Friday, August 14, 2015

TV Series You Must Not Miss!

I was a huge fan of this novel and I am pleased to say that the creators of this tv miniseries via the BBC have done an absolutely superb job adapting it to a visual medium. Novels and video are two entirely different media. What makes a great novel may not make a great screenplay without having someone excellent doing the adaptation. All the things that I only could imagine in my mind in the book have now been rendered into images and they are amazing!

One big scene in the opening of the book is a local society of magicians (who can do no magic) challenging Mr. Norrell to do a feat of magic. He sends them to the cathedral and then he brings the statues to life. This was enthralling to watch. Whoever did the art direction on this was a genius. The makeup, the costuming, the lighting--it was all superb. If one is going to believe in magic, which is the crux of this story, then the video of it must SHOW it to us. This the creators have done.

The Faerie King who Mr. Norrell meets one night is an exquisite rendition as well, both artistically as well as the actor playing him. He is one of the villains of the story and it is important that the villain be extraordinary. He is. Mr. Norrell is as ordinary in appearance and demeanor as he is in the book. Jonathan Strange, by contrast, is younger and more dashing, just as he was in the book. They were very well cast.

I read the book when it first came out. This may be helpful as I cannot now remember all the details from the book. This way I cannot compare the two detail by detail which would be a terrible distraction. I remember the big events in the book and that is not bothering me in the least. I think I appreciate them more with having a recollection but not a total one.

It is hard for me to imagine how any fan of the novel could want anything more. I certainly don't.

Better Call Saul A curious thing happened to me as I watched the first three episodes of this show, which is cable tv's AMC channel. It was that I grew more and more interested in Saul Goodman as a character. I liked him on BREAKING BAD. He was great comic relief on BB with some of the outfits he wore as a criminal lawyer in court. Here we see Saul in his formative years on making it as a lawyer. His opening scene in court does battle with William Hurt's court room scene in BODY HEAT as the epic scene of a lawyer with guilty defendants wherein the judge cautions him that he needs to find himself a better class of client. Both scenes are wonderful and I could see them again and again (which I have done with BH). 

Although Saul Goodman seems to be the living embodiment of every bad joke about attorneys, he is at heart a more moral man than Walter White of BB. When shown the easy way out, just shaft your fellow man in the form of twin skateboard scammers, Saul has a very odd prickly conscience which steps in. Vince Gilligan, the creator, has outdone himself again by writing masterful screenplays about another character who has never been seen on series tv before, Saul Goodman. Count me in as a big fan of Bob Onderdonk (Saul).

Julia L-D does my favorite season of VEEP so far with Season 4. She is President this season but it will only be for a very short while, as she is up for reelection very shortly. Her staff, as usual, is always on the edge of disaster in handling both her presidency and her reelection campaign. Her most competent staff member is her secretary.

Every season there has been a surprise guest star. This season it is Hugh Laurie from "House." He comes in about half way through until the end and is terrific. Many viewers don't know he spent most of his acting life as a comedic actor before he got "House." So he is up to handling the quicksilver comedy of Julia L-D. 

I first became a fan of Julia's on SEINFELD. There was nothing inept about her character on that show. However, she got to really go to town on the characteristics of shallow and self absorbed. No one will ever forget her yelling at the "Soup Nazi", "Next!" on "Seinfeld" as she finally got the upper hand with him.

Thus, VEEP always falls to her as to whether it will make it or not as a tv show. She is VEEP. Her medium has always been tv. She has done movies and been ok but they never seem to work out long range for her like tv does. Lucille Ball had a similar history in films vs. tv as did Mary Tyler Moore. TV is definitely more tolerant of the aging woman and all three comic actors have richly benefitted from that perspective.

As for her staff, Gary is my next favorite. He is the one most devoted to her. He has a huge screw up potential, which he realizes regularly. He and Selina (Julia) even square off for a heck of a fight this season. But they back down after a sharp exchange because no one else is as devoted to either of them.

I also watched the English series upon which this was based. They are very different even though they are both political satires about the ineptness of politicians always trying to satisfy their fickle voters. 

I have been a stalwart fan since Episode 1, Season 1. Apparently there is a loyal but small group of us and a lot of others who went and watched something else. This is the most artistic show of its sort I have ever seen. Each episode is like being in an art gallery. True, there is some very dark work but it is art. This is the show which also introduced me to Mads M as Hannibal. I had never seen him in anything before. Now I am watching some of his foreign movies. He is a terrific acting talent. He is Scandinavian, not American. Like all actors today, he speaks flawless American English for the part as does Hugh Dancy, who drops his British accent for the show.

I watched the show initially because of Hugh Dancy. I like the Will character and he is doing a good job. But Hannibal rises and falls on Hannibal. This season, Gillian Anderson's role has been enlarged and she is either Hannibal's consort or his wife (he introduces her as his wife). She is Hannibal's former psychiatrist. They are now in Europe together posing as other people to stay under the radar of American law enforcement. Shown on the cover is exactly how Hannibal starts the season, roaring in clad in leather on his motorcycle in Europe.

As for the bloodbath Hannibal left in America at the end of Season 2, with typical sleight of hand the creators keep us guessing. For awhile we might think someone survived only to find out that person is not really there but is an hallucination a survivor is experiencing. The characters all meet again at the Italian Museum which has Botticelli's painting of "Primavera." This is a favorite painting of mine so it really amped the episode for me. Two corpses were even dressed like the two characters to the extreme right in the painting. That painting generally is accepted as a representation of the burgeoning fertility of Spring. I certainly hope Hannibal will not be branching out to fatherhood! 

The sculptural creations are superb as well. There is a creature in the second episode which is half stag and half man. It is one of the most amazing beings I've ever seen constructed. The chrysalis stage it emerges from is equally creative.

Although NBC carried this show for three seasons. It has not been picked up for a fourth. Netflix and Amazon have both turned it down so a fourth season is looking unlikely.

This was one of the great book series set in India, known as "The Raj Quartet". It is a great work of literature and its coming to the screen was a big event years ago when it first played on PBS. It came to us from the UK's BBC. It is set in India in the 1940s and it covers the era when the British are finishing up their colonial rule of India as part of their Empire. World Word II is ongoing as it opens and the Japanese are threatening India. 

The most fascinating character is the the District Superintendent of Police, Merrick, played perfectly by Tim Pigott-Smith. He is the villain and epitomizes everything bad that happened under British rule of India. His racism is just short of rabid. Hari Kumar, an Indian, comes under suspicion of subversion by Merrick, and also of rape of an English girl.

The English acted as if they had never left England. They made no attempt to fit into India as a country or a culture. They set up their own clubs, their own events, their own circles of people and so forth. They followed every single step of the day they had followed as English men and women back home. This is important because this is why countries now know that imperial colonialism does not work. To come into a huge other country, know nothing about it and then try to run that country is a disaster in the making. Now when one country tries to have a lot of say in another country, it is done through financial and military means rather than literally trying to run that country.

This set of novels is called the Raj Quartet and was written by Paul Scott. This tv series covers this whole failed way of life brilliantly. Don't miss this. It is one of the UK's best tv series.

This is "The Slap" American remake of the Australian original series. I chose to watch it because Peter Saarsgard is in it and he is such a marvelous actor. He did not disappoint as was the rest of the cast. It is based upon by the novel by Christos Tsiolkas.

The people at this party chose to ignore that a child has serious behavior problems and that his parents have taken no steps to take the problem in hand. The parents are busy drinking at this party. The child's behavior is so bad that most responsible adults would want to remove both him and his parents from the premises regardless of what happened to the friendship. One of the other parents slaps the kid when the kid kicks him in the shin. That is the premise for the entire series. That one slap sets off the entire action of the series.

Things immediately get progressively uglier. The child's parents think they are going to have an easy time in court because they must be in the right. Things are not that simple though. Both sides try lining up everyone at the party to be witnesses for their side. All the people at the party also do not find it clear cut who to favor. 

These are very realistic problems with a well written script and a superb cast. I was hooked watching this realistic drama unfold. The best part though is that there is a heck of a twist in the story that made total sense but was wholly unexpected. That twist was great.


  1. Check out Last Tango in Halifax. It's streaming on Netflix and it's just great.

  2. There are so many fantastic, wonderful British TV series I don't even know where to begin. But a short list of my current favourites would be Happy Valley, Grantchester, Poldark, Vera and George Gently. As for others, I just finished watching the Swedish series 30 Degrees in February (2 seasons) and it left me crying (literally) for more. Possibly the best TV series ever. I would also recommend the Australian series "The Code". Similar to but at least 10 times better than the American series "The Killing" (which I would also recommend).