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Even More Television Viewing

November 8, 2017
Icelandic actor Porsteinn Gunnarsson as Eiríkur in “Trapped.” Pentel Brush pen, watercolors, and acrylic marker.

Yep, a couple more TV show reviews today. I’ve been trying to keep track of what I’ve written about already. 

Earlier this fall I watched “Trapped” on Amazon Prime. The action takes place in a remote Icelandic town. A headless torso shows up just as a storm blocks the town from outside help.

The police chief of the small town was a city cop who has returned to town to live with his ex-in-laws. (He and his wife have an amicable separation, but the two young daughters live with him and their grandparents.)

Yes, the show is in Icelandic with English subtitles, but this is one of those shows where the acting sucks you right in and you know what’s going on without the subtitles. 

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as the police chief in a small Icelandic Town where a headless torso shows up and as storm isolates the town from the outside world.

The scenes, the photography, the music all created an atmosphere that I found oddly comforting.

The police chief is played by Icelandic actor Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. He’s a big bear of a man (with a great beard I might add) and even though it’s not very calming to find a headless torso in your town I always felt that he was more than competent and would take care of everyone. He’s the type of man who got in trouble for always doing the right thing (in a pig-headed fashion perhaps, but sometimes that’s the only way you can do the right thing). That character trait is both his curse and his strength. But it’s really always a strength over time.

Note: I wasn’t aware of Ólafur Darri Ólafsson before this and didn’t even recognize that he’s the same actor I saw in “Emerald City” playing Ojo a giant munchkin. (Of course he was hidden under layers of faceprint, feathers and leather clothing.)

The outstanding supporting cast of characters all push their own agendas to deepen the mystery, and even the child actors are outstanding. 

That’s almost all I can say about this show without giving things away. I think there were 10 episodes. I watched the show in blocks of two episodes when I had spare time. It was heaven to be outside the Marvel Universe with real people and not a Zombie in sight! (Of course I still love my Marvel and Zombie shows!) I stopped watching for two weeks and delayed watching the final episode. I didn’t want to leave the town and the people.

While I had bronchitis I worked my way through “The Good Place.”

It too created it’s own vibe but something totally opposite to “Trapped,” but still off kilter. One of the first shows I binge watched on Netflix was “Veronica Mars,” which also starred Kristen Bell. I find her fascinating to watch and listen to. In “The Good Place” Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop who finds out she’s dead and has gone to “the good place.” But she knows she wasn’t that good a person and wonders about the mistake. If you enjoy Kristen Bell and are interested in following along with serious philosophical discussions (made “lite” for the format) mixed with almost slapstick antics and misunderstandings I believe you will be rewarded in the final few episodes of season one which may sync with your own intuition about how things are going. I think shows which walk the line of tone don’t always find an audience. (Note I’ve revised this paragraph because a reader wrote in to tell me that there is a second season of “The Good Place.” So you can catch up on Netflix for season one, and watch season two on NBC or Hulu. I need to get caught up!)

“Kevin Probably Saves the World” (Currently in it’s first season on ABC) takes a totally different slant on what makes a good person. Kevin, played by Jason Ritter, is a young man who returns to his home town to live with his twin sister after his unsuccessful suicide attempt that we only learn about in reference. We see flashbacks of him as a stock trader taking advantage of an old woman, and we learn that he has been distant from his sister’s life—not even attending the funeral of her husband. Just after his arrival he comes in contact with a meteor and starts seeing a “being” who doesn’t like being categorized as an angel. (And he’s the only one who can see her. Kimberly Hebert Gregory is perfect in this roll, which allows her to be kind and attitudinal at the same time.) According to his “guardian” he is the last righteous man and has to go and find the other 36, all the while doing good works so that he can have a vision and go forward.

I know it all sounds very religious and I always shy away from such shows because I’m not religious, and I pretty cynical. But the show actually plays as about family. I have no idea where they are going with this. All I know is that Jason Ritter is so engaging as the hapless, clueless, self centered, caring, messed up human that I have to keep watching. Every now and then you hear the cadence and even notes of his father’s voice, and an action that you recognize as John Ritter’s; it isn’t something he’s learned, some things are just passed down.  (I know this because I live with a man who moves and has all the little tics his father has. I notice this more and more as his father gets more and more frail.)

I don’t know where they are going with this show, but for now I can suspend my cynicism.

I don’t need to suspend my cynicism, however, when I watch Tig Notaro in “One Mississippi.” Even though the keyword search of my blog didn’t show up the post, I know I wrote about this show’s season one. I was totally drawn into Tig’s tv-version of life. She plays a comic who has survived breast cancer (as Notaro has in real life), who returns to her Mississippi home to be with her step-father and brother. I don’t want to write anything else about this show because it is so special it should be savored each episode at a time. The first season focuses on Tig’s relationship with her step-father played brilliantly by John Rothman. The second season focuses more on the brother and his girlfriend relationships, but also deals in a very deft way with the issue of sexual harassment.

I think “One Mississippi” is essential viewing for all women, and for all parents. I think Notaro is brilliant at weaving the serious and the comedic in a way that exposes the real heart of relationships.

You can watch “One Mississippi” on Amazon Prime (where it is free). 

I’ve just realized that all the shows I’m writing about today are about family, so I’ll wrap up with one more family show: “Blackish.” I’m a late arrival to the audience of Blackish. I was spending too much time in the land of Marvel. My massage therapist kept telling me how great it was. While I was ill I started bing watching the first season. I’m now on season two and love it. I’m taping the current season to watch when I get caught up, but I have watched some episodes out of order and I’d encourage you to just jump in. 

Anthony Anderson plays “Andre” the successful advertising executive who is married to a surgeon (the mesmerizing Tracee Ellis Ross). Together they have 4 kids (the youngest are twins, just to help you out if you jump in out of order). Laurence Fishburne plays Dre’s father. He lives in the guest house while his ex-wife, played by Jenifer Lewis comes to visit the family often and taunt him—and we learn a lot about their relationship (think water and oil and attraction and passion) in rather shockingly hilarious flashbacks.

Dre narrates each episode, bringing up a topic that is bothering him. IMBD simply states the premise as “A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood.” Let’s go with that and throw in some wildly inappropriate behavior by the white folks where he works.

Each show posits and issue, shows how the reality he sees isn’t the reality those around him see, and through comic friction new understanding arises. It’s fresh and addictive.

If you want to start at episode one you can catch “Blackish” on Amazon Prime. (You do have to buy the seasons, they aren’t on Prime/Prime, and Prime users will know what I mean.) The show isn’t on Netflix. I think it’s worth paying for.

OK, one more, since family is the topic—“Sneaky Pete.” This is another show I thought I’d already written about. Just watch it if you get Amazon Prime where it’s free, one of the growing list of shows produced for Amazon Prime.

Giovanni Ribisi plays a con man running from a vicious crime boss. Upon release from prison he uses all the stories of childhood he’s had hear repeatedly from his cellmate to step into that cellmate’s estranged family as “Pete.” They happen to have a family business—Bail Bonds. At every turn, this show is fast paced and incredible, and you get to watch Margo Martindale—who is a national treasure. I am counting on their being a season two.

Several years ago Amazon posted the pilot on Prime and I fell in love with it, going back frequently to see if it got enough votes to make a whole series. I was thrilled with the first season. Besides the fantastic cast their is a deep team of talent producing, writing, and directing this show including David Shore and Graham Yost.

If you have some TV viewing time this weekend you might want to check on one of these shows.  

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  1. Reply

    Thanks for the tips for good shows. The good place is now streaming what I’m pretty sure is its second season with an interesting twist. And Wanted on Netflix is fantastic!

    1. Reply

      Another reader wrote in about the second season of The Good Place and I’ve inserted that into the post. I’m looking forward to catching up. I haven’t heard of Wanted. I’ll check that out. Thanks Jana!

  2. Reply

    I am a television junkie. No wonder I don’t have time to do much art. I am hooked on Outlander. It is so captivating with historical fiction and romance. It’s a winner.

    1. Reply

      I watched Outlander a couple years ago during a “Starz” free-view and actually signed up for the premium service because of other factors. (I think I might have written a review on it.) I enjoyed some of it, but it was very much skewed to a romance angle and didn’t appeal to me at the time—it seemed like a standard bodice-ripper of which I’m not a fan. I realize it is more complex than that according to friends who really like it, but the constant heavy breathing of the lead actress made me annoyed. It began to seem comical to me. I have intended to pick up the show again, since I did get about 10 hours in, but haven’t had the chance. Thanks for reminding me to take another look.

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