The History Channel offered a capitvating documentary mini-series on the life of Ulysses S. Grantthis week. It’s still available online. We saw it advertised when watching The Last Dance and thought it would be worth checking out. I didn’t know much about Grant other than he was an important General during the Civil War and not much of a president. I’ve learned that that was an inaccurate view of a brave, intelligent man.
Grant grew up poor. His father was a tanner and both parents were staunch abolitionists. He went to West Point where he wasn’t a shining star, but he met men like Robert E. Lee and other future Civil War leaders. When he fought in the Mexican-American War, his distaste for war was solidified, but he also proved to be unique in his ability to think clearly in the heat of battle.
This documentary features several notable historians and shows the complexity of a great military strategist and a popular President who’s become forgotten through the decades. The commentary is interspersed with excellent reenactments.
Part of the reason for Grant’s tarnished reputation is that in the 1960s, Southern historians published profusely and changed the narrative reshaping Grant’s life so that he came across as a drinker who became a corrupt President.
From this documentary you learn the complexity of Ulysses S. Grant. He was an abolitionist whose father-in-law bought him a slave, a slave that he soon freed. At the time Grant was poor and couldn’t support his family, but believed in equality and though he could have made a lot of money by selling rather than freeing this man, chose to free him. Yes, Grant drank, but he also knew that was a weakness and dealt with it. He’s a man who knew failure and poverty, but overcame them. He was an honest man, a military genius, and popular President who sought to bring a divided country together.
Grant is a gripping documentary from start to finish.
I’ve sped through two 6 episode seasons of Derry Girls and loved every minute. Set in Londonderry in the 1990s when Northern Ireland was experiencing the “Troubles” a time of military occupation and bombings by the IRA, Derry Girls focuses on a tight knit group of teenage girls growing up amidst violence. In spite of all this we see Erin Quinn and her friends and family dealing with taking exams, the goody-two shoes at school, mothers, the fragility of a friendship.
Writer Lisa McGee is adept at weaving stories together and taking her audience on a funny and meaningful tour of teenage Ireland. I commend her for the funniest laundry joke I’ve ever seen and for adeptly mixing hilarity and pathos. She protects no sacred cows. Now there is a lot of swearing, so you’ve been warned.
Each actor superb and as an ensemble they produce delight from start to finish. There is no weak link in this cast.
I can’t wait for Season 4.
Derry Girls is available on Netflix and www.meilju22.com.
Last week’s Poldark began with lots of romance, but then ended with tragedy. As the story opens, Morwenna’s in bed with Drake having gotten past all her rotten feelings about sex, caused by that lecherous first husband Ossie. Drake’s brother Sam is now wooing a pretty blond named Rosina. Yet treacherous Tess, whom I wish would disappear, is flirting with godly Sam, trying to tempt him with religion. How’s that for irony?
Ned’s in prison and Kitty’s been giving the guards bribe money to keep him safe. When Ned’s trial begins things don’t look good. Plenty of paid witnesses are lying on the stand. Ross is called to speak and gives a passionate testimony, but he went too far and sounded so rebellious that he probably did more harm than good. Dwight was urged to speak and now that he’s helped George and maybe one other person overcome mental illness, he’s an expert. He states that he’s sure that Ned’s mentally ill and didn’t mean to almost kill the King. What? Dwight, you must realize that an asylum for the mentally ill is arguably worse than death in 1800.
My biggest criticism of the episode and the one prior is how George is suddenly well. He has no more hallucinations or mental problems whatsoever. It doesn’t seem possible.
Ned Despard is a real historical figure. So the show can’t go to far from the truth. Ned did govern the British Hondura after his time fighting in the American Revolution. The real Ned Despard plotted to overturn the government and kill King George III. In the show Ned seems innocent, while history says he wasn’t. So the show departed from history and I can see that the highest punishment would be meted out for treason.
Cecily’s father arranges for her to marry George as soon as possible. George can never love any woman as much as he did Elizabeth, but he’s practical and a lady in the house would help with the kids as well as bring more into the world. Cecily and Geoffrey Charles must elope and they do run away, but are caught.
Ross plans to break Ned out of jail with the help of Dwight, whose wife Caroline insists he goes along. Caroline usually pines for Dwight to stay home with her or to take her to London, but she also has high principles.
Cecily and George’s grim wedding begins. There’s to be no party and the guests present are her father, George’s Uncle Cary, Valentine and a lady who must work at the church. Geoffrey Charles burst in and almost stops the wedding. He’s carried out, but before he leaves, Cecily lies and says that she was intimate with Geoffrey Charles, who then tells George that he’ll never know if his first born is really his or Geoffrey Charles’ child. That ends the wedding. (Though George is pretty cold hearted and could wait to make sure, so this plot twist could have been better.)
After risking everything Ned tells Ross he’s not going to escape. This is an odd turn of events and weakened the plot for me. Ned has to be executed since that’s the history, but then just have him go off to his sentence rather than add this part.
While I do wonder what’s next for Ross and Demelza, I’m very curious to know what will happen to Cecily and Geoffrey Charles. My guess is her father will kick her out and they’ll elope, but you never know.
The episode had lots of change and action, but there is something about this season that seems off. I suppose I can’t get past the difference between Winston Graham’s stories and the original ones written this year by Deborah Hosfield, who’s a wonderful writer, but there’s a difference between adapting and creating.
Three of the Downton Abbey cast members, Michele Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Allen Leech, review Maggie Smith’s best lines from the TV series.
While I like Les Misérables, and the novel’s one of my favorite books, there’s some je nes sais quoi aspect that is missing in this production. Perhaps I can’t help but compare a Les Misérables production to the musical, but then why am I completely satisfied with the classics with Michel Simon and Jean Gabin? I watched them after reading the book or seeing the musical and was swept up by the stories. With this version, I’m a bit detached.
This week resumes with Cosette pining for Marius, who’s rather mopey in my opinion. Marius’ friends led by Enjolras decide to seize the moment of General LaMarque’s funeral to start a revolution that will bring about the social change they seek, i.e. better treatment for the poor. Marius is teased for being so in love that he can’t focus on a revolution.
The penniless Marius decides to eat crow and visit his awful grandfather to ask permission to marry. The old man scoffs and just suggests Marius put the girl gramps believes is a pauper up in an apartment and amuse himself till it’s time to marry for status and wealth. Gramps is simply advising Marius to do what he did. To his credit, Marius is appalled and vows to never cross the threshold of his grandfather’s mansion.
After escaping from jail, Éponine finds Marius and promises to give Cosette a letter from him. Though she’s in love with Marius, she’s willing to aid his love for her rival. She confronts her evil, abusive father in her efforts and while for a time hides Cosette’s new address she eventually tells Marius all and even sacrifices her life for him. The problem with this production was that the love Éponine shows looks so thin. I wondered why she died so Marius, who’s a bit of a wet noodle, could live.
The funeral procession seemed less epic, and probably more authentic, than in the musical. All hell does break loose, but this rush to the barricades didn’t have the impact on me as a viewer as other productions did.
Javert continues to obsessively want to capture Jean Valjean more than he wants to quell a rebellion. This time I wanted a colleague or superior to knock him over the head or ship him off to an asylum.
Jean Valjean fears Thenardiér and the police and plans to leave France after a few days at a new secret apartment. In addition to retrieving the fortune he’s stashed in the woods, he has to deal with Cosette’s teenage rebellion. Like all her age, she can’t see that her love isn’t quite as important as saving her adopted father’s life. Well, it’s almost excusable as she’s not fully aware of Jean Valjean’s situation. But she does know enough. She’s the one who cleaned his wounds after his fight with Thenardiér’s thugs. He has told her he was in prison. She must remember how he saved her from abuse and neglect.
The episode takes us up to Jean Valjean arriving at the barricade. He’s finally discovered Cosette’s secret romance and selflessly goes to help Marius.
For the most part, Masterpiece has followed Hugo’s story, but as I said something’s missing. Je souhaite que je nouveau quoi.
This should whet your whistle for the finale on Sunday.
This was the penultimate episode of Season 3. I’m not ready for this season to end.
This week the thread that captured my interest the most was between Sophie, her lover the footman Joseph and her mean husband. The husband suspects she’s being unfaithful and has paid Mr. Penge, the palace butler to spy for him. Before Sophie knows her husband knows, Joseph proposes that they run off to America. He believes he can make it big in the New World, where he wouldn’t have to hide his relationship and he wouldn’t have to deal with Mr. Penge. Sophie can’t commit. She has a son and fears losing him.
In the meantime, Sophie’s husband plots. To be cuckolded is the ultimate humiliation for a man like the Duke. By the end of the episode, he’s tricked Sophie and has gotten two doctors to commit her to an insane asylum. We don’t see the actual asylum, but I’ve seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and figure a 19th century mental hospital was much worse than a 20th century one. I don’t envy Sophie and wonder what Victoria will do when she learns her confidante has been committed.
While Sophie’s freedom is on the line, there was other drama in the palace. Victoria and Albert have a lot of conflict that they haven’t been able to deal with. Victoria has a keen sense of distance from the prince, though it seems to me that Albert cares so much about being right and logical that he doesn’t see how he should distance himself from Feodora and be less judgmental towards Victoria. She doesn’t need to be reminded that she’s not as logical as he is.
Albert is enamored with the idea of hosting a Great Exhibition, which would feature developments in science and technology from countries all over the world. Originally, the idea was a smaller exhibit of British advances. Many are skeptical, but Albert won’t be dissuaded even though he can’t find an architect who can come up with a suitable plan for a hall that meets all the specifications.
When the Duke of Wellington announces his retirement, Victoria thinks that if he gives Albert he job of Commander in Chief, he’ll give up on the crazy idea of the Great Exhibition. He won’t. This is Albert’s new obsession.
Lord Palmerston gets in hot water by going to far in handling the Don Pacifico Affair, when a British citizen was attacked by anti-Semites in Greece where he lives. Without realizing it, Victoria trusted Palmerston to resolve the matter without military intervention, however, Palmerston interpreted Victoria’s response to be that he had carte blanche. Luckily, military action was averted.
Victoria realized that she needed to do something about Feodora. I hoped she’d send her half-sister home to Germany. Instead Victoria decided to encourage Feodora to bring her teenage daughter to London. Near the end of episode, Heidi arrives. When she meets Alice and Bertie, she behaves like she won’t be the easiest guest. I think she may be a lot like her mother, but time will tell.
Everything is lined up in the plot to ensure a riveting finale last week. We’ll see the Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition. We’ll learn what becomes of poor Sophie. There must be a reason Uncle Leopold returned and Feodora always has something up her sleeve. I expect first class television.
My 2¢ – It’s too late now but I think Sophie should have grabbed some of her jewelry and run off to America with Joseph. He would treat her well. Perhaps she could kidnap her son. Now she may be in some dungeon never to see the light of day. She knew her husband is diabolical. Sophie’s story does show that although Albert and Victoria are in a rough patch, it’s just that, a patch that won’t last forever.
The documentary Victoria & Her Nine Children paints a detailed
Here’s a few things I learned:
- After Albert died, the Queen asked for her youngest child Beatrice to be brought to her. She made the girls dress in Albert’s clothing and sleep with her.
- Victoria thought babies were like frogs.
- Albert scolded Victoria that she should find a way to appreciate motherhood and not always be cross with her children.
- Victoria regarded Bertie, her eldest son as her biggest problem. She blamed Bertie for Albert’s death. Albert was severely displeased when he learned that Bertie had slept with a jolly actress. She connects his passion leading to his father’s death.
- After marrying off three of her children, Victoria continues to mourn three years after Albert’s death. Laughter and delight are not permitted. The queen continues to wear black and all the palace’s curtains are black.
- Victoria’s least favorite child is Leopold who can do nothing right. She saw him as awkward and clumsy and she didn’t notice that that Leopold was actually suffering from hemophilia.
- When chloroform was first used as a painkiller during childbirth, Victoria was delighted to use it. Her physicians saw this as wrong as the Bible states that women will feel pain in childbirth (Gen. 3:16). Of course, these men so problem with using chloroform when they need surgery.
- Victoria told people that Louise was stupid and constantly criticized her. Louise went from being the petted youngest daughter, but when Beatrice was born she fell from this position. Her teen years were spent in mourning. None of the usual coming-of-age rituals were allowed.
- The queen spied on her children and even after marrying controlled whom they socialized with.
These poor children’s lives were lived under a dark cloud of mourning controlled by a powerful mother who’s psychologically damaged by grief. A mother with a venomous tongue who could shame and hurt her children.
You can learn more by watching on the PBS website.
Luxury of Conscience
This week’s Victoria we see the end of the Corn Laws that protected farmers’ income, but also artificially kept food prices high. Lord Peel fights for this change, but it cost him politically. It was the right thing to do.
Albert fusses a lot about Lehzen, Victoria’s governess who’s now caring for their children. Albert has a host of complaints including that she leaves the windows open in the nursery, which a lot of nurses today will say is good practice. When Victoria sided with the Baroness, Albert is in a state and he announces that he’ll visit Parliament to lend his support to Peel. Victoria wisely counsels him not to, but he’s obstinate. That’s a shame because his presence was a political blunder and Peel got taunted by his opponents for being weak and needing a royal to prop him up.
Uncle Leopold makes a surprise visit. He seems to have no sense of what’s appropriate. No one wants him there, but he’s hell bent on forcing himself upon Victoria and Albert. I’m not sure why they didn’t have someone tell him he had to leave.
Victoria’s oldest daughter Vicky gets a fever and is very sick. Lehzen was inclined to let time do its thing, while Albert insists the doctor should be called. The child gets worse and they do call the doctor. This conflict spurred Albert to issue an ultimatum: “choose me or Lehzen.” it’s an impossible choice and of course, as much as it hurts her, Victoria chooses her husband. Poor Lehzen is forced to return to Germany. She hasn’t lived there in a good twenty years and is heartbroken that her devotion to Victoria ends with this dismissal.
Ernst’s doctor says his STD is in remission so Ernst decides to propose to Harriet. The couple has some tender moments together and he promises to talk to her one evening. In preparation, Ernst bathes and gets spruced up. However, his valet notices that the rash is back. So Ernst stands up poor Harriet.
After the Corn Laws are repealed, an angry farmer tries to shoot Lord Peel. Drummond, the young noble whose heart belongs to the blonde nobleman, but who’s engaged to some noblewoman is shot while shielding Peel. I was surprised that this character would die this season.
This was a sad episode with a lot of loss. It was a solid episode, but not as interesting as the potato famine episode. I was disappointed that Albert’s jealousy won out over Lehzen’s devotion. As adults they should have been able to reconcile, but that could be said of a lot of us.
Who will be the next governess? The next Prime Minister?