Television

Can't Stop Laughing at Dreamland

My friend and colleague Karen posted on Facebook her love for this comedy from Australian available on Netflix. I checked Dreamland out and cannot stop watching. I am now into the second season and already dreading reaching the end of the series. It is so spot on at sending up the experience working within a government agency. Dreamland, or Utopia, hits so close to home also because it is an Authority committed to building iconic, visionary infrastructure projects. There are two sane characters (Tony and Natalie) and they play the "straight men" to a cast of crazy but recognizable types that we all have worked with at one time or another. I have actually laughed out loud at nightmare Rhonda and maddening Jim. 

Relish Grantchester with Podcast

I am celebrating the return of Grantchester. Season 2 is excellent so far. Five episodes in and the story arc of Geordie and Sidney's friendship. Plus Sidney's turbulent love life continues to provide subplots. Then there are the delightful fellow residents at the vicarage: Mrs. MacGuire, Leonard and Dickens.

If you want to enjoy this terrific mystery series on Masterpiece even more, then listen to the new Masterpiece podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. There are interviews with the cast and with the Grantchester creator James Runcie. 

There are more books by Runcie than the two I found last year when Grantchester first came out. I plan to look for them when I am in London in a few weeks.

The last episode of Season 2 is this Sunday night on PBS, or available for purchase on Google Play and iTunes. Check it out.

Adelaide's Downton Abbey: Ayer's House

I have been moving my home and office since I got back from New Zealand, so I am behind on blogging about my trip. I cannot help but notice that all US social media is leaving a little space (after election coverage) to talk about the last episode of Downton Abbey airing on PBS this Sunday evening. The season traditionally ends with a Christmas episode that plays on Christmas Day in England.--obviously delayed in the USA. I bought Season 6 on Google Play so I have already seen the conclusion and I will not spoil it.

It did make me think about Adelaide's equivalent of Downton Abbey: Ayer's House.

Growing up in California I can relate to places like Adelaide, South Australia. The sprung up, new fortune, scratch-a-community-out-of-the-bush feeling is one I know well. Whether it is a gold rush or agricultural land rush, the place history is not very old and the challenges of creating a "showplace" home to create status in a brand new community is familiar. When I walked up the circular drive to Ayer's House in Adelaide it felt like a mansion in Grass Valley of another mining tycoon.

This particular tycoon, Henry Ayers, exaggerated his work experience. He was an office clerk but he claimed other skills so he could get a subsidy to emigrate to Adelaide with his wife Anna. He did well with the Burra Burra mines and ultimately served as the Premiere of South Australia five times between 1863 and 1873. He built a huge house in downtown Adelaide near the Botanic Garden. Even now it is gracious.

I went to see it because I saw a flyer on the bookshop window advertising the exhibit of costumes from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. I have watched all of the episodes on Netflix and the costumes depicting a wealthy feminist detective and her entourage solving mysteries. Sometimes with television I am disappointed with the reality of a set or costume because the camera can fool you. These costumes are the real deal--recreated couture to emulate the roaring 20's. 

I was ready to join the enthusiast crowd of women who sew or craft to go through the exhibit, but first I stopped and spoke with the docent at the front door. It was he who told me about Henry Ayers and why the house is worth a look even when there is not a fashion display in every room.  

To make it more interesting, the museum staff also created a bit of a whodunit to solve while you walked through the rooms. I did not need anymore entertainment as I was completely enraptured with the clothes themselves. Beautifully made from exquisite fabrics, I enjoyed talking to other women who sew about where they source fabric and how hard it is to find. We all laughed because even though we were from USA and Australia, both of our mothers used to look at a garment in the department store and say the equivalent of "You could make it yourself for less." Now it is quite the opposite. No one can say they are sewing to be thrifty. 

This gives full permission to sew as a creative expression. Many of these garments are impractical and designed and executed as a celebration of beauty.

The show, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, is based on Australian author Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher book series. I have looked for them in the US and have not found them. The gift shop had a new copy of the first in the series Cocaine Blues. I bought it for my Mom. Then when I found a secondhand bookshop at the Central Market I was able to pick up quite a few more in the series. My Mom read them first and now I am reading them. They are not as complex as say Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series, but neither do you have to worry about gore or upsetting physical violence.  I hope Ms. Greenwood makes her books available electronically in the USA so more people can enjoy them. 

If you are interested in fashion that pushes the envelope and is inspiring and beautiful, the check out WOW! The World of Wearable Art dates for 2016 are September 11-October 9 in Wellington, New Zealand. Tickets are available here.

This blog is reposted from AmericanJulie.com. 

Agog at Mozart in the Jungle

I am bowled over by this Amazon Prime series. I am binge watching it. I loved Episode 6, The Rehearsal. And then Episode 7 is even better. 

 Episode 6. The Rehearsal is delightful.

Episode 6. The Rehearsal is delightful.

I could not figure out who was playing the cellist--Saffron Burrows! Have not seen her in anything worthy of her in ages. Love her. 

And best of all Gael Garcia Bernal who gives a phenomenal performance as Maestro Rodrigo. And Lola Kirke who plays Haley is a wonderful revelation.

All I can say is: WATCH IT!

Amused by Comedians in Cars

I read about President Obama's appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, it is just what it says: 2 or more comedians going in a car to a restaurant to have coffee and talk. The President's show will not air until December 30, so in the meantime I am watching older episodes on my computer. 

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I love learning about comedy, especially stand-up. I also enjoy seeing a more thoughtful and personal side of some of my favorite comedians. The cars are different for every guest and it is intriguing how Seinfeld matches the car to the guest's personality. 

Two of my favorite episodes are with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and with Sarah Jessica Parker. Check it out.

Postscript: I tagged it Television but actually you can only see it on the internet for free. There is "product placement" for the sponsor Acura. 

4 Visions of Sherlock Holmes

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I enjoy almost all things Sherlock Holmes. The creme de la creme is the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock. Alas the next new episode is not scheduled until mid-2016. In the meantime I have been sampling other Sherlock interpretations.

There is the CBS television series Elementary. I like the actors and it is well written. It is not as brilliantly plotted as the PBS version. After 3 seasons I am tiring of it.

Another approach is to introduce new characters. Another PBS production, Arthur and George, focuses on Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, as a detective. I watched it on-line and found it very dark. Literally dark, as in hard to see. And unnecessarily convoluted. It did not satisfy.

Another recent discovery is the Mary Russell mystery novel series by Laurie R. King. She has created a character who meets a retired Sherlock Holmes as a 15 year old and becomes his apprentice. Mary has a similarly brilliant mind. There are a great many books in the series and I have only read 3 so far. My mom has read all of them and cannot wait until Ms. King writes another one.  

Faux Reality Shows Obvious Television Evolution

I watched an episode of the new series, Documentary Now. It is a wry look at various styles of documentaries. Helen Mirren briefly introduces each episode to add a touch of class to the proceedings. In the episode I watched on ifc.com Jack Black also starred as the leader of the Dronez rogue news reporters stupidly risking their lives for the news. Fred Armisen and Bill Hader play several different characters and it is all made funnier by the fact that they change their costumes and make-up, but they always talk in their same distinctive voices. 

In the same genre, I binge-watched season one of Family Tree with Chris O'Dowd on Amazon Prime. It is a faux reality show focused on a young irish lad who just lost his job and his girlfriend (not an obvious choice for a reality show). He inherits a trunk full of family-related junk from his great aunt and each episode follows him as he discovers more crazy relatives. The director is Christopher Guest who has made some very funny feature films that are also faux documentaries. My personal favorite is Best in Show.  Guest has a talented group of actors that he casts frequently. They are brilliant. And Guest is not afraid to take a situation and take it to an incredibly absurd place. I love this show. 

I do not watch reality television, but you cannot live in our society without absorbing something of the genre. I really enjoy this kind of satire even without much knowledge of reality tv. These shows are very quirky and I am just glad that cable television is making it possible for these shows to be made. 

Read Ross Poldark, Watch Poldark on PBS.org

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I missed the first Poldark BBC production and was not sure if I would watch this one. But 5 minutes in and I was hooked. Aiden Turner is certainly the primary reason. Easy on the eyes with a wide range of emotion. He is mesmerizing--even when he is not swinging a scythe. 

I am miserable when the Masterpiece series is spread out over several weeks. In college I got hooked on the first BBC production of Pride and Prejudice and I went to the USC college library and checked out P&P. I read the book as quickly as possible to know the ending. Within a few weeks I read all of Jane Austen. Similarly I ordered the first two of Winston Graham's books in the Poldark series. 

Ross Poldark is the source material for the television production Poldark. I ordered the book from my neighborhood store Time Tested Books. I devoured it over the weekend. I must say that I like the Ross in the book better than the Heathcliff inspired television version. Ross in the book laughed and smiled more. 

Then I watched episode 3 and my objections dissolved. Aiden Turner is just so wonderful to watch. There are also many of my favorite stock British actors giving their usual strong performances.

The second book is Demelza for Ross' wife ne kitchen wench.  I skimmed it as it will be the basis of season 2 and I will reread it when the next installment of Poldark comes out from Masterpiece. I must say I much prefer Winston Graham's writing style to Diana Gabaldan's Outlander series. I also prefer the more PG-13 Masterpiece presentation to STARZ soft porn.

Final note: the podcast Satellite Sisters does a super fun recap of Poldark each Tuesday, which they call "Pol Dark and Handsome." Please listen in a place where you can laugh out loud.