November 13, 2018

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

The Good Fight on CBS All Access

I finally signed up to see The Good Fight, an exclusive series shown only on CBS All Access. The network has chosen this Good Wife spin-off and a new Star Trek series to lure people to their subscription streaming service. And I bit!

The Good Fight carries on where The Good Wife left off, with many actors reprising their roles from the previous series. Margulies, Chris Noth and Alan Cumming are gone, but Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart is back, as is Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn. The show is peppered with local Chicago actors including Gary Cole as Diane Lockhart’s long distance husband.

Live theater is well represented with Audra McDonald as one of the attorneys at this predominantly black law firm, English actor and director Delroy Lindo as the lead name partner and Bernadette Peters as the wife of a Bernie Madoff-esque client.

Recurring and guest roles are filled by actors like Alan Alda, Louis Gossett Jr., Dylan Baker, Christine Lahti, Matthew Perry and Margo Martindale. Guest roles have included Bebe Neuwirth, Rob Reiner, Judith Light, Wallace Shawn, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Mamie Gummer and Denis O’Hare. Talk about a who’s who of stage, tv and film.

In fact, every episode seems to bring back characters from The Good Wife, created by Michelle and Robert King. The Kings are joined by Alden Robinson in creating this sequel that carries on the tradition of episodes that feature plot lines ripped from the current headlines.

I don’t know if The Good Fight rises to the same level as The Good Wife, but I was delighted to spend more time with these intriguing characters set in the City of Big Shoulders.

This is my girlie side showing, but I want many of the outfits worn by the law ladies of The Good Fight. Whoever chose the show’s wardrobe gets an A plus. The acting and writing are good, but those clothes…….

The Americans on Amazon Prime Video

Many moons ago, I wrote about the FX series The Americans after watching Season One. As I stated back then, the first few episodes did not grab me, but once the story took hold, I avidly watched all of the series episodes

Season Six, which just ended, is the final chapter in the saga of the Jennings family. Joe Weisberg, the creator of this based-on-fact series, depicts a fictional imbedded Russian couple living in the Virginia D. C. suburbs in the 1980s of the Reagan administration. The stakes become fever pitch when an FBI agent moves into the home across the street.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys masterfully play Elizabeth and Philip Jennings. The all-American appearing husband and wife are actually Russian-born and have a penchant for disguises, different personas and violence. Every episode lets them demonstrate tour de force acting. Russell and Rhys have actually become a real life couple and are perfectly matched in theatrical skill and chemistry.

Equally marvelous are the couple’s daughter, Paige, played by Holly Taylor, Margo Martindale as their Soviet handler and Noah Emmerich as neighbor, FBI agent and friend, Stan Beeman.

As a whole the series is on par with The Wire, The West Wing and Breaking Bad. All six seasons of The Americans are available with an Amazon Prime membership. The theme of the show has great resonance today. Maria Butina, a current-day suspected Russian spy has been living in my old home town of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Talk about truth emulating fiction! Or is it the other way around?

Sugar Rush reality baking competition on Netflix

A while back, I wrote about Zumbo’s Just Desserts, an Australian baking competition reality series that starred famed Aussie baker, Adriano Zumbo. Up he pops into another baking competition called Sugar Rush with co-star, cupcake queen, Candace Nelson.

Numerically, this is a description of the show: 4 teams of two professional bakers, three rounds, two showcase cakes in the final round and one winning team which takes home $10,000.

The rounds are timed so there is strategy involved in how much time the teams spend on cupcakes, confections and spectacular cakes. Additionally, there is always a third guest judge who makes each episode different. Betsy Johnson asked for fashion themes in her rounds; local pastry creator/chef Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate restaurant used her professional palate to judge the teams.

My only quibble is hyper-active host, Hunter Marsh, who appears to be on his own sugar rush with a dose of caffeine.

Still and all, when “reality” gets to be too much, I like nothing better than to watch reality baking programs like “The Great British Baking Show,” on PBS, plus “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” and now “Sugar Rush” on Netflix. Take that, glum news and bloody crime shows!

https://www.netflix.com/title/80201328