Despite the pleasure that I draw from my Netflix account, both on-line and old school dvd’s in the red envelope, I am finding myself drawn to my neglected telly thanks to a bunch of outstanding or irreverent or just plain funny shows that have caught my attention.
Downton Abbey is back for its second season on PBS/Masterpiece (Sunday – 9pm but if you can’t be bothered to tune in I believe the entire series, that already aired in England, is available on DVD). Sucker as I am for anything English and period, this mini-series that was not destined to have a continuation ended up being so wildly successful that its creator, Julian Fellowes, resumed writing it. Set against the backdrop of World War I, the story unfolds within the walls of Downton Abbey, the residence of the titled Crawley family and it is a mix of “The Remains of the Day” and “Upstairs Downstairs”, covering the travails and joys of both nobility and servants. It just doesn’t get any better and Maggie Smith has lines so good, it makes you look forward to getting old.
I just read that Mistresses is back on Wednesday (BBC – 10pm). I had given up hope of ever seeing this group of girlfriends ever again. Set in London in contemporary times, these smart and attractive women that could indeed be your girlfriends, lead interesting yet ordinary lives – the married woman who is a sex addict and betrays her husband with nameless men in casual encounters, the doctor who helps euthanize her lover and then embarks on an affair with his son, the home maker whose husband re-appears after nearly 10 years….ok, maybe my girlfriends don’t live such outlandish lives (god have mercy if they did) but these women have credible dialogues, are spotted actually doing work for a living and don’t have closets filled with couture a la Sex and the City. Guilty pleasure at its best.
Staying in England, The Hour, one of the best shows of the year, will also be back on BBC. Taking place in the ’50’s, it depicts the rise of independent reporting in the midst of political life changing events, peppered with a wonderful female producer figure and espionage twists and turns. If you haven’t seen the first series, rent it while waiting for the second.
Poised to start in February on HBO, Life’s too Short is Ricky Gervais’ new tv venture. I find this man extremely funny: vulgar, caustic, dry, his humour rubs Americans the wrong way and, yes, nothing, I mean, absolutely nothing is sacred to Mr. Gervais, making many people uncomfortable. But The Office was a groundbreaking comedic show – still better than the Steve Carrell’s version – and Extras was downright funny. Life’s too short is again shot documentary style and follows the life of a dwarf actor (or little person, in a more p.c. fashion). Can’t wait.
At this point, you can accuse me of a bad case of “Anglophilia” and you would be right but, when it comes to tv, the Brits do it better. Having said that, on my Netflix list are Breaking Bad and Homeland – my most trustworthy friends who do watch tv can’t stop talking about them so I must trust them and start watching. Breaking Bad is about a chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer and Homeland is exactly what you think it is and it is rumoured President Obama is a fan.
On HBO I have been following Boardwalk Empire that, if I don’t love in a visceral way, I can’t deny being excellent. The only mafia show I really ever revered was, you guessed, The Sopranos, but this romp in gangster life in the 40’s is classy. Luck, with Dustin Hoffman, and set in the world of horse racing (shot at our very own Santa Anita race track), looks promising and, for the meanest humour ever, I believe Curb Your Enthusiasm will be able to make me cringe again some time soon.
Something to look forward to as I settle in for another dreary winter.