If you’re not watching The Americans you are a fool, and not just because it is the best show on TV. It is also a show that uses music magnificently. Last night’s episode featured Mark Bernes’ song, Cranes. Absolutely haunting. (Note: It says ‘with English subtitles,’ and yet, I see no subtitles in any language. That said, I know the song is about World War II Soviet soldiers being reincarnated into cranes.)
Binge-watching ‘The Crown,‘ and I must say that it is simply impossible to overstate how truly superior a series it is. I thought people were exaggerating about it – but they were not. Everything about it is perfect. It took me a while to figure out why the actress who played Elizabeth was so familiar to me — and then I realized she is the same woman who played Anne Boleyn in ‘Wolf Hall.’ Give her all the awards, and throw a few in the direction of John Lithgow, as Sir Winston.
Extraordinary. To be watched and re-watched and re-watched.
A friend of ours brought us a bottle of Dubonnet and it brought to mind a jingle from the ’70s. I went on a quest to find it and was unsuccessful but YouTube did give me another gift: a Dubonnet commercial from 1972 with pre-fame Farrah Fawcett and pre-fame Tom Selleck. What is not to love here?
I am prone to insomnia, and last night I was up in the wee small hours watching old episodes of “Rhoda” on the internets. By hazard, I watched an episode in which Rhoda is looking for a job (as a window-dresser) and facing a lot of rejection. It made me think of my post below (scroll down) about aiming for the best.
I got a good laugh when Rhoda said to her sister, Brenda, “I don’t mind being rejected by Tiffany’s, but Tie City?” That’s how I feel as a writer. I don’t mind being rejected by The Paris Review, but [insert name of publication which you hold in contempt]?
One of many memorable scenes from Wolf Hall. What a great insult. Why are you such a person? It’s not as if you can afford to be. Still not bored with this series, no matter how often I have watched it (which is oftener than thou).
I wrote about my brother yesterday and said I would write more today. I think of him every day, of course, but when the anniversary of his death — Hallowe’en — approaches, I think of him more intensely. This week, I got my usual “grief migraine”, for example, and I also found myself thinking of a conversation he and I once had about a show we both loved, Mad Men.
He and I were both Mad Men addicts and had long conversations after each new episode. One episode by which we were both particularly touched was The Gypsy and the Hobo. It takes place over Hallowe’en, and as Don and Betty navigate an upheaval in their marriage, Sally and Bobby are unhappy that they can’t have store-bought costumes.
Don reminds them that the store-bought costumes are cheap. Betty makes them beautiful costumes — a gypsy and a hobo — which they wear but do not appreciate. As a kid, I was very jealous of my friends who had tacky store-bought costumes. My mom made me a beautiful Red Riding Hood outfit, which I wore but did not appreciate.
I shared that memory with Alan, who was very touched by it, as he and I both were by the episode’s ending: Don and Betty, standing behind their trick-or-treating gypsy and hobo; Betty holding their baby, Gene; the adults shaken by Betty’s earlier uncovering of Don’s secrets, trying to put on a happy front for the neighbours, for the children, for themselves.
Or Thomas Cromwell versus Thomas More.
After having read — and enjoyed — the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall books, I became insanely addicted to the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the same. It was almost a retro historical drama, like something one would have seen in the 1970s, which I think was very much its strength. A stranger-than-fiction plot, brilliantly staged, written and acted.
It’s a measure of the genius of Mark Rylance, the extraordinary actor (how have I never heard of or seen him before?) who brings self-serving machinator and yet strangely-likable lawyer/fixer/son-of-a-blacksmith Thomas Cromwell to full life, that by the end of the six hours I had a teeny crush on him. What a (not handsome) face! He can convey more with a slight smile/smirk, than one ever cares to know – as good as acting gets. His Cromwell is self-serving, yes, but also sympathetic, intelligent and possessed of some moral boundaries (though he pushes at those a bit).
And it’s a measure of Claire Foy’s talent that, after watching her turn as the mean-spirited Anne Boleyn for six weeks, your heart aches for her as she quiveringly prepares to be parted from her head.
And Damian Lewis as Henry VIII? He comes very close to usurping my previous favorite screen Henry VIII, Robert Shaw. I say “close” because his Henry is far more cruel than Shaw’s interpretation, so it’s hard to feel affection for him (as I did for Shaw’s Henry). Of course, the script played a part in that.
Which brings us to A Man for all Seasons. I have always loved this movie. But it’s interesting because in Wolf Hall, Thomas More is a preening, morally superior hypocrite, a man who tortures “heretics” (apparently enjoying it) and acts all snooty toward the Cromwells of the world, the sons of blacksmiths. It is hard to believe that the More of Wolf Hall believes that the devil deserves benefit of law, though at the end, when he is beheaded, one admires (as in A Man for all Seasons) his powerful faith and his unwillingness to deny it in order to save his earthly life.
And where Wolf Hall makes you care about Cromwell, the Leo McKern Cromwell of A Man for all Seasons is not someone for whom you develop any feeling. The character is not given the depth he is in Wolf Hall, which focusses on Cromwell’s private life (including much loss) and makes his ability to survive (up to a point) at a merciless royal court the centre of the tale.
So what can we learn from this?
That we should learn history from books, many books, and just enjoy movies and TV for what they are — movies and TV (nothing wrong with that, either). Speaking of, off to read this now.
David Letterman said a farewell after over three decades on TV. I first started watching him when I was in high school and he had a morning show. For me, he was at his best in the mid-to-late-1990s: the following video is an example of the ridiculously hilarious humour of which he was capable. Just joyful and silly. (Unfortunately, he became truly bitter — and not in the good sense — over time, and I stopped watching him. Good analysis at the link.)
Sad about Mr. Spock’s death. I became a classic Trek fan thanks largely to one of my brothers. He used to watch it religiously in re-runs in the ’70s and I really had no option but to watch, as well. (We probably also watched the original together, though I don’t remember that far back.) My first thought when I heard Nimoy had passed was to that brother and to a dear friend in Ottawa who has always adored him. I also thought of Sheldon Cooper — speaking of, here is an article (in Italian) about Mr. Spock’s legacy and influence, including said influence on the Big Bang theory characters.
Of course, Nimoy was a fine actor in other roles, but he will always be Spock to most of us. And what was great about him was that he didn’t seem too ungrateful about that — he appeared in the Star Trek movies and had tremendous humour about the role that made him so famous. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, incorporating it into the “Live long and prosper” sign. He was also a vegetarian, I recently learned, and he loved cats! What is there not to admire here, people? As I tweeted yesterday, I have rarely seen the internets so united in grief. And no wonder.
I was sorry to see Sun TV go under, though I had pretty much stopped watching it over a year ago. The more voices out there, the better, and, of course, nearly 200 journalists out of work is never a good thing. And yes, a number of those journalists were/are friends of mine. In fact, when it first started, I remember a friend and I were joking about how it felt like our friends had started a news network in their garage. I knew so many people in the original lineup, both people in front of and behind the camera.
That aside, the amount of glee certain people are getting out of Sun’s demise is unseemly, especially when the gleeful folks tend to be fans of the CBC and tend to say things like, “Canadians don’t want Sun TV! Sun wanted a free market, and the free market has spoken!”
Um, well yes. It has spoken for Sun, because Sun didn’t get a billion dollar hand-out from the feds every year, the way the CBC does. If the CBC ever had to answer to the free market, it would go under, and probably much more quickly than Sun. The CBC’s ratings are dismal, but their ratings don’t matter, because they are guaranteed funding. In all probability, if Canadians had the choice of whether to pay for the CBC or not, they wouldn’t want our public broadcaster anymore than they want Sun.
At any rate, there were some talented folks at Sun, not the least of whom is Ezra — I wish him luck with this venture.