I have been remiss in my TV updates but there have been a few interesting finales and premiers over the last couple of weeks with even more coming over March and April as spring TV ramps up.
The Young Pope (HBO)
I watched the entire mini-series of the young pope and I’m not sure I could explain it to anyone. Jude Law was fantastic; the costumes magnificent and I loved it every time Dianne Keaton opened her mouth (and even when she was speechless). Law, plays Lenny Belardo who becomes Pope Pius XIII under questionable circumstances, begins his reign as a smug, condescending outsider who spies on his enemies and generates a high level of arrogance (remind you of anyone?). Along the line, he questions his belief in God and has multiple strange visions. Almost every day is spent trying to come to terms with the parents who abandoned him as a child and wondering about their whereabouts.
We wind our way through the season there are probably more bad moments than good but even the bad ones are so weirdly strange and beautifully shot that I was reeled in. We don’t know what Lenny’s actual beliefs are as they change constantly while becoming one of the world’s greatest tyrants. The biggest issue I had with the show is that there was a real lack of character development that prevented us from understanding anyone’s motivations. If there is a second season, I’ll give it a try as Law is mesmerizing.
Legion recently premiered as the latest in a series of Marvel comics coming to life on the small screen. Apparently, this character (David Haller) is a very minor character in the Marvel world and he is clearly disturbed, teetering between schizophrenia and some type of specialized mental power. The premier was 1 ½ hours and most of it was like a 1960s-acid trip. The weirdest thing I have ever seen.
The second episode was not quite so trippy but a lot is happening. Dan Stevens (Downton Abby) plays David Haller, a diagnosed schizophrenic since he was a child. The government thinks that he is perhaps the most powerful mutant ever so interrogates him until he is rescued by a couple of women that were in the psych hospital (“Clockworks” don’t you love it) with him. They bring David to Dr. Bird (Jean Smart) who tries to make him healthy and happy again so that he can be used in the war against the government. In the interim, there are lots of flashbacks, evil stuff, powers moving from one person to the next and general craziness but if you like the Marvel Universe, this kind of pulls you in. I’ll try to stick with it until I’m so confused I must give up which is what usually happens with my forays into the Marvel universe.
Planet Earth II (BBC America)
What is not to love about this magnificent look at Nature with the inspiring new score by Hans Zimmer and perfect narration by the marvelous David Attenborough. I have seen Mountains and Islands and can’t wait for more. Spectacularly done with the most amazing technical advances that put the series in a difference orbit than even the original Planet Earth, you can only wonder if this is the last we will see of many of the species shown. With only a handful (7) of episodes there is absolutely no excuse not to see this and anyone who doesn’t believe that man is destroying this world should watch the show. It is extraordinary.
Bates Motel (A&E)
I love this series and particularly the acting. It stars Vera Fermiga and Freddie Highmore and is a prequel to Pschyo. Last year’s finale found Norman murdering his mother and finally, we have him in full “psycho” mode. I wasn’t sure how Vera Fermiga would be able to continue in this final season that recently started but Carleton Cuse and the Bates team have brought her back to life in a creative way. It is harder to integrate Norman’s brother (Dylan) and Olivia Cooke into the story as they moved away and have no relationship with Norman but the writers are trying. While one part of me wants them back in the action, the other part knows that this would be a very bad thing for their survival and after all they have been through, I don’t want them killed by Mr. Psycho. Also back is Norma’s sexual predator brother who comes back to town. Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is in jail and again, trying to keep him connected to Norman is difficult but I love every scene he is in.
I’m enjoying every minute of the last season of Bates Motel and wish Fermiga and Hightower would get the Emmy recognition they deserve for this little gem of a show.
When We Rise (ABC miniseries)
When We Rise is the history of the Gay Rights movement and teams together again the powerful combination of Gus Van Sant and Dustin Lance Black who respectively directed and wrote Milk. It follows several real-life people (particularly Cleve Jones who also was an important figure in the movement and has a major role in the movie Milk) who converged on San Francisco in the 1970s and continued the Gay Rights movement up through DOMA. The series is playing all this week and while the last few hours might not be that interesting to people, I find that the first couple of episodes covering the 1970s and 80s are particularly good.