I’m convinced that we are living in the “Golden Age of Television.” The quality of writing and quantity of programs, the outstanding performances and gifted performers, and the high technology and higher production values are gifts to us. I wish I could watch it all. Here are a few that I’ve been watching.
House of the Dragon – HBO
I just watched the premiere HBO’s new epic series. I appreciated the texture and drama of the prequel saga of the House of Targaryan. I’m not a fan of graphic violence, but I knew going in that the show requires some of it. It was a violent time.
There is enough tragedy, even in the first episode, to make Shakespeare blush. And, oh the dragons. Who doesn’t love them? I certainly do.
Matt Smith plays the ambitious brother and king in waiting, Daemon Targaryan. He is worth every penny they are paying him – and he is as far away from his Dr. Who persona as is possible. Also wonderful is Milly Alcock, who plays the princess Rhaenyra Targaryan.
Who will succeed the throne? I’m certain it will be a very twisty, sexy, violent road. Let’s see if they can keep up the good storytelling.
Nine Perfect Strangers – Hulu
I love this miniseries about psyched-lic microdosing at a high-level spiritual health spa. However, there was an animal episode I could have done without.
The characters are fascinating and complex. Of course, I expect no less, realizing that it was adapted from the book by Liane Moriarty who is an excellent storyteller and character creator.
I finally realized how good an actress Nicole Kidman really is. The character she portrayed was so complex, it was astounding that she could relay kindness, manipulation, confusion, sadness and so many other deep character traits with just a sentence or a gesture.
One of the things it did for me, was open my mind to the possibilities of psychedelic microdosing as a tool to look deeply into oneself and, in a brave way, help us rid ourselves of the stories and fears that hold us back.
Julia – HBO Max
The series takes you through Julia Child’s desire for a cooking show and its evolution. There was so much here I didn’t know.
Her friends, and the professionals involved in her books and television shows, were as interesting as you would think. Bebe Neuwirth, as best friend Avis DeVoto, and Judith Light, as Blanche Knopf were funny, pithy, deep and turned out the performances you would expect from these fine actresses.
Sarah Lancashire, who portrayed Julia, actually seemed to be Julia, she was so pitch perfect. She showed us the Julia underneath the cook – a woman worried about her appearance and worried about her marriage. The marriage was one of the most interesting aspects of the series.
Her husband, Paul Friend, portrayed by David Hyde Pierce (of Niles Frasier fame), was a very complex person. He loved Julia so much that at that point in their life he was willing to sacrifice his dreams to help Julia actualize hers.
It was wonderful to see a real grown-up marriage that wasn’t based on the romantic beginning, infidelity or any trope in-between. It was based on caring and respect and a genuine love for the person who is your partner. It was mature love with all its complexity and the compromise and desire for individuality that make up a real and exciting relationship
Insight into Public Television and the other characters were icing on the cake (so to speak.) Thumbs up!
Anatomy of a Scandal – Netflix
This was recommended to me by many people as the type of drama that will hold your attention and become addictive. Huge disappointment. The story of the drip-by-drip downfall of a high-level British politician was as boring and predictable, to me, as you would hope it wouldn’t be.
The ever wonderful Sienna Miller portrayed the sane, clear-eyed loyal politician’s wife. She is always a joy to watch. Her beauty and the sanity of her character kept me watching. Josette Simon as defense counsel oozed intelligence and competence.
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary of Downton Abbey) got stuck in a fairly lackluster role of the crown’s prosecutor, just my opinion.
The rising, powerful politician, portrayed by Rupert Friend, was a man that, according to the series, took advantage of these women. The problem for me, was that each situation was very complex as each woman virtually threw herself at this man because they wanted him sexually. Yes, he should have stopped when they said, “No,” but the series doesn’t take into account how much they led him on.
So, the problem I had with the series, other than it was predictable, except for one surprise twist, was that they really didn’t look into that complexity. So, a thumbs down for me.
The Mandalorian – Disney+
I was so excited about watching this that I saved it for a virtual “rainy day.” I have been a huge Star Wars (and Star Trek!) fan forever, and I had heard about the effects. So, I start watching. Is it me? It’s so dark I can hardly see what’s going on. I’m thinking, “Ok, he’s in an alley, it will get lighter.” It doesn’t get lighter.
I do love Pedro Pascal’s voice as The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda is totally adorable. And it is a credit to them to re-imagine a whole new world. But the series is so dark. And dreary. And predictable. I kept going, but you can fast forward, and it doesn’t make any difference. I’m sorry, I just didn’t care.
In fairness, I bailed after episode 5. Not a recommendation from me. Maybe I’ll try again later.
Only Murders in The Building – Hulu
Can something be so good you can hardly stand it? Well, yes.
The characters are defined and entertaining. A has-been star of the 80’s/90’s, Steve Martin, an effete failed ever optimistic and self centered theatrical director, Martin Short, and a young woman with a mysterious past, Selena Gomez, become an unlikely team to solve a murder.
What’s amazing here is that it works as both an entertaining character study and development of the characters while holding your attention as a true mystery. This is no mean feat.
They lead you down twists and turns and surprises, both plot-wise and character-wise. My only problem with the series is that I fear that someday it will be over.
Hacks – HBO Max
Well, everyone keeps saying that Jean Smart is a revelation. And she is! The character she portrays, Deborah Vance, is a seasoned standup comedian with her own show in Las Vegas.
What’s interesting is what she’s like. Complex doesn’t even begin to describe it. In the first season (my favorite) she is paired with a younger comedy writer who comes in to “punch up” her act. Understandably, they both learn a lot, particularly the young writer (Hannah Einbinder) learns that young people don’t know everything.
Deborah Vance may not be Miranda Priestly but she not that far off. She’s neither kind nor understanding – and takes her career super seriously.
The ins and outs of inside Las Vegas are also fascinating, along with her relationship with the hotel owner, played by Christopher McDonald. Wow, these people are really rich! “Your own Las Vegas show” and “your own Las Vegas Hotel” rich. That’s fun to watch.
And everything it takes – including regular plastic surgery – to stay on top.
Season 2 is very different. Deborah is on tour, searching for how she is relevant – to the public and in her own mind and soul. Hannah Einbinder’s young up-and-coming comedy writer is going through her own growing pains, professionally, sexually, romantically. There is an emphasis on the gay and lesbian worlds in season 2 concentrating on the stories of those close to Deborah. The show always holds your interest.
Both seasons kept me watching – and I was sad when they were over. That’s a good show.
I will binge watch some more soon and hope to share those experiences with you!
Charlotte Parker is the Editor and Publisher of HeadMagazine.com