Ask A Wench — What We've Been Watching
Anne here, with our regular "Ask a Wench" feature. And today we're responding to this question: Have you watched any good TV shows or movies lately?
Christina said: I haven’t been watching much TV at all as I’ve become obsessed with reading every night during lockdown, but there have been a few shows that I've enjoyed. For some reason I hardly ever read crime novels, but I love watching it on TV and so called “Scandi Noir” really does it for me. It’s dark and gritty and well worth watching. One of my favourites is the Swedish series Beck about an aging Stockholm detective and his team. The crimes may be gruesome on occasion, but there is always humour in these stories as well since the main character Martin has a crazy neighbour called Valdemar who is hilarious. Martin himself is a very sympathetic character and the whole series has a realistic feel to it that I like immensely.
Another one I’ve really enjoyed is the Icelandic programme Trapped. The first series was set in a small town in northern Iceland during a very cold winter when everyone was snowed in and couldn’t get out because all the roads were closed. That made for a very claustrophobic atmosphere with a killer on the loose and it was incredibly exciting and gripping. The second series was almost as good and I’m hoping there will be more soon.
I’ve only been to the cinema once in the last two years but I am eagerly awaiting the new sci-fi movie Dune, based on the novels by Frank Herbert. The trailer looks very promising! I first read these books back in high school when I took a course called Futuristic Lit (so much more fun than the classics!) and I was hooked. I really hope this new version does them justice as the first time this was adapted for the cinema the result was very disappointing. Here's a trailer.
Pat said: The Guy and I watch a show every other night when we can. We’ll try new shows that sound interesting or pick up ones others have recommended, but the ones we settle in to watch long term are limited and usually humorous. Right now I’m utterly incensed that Amazon Prime has discontinued New Tricks, my very favorite sit-back-and-enjoy series. It’s about a group of former British police detectives who are brought back to work unsolved cases. The characterization is hilarious as they play off each other—one by-the-book curmudgeon, a neurodivergent genius on meds, a playboy who’s been married more times than I can count, and the younger female officer who has to keep them reined in. It’s on Britbox now but I haven’t resigned myself to buying a new service for just one show.
We’re also enjoying the French show Call My Agent, about movie agents. It features genuine French movie stars, and again, the characterization of these competitive agents, some empathic, some not, is fascinating enough to be worth reading the English captioning. Or practice your French! Here's a trailer.
From Mary Jo: I'm not much of a TV watcher--I'd rather read. But The Mayhem Consultant and I do enjoy kicking back and watching something fun a couple of nights a week--which for me means a constant hunt for something we'll both like. Frankly, what's being made now seems to be mostly dark, dark, dark! I don't need dark, not when I have newspapers to read!
The only current series we enjoy tend to be witty with veins of humor, like New Zealand's Brokenwood Mysteries or the sometimes goofy but fun Caribbean-set Death In Paradise. So lately we've been re-watching old favorites for which I have DVDs--a technology I find more reliable than streaming. Plus I hate the kudzu-like growth of evermore streaming services and the way they jerk series around and make it hard to watch favorite shows consistently. Here's a trailer of Death In Paradise.
So we've been re-watching our way through JAG, a series about Navy lawyers doing all kinds of improbable things all over the world. The plots are varied and clever and the characters are likable and honorable. And luckily it's a very long series!
Another fun re-watch is Castle, a comedy/mystery series featuring a spacey but clever bestselling mystery writer and a no-nonsense female detective in New York City. Again, clever plots, good characters, a lot of humor, and best of all, it's at heart a romance. So a good time for us!
We're also enjoying re-watching the Cadfael medieval mystery series. It's based on the books of Ellis Peters, which I've read and loved. Brother Cadfael is a great character, a former Crusader turned herbalist Benedictine monk. There are always a pair of star-crossed young lovers and I love the medieval background music. <G>
We've done some movie re-watching, too. A couple of weeks ago, we saw the ever- charming Notting Hill, in which Julia Roberts plays an American superstar actor and Hugh Grant is the slightly klutzy but adorable bookstore owner who falls in love with her. It's a romance with a HEA, of course!
Perhaps the re-watch I liked best was this past weekend's view of Hidden Figures, the movie is the story of brilliant Black female mathematicians who worked for NASA in the early 1960s as part of the effort to put an American in space. We saw it when it came out, and liked it just as much now. The three female leads, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, are terrific. The basic story of talent, prejudice, and ultimate triumph is true, though there is some fictionalization for dramatic effect. It's very powerful and moving.
Now I'm wondering how long we'll need to wait before we can start re-watching Madame Secretary, the excellent series about a female Secretary of State who has to balance demanding diplomatic issues with family life. We loved the characters and the stories.
But sadly, there are never enough great series to watch!
Susan said: Lately in our house, we've been watching Ted Lasso - we signed up for Apple TV just to see it, try it out, and were immediately, completely hooked.
Jason Sudeikis, formerly of Saturday Night Live (and of We're the Millers, a very funny movie) plays Ted, an American football coach who moves to England to coach an English football team (soccer on our side of the pond!). Funny, deeply clever, Ted Lasso is much more than a comedy filled with homegrown wisdom, quirky characters, crazy situations - the characters are unique, real, and endearing and the situations are always fresh. There's everything you could want - humor, sexy guys, friendship, conflict, strong, smart women - and a shortbread recipe that's gone viral.
Characters have gone viral too, with good reason - Roy Kent is a gruff, understated, crunchy on the outside/tender on the inside hero who just wants to be an anti-hero. It's authentic, it's affectionate, and even when it goes deep, as it does sometimes, it's funny, charming, and uplifting. I absolutely love this series. This is the show so many of us need right now. Ted Lasso is not just feel-good, it's a remedy for what ails ya.
Other than that, it's football season (American style!), so there's a whole lot of that on our TV lately. I watch some of it, but zone out quickly, which means I'll get more reading done for a while. And if new seasons would finally be available for our favorite mysteries - Shetland, Vera, and Brokenwood - we would be in TV heaven in our house.
Nicola said: At the moment we are gripped by Vigil, a very tense BBC thriller. When a submariner is found dead on a Royal Navy submarine, a civilian police officer is drafted in to investigate and uncovers a complex conspiracy. As the writer says, it’s basically a locked room mystery where the detective is forced to work and sleep alongside the criminal they are pursuing. Unfortunately DCI Amy Silva also has a host of personal issues to deal with that are only exacerbated by the claustrophobia and isolation. Meanwhile on land her colleagues are tackling the mystery from their side but with very limited communications between the two and sabotage threatened, it’s a race against time. I love a good thriller and this is very good indeed. Here's a trailer.
Meanwhile the autumn schedules are bringing us a host of new or returning dramas which is fun. A new series of Endeavour started last night – it’s 1971 and the young Morse isn’t so young anymore! And later in the week we have series 2 of the new version of All Creatures Great and Small, which was such a hit last year, combining as it does romance, heart, goodness and cute furry animals. It really lifts the spirits!
From Andrea: I’ve been on a British police procedural binge lately. I’m a huge fan of the show Unforgotten, which features a team of inspectors who solve cold case murders. Headed by Cassie, the team leader (played by the brilliant Nicola Walker) and her close colleague, Sunny (played by the equally wonderful Sanjeev Bhaskar) they delve into the past with a passion to bring justice to those who’ve been “forgotten” even though each case can bring painful ramifications for those who’ve survived the original crime. The team itself has wonderfully complex characters—Cassie being first and foremost—and the each episode is beautifully acted, with moral question that make the viewer think. For me, it’s really great drama, even though it’s tough at times.
I’ve also enjoyed DCI Banks, a procedural based on the mystery novels of Peter Robinson. Again, the characters and relationships are really interesting and well-drawn.
I really enjoyed the French show, Lupin, which has been a hit on Netflix. It's billed as a heist show, but it's much more than that — it's really about finally claiming justice and writing a wrong. The star, Omar Sy is one of my favorite French movie stars. Two of my favorite movies with him are The Intouchables and Two Is a Family, both of which have quite a bit of comedy in them, but an underlying serious theme. If you can see them, I highly recommend them. Here's a fabulous clip of Two is a Family.
As well I thoroughly enjoyed the French series that Pat mentioned Call my Agent. Oh wow, the lying, cover-ups, negotiating and frenetic and cutthroat competition that goes on in this agency. Very entertaining and in the end, some really wonderful acting, especially by Camille Cottin. An added bonus is that each episode stars a real French movie star playing him or herself.
I'm also a fan of Brit Crime shows like Endeavour, Vera and Shetland but they sometimes get a bit dark for me. Lewis is a favourite, as is New Tricks, that Pat mentioned. I enjoyed the early episodes of Death in Paradise (esp. the ones with Ben Miller) which are more lighthearted and fun. If you get a chance, also watch the show, Pie in the Sky, with Richard Griffiths as a cop who runs a restaurant — he wants to retire, but his boss hangs onto him because he's too good at catching villains. A charming, quite gentle crime show, and the interactions between the various characters is delightful. Another light-hearted and entertaining Brit crime show is Shakespeare and Hathaway — an ex-cop and a former hairdresser become private detectives.
I haven't recently watched the series of Cadfael that Mary Jo mentioned, but I have it on DVDs and have all of Ellis Peter's books. I watched most of the old series of All Creatures Great and Small years ago, and loved it, and I was prepared not to enjoy the new version as much — but it's just as wonderful. And having the two versions available is fascinating, seeing where they differ and are the same. And, as Nicola said, it "romance, heart, goodness and cute furry animals."
And that's it from the wenches. So tell us, what have you been watching lately that you've enjoyed and would recommend?