Category Archives: Great television

Newest Binge-watching: “The Leftovers”

I am sitting in a semi-dark room.  It’s 10:07 pm.  I want to hurry and finish my blog for tonight so I can go watch television.  We are binge-watching “The Leftovers” and we are midway through Season 2.  I think there are 3 seasons.  I would say this show has a compelling premise, which is that 3 years before 2% of the world’s population disappeared in an instant.  A sort of “rapture,” but without a religious aspect. It’s not just the “good” people who have been called up to heaven, but rather a random selection of folks, good, bad and in between, who suddenly are simply gone.  The series is about those who are left behind, The Leftovers, and how they cope with the major worldwide disappearance.

This series is based on a novel written by Tom Perrota, who also wrote Little Children, and is produced by Damon Lindelof.  The main stars are Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Carrie Coon and Liv Tyler.  The acting is excellent, the problems ring true given the circumstances and the storytelling is compelling.  I won’t know how I feel about the series until I’ve seen it all, but so far, it definitely has captured my interest.

Here is a trailer for Season One:

Okay, off I go to watch at least one more episode before I go to sleep!

Talk tomorrow.

 

Grace and Frankie: Worth Watching

I have just finished watching the first and second seasons of Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I realize I am late to the G and F party, but I’d like to put in a good word for this original HBO series. It is funny, topical and, of course, well-acted. Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston complete the primary acting quartet and, while not as fluid as Lily and Jane, they do a great job of portraying two 70-year-old men who have finally admitted to the world that they love each other. That is the premise of the series: two husbands who are law partners finally admit to their wives after 40 years of marriage that they have had an affair with each other for the past 20 years and want divorces so they can get married. This premise provides an opportunity to cover a lot of topics on the show: love, sex, betrayal, gay issues, straight issues, family issues and most importantly, aging issues.

The most refreshing and novel aspect of Grace and Frankie is that it is about people in their seventies. This is not your usual television fare because these 70-year-olds are healthy folks who just happen to be the age that most of us think of as “old” and yet they aren’t really that old at all. They are definitely older than the usual protagonists in television, but they each defy the stereotype of aging. And they tackle tough issues while they are at it, such as a love interest of Grace’s whose wife has advanced Alzheimer’s and end-of-life decisions for one of Frankie and Grace’s closest friends who has learned that her cancer has spread all over her body.

The gist is that this series, which I initially resisted I must admit, is well written and has a lot to say to those of us who are getting older, but who face challenges daily about love, sex, friendship, career, relationships and family.

Suffice it to say that I highly recommend this series. It is not always perfect but it has its charm, primarily because the approach to all issues is never the easy way out. These characters work their way through their feelings on some tough life problems, and they do it with a genuine desire to look at all sides of whatever it is they are dealing with. That is impressive in itself.

Grace and Frankie can be found on Netflix.

Give it a look-see for some thought-provoking television that is also entertaining.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê
Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.

Nurse Jackie: Learning As I Watch

Ray has returned from Texas and this evening we will be celebrating by binge watching more of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco. For those of you who are also late to the game in terms of watching this Emmy award-winning series (2009 – 2015), I can say that it takes a hard look at addiction and its ramifications while also showing the human side of a woman who is doing her best to cope with life. There is humor, pathos and some plain silly storytelling that lightens what could be too heavy a load when dealing honestly with the “cunning nature” of addiction.

I highly recommend this series. Beautifully acted, honestly depicted. You will learn just how tough it can be to stay straight once trapped in addiction. No romanticization here. Truth, pure and simple.

And I do not know how it ends so please do not tell me!

Nurse Jackie

What’s Good about “Six Feet Under”

Ray and I are down to the last four episodes of the television series Six Feet Under, which aired from 2001 to 2005. (Yes, I know we are slightly behind the rest of the modern world.) I have a few thoughts on this series before I view these last episodes. I may not feel a need to comment afterwards; however, I have been told that the finale is considered the most satisfying ending of any series in television history. I guess we’ll see…

What makes the series so compelling is that characters are completely imperfect in their approach to life. This includes not only the Fisher family, who own a family funeral home, but also the minor characters who often are part of the family of the person who died at the beginning of each episode. Of course, the structure of this series is near-perfect since there are a thousand ways to die and a thousand reactions to death from family and friends. All of that makes for rich material to mine for the writer, but, more importantly, the series originator, Alan Ball, must have insisted on no sugar-coating. These characters are real. They fart, throw up, make terrible choices, say stupid things, hurt each other and act like complete jackasses half the time without any red bows showing up at the end of the hour to tie everything up in a pretty Christmas package. This is an unapologetic look at life through the lens of the show’s creator, which seems to celebrate the wacky, discombobulated way life actually works versus some made-for-tv movie.

The other aspect of the series that makes it special is that the writers do not shy away from tough subjects. They have dealt with almost any social problem one can name from adoption to sex addiction to mental illness x 2 to physical illness to artistic angst. There is no moralizing; these issues are presented as they would appear in real life and the characters do their best to cope with them.

Finally, the use of magic realism adds a special touch to the series. We get a vision of life after death from the perspective of several of the main characters – which is at the very least entertaining – and each member of the Fisher family is routinely visited by Nathaniel Fisher, the dead patriarch of the clan. This often provides deeper understanding of a person or situation, but can sometimes just be downright funny. Whatever the case, this decision to go into the afterlife gives the stories greater depth.

So, yes, I would highly recommend this series even if it’s ancient history by today’s standards. It remains one of the most lauded series on television for good reason – crazy good storytelling with an eye to the honest. What more could you want for a night’s entertainment?

six feet under

Off to See Where the Famous Are Buried

Today my cousin, his wife and I went to Westwood Village Memorial Park at 1218 Glendon Avenue in Westwood to see the cemetery where many Hollywood stars are buried. The most famous is Marilyn Monroe. Below are tombstones of a few people who are familiar to most of us. It’s a great small cemetery directly behind the Westwood Public Library. It takes a little effort to find it, but it is well worth a visit if you are a fan of movie and tv stars.  These are just a fraction of the stars who are buried there.  Here is a link to the site that covers everyone: http://www.seeing-stars.com/Buried2/PierceBros3.shtml

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Great Television: Better Late Than Never

Ray and I have finished all of Friday Night Lights – yes, that’s like 65 episodes – and now we have begun Six Feet Under. Who knew television could be so good? We watched episode one tonight.

Six Feet Under starring Rachel Griffiths, Peter Krause, Michael C.Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Justina Machado, Jeremy Sisto and James Cromwell
Six Feet Under starring Rachel Griffiths, Peter Krause, Michael C.Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Justina Machado, Jeremy Sisto and James Cromwell

We are also watching the second season of True Detective, which is also excellent. One of the main characters on Friday Night Lights, Taylor Kitsch, is starring along with Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn. He had a great role on FNL and is doing a bang up job in this series, as well. Fun to watch him as a grown man since he played a teenager on FNL. Interesting to see his growth as an actor.

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I am happy that good television is possible. I realize I’m late to the party with Friday Night Lights and Six Feet Under. I guess I was too busy doing something else when they were on. Still, watching them on Netflix works very well since there is no lag time between episodes. Ray and I watch late at night after we are settled in bed.

Okay, I need to head upstairs. We’re up early tomorrow to go to the orange grove in Ojai. We are leaving literally before dawn since a heat wave is due to arrive in the LA area tomorrow and last for several days.

I hope you are having a good evening, my friends. I will check back in again tomorrow.

 

Back Home

Tonight we are back home in LA in a quiet house. We have been very busy working and traveling and entertaining for the past several weeks so the calm of our home feels good. We have returned to our guilty pleasure at present: binge watching older television series. Right now we are watching the 1st season of Friday Night Lights and are enjoying it. I realize we are late to the party on this series since most people watched it when it was airing. I had heard it was good; it’s true, it’s very good. Texas football and small town drama is part of my history. My little town of 7000 was not that different from the town depicted in the series. We lived and breathed football and everything related to it. I am looking forward to getting to know these characters through the next several seasons we’ll eventually watch. That is the fun of Netflix. You can watch a series from beginning to end at your leisure and not wait for one episode per week. We’ll be pacing this one out for sure since I think there are five years of episodes. Lordy.

Alright, folks, I hope everyone is having a good Friday night. I am headed upstairs to bed since we’ll be volunteering at the Breakfast Club tomorrow for our homeless brothers and sisters.

Sleep well. I’ll check back in with you tomorrow.

Friday Night Lights