January 17, 2019

Schitts Creek, Canadian comedy series on Netflix

One of my sisters has been raving about the comedy series, Schitts Creek on Netflix, but the show title was enough to put it on the bottom of my list. That was a mistake.

Canadian Eugene Levy of Waiting For Guffman and Second City Toronto fame, has teamed up with son Daniel Levy to create a laugh-out-loud comedy series set in the fictional town of Schitts Creek. Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), former video king magnate, bought this small town as a joke for his son’s birthday. The Roses lose all of their money and are forced to move to their only remaining asset, Schitts Creek.

Daniel Levy, Eugene’s real life son, plays the pan-sexual male progeny of this fish-out-of-water family. Mother Moira Rose is played by comedic actress Catherine O’Hara, a frequent collaborator of Eugene’s. Her parade of black and white designer duds and various wigs is almost worth the price of admission. The fourth in this comedic quartet is Annie Murphy playing self-absorbed, jet-setting daughter Alexis Rose.

As in most successful tv comedies, the supporting roles are equally engaging including Emily Hampshire playing deadpan hotel worker Stevie Budd, Chris Elliott as mullet-wearing Mayor Roland Schitt, along with his style-challenged wife Jocelyn portrayed by actress Jennifer Robertson. Other quirky side characters include the handsome local vet, a waitress at the only diner in town, the owner of Bob’s Garage and the only real estate agent in town.

At first, I thought the only joke was how cluelessly sophisticated the Rose family was in comparison to the seeming hillbillies of Schitts Creek. It becomes apparent that this new constellation of friends and acquaintances is a big improvement over their previous big city community in loyalty, generosity and heart.

For every biting bit of humor, there is a warm fuzzy realization that family and real friends help us get through any catastrophe, including losing our bank accounts, our possessions and our social standing. Laughs plus the occasional “Aw….” in Schitts Creek makes for the perfect end of day viewing.

Killing Eve from the BBC

Expecting to find yet another well-made police procedural in the BBC’s show, Killing Eve, I was surprised by the production’s fresh take on international crime, thanks, in no small part, to American actress, Sandra Oh playing MI5 agent Eve Polastri who becomes fascinated with a female contract killer running loose in Europe.

Based on the Luke Jennings novella series, Codename Villanelle, Jodie Comer deliciously plays the dangerous lady with a penchant for paid assassinations. Fiona Shaw is Polastri’s shadowy boss who has secrets of her own. As we are introduced to new characters, we ponder who are the good guys and gals?

Sandra Oh and Comer are the heart of the show as they take turns being prey and huntress to one another. As a bonus, we get to see Villanelle in haute couture amid shots in Paris, Tuscany, Berlin, Romania and London, rather like a great travel show with a a plot to boot.

For every gruesome murder image, we have equally droll scenes to appreciate. If you like witty script-writing, twisty plots and fine acting, look no further than Killing Eve. Here’s hoping that Sid Gentle Films, the production company, can keep up the perfect balance of tension and comedy in Season Two.

Killing Eve, Season One is currently streaming on Hulu.

The Kominsky Method on Netflix

More and more name actors and directors are taking the plunge to the small screen with streaming service Netflix being one of the primary contenders in attracting quality productions.

The Kominsky Method, created by the uber-successful Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Mom) has cast Michael Douglas as struggling LA actor/teacher Sandy Kominsky along with Alan Arkin as his button-downed friend and agent, Norman.
The script goes for laughs but the deeper sub-text keeps the dialogue from being cheap. Getting older has never seemed so grim or hilarious.

Nancy Travis is delightful as his sort-of girlfriend and Sarah Baker spot-on as his ever-patient daughter.

Scenes at Sandy’s acting studio are particularly moving as we see people striving to find the sweet spot of theatrical artistry versus the crassness of paid acting work.

The show is chock full of familiar faces playing bit roles such as Danny DeVito as a sadistic proctologist and Lisa Edelstein as Alan Arkin’s spoiled druggie daughter. Even Ann-Margaret and Elliot Gould make cameo appearances.

Netflix has already ordered Season Two so we can look forward to more snappy dialogue about senior dating, parent-child relationships, tax bills and prostate problems. No, this really is a comedy.

May you joyfully binge-watch The Kominsky Method this holiday season.

Wild Wild Country doc on Netflix

Fasten your seat belts for Wild Wild Country, a six-part documentary about the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his deputy Ma Anand Sheela and the community they created in Wasco County, Oregon. I had to keep reminding myself that this saga was not fiction, but a true life story of the 1980s with the Bhagwan and his sannyasins or followers.

Wild Wild Country

The Rashneeshis were noted for wearing burgundy, red, and orange clothing, sitting enrapt in the presence of the Bhagwan and at other times bouncing around in physical abandonment. The conservative Oregonian locals felt fear and bewilderment at this group of seeming interlopers.

Brother film-makers Chapman and MacIain Way depict the mounting tension between the “cult” and the local and federal government. A fantastic scriptwriter could not have fabricated some of the surprising turns the story takes. I defy you not to become engrossed in this strange tale.

If you want an interesting follow-up to the series, you might consider reading the Vanity Fair magazine article that talks about where some of the principals are now and ponders some of the issues not resolved in the documentary.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/04/wild-wild-country-netflix-cult-documentary-interview-bhagwan-shree-rajneesh-antelope-oregon-sheela-rajneeshpuram

Younger TV Show on Hulu

Cast of Younger

My tolerance for serious news issues and gruesome crime shows has suddenly plummeted. Hulu to the rescue with a lighter than air sit-com which has been highly binge-able.

TVLand is the place of origin for Younger, a four season charmer starring Broadway star Sutton Foster currently streaming on Hulu. Darren Star, the show creator has a successful pedigree with Sex In the City, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 on his resume.

Foster plays Liza Miller, a 40 year old single mom who fails to get any job nibbles in publishing after her ex-husband leaves her financially destitute. She decides to repackage herself as a 26 year old hipster living in Brooklyn. Voila, she ends up with an entry-level position at Empirical Press and is pursued by a 26 year old male tattoo artist, Josh (Nico Tortorella) who assumes they are the same age.

Helping her keep her cover is friend and room-mate Maggie played by the outrageous Debi Mazar. Liza’s work buddy is Kelsey Peters played by singer, songwriter, actress Hilary Duff.

Miller’s age deception has unexpected consequences for her younger boyfriend, her teenage daughter, her co-workers and for her tall and handsome 40-something boss, Charles played by Peter Hermann.

Gilmore Girls and Drop Dead Diva are shows that seem cut from the same stylish cloth. Younger may attract more female viewership but men would learn a lot if they watched this slightly irreverent comedy with the women in their lives. I bet you’ll have at least one laugh per episode.

The Week paper magazine

downmagaz.com

Just when I had given up all paper news sources, along came The Week, a weekly magazine that a friend started giving me when he was done reading it. Their tag line below the title says “The Best of the U. S. and International Media” and that about says it all.

This is a concise news source for quick overviews of world and national politics, along with blurbs on issues of culture, science, technology and the arts.There are also editorials from around the world on mainstream and lesser known subjects.

For in depth articles, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and magazine web sites like The Economist and The New Yorker take me further into selected topics, but for general news, The Week is easily perused in one sitting and gets me up to speed on most of the current hot button topics.

Curiously, I have visited The Week’s electronic magazine site, but greatly prefer their old-fashioned paper magazine format. They amply use both eye-catching photos and drawings for many articles, including the always amusing cover color cartoon.

downmagaz.com

A black and white cartoon page slants toward the political and is always hilarious. The crossword puzzle on the back page is like dessert after a several course meal of various issues.

Some may criticize the thumbnail approach to hard news, but in the words of Sgt. Friday on Dragnet,  “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”As far as I know, The Week is giving me just that in one digestible format.

downmagaz.com