Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Anne With An "E" Season 2

I have been eagerly anticipating the second season of the Netflix original series Anne With An "E" so I began binge-watching the new episodes on Friday and finished up yesterday.  I love the series of books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and read them often, and I love the 1985 miniseries, but I definitely can appreciate this re-imagining of the beloved characters with a contemporary spin.  I love the themes of love, friendship, standing up for what you believe, accepting those who are different, overcoming adversity, and pursuing your dreams.  I also love that this series doesn't shy away from examining the social issues of the day such as gender equality, prejudice, and class divisions with new stories that retain the spirit of the source material.  Anne (Amybeth McNulty) has many adventures including exposing a pair of grifters who want to defraud the inhabitants of Avonlea with false rumors of gold, teaching the farmhand Jerry (Aymeric Jett Montaz) how to read, interfering with a romance between Matthew (R.H. Thomson) and an old flame, playing spin-the-bottle, performing an elaborate Christmas pantomime, attending a party in Charlottetown thrown by Aunt Josephine (Deborah Grover), and dealing with the class bully Billy Andrews (Christian Martyn).  Gilbert (Lucas Jade Zumann) has his own adventures working on a steamship through the Caribbean, bringing a fellow sailor, Sebastian (Dalmar Abuzeid), back to Avonlea, and deciding to advance his studies with the hope of becoming a doctor.  For the purists, there are plenty of references to the source material.  Anne continues with the Story Club, recreates "The Lady of Shalott" on Barry's Pond, colors her hair green with dye from the peddler, and meets her beloved teacher Miss Stacy.  More importantly, there is the hope of a romance with Gilbert (that final scene, sigh!).  As with the first season, I enjoyed McNulty's bewitching performance as the irrepressible redhead, the relationship between Anne and Marilla (Geraldine James), especially when Marilla attempts to teach Anne about kissing, and the beautiful locations on Prince Edward Island, especially when Anne visits the sea for the first time.  While there are disturbing flashbacks to Anne's time in the orphanage, I think the tone is much more lighthearted this season so people might enjoy it more.  I definitely recommend this enchanting series!

Note:  I really love the theme song "Ahead by a Century" by The Tragically Hip, one of my favorite bands.  They are not as well known in the States as they are in Canada but I suggest you check them out!  Good stuff!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Victoria Season 2

There are so many shows for an Anglophile to enjoy lately!  In addition to The Crown, I have been pretty much obsessed with Season 2 of Victoria.  When Season 1 concluded, Victoria (Jenna Coleman) had just married Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and given birth to her first daughter.  The new season further emphasizes the passionate relationship between Victoria and Albert as well as Victoria's difficulty in finding a balance between being a wife and mother and her duties as Queen.  Victoria resents the fact that Albert enjoys ruling during her confinement and is eager to return to her duties after the birth.  She suspects Albert's desire for more children as a ploy to keep her in the nursery while he runs the country and he continues to struggle to find a role.  The episode where Victoria suffers from postpartum depression after the birth of her son is extremely powerful as is the episode where Albert  tries to give his children the happy childhood that he didn't have.  I also found the episode dealing with the potato famine in Ireland to be very emotional.  Finally, there are quite a few episodes which feature some of the defining elements of Victoria's reign, such as her love of the Scottish highlands, the many Christmas traditions brought from Germany by Prince Albert, and Albert's fascination with technology.  I really like the chemistry between Coleman and Hughes (I love how he says Victoria) and I have to admit that I much prefer the stories that emphasize them to the stories about the supporting characters like Ernest (David Oakes) and Harriet (Margaret Clunie) and Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) and Skerritt (Nell Hudson), although I find Diana Riggs's portrayal of the Duchess of Buccleuch, one of Victoria's Ladies in Waiting, to be an absolute hoot.  The production design for this series is outstanding with gorgeous costumes and sumptuous interiors, especially when Buckingham Palace is decorated for Christmas.  Much like with The Crown, I found myself googling events to find out about the historical accuracy and I'm always amazed when I find out what is really true!  Whenever I think of Queen Victoria, I think of a stern old woman dressed in black but this series is a compelling look at the passionate and dynamic young woman she was and I highly recommend it!

Note:  I couldn't wait for the series to conclude on PBS so I bought the DVD so I could watch it sooner!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Crown Season 2

I really loved The Crown, the Netflix original series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II which aired last year, and I have been eagerly anticipating Season 2.  When the new season aired in December, I binge watched all ten episodes in two days and have since watched every episode at least three times.  The new season follows the Royal Family from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.  Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) faces troubles in the government, including the attack on the Suez Canal and subsequent war, the defection of Commonwealth countries to the Soviet Union, and the Profumo scandal, as well as difficulties within her family, including rumors of infidelity by Prince Philip (Matt Smith), the disastrous marriage of Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) to Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), the difficulties faced by Prince Charles (Julian Baring) at Gordonstoun along with his turbulent relationship with his father, and proof of that the Duke of Windsor (Alex Jennings) conspired with Adolf Hitler during World War II.  Again, the series focuses on the difficult choices Elizabeth has to make and I was particularly struck by the scenes involving sending Charles to Gordonstoun.  As his mother, she knows that Eton College will be a better fit for the sensitive Charles but to keep the peace in her marriage she has agreed to let Prince Philip make all of the decisions about the children.  I also really enjoyed the scenes that humanize a woman who can sometimes seem to be a remote figure.  The scene where Elizabeth watches a ballerina, who she suspects is having an affair with Prince Philip, perform is absolutely heartbreaking and her jealousy of the dazzling Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour) is incredibly poignant.  Claire Foy gives a marvelous performance (she has the accent down pat), especially in the scenes with Matt Smith during the last episode.  Some of the revelations this season are pretty scandalous and I found myself googling events to see what is true!  Some plot points are embellished for dramatic effect but the Windsors certainly make for compelling television!  Finally, I especially liked the use of original photos at the end of some episodes such as Princess Margaret's scandalous portrait taken by Antony Armstrong-Jones and photos of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Adolf Hitler.  Both seasons of The Crown are currently on Netflix and I highly recommend them!

Note:  I can't wait for Season 3!  I've heard a rumor that Helena Bonham-Carter will be playing Princess Margaret (all of the characters are being recast because they are getting older).  I've also heard a rumor that Diana will make her first appearance at the end of Season 3!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Anne With An "E"

I love Anne of Green Gables!  As a Canadian girl myself, I have always considered Anne to be a kindred spirit.  I have read the entire series by L.M. Montgomery more times than I can count and I regularly watch my copy of the 1985 miniseries starring Megan Follows.  When I learned about a new adaptation on Netflix called Anne With An "E" I was intrigued but I heard some negative reviews so I didn't watch it immediately.  I decided to watch it this week and, while it is much darker in tone than the books and the miniseries, I really enjoyed it.  This new version has everything that die-hard fans would expect:  the dramatic apology to Mrs. Lynde, the missing brooch, the slate on Gilbert's head, the raspberry cordial mix-up, puffed sleeves, Minnie May's croup, and Aunt Josephine's guest room.  However, there are some changes to the source material which emphasize the subtext, most notably sending Anne back to the orphanage in Charlottetown,  Anne's negative reception in the town of Avonlea and at school, the death of Gilbert's father, and the financial problems of the Cuthberts.  These changes and the dark tone are what most people criticize about this version but I thought they made the story more realistic and they made me empathize more with the characters.  I especially appreciated the story line of Anne's comments about Prissy Andrews and Mr. Phillips, the Avonlea teacher.  Because of her rough background, Anne had been exposed to many things that girls her age would not have been and she didn't understand that talking about certain things would be considered inappropriate.  She was just commenting on something she observed with the Hammonds.  This really struck a chord with me because my niece, who spent time in foster care, was definitely wise beyond her years when she became a part of my family.  I also liked the relationship that was forged between Anne and Marilla as a result of Anne's struggles to fit in.  Through all of her trials, Anne still uses her incredible imagination to cope which is why I like the novels so much.  Next, Amybeth McNulty gives a bewitching performance as Anne and I also enjoyed Geraldine James as Marilla and R. H. Thomson as Matthew.  I will admit that I do prefer Jonathan Crombie (from the 1985 miniseries) as Gilbert Blythe but Lucas Jade Zumann eventually won me over  Finally, I loved the beautiful cinematography with sweeping shots of Prince Edward Island (it is on my bucket list to visit P.E.I.) and the atmospheric score.  I think people without any familiarity with the story will enjoy this series more than die-hard fans (but I do think it is possible for fans to appreciate it for what it is) and I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I have become obsessed with the PBS series Victoria.  This is probably no surprise to anyone who knows me because I am a bit of an Anglophile and I love historical dramas (I recently finished watching all four seasons of The Tudors and I watched the entire season of The Crown in two days).  The series begins on the day that an eighteen year old Victoria (Jenna Coleman), who has been sheltered by her mother at Kensington Palace her whole life, becomes queen.  It continues with her desire to free herself from her mother and her mother's adviser, Sir John Conroy, her relationship with and dependence on her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), and the birth of her first child.  As with The Crown, I really enjoyed getting to see the real girl behind the myth.  She is so passionate, exuberant, headstrong, and impulsive (I always think of her as the grief-stricken widow) and I think Coleman does an outstanding job of bringing her to life.  I also love Hughes' portrayal of Albert and I really enjoyed the love story between Victoria and Albert (I love the way he says her name).  Queen Victoria is an ideal subject for a series because she lived and ruled during such an interesting time in history with the advent of the Industrial Revolution (I am hoping that this will be explored more in future seasons; it is hinted at in one episode when Albert becomes fascinated by the locomotive).  The writing feels very authentic because it is informed by Victoria's own diaries.  The writers actually know how Victoria felt, for example, after seeing the opera Lucia di Lammermoor and they use her own words to describe that experience.  Of course, as with most PBS historical dramas, the production design is incredible with opulent sets and costumes (the coronation and wedding scenes are amazing).  There are some subplots involving the palace staff that seem a bit superfluous (they are trying too hard to be like Downton Abbey) but that is a minor criticism.  I loved it!  Now that the final episode has aired, I am in withdrawal and eagerly awaiting the next season.

Note:  I have found myself watching more and more TV lately.  I used to have a life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I absolutely love the PBS series Sherlock.  First of all, I find Benedict Cumberbatch to be strangely appealing.  I don't know what it is but there is just something about him (I've heard him called the thinking woman's sex symbol!) and the "high functioning sociopath" Sherlock Holmes is the perfect character for him.  In addition, I find the premise of the series, a modern-day update of the beloved stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to be incredibly clever.  As a fan of the source material, I love finding elements from the canon.  The obvious ones are the episodes "A Study in Pink," based on the story "A Study in Scarlet,"  "A Scandal in Belgravia," based on the story "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Hounds of Baskerville," based on the story "The Hound of the Barskervilles," and "The Reichenbach Fall" based on the story "The Final Problem."  However, there are lots of other subtle references, as well, and I love it when I figure them out.  My favorite is when they make a passing reference to a past case called "The Speckled Blonde" which comes from the story "The Speckled Band."  I could watch each episode over and over to find more references (yes, I am aware that I am a complete nerd).  I have been a fan since the first episode aired but Marilyn recently discovered Seasons 1-3 on Netflix.  She sent me a text gushing about the series to which I responded that I have been talking about it for years!  We have both been binge watching the first three seasons and texting each other quotes as we watch (see the comment about my nerd status above).  Then we discovered the PBS app on our fire stick (the best Christmas present ever) and binge watched Season 4.  Monday night we took our Mom (who has also become a fan) to see the Season 4 Finale on the big screen.  After the explosive events of Season 4, we were really looking forward to the finale and, oh my goodness, it did not disappoint!  I loved this episode (I don't want to say much, only one word: Redbeard) and, if the rumors are true and this is the end of the series, it is a good conclusion (but there is the possibility for it to continue).  This episode will be screened again in theaters tonight through Fathom Events and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of the series.  It was amazing to see it on the big screen but you can stream it on PBS, too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Crown

I have a giant, state-of-the-art smart TV with a sound bar and a subwoofer.  It took two guys the better part of a morning to install it and I won't mention how much it cost!  It is hardly ever on.  I don't find most of what is on TV these days to be that interesting and, moreover, many situation comedies look downright stupid to me.  When my colleagues start talking about shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or, more recently, The Walking Dead, I have no idea what they are talking about.  When people all around me lose their minds over Making a Murderer or Gilmore Girls, I just shake my head.  This weekend, however, my TV was hardly ever off!  I was binge-watching the entire season of The Crown on Netflix.  Friday night my sister Marilyn started texting me incessantly about this amazing show about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II that she was watching on Netflix.  It did, indeed, sound amazing and, after I remembered that I actually subscribe to Netflix (why?), I started watching Episode One when I got home from the symphony.  I was hooked!  The series begins with the marriage of Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and Philip Mountbatten (Matt Smith) then continues with her ascension to the throne of England at the age of 25, her relationship with Winston Churchill (John Lithgow), the scandal surrounding Princess Margaret's (Vanessa Kirby) relationship with the divorced Peter Townsend (Ben Miles) and the election of a new Prime Minister.  It is said to be one of the most expensive dramas ever produced, at a reported cost of over £100 million, and the production design is certainly lavish.  Many of Elizabeth's gowns, including her wedding gown and her coronation gown, have been painstakingly recreated.  I loved the coronation scene (filmed at Ely Cathedral rather than Westminster Abbey) because it interspersed actual footage, shown at a viewing party hosted by the Duke of Windsor (Alex Jennings), along with recreations by the actors.  In addition to the beautiful costumes and locations, I really like that the story humanizes the members of the Royal Family.  Elizabeth is called on time and again to choose duty over her personal life, especially with her sister (poor Margaret!).  She has a tumultuous relationship with Philip, who chafes under the demands of royal protocol.  She feels jealous of the bond that existed between her father and Margaret and is relentless in fulfilling her obligations because she still feels the need to make him proud of her.  She bemoans her lack of education and hires a tutor to help her deal with heads of state (the scene where she gives Winston Churchill a dressing down is another favorite).  All of the performances are great, especially Foy who has Elizabeth's accent down pat.  As soon as I finished Episode Ten, I started over again (the next season is already in production) because I love it so much!  I highly recommend this series!

Note:  I can count on one hand the TV shows I have enjoyed lately: Downton Abbey, The Forsyte Saga (which is currently being rebroadcast on PBS on Sunday nights), Sherlock, and now The Crown. Hmmm.  Do you think I might be an Anglophile?
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