January 24, 2021

Netflix Raising Its Prices – Is It Worth It?

Netflix is raising its monthly fees this fall 2020. The basic fee (one device at a time) stays the same at $8.99; the standard package (two devices at once) goes up to $13.99 per month, and the premium package (four devices, HDR image quality, 4K resolution) up to $17.99. The powers-that-be insist they need the money for increased programming costs.

Hmm…. Let me see. Although I have recently written about other notable Netflix shows, I am adding a few more to the roster.

It was with bittersweet emotions that I watched the sixth and last season of “Schitt’s Creek,” culminating in the wedding of David Rose and Patrick Brewer, with mother Moira Rose acting as officiant in bizarre white religious garb. I wasn’t always in the mood for the show’s strange humor, but I kept coming back for all 89 episodes.

The show made history by garnering seven comedy awards at the 2020 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Directing (Dan Levy, Eugene Levy’s son) plus Lead Actress, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. It was definitely a family Levy affair with not only Eugene and Dan playing father and son Roses, but daughter Sarah Levy also getting in the act portraying Twyla Sands, the local diner waitress. The thing I will miss the most is seeing Moira Rose’s (Catherine O’Hara) wacky black and white fashion choices and her endless supply of amusing wigs.

“The Great British Baking Show” has been back on my radar as Netflix started rolling out new episodes every Friday. Contestants, judges and hosts supposedly have to quarantine for the duration of the show. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in the GBBS mess hall when they aren’t filming?

Netflix is carrying several versions of this popular British reality show: “The Beginnings,” “Master Class” and “Holidays,” as well as the regular seasons of “The Great British Baking Show.” I’m currently limiting my sugar and gluten consumption, so this show allows me to live vicariously indeed.

A brief mention of the Danish show “Borgen” which Netflix had the wisdom to acquire. If you want to see a bang-up dramatic series about Denmark’s first fictitious female prime minister, you may want to check out “Borgen’s” three seasons (30 episodes total). Politics is tricky business everywhere.

Another charming import, in English, is “Last Tango In Halifax” with the first three seasons streamable on Netflix. Celia and Allan (thespians Anne Reid and Derek Jacoby) rekindle romance after a 60-year hiatus. A quirky ensemble of family and friends adds to the humor and drama. (The current four episodes of Season Five are available on PBS Passport.)

In short, if Netflix keeps up a good mix of original programming, foreign shows, light reality fare and American hits both old and new, I am sticking with the service.

“Emily In Paris” on Netflix

A visit to Paris seems none too imminent, so I did the next best thing: I watched “Emily In Paris” on Netflix. Darren Star, creator of “Sex in the City” and “Younger,” has created another series filled with appealing characters, killer clothing and alluring urban scenes.

Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins channeling Audrey Hepburn), an exec in Chicago, is unexpectedly transferred to Paris for a job at a French marketing firm. There has been no time for her to learn the language, so she garners the derision of her French co-workers for being a gauche American. Her first friend is nanny Ashley Park, delightfully acted by Mindy Chen. Of course, there is the cute chef (Lucas Bravo) who lives in the apartment below hers, and her French friend, Camille, who just happens to be the chef’s girlfriend.

Shades of “The Devil Wore Prada,” the meanest character is Emily’s French boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) who denigrates Emily at every turn. Our heroine just keeps trying to take lemons and make “limonade.”

This 10-episode series reminds me of the romantic comedies at which the French excel, but with a decidedly American twist. The music soundtrack with songs in both French and English is a fun mix of new and old material. The cinematography shows Paris in all of her glory, from the architecture, to the Seine to sidewalk cafes like Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore.

Reviews have been mixed, but I for one loved the atmosphere created by the clothing, the scenery and the screwball-esque dialogue despite the outlandish plot and sometimes over-the-top acting.

Put yourself on “joie de vivre” mode, make yourself a cafe au lait and visit “Emily In Paris” for a few hours.

Indian Matchmaking on Netflix

I saw the title, “Indian Matchmaking,” on Netflix and laughed at the absurdity of wanting to watch a program on that topic. The Netflix home page had a trailer for the show which I inadvertently started watching. Call me flabbergasted, but I got hooked into watching episode one which led to episode two, three and…

The star of the show is an Indian matchmaker hired by families and sometimes individuals to find them a suitable mate. This is a very foreign concept in the U. S., so that was the first thing that intrigued me. In fact, Indian singles do sometimes find their own spouses which are referred to as “love matches,” but tradition dies hard in Indian families both in India and abroad.

The cast of characters includes lawyers, a doctor, a blogger/podcaster, business owners, teachers, a jewelry designer and a wedding planner, with most of the families appearing to be upper middle class to wealthy. It costs money to hire a matchmaker after all.

Some of the prospective brides or grooms are endearing, so I found myself rooting for them to find successful matches. Other candidates make it apparent why they are single with entrenched opinions and unrealistic expectations.

Several singles from the show have dangling marriage searches so Season Two is all but assured. One couple did in fact make it to the wedding feast during the show. The series “Indian Matchmaking” is a mixture of cultural study, travelogue and mystery romance. More, please.

Carrot and Stick approach

Now that we know the shelter in place period is extended to the beginning of May, we need to take ourselves in hand. This means setting projects and deadlines for ourselves, as well as keeping daily regimens that give us a sense of structure and purpose.

I am now using the “carrot and stick” approach in order to get things done. As Steve Delchamps laughingly told me, he had been availing himself of far too many carrots and almost no sticks. I have been part of that club, too.

Educational, inspirational or funny video clips are an easy way of rewarding oneself for completion of a task.

The Dating Game with Steve Martin

The Dating Game and Physical Fitness

Exercise for 30 minutes and you get to watch this hilarious video clip of Steve Martin on The Dating Game in 1968 (linked above). He has dark hair! The female choosing a bachelor is Dina Martin, daughter of crooner, Dean Martin. Thanks for the link go to friend Jim Koudelka of Lincoln, Nebraska. This 9 minute clip is either horrific or delicious, depending on your point of view. Then again, my millennial friends asked me who Steve Martin was. Sheesh.

Great vocalist and bass player: Esperanza Spaulding may add to your cleanliness

Clean a room in your home for 30 minutes and your “carrot” could be a couple of videos featuring young bass player and vocalist, Esperanza Spaulding performing at the White House on two separate occasions.

On the Sunny Side of the Street (Catch Michelle and Barack grooving on the music of Ms. Spaulding.):

Overjoyed written by Stevie Wonder:

CBS All Access with Picard, The Good Fight and Evil

The Good Fight, an exclusive streaming spin-off series from The Good Wife was what got me to sign up for CBS All Access initially, but the catalogue has much more programming that might be of interest.

Initiated as a streaming service October 2014, CBS All Access has original programming, day later availability of CBS network broadcasts and vintage tv series like Twin Peaks, Cheers, CSI:Miami, Frasier, Taxi, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason and even Gunsmoke.

This is trekkie central for those who like the various versions of Star Trek since its debut in the 1960s. Being a Kate Mulgrew fan, I am currently watching Star Trek: Voyager. But then again, I could choose from Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Short Treks, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or even Star Trek: The Animated Series. Patrick Stewart has signed on to reprise his role as starship commander Jean-Luc Picard in the 8th Star Trek series, Picard which premiered on CBS All Access in January 2020.

You can even bounce between old series and their new versions like Hawaii Five-O or MacGyver.

Current well-reviewed comedies include Young Sheldon, The Unicorn and Mom. Alas, the entire series of The Big Bang Theory is not available on CBS All Access.

I do have two “guilty pleasure” dramatic series on the CBS streaming service, the cancelled Salvation and Evil, a fantasy created by Michelle King and Robert King who gave us The Good Wife and The Good Fight. Hey, I can’t live by PBS alone.

The streaming world is a huge smorgasbord and for now, I am sampling the fare at CBS All Access. For simplicity’s sake, I added the channel to my Amazon Prime Video package. As famed CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite used to say, “And that’s the way it is.”

https://www.cbs.com/all-access/

Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO

Call it comedy heresy but I never really got into the television series, Seinfeld when it was on network tv from 1989 to 1998. When I read that co-creator Larry David had a new sitcom, I avoided even checking out one episode, assuming that the humor would be similarly lost on me.

A friend recently suggested I give a chance to Curb Your Enthusiasm, now in its tenth season on HBO. Quelle surprise! Episode 1, Season 1 had me roaring with laughter. Subsequent episodes in Season 1 provided me with at least one belly laugh per show. I must admit that I have been lured into the comedic realm of Larry David.

Playing a version of himself, David displays rapier wit, blurts ill-advised comments and holds firm on quirky habits and rules that get him into layer upon layer of trouble. He’s a misanthrope, but a lovable, funny one.

The series is reminiscent of the Jackie Gleason Show in that David has an “Alice,” a patient, smart, eye-rolling wife, Cheryl David, played by comedic actress Cheryl Hines.

Hines’ early work with the Groundlings, an LA improvisational group, has served her well. Surprisingly, much of the brilliant dialogue on Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvised. As a side note, Hines was introduced to her current husband, Robert Kennedy Jr. by co-star David.

Running characters like Hines, Richard Lewis as himself, or Jeff Garlin playing David’s agent, Jeff Greene give an ensemble feel to the show. Guest stars Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus making cameo appearances add to the fun.

You just may want to catch Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO if you, like me, were initially immune to its charms. One season down. Nine to go. I wonder how many much-needed laughs that will be?