to be one long LSD trip.  Alternative “planes” or universes have never been my strength and Legion has an endless number of them so the lines between real and imagined in this universe are blurred in every episode.  All I need is time travel to totally put me over the edge.  At least there were recaps to fall back on as I attempted to unravel what happened in each episode.  Dan Stevens is great in the lead role and it’s amazing to see how far from his Downton Abby role he has come.

I am clearly not the target demo for Legion but I can tell it is well done and for the Marvel Universe lovers out there, I can understand why they love this show.  I won’t be returning next season but I’m glad I got a chance to finish off this one as it was one of the more unique TV viewing experiences of the year. 


Casual (Hulu)

I decided to check out this critically acclaimed show as I had reopened my HULU account to watch Handmaid’s tale.  I watched all of Seasons 1 and 2.   This is one of the an increasingly large group of 30 minute dramedies appearing everywhere and many of them are excellent. Among the best are Better Things, Catastrophe, You’re the Worst, Fleabag, Transparent and One Mississippi.  I have watched them all.  They are comedies with main characters who are often deeply flawed and always must deal with serious issues such as bi-polar condition, breast cancer, alcoholism, transgender family members, etc. Every comedic moment seems to arise out of a very depressing scene.

Casual is about a brother Alex and his sister Val.  Alex made a lot of money developing an algorithm for a dating site.  Now he pretty much sits around in an expensive home and does nothing except have casual sex with beautiful women, most of whom he altered the algorithm to show that they were compatible matches.  Val is recently divorced after her husband had an affair and she moves in with Alex along with her sixteen-year-old daughter Laura.  Everyone, including Laura has a lot of sex in this show.  Again, there is A LOT of sex on this show.  They are all looking for something deeper (well maybe not Alex) without success.  Alex and Val are messed up primarily because their parents were hippies following the free love movement around the country and didn’t care much about or for their children.  This family probably beats the Pfefferman’s for TV’s most dysfunctional family and that is tough to do.

Casual is well done.  It is very funny but I don’t see that it brings more to the table than the other shows I mentioned.  It isn’t worth getting a HULU subscription to see it but if you already have Hulu and maybe haven’t seen some of these other shows which are on Netflix, Amazon and Cable, check it out.  It is a good summer binge.  I’m sure I’ll get through the current Season 3 soon as TV is slow right now and I want to cancel HULU as soon as I can but I’m not sure I need to go back to Casual next year. 

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Whoever thought that an entire 13-episode season should cover only three days of a prison riot was a good idea should look for another occupation.  The emotionally devastating finale last year showing Poussey’s death by strangulation left a huge void in the show without a clear path forward so I’m sure the show runner’s decided to try something unique. It doesn’t work for me.  I’m not sure I’m even going to get through this season so thought I would note how much I disliked what was going on even though I’m only less than half way through the episodes.  The reason that I’m fairly certain I won’t make it is that I am having real difficulty even getting through one episode in a single sitting.  I generally need to break it into two viewing segments.  This can’t be good.

What are the issues?  To begin with, I can’t get past the fact that if there was a prison riot in a woman’s minimum security prison that federal troops wouldn’t move in and quash it rather than standing around outside doing nothing.  The women have only one gun and no idea what they are doing or what they should be focused on yet the authorities don’t bother to intercede. It is ridiculous.  I am also tired of the flashbacks.  By now, we have seen flashbacks for anyone we care about and I can’t even tell who they are doing them on at this point.  OITNB needs to find a new mechanism to bring the inmates stories to life.  Finally, I’m just not interested in anything any of these women are doing during this prison riot.  It is just boring.  So, assume this is my last post ever on OITNB unless by some miracle, the show makes a miraculous recovery and it gains some of its former appeal in which case, I might try it again.









Movies: Memorial Day Movie Viewing -a Couple of Films at the Opposite Ends of the Spectrum


The Lobster

I’m not going to lie; this is a very weird movie. It won the Jury prize at Cannes in 2015 as well as numerous other awards so it is not without critical acclaim. This movie is not for everyone but there are things to like in this social satire of a futuristic world with bizarre rules. Colin Farrell plays David, a rather boring architect whose wife leaves him. He is moved to a hotel where he has 45 days to find someone who has a like characteristic  (his is near-sightedness) to couple up with. If he doesn’t, he is transformed into an animal of his choice, which, in his case, is a Lobster. Dave brings his brother Bob along with him who was transformed into a border collie after failing to find a mate.

Things don’t go well for David and as he approaches the 45th day, he escapes to the woods and joins up with a group of “Loners” who have also escaped the “couples” rules that define their world. As part of their rebellion, the Loners are not allowed to have any romantic relationships with each other. In addition, the guests at the Hotel are sent out each week to shoot them with tranquilizer guns in return for extra days. If they are shot, they are brought back to the Hotel to be transformed.  In a predictable plot line,  David finds his true love played by Rachel Weiss and tragedy follows (although there has certainly been some up to this point as David tried to find a mate in the hotel).

I thought the acting was great in this slightly too long movie that is bound to polarize audiences. Both Farrell and Weiss gave wonderful and nuanced performances and Olivia Coleman is suburb as the hotel manager. There are two halves to this movie – the first half being more light and comedic and the 2nd half being much darker and disturbing and it is that part of the movie that will likely cause many viewers to have difficulty with the film.

The Lobster is unlike any movie you will probably see and it is a very absorbing movie for much of the two hours. The dystopian world in which it takes place is a parody on the modern world of dating and mating, which is played out expertly by the actors. The premise shouldn’t work at all but it does and it will be the weirdest Rom Com you will ever see.   If you watch this movie, be forewarned that animals do not do well in this environment and it is hard to believe that none were injured in the filming.

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel movies aren’t for everyone but this one is pretty good if you are so inclined to watch a film in that genre. If you are, you’ll find that this “Civil War” between super heroes was much better than the recent Batman v. Superman. The premise is that some of the Avengers are willing to be managed by a UN panel due to the collateral damage that they have been creating while defending the world. This group, led by Iron Man,includes Black Widow, Spiderman and War Machine. Captain America doesn’t agree with this oversight and he has Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Falcon. There are more on each side.

The villain is a guy out for revenge for something – I didn’t think this was the strongest part of the movie at all – and lots of fighting ensues. The movie is light (probably because they aren’t really saving the world from any big menace) with many comedic moments and it is a pleasure to sit back and watch Robert Downy Jr. and the others banter back and forth. The over arching storyline  even bears some relationship to an on-going political debate in real life – the issue of collateral damage and how much are we willing to accept in innocent civilian death to kill the bad guys.

The acting was fine, particularly by the women (Scarlett Johannson and Elizabeth Olsen) and Tom Holland, the young man who is now going to carry the Spiderman series on his shoulders. You may remember him from “The Impossible” where he played Naomi Watt’s son. So if you like the Avenger movies, you’ll certainly enjoy this one, which is clocking in at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. If this is not your thing, there is no compelling reason to go see it.