Its been awhile but I still have some things to say about 2017!

I haven’t been posting on this blog much in the last 6 months due to having been involved in a couple of very time-consuming activities that take up most of my days. As a result, my TV and movie viewing has been curtailed and my reading diminished during this period.  I resolve to change this in 2018 beginning in March but I did want to weigh in with a few posts about the best books I read and the movies and TV shows I thought were the greatest of 2017.  This first post will cover TV.

The 5 Best TV Shows of 2015 (that I watched)

  1. The Leftovers

The Leftovers had the perfect final season and I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this controversial show.  If you haven’t seen it, Season 1 is very dark, bleak and hard to get through but it becomes so worthwhile to have done so in order to watch Seasons 2 and 3.  This show about grief, loss and craziness also delivered pure joy in Season 3 with a Tasmanian sex boat and numerous other gripping episodes.  Carrie Coon was magnificent and you should watch it for just her performance.

  1. Halt and Catch Fire

This is another show that struggled a bit in its first season but just blossomed over the course of the next three seasons and its final one this fall, delivered perfectly.  While many may question whether they want to watch a show about the history of technology and the beginnings of Silicon Valley, rest assured that at its heart, this show is about the characters and particularly two women who form one of the most compelling relationships in television.  Watch this show on Netflix.  Feel free to only see the first 4 episodes and the finale of Season 1 and then savor every episode after that.

  1. The Good Place

I’m watching fewer and fewer network TV shows but this one is great.  A show that is about heaven, hell, ethics and morality delivers those messages in such a comedic way that it makes it impossible not to care deeply for a group of very flawed characters. The Season 1 finale twist and how the show runners picked it up this fall were unpredictable and executed flawlessly.  The cast is terrific and it is just a fun show with lots of meat.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale was excellent and it was worth having to pay for Hulu for a couple of months to watch it unfold each week.  It did drag occasionally but the acting chops of Elizabeth Moss and Ann Dowd made it all worthwhile and I should note the surprisingly excellent work of Alexis Bledel – who knew?  The parallels between this dystopian world and this past year, unfortunately were a little too close.

  1. Better Things

This smaller 30-minute dramedy is excellent and the second season was even better than the first.  Unfortunately, the show is linked so closely to Louis C.K. which makes for a tough decision on whether to support it or not but I don’t think it is fair to Pamela Adlon to boycott it.  Better Things is based loosely on her life and her Directing and Acting in it are very good.  This show hits to the heart of what it is like to be a single mother, struggling to keep things going at home while trying to keep a career going at the same time making many mistakes with both.  There is so much honesty and emotion in this dramedy that it is hard not to love it.

The Best of the Rest:

Jane the Virgin, Alias Grace, The Americans, Big Little Lies, Mary Kills People, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, Last Week with John Oliver, Stranger Things, Catastrophe, Casual, You’re the Worst, The Young Pope, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Keepers, Billions, The Vietnam War, the Middle

Shows that I didn’t get to but I really want to see:

One Mississippi (S2), One Day at a Time, Top of the Lake China Girl, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sneaky Pete, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (last 2 seasons) 

Shows I’m still watching despite them not being that great:

Homeland, Fargo, the Affair, Scandal, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the Magicians and few that I’m too embarrassed to mention (and no, they aren’t reality shows!

One final thought:  There are some shows that are nearly perfect in their premier season and should end that way.  Unfortunately, good ratings, lots of buzz and some award nominations and all of a sudden, we have Season 2 of Stranger Things, Big Little Lies and worst of all, 13 Reasons Why despite the storylines being completely wrapped up in what should have been the only season.  Let them stand alone and go on to other innovative projects.







TV: Summer’s Last Hurrah – Game of Thrones, Halt and Catch Fire, You’re the Worst and Top of the Lake China


It has been a completely crazy last month or so and I know I am way behind on my blog so while I have a few days before the onslaught of fall TV, I just wanted to make some comments about the shows that I have been watching during the twilight of summer.

Season’s Finales:

Game of Thrones:

The penultimate season of Game of Thrones gave us a scant 7 episodes but several were packed with amazing special effects and some great battles.  I think the show has struggled since it went beyond the books.  The world that George R.R. Martin created is so complex and intricate with deep history and substantive characters/dialogue that it gave the HBO creators a writer’s feast from which to create the show.  Once that was gone and the showrunners had to create the storylines with little guidance, I have found the character development lacking and the focus on huge battles and dragons.  Not that I mind battles and dragons (this season the latter were spectacular) but there is so much more that could have been done.

In my opinion, Season 7 was very rushed.  People moved between far locations with lightning speed.  Key actions happened without the careful construction of the plot leading up to them.  I’m not sure why Weiss and Benioff decided to do only 7 shows this season and 6 in the final season but even with some extended episodes, there was so much missing in terms of background explanations as to why characters acted the way they did.  A prime example of this was in the finale when Sansa and Aria executed Littefinger for no obvious reason.  Apparently in a discarded scene, Bran informed them of the nefarious things Littlefinger did but the finale didn’t explain it at all.  I just feel the showrunners are tired of writing from  George R.R. Martin notes and just want it all to be over.  It doesn’t give me great hope for next season other than I’m sure there will be some great dragon/battle scenes but the long, wonderful dialog sequences will be something we will need to go back to the first few seasons for.

I love Game of Thrones but I wish we had the books finished so that the showrunners could give us the story we deserve.  I hope the novels will someday be completed (although I may not live long enough to see it given Martin’s history) to get the full measure of this amazing world.

Season’s Premiers:

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Halt and Catch Fire commenced its fourth and final season last month and so far, it is great.  This is a terrific under-the-radar show about the beginnings of Silicon Valley and the computer and internet revolution.  It addresses some of the issues women in technology have faced as well as the exciting world of start-up tech companies.  This season is focused on the development of internet search engines and is fascinating.  The acting is great, the characters terrific and the history pretty accurate from what I can tell.

If you haven’t seen Halt and Catch Fire, the first three seasons are on Netflix.  The second and third are fantastic.  The first season is somewhat inconsistent (as many first seasons are) as the show tries to find its footing.  One critic who I highly respect suggested that if you want to see the show and have limited time, watch the pilot and the last four episodes of Season 1 along with all of Seasons 2&3.  Enjoy!

You’re the Worst (FXX)

In last season’s finale, Jimmy asked Gretchen to marry him, she said “yes” and then he panicked and drove off into the sunset.  This season begins with Jimmy living in a trailer park with no access to the internet or phone and Gretchen trying to move on.  They don’t see each other until the end of the third episode which just aired.  I’m not sure where we are going from there but I’m in for the ride.  I love this show about four of the most dysfunctional and damaged (along with mentally ill) people you will ever come across.  Chris Geere and Aya Cash as Jimmy and Gretchen are so good in their roles and Desmin Borges (Edgar) and Kether Donohue (Lindsay) are equally up to the task as their sidekicks.

The show went to a dark place with Gretchen’s bi-polar disorder and I’m hoping it lightens up a bit this year,  as it is supposed to be a comedy.  The first three episodes seem to be headed back toward its comedic roots and I like that Edgar and Kether are getting more screen time.  The four leads are the soul of the show and Jimmy and Gretchen is just too intense without some comedic relief by other characters.  I’m so glad this show is back!

Top of the Lake China Girl (Sundance)

I watched the first Top of the Lake miniseries in 2013 and thought it to be one of the finest shows of the year so I was excited that Jane Campion has brought it back.  Unfortunately, four years later, I remember very little about the first series and when I launched into this new season, it became clear very quickly that I needed to recall what happened to make Elisabeth Moss’s character (Robin Griffin) so damaged.  I know she was raped but some of the other psychological issues need reading up on.  One thing that is clear from the two episodes I have seen is that the misogyny is non-stop and after the last two years of listening to it spewing from the Republican candidate now President, it is pretty hard to take for my entertainment.

This season adds Nicole Kidman who has had such a banner year in both film and TV and who I think is one of our finest actresses out there.  However, her introduction in Episode 1 resulted in a performance I found to be stiff and unbelievable – it was slightly improved in the second Episode.  Gwendoline Christie  is another new character although I think she is better in Game of Thrones.   I am going to stick with this as I think that any show created by Jane Campion and starring Nicole Kidman and Elizabeth Moss deserves my attention but I do have concerns that this may turn out to be more like Season 2 of True Detective than Season 2 of the Americans.



TV: Fall TV winds down – Masters of Sex, Better Things, You’re the Worst, The Blacklist and the Crown


Season Finales:

Masters of Sex (Showtime) – (Series Finale?

Masters of Sex wrapped up it’s fourth season with Masters and Johnson tying the knot; Bill’s ex-wife Libby off to California with their kids in a quintessential 60s VW bus to start law school at Berkeley and his childhood sweetheart leaving her husband and coming back to town. Bill’s look of concern in the final moments of the episode as he marries Virginia foreshadows a marriage that will ultimately fail.

Masters of Sex had a brilliant first season and then a couple of rough years. This season had its ups and more downs. There was a plot with a “Swing” couple getting jobs in the clinic that was just bizarre and not well developed at all; some hints at a gay conversion plot line that was not effectively flushed out; Virginia’s parent’s faltering marriage and more weak storylines.  Libby’s growth on the other hand was one of the highlights of the show and vindicates the show runners who kept the character despite all the critics who questioned her ongoing role.  Bill and Virginia’s relationship was non-existent most of the season and the side story using Niecy Nash, as his AA leader was a throwaway, which added little to the drama.

Masters of Sex hasn’t been renewed and I can’t help but think that this finale could easily serve as the series finale. I’m not sure how much more  story there is to tell here – two more decades of Bill and Virginia working in their clinic as their relationship goes downhill? Not much to get excited about there. Hopefully this is the end – I think it is a good place to put this baby to rest. Next week the Affair goes into this timeslot. Another Showtime drama that had a fantastic first season and then dropped off – I’ll be optimistic and tune in to see Joshua Jackson if nothing else.

Better Things (FX)

Better Things wrapped up a very fine first season with a strong episode that finally addresses what we have been thinking all along – Frankie is transgender. If you have missed this little gem of a show, it is about Sam, an actress, who is raising three girls on her own, Max, Duke and Frankie. It deals with the stresses and difficulty of being a single parent in addition to being a middle age woman in Hollywood trying to get work. Throughout the season, we wonder if Sam’s middle child is trans but there is nothing that makes Sam even question her child’s identity until the finale where her eldest daughter Max comes right out and tells her mother “Frankie is a boy”.

There is a lot of heart in this show along with laughs and tears and non-stop life events that we can all emphasize with. I’d recommend this show to anyone who has ever parented. You will be able to relate to it.

You’re The Worst (FXX)

You’re the Worst concluded Season 3 this week and while this season seemed more uneven than the first two, the finale made it all worthwhile. Over the course of the season, the show dealt with PTSD (in a fine episode solely focused on Paul), abortion and Gretchen’s attempt at therapy. In between some of the episodes we had were good and some were weak plotlines that didn’t hold up against the pretty much perfect first two seasons.

The finale consisted of the last two episodes shown back to back and both were excellent. The first half hour focused primarily on the disintegration of the three main couples and while Gretchen and Jimmy got back on track for awhile, it was clear that Lindsey and Paul and Dorothy and Edgar were not going to make it. The second half hour completed the breakups and in the most heartbreaking scene of the entire series, Jimmy proposes to Gretchen on Mulholland Drive only to react to her statement about them now “being a family” by freaking out.  As he drives off, leaving her behind, Gretchen’s expression says it all. Aya Cash was brilliant.

These characters are so dysfunctional that we have known from the beginning that even if Gretchen and Jimmy stay together, there won’t be a happy ending. Nonetheless, this was an emotionally packed ending to this season. I don’t know if there will be another one but I hope so because while I know just how awful these people are, I still hope they can find some measure of happiness together. 

Fall Finale:

The Blacklist (NBC) 

The Blacklist ended its fall season with possibly explaining Red’s relationship with Elizabeth. I say possibly because Red admitted that he was Lizzy’s father to Kirk (who turns out not to be Elizabeth’s father) while being tortured by Kirk so the confession is questionable. So what happened this season? Kirk, the master Russian criminal who purported to be Lizzy’s father, kidnapped Elizabeth and her baby and after many rescue attempts, the baby was released as was Lizzy when Red switched places with her.

I really didn’t care for where the storyline went at the end of last season and into this season. Lizzie’s return from death, the kidnapping of her child and the endless rescue attempts were all a stretch. The show worked most effectively in my opinion, when Lizzy was in the FBI and Red gave them a case of the week with the overshadowing mystery of why Red is so protective of Elizabeth. Now, Elizabeth is banished from the FBI with no real way back in and she is in a happy relationship with Tom and a new baby. We are tired of not having the relationship with Red explained and it just seems as the writers are at a loss for where to go next.  I really think the show has run its course and if the show runner had the latitude to end it this spring, I think he/she would.


The Crown (Netflix)

Who knew that an entire season about the early years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign would be so fascinating – but it is. Claire Foy in the lead role is compelling as the young monarch and the supporting cast is fine as well. Over the course of 10 episodes we see the Queen come in to her own despite being lied to and mislead by many in power. She also had to deal with her lack of education as well as a husband who feels emasculated.  She is entirely unprepared for the Crown that was put on her head at 25. Yet, despite all of this, she learns to hold her own with the most powerful people in the world.

We get an in-depth view of the strain Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend and her heartbreak at Elizabeth’s refusal to allow the marriage. We also get a glimpse into the exile of King Edward VIII and the ramifications of his abdication on the family. All of this is probably not very familiar to the American audience so should be of interest to those with an interest in the British Royal family. Watching how history changes over the course of her reign is going to be one of the great benefits of this series.

In addition to great acting, we also see amazing jewels, killer fashion and beautiful scenery. The only real issues I had with the show were the slowness of the pace (at times glacial) and the fact that it seemed to be filmed in very dark rooms all the time. Count me as a fan of this woman who has had such an amazing life and never seems to have put a wrong foot forward. I am looking forward to Season 2 and beyond.


TV: Did you think I had stopped watching? You’re the Worst, One Mississippi, Better Things, Masters of Sex, the Last Ship and Jane the Virgin

As readers of this blog know, I am the queen of the one hour scripted dramas and not a big fan of comedy. However, in the past couple of years, a new genre of comedy has arrived and for lack of a better word, these shows are often referred to as “dramadies”. They are mostly one-half hour shows that fall into the comedy category but have very serious plotlines and complex characters. The best of them include You’re the Worst, Casual and Catastrophe. Transparent also falls into this genre. What these shows deliver are stories addressing difficult topics including depression, unplanned pregnancies, disintegrating relationships, gay/transgender cast and drug/alcohol dependencies with a comedic twist. The half hour format allows for crisp writing, succinct storytelling and no time to prolong the often-difficult subject matter. Most are only 6-8 episodes per season so they are easy to binge or catch up on. No shows are wasted or “fillers”.

Some argue that this format has replaced the one-hour scripted drama as the best work being done on television. While I agree there is some fine work being done here and certainly the Network scripted dramas have become very weak, my favorite shows on television are still The Americans, Rectify and Game of Thrones. I haven’t abandoned my one-hour dramas yet but I’m really liking some of these shows! Four new dramadies are premiering over the next two weeks and are getting rave reviews. They are Amazon’s “One Mississippi” and “Fleabag”, HBO’s “Insecure” and FX’s Better Things. Two are covered below along with You’re the Worst.


You’re the Worst (FXX) ( first two seasons available on Hulu, Amazon, Itunes)

I love this show. It is about 4 completely dysfunctional people who are in relationships that they shouldn’t be but you come to love them and at least cheer for the lead couple, Jimmy and Gretchen, played by Chris Geere and Aya Cash. These are two seemingly despicable people who are in a relationship filled with hedonistic activities. Jimmy is a writer who is a total narcissist and Gretchen suffers from debilitating depression. Due to the brilliant, edgy writing, you actually come to hope that they will be together forever.

Season 3 premiered last week and the first two episodes were good but not quite as great as Season 2, which knocked it out of the park. It has raked in its share of Critic’s Choice Award nominations and I hope it gets back to the level of last year. Even if it doesn’t, I’m just happy to have Jimmy and Gretchen back in my life again.

One Mississippi (Amazon)

One Mississippi is one of the “dramadies” discussed above and was dropped on Amazon September 9th. It grabbed me from the fist few minutes of the show and I watched straight through the six, thirty-minute episodes. It was great. The show is based on the life of comedian Tig Notaro who apparently endured cancer, the death of her mother and a relationship breakup in the same year all of which happen on the show. There are comedic moments (both this show and Better Things (below) are produced by Louis C.K.) but it is a story of family, grief, memories, and how to cope with life when it deals you a series of sucker punches. I can’t believe I have to wait at least another year for Season 2. Again, it is just great and I love that there is a Lesbian lead character.

Better Things (FX)

Better Things premiered this week and while it is difficult to make a determination about it after one 30-minute show, there was definitely enough to keep me coming back. It is the story of Sam Fox who is a single mother of three girls trying to make it as an actress while holding it all together. There are moments of hilarity along with the day-to-day struggle of making a living and being a parent. Not only does Sam have to deal with Hollywood attitudes towards middle age womem, she also has feelings of failures as a parent. There are moments every parent can relate to (particularly working and/or single parents) around which battles are worth fighting with your kids in order to survive. Several stars popped up with cameos in this first episode including Julie Bowen, Constance Zimmer and Bradley Whit ford which were all fun. I think this show has a ton of potential.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)

Masters of Sex was one of the best shows on television its first two seasons and then it went off the rails in season three. Horrible writing and plotlines overshadowed the great acting by Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen. This is a common thread, unfortunately, for Showtime dramas. However, Homeland was able to turn around after a couple of very poor years so what the heck, maybe this show might as well. I was not encouraged by the fact I could find NO reviews for this season the day before the premier. If critics aren’t talking about your show, it is not a good sign.

I tuned in to the premier on Sunday night and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t perfect but it looks like the showrunners are trying to fix the mistakes of last year.  It was important to get Masters and Johnson back together again but Johnson’s slip decent into darkness was a bit overkill and the reconciliation happened pretty quickly.  Whether to continue with this show will be a week by week decision.  On to next week.


The Last Ship (TNT)

I don’t know why I actually watch this show. I guess because it came on a few years ago during summer and there wasn’t much else to watch. It was never bad enough to abandon it but never quite good enough to really recommend it. This summer, TNT announced that it is renewing it for the next two seasons so I’m thinking that there are a lot of people out there watching this show.  The initial premise was that a disease had destroyed the world and the crew of the Navy ship Nathan James was left to float around the world until a cure could be found and they could safely land somewhere. The cure was conveniently discovered by a doctor on their boat and they came back to deliver it to everyone left on earth.

I wasn’t sure where the show would go once the disease was cured but the show runners managed to figure out a plausible plot based on the disintegration of the world’s governments. The Nathan James and her Captain (played by Eric Dane) helped solidify a centralized democracy and military in the USA. This season was interesting with the dissolution of the government and the Nathan James once again being “homeless” and set adrift in Southeast Asia to fend for itself. It wasn’t bad, there was plenty of action and intrigue. The finale had the ship returning with yet another exiled President in an attempt to take the country back from the bad guys. A handful of good guys took the entire government down with only one major character death.  We’ll see what lies in store for the Captain and the ship next year. For sure, poor Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) will not be Captain for long (again) as Tom Chandler’s retirement will be short-lived.  If you are looking for something a little lightweight but offering some suspense, it is an ok show for summer. McSteamy isn’t bad either.


Jane the Virgin Season 1 and 2 (Netflix)

I did it. I actually got through the first two seasons of Jane the Virgin and I’m hooked. This didn’t come easily. When the show premiered two years ago, I watched a couple of episodes based on great reviews. I didn’t care for it at all. A comedy with shades of a Telenovela was so outside my wheelhouse that I didn’t connect to anything. I quickly gave it up. However, the critics that I have the most respect for didn’t leave it alone. For two years, they keep coming back to it as one of their favorite shows so I had a couple of weeks that were slow this August and tried it again. I must admit it took probably 5-6 episodes for me to really appreciate this show but after that, I was hooked.

Jane the Virgin is packed with great writing, acting and storylines. The characters are complex and continually evolving. The Telenovela aspect becomes just plain fun as the show’s narrator takes you through the similarities between Jane’s family and a real Telenovela. While all this is amusing, it is Jane who is the heart and soul of this show and how she deals with being mistakenly artificially impregnated, in love with both her fiancee  and the baby daddy and her struggles to establish a writing career tug at your heart and soul. The most important aspect of the show is the relationship between Jane, her mother and grandmother, which forms the basis of an amazing female family unit. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be totally in love with these characters and best of all, you’ll just feel happy when you watch it.

TV: UnReal and Preacher


Despite it being the slowest time of the TV year, I have had plenty of DVR catching up to do after vacation.  I’m slowly plowing through those saved shows as we wrap up the summer season and while there is a  little gap before the fall season begins. Because of this, my TV posts won’t be quite so timely for a few weeks but here are the first couple of shows that I managed to get through.


UnReal (Lifetime)

UnReal recently ended it 2nd season. This show came out of nowhere to be one of the critic’s favorites in 2015, which is a rarity (if not a first) for Lifetime. It was a well-written, well-acted satire of a Bachelor- type reality show that while a little crazy at times sucked in the viewer. Of course, who exactly that viewer is creates an issue for the show. For those who actually watch reality shows UnReal is going to strip off all the pleasure of watching that genre. For those who don’t watch these types of shows (me included), why would you care enough to watch a satire of one? While a critical success, that ratings weren’t high highlighting this issue. I think the answer to the first question is unclear, the answer to the latter is to reinforce that we made the right decision to skip reality shows and despite the plot, the show was great. I wasn’t sure where this would go in Season 2, however.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many shows, Season 2 fell apart. It was very uneven. The attempt to bring race into the main storyline by bringing in an African American NFL football player as their “bachelor” backfired as the show completely mismanaged the plot. The world of network TV reality shows is an all white one and while it is commendable that UnReal attempted to highlight this issue, the way that handled it was pretty much a disaster culminating in a disastrous decision to have a white cop shoot one of the black characters.  The show also brought in a new “producer” character with a story line that bordered on the ridiculous and his fate at the end of the season showed that the writers/producers figured this out. One of the major character’s personality was completely changed and not for the better. Rachel’s mental illness storyline was also tiresome and mangled. I’m not even going to get into the fertility and kidnapped kid storylines which just piled on to all the issues.

The second season explored the love hate relationship between Quinn and Rachel and it was all over the place. This show depends on the brilliant acting by Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby in this complicated relationship that defines the show.  Nothing else really matters and when these two are on screen, the show is at its best.  This most critical plot was back on track by the end of the season and the finale proved to be a game changer. Despite this season being a train wreck, there was something that drew me in each week and I’m hoping that the show is able to fix the multitude of issues of Season 2 and retool for Season 3.

Preacher (AMC)

The decision to watch this show was an experiment as I have never read, nor intend to read the comics that the show is based on. I wanted to see if someone who is not a 20 something male or familiar with the comics could find something of interest in this show. The experiment is over. I got through the season (although I fell asleep for portions of the show most nights) and I can’t say that I understood very much of what was going on other than it was about a Preacher with an evil spawn of something inside him; a hipster and a vampire.  Oh, and there were a couple of angels hunting down the being inside the preacher.  I can’t really tell you if it is good or bad just that I won’t be coming back to it. I think most reviewers thought the show was pretty good and  I’m glad the fans of it have something to enjoy in this genre.  I do think it is probably well done and I thought the stars (Dominic Cooper plays the lead) were actually very good so if this is how you roll, you will probably like it.

In short, if you are a fan of the comics or a teenager/millennial who leans towards shows like this, go for it – you will likely not be disappointed. It has been renewed for another season. For the rest of us, there are lots of great shows out there to binge during the summer lull that will be more rewarding.

DVR Alert:

You’re the Worst premiers 8/31 on FXX. This is one of my favorite shows and is the penultimate “dramedy”. If you haven’t heard of it, check out the first couple of seasons on Netflix while DVRing this new season as it is well worth it.  The lead actress, Aya Cash is extraordinary.





TV: 3 Very Good Premiers and Emmy Thoughts



Mr. Robot (USA) – Season 2

Mr. Robot premiered last year and it was the shock hit of the summer winning a Golden Globe as best drama and for Christian Slater in a supporting role. Rami Malek the star has just been nominated for an Emmy, as has the show for best drama. This cyber-hacking drama follows Elliot (Malek) who is a brilliant but disturbed computer wiz who falls in with a group of hackers intent on bringing down an “Evil” corporation and disrupting the infrastructure of the country. There are many twists and turns during season 1 but for those who haven’t seen it, I’ll leave it at that. I can’t say as I ever quite knew what was going on and some of the technical hacking sequences are out of my league but the story is intriguing and the acting very good.

Season two premiered this week with a 90 minute show that picked up somewhere after the massive season ending hack that brought down the economy.  Elliot has left his computer world and is struggling with himself and “Mr. Robot” as he tries for some normalcy in his life.  His former buddies, fsociety, is moving forward with more hacks and coming to grips with what they have achieved.  We aren’t really sure what Wellick and his wife are up to nor what role Wellick played in the hack but they are probably not up to anything good.  Several new characters have been introduced which should provide some interesting plotlines. I can’t say as I completely understood everything in the premier but that was partly because I was very tired and kept falling asleep, waking up and rewinding. Looks like a good season again and I’m totally in. I’ll do an interim update after getting through more episodes.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Stranger Things starring Winona Rider dropped on Netflix Friday the 15th. Normally stories about the paranormal aren’t really my thing but this has very good reviews so I thought I would check it out. I believe it is meant to be homage to all things Spielberg. It has the feel of E.T., Poltergeist, a little Star Wars and Super 8. I’ve seen the first 2 of 15 episodes and there is some sort of electrical force/monster that has kidnapped a young boy and potentially killed others. This “force” is connected to the Department of Energy facility  in a small Indiana town in the early 1980s where a bunch of employees are clearly quite knowledgeable about what is going on.

There are several intersecting plots that are introduced in the initial episodes.  The first is the search by 3 young nerdy boys for their kidnapped friend Will. They enlist the help of an almost mute young girl who they are hiding from their parents. We don’t know much about her except that her name “11” is tattooed on her arm and that several nefarious men are tracking her down. The second storyline involves Will’s older brother and one of the boy’s older sisters. We also have a romance between Winona Rider’s character and the police chief who isn’t exactly on top of his job. Finally we have Will trying to communicate with his mother (Ryder) through the electrical light system. So far it is interesting but they are going to have to give me a little more in the way of answers before I say that this is the next E.T.  Ryder is great, however, and it is nice to have her back in a leading role.

The Night Of (HBO)

I covered this last week so just a reminder that it has started, it is great and I can’t wait for Episode 2.

Thought on the Emmys

Just some random musings:

  • The Americans finally got nominated for Best Drama, Best Actor and Best Actress. These are LONG overdue for what is arguably the best show on television. I doubt the show will win anything but at least it is finally being recognized. This is a real stunner in that shows that have been overlooked for years by the Academy almost never are rewarded later in their run.
  • HBO’s wonderful mini-series “Show Me a Hero” with such an amazing performance by Oscar Isaacs was inexplicably left out of the nominations.
  • The Leftovers had a brilliant 2nd season, won a Peabody for it’s excellence and yet wasn’t nominated for an Emmy? All the actors in this show do a great job but Carrie Coon in particular should have gotten a nomination. This is more typical of what I expect from the Academy.
  • Rectify is another great show that missed out
  • Loved the nominations for Mr. Robot and Rami Malek but where was Christian Slater’s Golden Globe winning performance!
  • The OJ Simpson mini-series walked away with a gazillion nominations – most of which were well deserved although I thought Cuba Gooding Jr.’s and John Travolta’s nominations could have been given to more worthy performances.
  • The academy nominated a wide variety of some of the great newer comedies but wish “You’re the Worst” and Aya Cash’s work was recognized.
  • Loved the Constance Zimmer nomination for UnREAL but no Sheri Appleby?
  • I’m ok with no Orange is the New Black nominations because Season 3 was not that great but I hope this year’s  much better Season 4 results in some nominations next year
  • Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows and I’m happy it walked away with nominations but it seems overly generous for a season that was up and down.
  • Samantha Bee deserves a nod – her show is great.
  • Unlike the Oscars, the Emmys nominated a very diverse slate of actors and actresses, showing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science how it should be done.
  • While some old tired shows like Modern Family, Downton Abby and Homeland (although last season was a bit better) keep getting nominations, the Emmys are making progress in recognizing some newer shows that are really good.  I doubt the voters actually watch even a small portion of all the shows out there so we’ll see what actually wins but I am encouraged.  Usually on Emmy nomination day I just throw things at the TV – this year I’m in a much happier place!
  • It might be time for the TV Academy to rethink how they can reward these performances when there are over 450 scripted dramas a year in addition to comedies, mini-series, movies etc. Even I can’t watch 450 drama let alone the academy voters who are passing judgment on these shows.

Binging Update:

Jane the Virgin (the CW; Season 1 on Netflix)

When Jane the Virgin premiered a few years ago, I watched the pilot and decided it wasn’t really for me. After on-going critical acclaim, I decided I would try it again this summer. It is always difficult getting through an hour-long show with 22 episodes a season but I’m several episodes in and it is pretty good. The show has a lot of heart and strong performances by the actors.  The writing is great and I’m enjoying the world of the “Telenovela”.  With several new shows starting and vacation looming, I’m not sure how much more I’ll get through but I’m going to give it a go.

Best TV of 2015

January 4, 2016 – TV Shows

Before I launch into thoughts about the books, movies and TV shows that I’m currently involved with, you might like a glimpse into my tastes so I’ll do a “Top” list of 2015 for movies and TV shows as well as a list of interesting books I read last year so you can get a feel for the types of things that I like. I will mention again up front on the Movies and TV shows that I’m not a comedy person so unless there is a “dramedy”, you won’t see comedies on my lists. I’ll do these in separate posts, as they are a bit lengthy.

Top TV Shows of 2015

Let me just say that these are shows that I had to watch live each week as opposed to catching up later on DVR. It represents only a fraction of what I actually watch. You won’t see much in the way of Network offerings here. This list has some overlap with the top critics but certainly has shows on it that didn’t make any “Best of” iists.

  1. Rectify (Netflix and Sundance) – one of the best shows that I have ever seen it delves into the lives of a Georgia family after their son/brother is released from Death Row. Amazing acting, deep characterization and lots of Heart. How the lead character handles being in civilization after spending half of his life on Death Row is fascinating as is how his family adapts to him being back.
  1. The Americans. (FX) This show just gets stronger every season and last year was able to build a very compelling story line around a teenage daughter – something that few shows have been able to pull off. The acting is suburb; the episodes filled with tension and the plot moves forward with speed and agility. While the Emmys have ignored this show completely, it did win the Peabody award for best TV show of the year. Unfortunately, the first two seasons are not generally available except on ITunes (maybe Amazon Prime?) but seasons 3 and 4 are on Hulu.
  1. The Leftovers (HBO) Season 2 was brilliant. This show lost many viewers after the totally depressing (but still good) Season 1, which told the story of the book. Season 2 was all Damon Lindeloft and for lovers of Lost and other Lindeloft writing, you won’t be disappointed. The acting was great and the new characters really upped the level. There will be one final season and I hope it’s as great as this one.
  1. Castrophe (Amazon) and You’re the Worst (FXX) are exceptions to my “comedy” rule but they are much more “dramedy”. They are “rom coms” at their heart but with a drama element. YTW in particular dealt with depression expertly and Aya Cash’s acting will tear your heart out. You won’t be disappointed by either of these shows and they are my only ½ hour entries!
  1. Game of Thrones. (HBO)Ok – maybe it wasn’t the best season but I still love it. Hardhome was one of the best episodes not only in the history of Game of Thrones but also in the last 10 years of TV. The first half of the season dragged but the last few episodes (except for what they did with Jon Snow of course) were excellent.
  1. Wolf Hall (PBS) This short mini-series covered 2/3 of Thomas Cromwell’s life as depicted in the books Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel. Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell was brilliant and gives Cromwell so much character and dimension. Damian Lewis was a fun Henry VIII. This is a lot easier to get through than the books so try and find it especially if you couldn’t get through the books.
  1. Mad Men. I never watched Mad Men until I binged all 7 seasons this summer and it was worth it. The end was deeply satisfying and Jon Hamm deserves all the awards he can possibly get. I didn’t even mind January Jones.
  1. Robot. (USA) Who knew when I tuned on an obscure summer cable series about hacking it would be a tour de force. Newcomer Rami Malek was just suburb as the druggie, crazy lead and for several episodes, you have no clue as to what is real and what isn’t. Christian Slater is great as well. Not for everyone but really the surprise of the year. Given that the Golden Globes like “newcomers”, I am predicting a win for either the show or Malek this Sunday.
  1. Show Me a Hero (HBO) This short 6 hour mini series on the Yonker’s City Council’s fight to keep low-income housing out of the “good” part of town is fascinating. Oscar Issacs is a marvel in the lead and makes what, on the surface, seems like the most boring topic imaginable a story with immense tension and relevance for today. Don’t do what I did and google the story while you are watching it. There is an unexpected ending.
  1. The Affair and Homeland (Showtime)Not as good as the first (s) but I’ll watch Joshua Jackson and Claire Danes do anything and these were my fall Sunday night “go to” shows. Homeland is much better than it was during the “middle years” and the Affair while dropping off a bit from Season 1 still fascinates with the different viewpoints of the same situation. Not sure how long either can sustain their respective stories but I’m in for the duration.
  1. The Flash and the 100. Two years ago, I had never seen a CW show. Now I watch several and my favorites are the Flash and the 100. Both have good acting, great story lines and deep characterization. Yes, in typical CW fashion they are filled with very good-looking young people but what those young actors do is magic. Even if you don’t love Sci Fi or Marvel comics, there is something there for you.