Anne here for this month's Ask A Wench, and the question of the moment is, "What movies or TV shows have you enjoyed lately?"
We start with Pat. I record TV and never know how long the shows have been in the DVR. Looking at the list of unwatched programs, I’d say I have apparently stopped watching most regular TV. I used to love Modern Family until it got stale. Elementary has good and bad years, depending on the writers. The Good Place is still watchable, but they’re pushing their limits.
So lately we’ve been streaming a few shows. Dietland is marvelously well-written and acted but occasionally violent. At the moment, I think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is my very favorite. Set in the early 60s, when Lenny Bruce kept getting thrown in jail for using obscenities in public (yes, kiddies, saying the F word would get you sent to jail), it’s about a young housewife with a gift for comedy. This was not a time when it was easy for a young mother to balance home and career, but the fact that her career is in sleazy nightclubs and makes little money stretches credulity a bit. The show is produced by the gifted people who created Gilmore Girls, so expect laughter, a little societal satire, and not total realism. But looking at the early 60s from our current perspective is entertaining, and the witty dialogue is laugh worthy.
Nicola here. With the new series of Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel, starting tonight, my Sunday night viewing is sorted for the next month and I’m very excited. I love this series with its flawed and fascinating characters, the period setting of 1960s Oxford and the clever plots. I’ve watched and re-watched the previous series so many times.
The other TV programme I’ve been really enjoying is a BBC series called Pubs, Ponds and Power, The Story of the Village. It looks at four very different English villages from the time they were first created through to the present, covering the archaeology, history, community and people from lots of different angles. It’s completely fascinating to see how these different places have evolved and what village life has been like there from Saxon times to the present day. It’s both engaging and informative.
Movies, and I was so impressed with Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old film about the First World War, where he restored original black and white silent film footage from the Imperial War Museum in London and colorised it, adding a soundtrack and interviews with servicemen. It was a tough watch but so poignant and emotional and it captured the conflict in a way that’s never been seen before. Next on my “must see” list is The Favourite which tells the story of Queen Anne’s relationship with two of her closest female confidantes, and another historical drama, All is True, about the later life of Wiliam Shakespeare. There’s lots of really good viewing at the moment!
Andrea says, I usually curl up with a book rather than watch TV or go to a movie. But I’ve recently been a viewing spree. On a friend’s recommendation, I started watching Endeavor, which is a British detective series set in Oxford during the 1960s, featuring a young Inspector Morse. He’s a very dark and flawed character, but fascinating, and the interplay with his mentor is lovely to see unfold. That also got me glomming the original Inspector Morse episodes. I’m conflicted about them—the mysteries are very interesting and well done. But the older Morse isn’t a very nice or likeable person. Watching him struggle with his demons is unsettling at times. I’m probably going to move on to something else.
I’ve also seen a spate of movies—for once I’ll be very hip for the Oscars, as I've actually seen a number of the nominees! I absolutely loved The Favourite, which is a historical film about Queen Anne and her relationshipship with two close women friends. It’s very snarky black humor and stretches some of the history, but the acting is wonderful, as are the costumes and cinematography (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are brilliant.) I highly recommend it. On the Basis of Sex was also terrific–a true heroine! It’s not often that moviegoers in a NYC theatre stand up and cheer—which is what happened at the very last scene (sorry, no spoilers!) The Green Room and Lady Gaga in the remake of A Star Is Born were very enjoyable too. So that’s my report . . . now it’s back to my books!
From Mary Jo: We have a taste for British style mystery shows–which aren't necessarily set in Britain. A favorite is The Murdoch Mysteries, a Canadian series set in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century. The central character, Detective William Murdoch, has a scientific bent and he's always using or inventing new technological ways to solve crimes. There is a lively cast of characters who have grown over the years, and a satisfying long running romance. I like that there is humor as well as clever puzzles, and I really like the way the characters have grown and changed over the seasons. There are also sometimes "Making of Murdoch" mini features where they explain how they find the locations and other bits of Canadian history.
Another British style mystery that we really enjoy is New Zealand's The Brokenwood Mysteries, in which shaggy detective Mike Shepherd and his team deal with murder in a small North Island town. Again, there is humor, good writing, good characters, clever puzzles, and wonderful New Zealand scenery that makes me want to visit again!
And now, Susan. So many favorite shows to choose from! Here are two that I've been recommending to friends lately. A few months ago we discovered Bodyguard, a new BBC hit series. It's riveting, just compelling. Scotsman Richard Madden (who played Robb Stark in Game of Thrones) stars as David Budd, a young British army veteran now working in London, assigned as police protection to a demanding female Home Secretary, while he juggles a rocky marriage and two small kids. His intense character, steeped in loyalty and duty with conflicts in relationship and within himself, is fascinating–he's flawed, noble, heroic, reserved, complex. The storytelling is fast, intense, often brilliant. And Madden's Scottishness (not evident in GoT) is an added bonus. So far there's only one season, but what a powerful run of episodes! I truly hope there will be more.
Something lighter and equally enjoyable, we caught up on the final season of The Detectorists, which has become one of my favorite series ever–an absolutely stunning little gem of a series, quiet, amusing, cerebral, heart-based, adorable, heartbreaking, tranquil, exciting, wonderful, all at once. Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean) is the creative mind behind this award-winning British comedy, and with Toby Jones, equally brilliant, they pursue their beloved hobby as detectorists, walking the fields of Britain with metal detectors, searching for buried treasure.
Mostly they find pop-tops and nails, duly added to collections, and also find the occasional glimmer of something greater buried somewhere. The characters are quirky and convincing, the continuing story whimsical and beautifully paced, the setting in the English countryside and villages perfect, the film quality evocative and peaceful. The humor is gentle and intelligent, and the ensemble cast excellent (including DIana Rigg and her real-life daughter). The Detectorists is like meeting up with warm, lovely friends and being part of their lives and hopes. I'm so excited each time they discover something — even if it's just another soda can. I will watch it again and again.
Jo Bourne says: I feel like the odd one out. I don't have a TV and don't go to movies. I'm pretty much a watcher of what comes through the computer. That doesn't mean I don't see a good bit of video one way and another on YouTube and Netflix. It's just that I don't see much "new" TV.
This is a 12-part BBC series that follows a group of reenactors — archeologists and social historians — living and working on a small farm on the Welsh border in the 1620s. Each segment of the program represents one month in the agricultural year.
So we got folks, some of whom just theorized about this stuff, taking care of the horse and the pigs, plowing the fields, cooking, putting apples into storage,baking bread, shearing sheep, and — in somewhat more enjoyable interludes — celebrating Christmas and Midsummer Day.
Our historians are game but maybe a bit hapless. If this were fiction we'd call it a "Fish out of water" story.
Anne: I don't have a TV set either — a temporary state of affairs; I'll buy one after my house renovations are completed. In the meantime I keep up to date with some TV shows via my computer, both on youtube and on catch-up TV. I'm also a fan of Endeavour, and recently I watched an excellent three-part British series called Mrs Wilson, (video trailer here) about a woman who, on the death of her husband of twenty years, gradually discovers almost everything she's based her life on is a lie. Lies within lies within lies— and then maybe some truths woven in and what can she believe? It's particularly fascinating because it's based on a true-life story, and the actress who plays Mrs Wilson is the grandaughter of the original woman.
As for films, I recently joined some other writers in a small informal film group and as a result I've seen more movies in the last few months than I have in the last ten years, some of which I probably would never have chosen, but all of which have been interesting. I also enjoyed the costumes and superb acting in The Favourite, though I didn't like the film so much. I really enjoyed Collette, and also The Green Book. You can watch a trailer clip of The Green Book here.
The most recent film we saw was On the Basis of Sex, another one we all enjoyed. It's about the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a US lawyer, feminist, activist and member of the Supreme Court of the United States.
At the very end, there was a lovely shot that started with the actress playing Ginsberg climbing the stairs to the Supreme Court that then merged into the real Ruth Bader Ginsberg aged 85 walking in, and I thought how wonderful to have your achievements celebrated in your lifetime. Mind you, the real Ruth Ginsberg looked a MUCH tougher cookie than the actress who played her. <g> The actress-Ruth was pretty and stubborn and brilliant etc. but the real Ruth had a weighty presence that was almost tangible. That little touch at the end, for me, added a whole other layer.
So now, over to you wenchly readers — what films or TV shows have you been enjoying lately?