May 22, 2018

Le Chalet, French tv suspense series on Netflix

The French are noted for their romantic comedy movies, but a six-episode series on Netflix called Le Chalet highlights the Gallic penchant for murder mysteries.

An accident occurs which destroys the bridge to civilization, setting up a Ten Little Indians scenario as bodies begin to pile up. The screen play does not rival vintage Hitchcock, but plot lines concerning greed, rape, revenge, hidden identities and murder keep the viewer engaged.

The acting is generally excellent, but I was delighted to see three actors from the French Village series in this production as well. Nicolas Gob who was collaborating cop Jean Marchetti on FV is the bully/villain of The Chalet, while Thierry Godard and Nade Dieu play smaller but key roles in this 2017 tv program.

The cinematography is eye-popping, having been filmed in a picturesque village in the French Alps.

My only quibble is the alternation of scenes from present day and those of twenty years ago. Most of the time, it’s clear what time period we are seeing but every so often, one has to puzzle out the past from the present.

Kudos go to Netflix for carrying foreign tv material, especially shows with suspense and high production values like Le Chalet. As the tagline says in French, “When Stephen King meets Agatha Christie” which is quite apt.

Billions on Showtime

I happened to have the Showtime app open to watch Homeland. To my chagrin, I had to wait another few days to see a new episode. Another Showtime program, Billions, had not previously snagged my interest, but I decided to give it a try.

Wow! The story is intriguing with Damian Lewis playing billionaire money manager, Bobby Axelrod doggedly pursued by Paul Giamatti cast as U. S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades. Talk about two heavy-hitting actors going nose to nose!
The wife of Rhodes (Maggie Siff) works as an in-house therapist at Axe Capital complicating her work and personal connections. She and Bobby Axe have a special bond that drives her husband, Chuck crazy.

The supporting cast members are equally phenomenal. Terry Kinney of Steppenwolf fame, is Axelrod’s shady henchman, Hall; Malin Akerman plays Axe’s tough, from-the-hood wife, Lara. Second in command at Axe Capital is Wags Wagner, quirky but endearing actor David Costabile. Jeffrey DeMunn is excellent as Chuck’s overbearing and very wealthy father. I could cite several more actors for fine work, but suffice it to say that the level of acting is extremely high.

The show writers throw plot curve balls every episode which keeps you wanting to know more. Characters go in directions you don’t see coming with the pull of good and evil turning people by turns into heroes, and the next moment into morally bankrupt posers.

I still wait with bated breath for new episodes of Homeland, but Billions is a worthy show that also impels the viewer to stream from Showtime which I have on my Amazon Prime platform.

Will and Grace 2017 Reboot

When I first heard that the late 1990s TV sitcom, Will and Grace was being reprised, I was somewhat skeptical. Hearing that all four of the lead actors were on board made me a little more open-minded.

Now that I have seen several episodes, I can say that the reboot has retained some of the delicious humor and the endearing character foibles of the previous incarnation.

Megan Mullaly, Sean Hayes, Eric McCormack and Debra Messing all look pretty fabulous in this belated 9th season. Harry Connick Jr., Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Jordan, Minnie Driver and Molly Shannon, among others, all give welcome reprises of their guest roles this time around.

If anything, the show has demonstrated how far we have come with gay acceptance in the 12 years since Will and Grace wrapped up 8 seasons in 2006. The producers, writers and actors perhaps could not have predicted that gay marriage would be legal and quite common today in 2018.

Politics, class warfare, sexual mores and gay versus straight culture are woven into the current show’s plot lines and dialogue. This is screwball comedy for the 21st century with rapid fire banter and improbably hilarious situations.

When I need a laugh these days, an episode of Will and Grace is just what the comedy doctor orders.

Thursdays, 9 pm on NBC, Hulu

A French Village/Un Village Francais Season 7 on MHZ

I wrote a blog post on Un Village Francais/A French Village a while back, but an update was definitely needed since MHZ recently made the seventh and final season available on its streaming service.

The wrap-up season has been somewhat of a let-down after six previous engrossing seasons, but most fans of the show will want to see the characters through to their respective ends.

The creators of the program use flash-forwards to future decades including the 21st century. Make-up artists were tasked with aging people in some cases into their 90s with mostly believable results.

Just a word of warning, if you expect the aftermath of the French Occupation to be a “feel good” affair, you will be greatly disappointed. Many of the characters are forever damaged by their experiences. The final episodes have intricate and confusing plot points that may need some further clarification.

If you complete all seven seasons, here is the MHZ page with 41 comments about the final season and possible interpretations:

https://mhzchoice.vhx.tv/a-french-village/season:7/videos/afrvil-c-07006?anon=17dcf608-2acd-428d-9a3e-1784dbc70976

Wataha on MHZ

Readers know that I periodically mention European dramas streaming on the MHZ web site, but instead of proffering a series title in French, German, Italian or a Scandinavian language, I can now add a television show from Poland. Wataha is a 2014 Polish action crime drama about a border patrol that polices the Polish-Ukrainian border.

The series starts off with an explosion that kills a whole group of border patrol officers with one man escaping, Captain Wiktor Rebrow. A young female prosecutor comes in to investigate the case and her prime suspect for the murders is Rebrow himself.

We see the Border Guard unit deal with the illegal smuggling of drugs, weapons and humans while the ambitious woman from the district prosecutor’s office keeps them under close scrutiny. Political intrigue and murder all figure into the intricate plot.

HBO Europe broadcast the six episodes of Wataha‘s Season 1 as The Border Season 2 with another six episodes was shown in Europe in 2017. It is my hope that MHZ secures the streaming rights to Season Two postehaste. Dziekuje Ci. That’s “thank you” in Polish!

Podcasts: The Daily from the New York Times and The Rachel Maddow Show from MSNBC

I continue to love my WBEZ app where I can catch radio programs I have missed, but podcasts have now become my listening choice when I have exhausted favorite NPR programs.

Along with Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, I have added two new podcasts to my audio play list: The Daily from the New York Times newspaper and the Rachel Maddow Show from MSNBC.

I no longer get a paper version of the New York Times delivered to my home, so this audio slice of the paper was a welcome find. Each episode goes into depth on a particular topic and ends with one of the day’s most important events. I definitely feel more informed after my daily brief audio dose of the NY Times.

I don’t watch television news so I was unfamiliar with Rachel Maddow (which flabbergasted one of my sisters.) After listening to a couple of podcast episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show, I can say that this lady is really smart. She seems to be able to uncannily connect a lot of the dots concerning current news topics.

The podcast episodes appear to be audio broadcasts of her MSNBC show, so I can tell people that I am not watching TV, I am listening to it.

If you have a podcast recommendation, please send them my way.