As a nerdy teen, I used to love PBS. Well, I still do, but there are more options now, aren’t there? I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited and I, Claudius and many nature specials, and as a geek with a burgeoning interest in politics – and American politics being of far more interest than Canadian politics to most Canadians (not to mention the world) – I used to enjoy the Mark Russell political comedy/musical shows. If you don’t know who Russell was, he was a satirist who used musical parodies and a piano to mock politicians and headlines. He was very talented and astute and a fun performer, but if you watch this (or look up some other of his clips online) you will really get a sense of how genteel he was and how innocent his commentary could be. I do not mean that as a bad thing – I wish we could dial so much of our nastiness and bite back, and return to this kind of discourse. It’s easy to mock, and many have mocked him (I seem to recall SNL took a rather funny shot at him some years back) and that is fair enough. Still, when I read that he had passed, I felt rather nostalgic for this relative naivete and kindness. (Canuck readers: do we/did we have a Canadian equivalent to this gentleman? I think not.)
By the way, I was such a diehard PBS-watcher as a kid and teen that one night, during one of the public broadcaster’s pleading, desperate fundraising drives, I felt compelled to help. I was watching with my brother, who felt equally moved by their plight. Together, we took my dad’s credit card (he was likely sleeping/passed out) and phoned in quite a pledge. Yes, there was hell to pay, but we did get a tote bag.
I referred to Reggie Perrin in my Brexit post, and I have managed, through the wonders of the internets, to find what I consider one of the finest moments in the history of television. From season 2 of the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Reggie has created a business he hoped would fail, and has appointed a bunch of clowns and rubes and looneys to run the business, in order to ensure disaster. Well, of course, the opposite happens: the business booms. Reggie, trying to fire all the people who have made it so, finds that at least one of the buffoons he has hired has seen through him. Go to shortly after the 27 minute mark and listen to Seamus Finnegan as you watch the hilarious body language and facial expressions of Perrin. I believe the moral of the story is…never count out the English.
Many have been posting this wonderful clip from “Yes, Minister” (a show I used to watch with my parents). No reason I shouldn’t post it, as well. It certainly brings to mind that terrific “Reginald Perrin” series, in particular the episodes where Reggie creates what he hopes will be a failing business. Very British.
I’m afraid I became far too emotionally invested in season 10 of the Italian series Don Matteo. The finale aired this past week, and while it is probably not worth reading a lot into it, I have to wonder what it says about Italians that apparently most of the show’s fans/viewers were happy with the ending. (I make this judgment based on reading online reviews and social media critiques of the series, for whatever that is worth.) Basically, this season revolved around a love triangle in which a truly horrible, trashy girl (Lia) wins over the heart of a police captain (Giulio) who is set to marry a sweet, beautiful woman (Margherita) who writes children’s books.
Now, the trashy girl is pregnant by someone other than the police captain and asks him to pretend he’s the kid’s father because, you know, she just didn’t really like the guy by whom she got pregnant. This is just for starters. As the season developed, she did the following: quit her job and moved in with her 60-something aunt and uncle, expecting them to pay for everything and look after her and her baby; pretended to be friends with her rival so that she could sabotage her wedding plans; poisoned her rival; threw herself repeatedly — and in a slutty manner — at the police captain even after he had announced his engagement; was spiteful and resentful that everyone liked the police captain’s fiancée and sulked and pouted about it; made scenes and just generally behaved like a drama queen when she didn’t get her way or when someone displeased her; manipulated and lied about any number of things in virtually every episode in which she was featured (far too many); asked the police captain to be in the delivery room with her regardless of how inappropriate such a demand was, given that a) he had a girlfriend and b) there were countless other people she could have asked; spied on the police captain and his fiancée via a closed-circuit camera (of which they were unaware) when they were on a romantic date, and…more. There was more.
Lia was just the worst. Una stronza.
And yet…she is insanely popular with viewers of the show. When Lia won over Giulio and he humiliated Margherita at the altar, a majority of viewers were happy! Why? I have no clue, but it’s a sorry reflection on Italian TV viewers.
All of this was aggravated by two other factors: 1) Lia’s character is the cousin of Giulio’s dead wife. In other words, he is marrying his dead wife’s cousin. Ew. And the dead wife was terrific — I have no clue why the show’s writers killed her off after Season 8. 2) The actress who plays Lia — Nadir Caselli — has what Italians call a voce di ochetta (roughly translated, a goose voice, a bimbo voice, a screechy, whiny, profoundly grating voice). I found her fastidiosa, una lagna, una stronza, egoista and cattiva. Of course, one of the reasons I watch Italian TV is to keep my level of Italian up, so I guess my contempt for Lia served a purpose. Lagna, for example, was a new word for me.
Further, the show’s title character behaved in an appalling way in the finale. Don Matteo is a priest who spends virtually every episode lecturing everyone and sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong, but also being kind and empathetic, even with murderers and rapists and thieves. And yet, in this last episode, when Giulio dumps Margherita at the altar to run away with trashy Lia, Don Matteo smiles and seems, like, really happy! And then, outside the church, when Margherita is clearly suffering, he doesn’t so much as offer her a kind word or a shoulder to cry on or an invitation to come and talk to him at the church (where he usually helps people in their moments of woe). He just talks about her behind her back with some of the guests. Huh? Gosh, very compassionate and priestly.
So that is my rant – I got far too upset and invested in the series this season. I’ve seen every season now (though not all of them in real time), but I honestly don’t think I will watch if there is a Season 11. I don’t think I can bear Lia’s voce di ochetta for another three months.