12 Days of Christmas Stories, #4

Doctor Who Last Christmas is an outstanding episode, that’s funny, mind-bending, and emotionally satisfying. It delivers smart science-fi that makes you think about our dreams and our dreams within dreams. We see Clara missing her boyfriend Danny, who had died (I haven’t seen that episode. I’m quite behind in my Doctor Who viewing. As usual Peter Capaldi is a frantic, whip smart and yet annoying Doctor, who usually makes a good point when you think about it.

It’s got the gross monstrous villains you expect. The twists and turns that make the plot unpredictable and moments between Clara and Danny and the Doctor and Clara that provide emotion that’s more real than what’s on a lot of television. It does a lot of questioning our dream states that was compelling.

Oh, and Santa, Santa and elves with attitude and smarts feature prominently.

You can find it on Amazon or DVD. Give it a watch!

Mr Selfridge, Season 3, Episode 6

SPOILER ALERT

A lot happened this week!

I can’t believe they killed off Doris! Was this necessary? She’s been off screen for two years, married to an ungrateful whiner. They bring her back and reveal that an indiscretion with a school friend, has resulted in her first son and a lie to her husband Mr. Groves.

Doris confided in Miss Mardle, who was involved with Mr Groves before Doris came into the picture. Miss Mardle suggested Doris talk with this friend and let him see his son. Now what will happen? Yes, killing Doris in a car accident opens up a lot of possibilities with the story, but she doesn’t have to resolve this with Mr. Groves. He can now whine some more and perhaps get back with Josie, a.k.a Miss Mardle. I’d hope she doesn’t fall back in with Groves. She’d have to quit her job, which is fine for the right man, to take care of his brood, which doesn’t seem her strong suit. I think she’d go crazy at home, taking care of small children.

This week against Mr. Crabb’s advice, Harry sells some of his shares in the store so he can build a number of homes for WWI veterans. Now he doesn’t have a majority stake (as was the case with the real Harry). Nancy’s conning Harry and stringing him along. So he’s going to lose big soon. The Nancy story isn’t recounted in Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction, & Mr Selfridge so I don’t think it’s historical. It is suspenseful, but I’d like to see Harry less of a victim. The season began with Rose’s funeral, now this? I know the real Mr Selfridge wound up penniless, but I wish they’d postpone that. I do hope Nancy and her partner get their just desserts, i.e. jail time. I wish Mama Selfridge would look into Nancy Webb through the store’s information bureau.

Gordon hired, Pierre Longchamp to replace Henri. (I do miss Henri and Agnes. Again, I think they could have enriched the story by staying.) Longchamp’s arrogant and individualistic. He’s quite creative, but doesn’t think how his ideas and lack of communication impact the store. Gordon made a major faux pas by approving Pierre’s window display. It was to include something French. Rather than seeming out of it and asking for particulars, the newly promoted and very green, Gordon gave Pierre carte blanche. Little did he know he was approving a window featuring women in their undies. Quite a scandal for the era! Mr. Groves saw the trouble brewing and gleefully waited for disaster. Yet it was averted as the striking window brought in the crowds.

Pierre seems less refined and far more arrogant and immature than Henri, or anyone who should run this department. He’ll bring more trouble to Selfridge’s I fear. In this episode he just annoyed me, though his tree display was clever.

Despite her father telling her to stay out of trouble and avoid Victor, defiant Violette can’t help but rebel. When she spoke of not having a purpose, Harry did convince her to help Nancy with the homes for veterans. At first she wanted to do something administrative, but Nancy wants no one looking too closely at this con so she had Violette organize a charity dance, which was a big success. As the party round down Violette slipped off to see Victor, but was turned away at the door. She doesn’t seem like a woman who takes no for an answer though. I do wonder what’ll happen when Violette discovers Nancy’s a con artist. I’d like to see her take on Nancy. It’d be a good way for Violette to come into her own and not be a rich, bratty vixen. She was such a quiet girl in the previous seasons.

Victor might as well join the mafia. He’s continuing on the slippery slope with his night club. So much for the Italian restaurant he was going to start last year. Now for him to open he has to pay the dirty cop three times what was asked earlier. Rather than going out of business, he agrees to let Mike Reagan open a gambling den in the back. George is shocked when he finds out. I think he should go back to work for Harry since Victor’s place is sure to be raided again.

Spies of Warsaw

spies warsaw It’s interesting seeing David Tennant in a role other than Doctor Who. He does a fine job as a French spy in Warsaw leading up to the outbreak of WWII. (Never mind that it would make more sense for a French spy to speak with a French accent, but I don’t blame Tennant for that.) Spies of Warsaw isn’t action packed, but it has its moments and kept me entertained. It’s got a bit of romance, betrayal, history and suspense. It’s not the greatest BBC production, but since it moves along and its set during an interesting time, I could forgive its flaws. Yeah, the romance didn’t seem to matter. None of the actors did anything spectacular, but the story wasn’t terrific, so they’re excused. Yeah, the last mission seemed rather out of the blue, but it was still better than a lot of what’s on the tube.

If a friend or relative really wanted to see this, it’s no big sacrifice to watch it with them.

Would I watch it again? Probably not. Do I regret watching it? No.

Downton Abbey, Season 3, episode 1

Season 3 Cast

Season 3 Cast

I can’t recall anticipating the return of a television show more than I have Downton Abbey‘s Season 3. Perhaps Sherlock, when it comes but that’s way off in the distance. I’ve re-viewed several of the episodes from the previous seasons when they were re-broadcast and noted little details that I’d missed.

At last on the 6th, we got to meet Cora’s mother, the brash American, Mrs. Martha Levinson, played with great panache by Shirley MacLaine. Talk about a bull in a china shop and someone to set Violet’s teeth on edge. How did Cora develop such grace? Her father must have been more reserved.

Julian Fellow’s story drew me in as I wanted to tell Branson, the ex-chauffer to lighten up, put on the Downton clothes and make his case by drawing on people’s sympathy rather than jumping on a soap box every chance he got. I did feel sorry for him when Sybil’s old suitor sneered at him and slipped him a mickey.

Another great story element was the announcement that Lord Grantham has lost his fortune, well, Cora’s fortune. That news, hushed up as it has been, charges every scene with tension. What will all the characters do when they find out? For now only a few know.

Thomas never ceases to devilishly plot and this time he got on O’Brien’s bad side. By making her nephew get in trouble by marring Mathew’s dinner jacket, Thomas became the victim of O’Brien’s prank of hiding all Lord Gratham’s good shirts thus adding to the ruin of the episode’s most significant social event and making the Lord look like a waiter or a Chicago bootlegger, take your pick.

We got glimpses of Bates in jail and Anna trying to do a bit of detective work to get him out. We also see that if he doesn’t keep his cool with his cellmate, Bates may get himself into further trouble.

As usual, the two hours went fast and tantalized fans with great character development and plot points. It looks like Edith’s going to marry Sir Anthony, the old geezer she’s so fond of. He’ll treat her well, it seems, and she is keen on him, but generally when the groom’s so luke warm, that doesn’t bode well for a marriage. Time will certainly tell.

The State Within

A seven episode thriller from the BBC, The State Within would have been better at five episodes. Jacob Isaacs stars as the British Ambassador in the US.  He’s had a stellar career and is about to move on to bigger and better things, when a British Airways plane crashes and terrorism is suspected. Sharon Gless stars as an Iron Lady type, Secretary of Defense. Meanwhile down in Florida a Brit is about to be executed and for two murders he didn’t commit. Soon we see political intrigue and a possible war with Turkistan.

The ambassador’s surrounded by villains and in the beginning we wonder how this is connected to the Florida attempt to get a stay of execution.

I was hoping for something on par with Luther or MI-6, but The State Within doesn’t attain those heights. It’s decent enough, but the story does drag and the dialog and characters don’t stand out. I actually groaned when I realized the series wasn’t going to wrap up after 5 episodes. I’d had enough. But I did make it through the rest, but television should entertain, delight and/or stimulate. It shouldn’t feel like a chore and this did after a few episodes.  The ending disappointed and I’m not sure why but it seems that the ambassador ends up with two romantic interests and a small child at the end. Huh?

The trouble with a thriller is your hooked. Even if I’m not having a great time, I do want to know who did it and why.

The Thick of It

If, like me you love political satire, love VEEP and In the Loop, watch The Thick of It on hulu.com

It’s directed and devised by Armando Iannucci, who created VEEP and In the Loop. It’s a smart send up of the finagling and incompetence that rears its ugly head daily in the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Strong adult language and deft, sophisticated barbs so beware.

The Good Wife, Season 4

I’ve watched the premier and second episode of The Good Wife‘s fourth season.  Several new characters have climbed on board. Nathan Lane‘s playing a stick in the mud trustee who’s charged with getting the firm on higher financial ground. Kristen Chenoweth appeared in the first episode as a journalist who’s honing in on Peter’s election bid and will be tough with Alicia. Does she stand by her husband? Well, they why don’t they live together? Isn’t she sending a bad message to modern women? Alicia handled it well, but we can expect trouble down the road.
Speaking of roads, my favorite story line involved Zach who got pulled over by a zealous cop. There was no real cause and soon the cop asserts that he’s found traces of pot. Baloney. Zach stepped up to this jerk and with his tech savvy helped find the evidence his mother needed when they went to this small town court.

I wasn’t keen on Kalinda’s dodgy husband or the S & M aspect of their relationship. Does the envelope need to be pushed in this way? It’s a turn off for me and I just endured these unsavory scenes.  I hope this storyline fades out soon, but I doubt it will. Lord help us.

I know I’ve seen worse on say Luther or Prime Suspect, but I find the Brits can do things with more class and spare us some of the gory details. Listen CBS, please.

We haven’t seen much of Eli, and I hope that changes fast.

Luther

Idris Elba (L) as Luther; Warren Brown (R) as his colleague

Nominated for 4 Emmy awards, the BBC’s Luther beckoned me from Netflix. I’ve just seen the first two episodes from season 1 and am hooked. Luther’s main character is a London detective who’s we see taunting a known pedophile cum murderer. Did John Luther allow the murder to fall to his death? His superiors, colleagues and ex wife all wonder.

Like Sherlock Holmes and Columbo, the two inspirations for the character, Luther is brilliant. He’s also troubled. His wife has moved on taking a new boyfriend, who’s a much safer, centered cardigan-wearing kind of guy. Luther’s still very much in love and his wife could be too, but she’s just done with the intensity.

Each episode takes viewers to the edge, Luther solves highly violent crimes though deduction and psychologically gets inside the heads of the criminals as no one on the force can. Yet by the end of the pilot episode the criminal, Alice, a genius who planned the perfect murder, starts stalking the cop as she becomes obsessed with Luther and his wife. The tables are turned and Alice pathologically enjoys toying with Luther throughout the series.

CBS Evening News

After a top notch look at the hospitals caring for the shooting victims in Chicago, CBS Evening News interviewed Rahm Emanuel about the increased murder rate this summer. I found the piece disappointing. Since I live near Chicago, I know the statistics and the stories, such as seven year old Heaven Sutton’s murder. She was caught in the crossfire while she was selling snow cones and candy on the street with her grandma.

One shortcoming of the interview was its brevity. It seemed to last 2 minutes so by the time the problem was identified and Emanuel clarified Scott Pelley‘s depiction to his own liking as politicians do, there was little time to discuss how to address this problem. The other big problem was that Pelley just played softball with the mayor, whose chief of police is cutting the budget so that while in the past, when the murder rate went down, Chicago had 5 detective units, it now has 3. Also while after a shooting police strike force would move in, now they don’t.

Emanuel didn’t say much specific. He defended his new chief in spite of the poor results. He also went on a tangent about how it’s all about values and called for gang bangers to step away from children so that they don’t get hurt. His call seems unrealistic. Why would you assume a criminal is going to make it easier for someone shooting him to get shot? It’s incredibly naïve to appeal to a sense of valor. While the problem, like all crime, is a matter of morality, Emanuel had no plan on how to inculcate values. Pelley didn’t bother to question him on that. Pure softball.

Perhaps it’s not a national issue so Pelley went easy on Emanuel. Yet if it’s not a national story it doesn’t belong on CBS Evening News.  I wish Pelley would watch the BBC’s Hard Talk to sharpen his interviewing skills.

Marin conducting a different interview

Later Chicago Tonight did a splendid job on the same issue. Elizabeth Bracken recapped the issue and Carol Marin interviewed two aldermen, who’ve come forward questioning the new police strategy. Marin asked all the right questions and the interview never felt like a T-ball game. Pelley can attain this level and should.