Some Television Recommendations

March 24, 2017
Water-soluble ink brush pen sketches from “Search Party,” on a page spread in an 8.27 x 11.69 inch (A4) size Hahnemühle Nostalie Journal. (Pre-painted background texture.)

There are so many television shows I’ve been watching lately—it’s hard to know where to start. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.

“Search Party” came to my awareness through a review in the New Yorker. The season was already over (fall 2016) and when I tried to watch the on-demand free episodes I found the commercials so annoying—I’ve been spoiled by Netflix and Amazon Prime—and I loved the show so much, that I bought it on Amazon Prime and watched it in one weekend. (OK, I was ill at the time and I just went with it.) The series centers around a young woman who hears that an acquaintance has disappeared and feels moved to investigate. The people she meets along the way, as well as her band of friends who assist her, provide opportunities for a look at the assumptions we make about people and situations and how self-absorption is a dangerous thing. There’s a lot more going on in this dark comedy, but I recommend it.

Ongoing Favorites

“Gracie and Frankie” stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Their husbands are law partners and have divorced them to marry each other. The show is about what happens to these two very different women as they try to find a way towards friendship from acquaintanceship. The show is full of a great supporting cast (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play the husbands). A lot of themes are touched upon—typically in a comedic fashion, but there is some real heart coming through. On March 24, the date this post publishes, Netflix will post the third season of this show. I’m looking forward to it.

“Orange Is the New Black” has a fifth season coming up on June 9, 2017, also on Netflix. I thought that the end of season three would be a good place to stop, if one had to stop, and there were no more episodes. There was a moment of quiet and joy, and we could create our own futures for our favorites. But season four was a great season. I’m glad the show continued. It doesn’t end in a happy way at all, however. I was riding my indoor bike while watching season four’s penultimate episode and I actually started screaming out so loudly in emotional pain that Dick came to check on me. I don’t usually sob or scream when watching TV. Often some tears, but not sobs. This show continues to explore uncomfortable and often bittersweet storylines and I envy people who haven’t seen any of it and can start at the beginning; but I’m really glad that the new season isn’t too far away.

Shows I Want To Love

“Legion,” as part of the Marvel Universe is on my viewing list. I’ve watched a few episodes and let others stack up on the DVD. I want to embrace this show. The acting is great, particularly Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza. But I’ve found that the storyline and the flashing back and forth in reality is more than I’ve been able to concentrate on while I’ve experienced equipment and software tech problems that have impacted my work life. I hope to come back to it in the future. It airs on FX.

Shows I’ve Written about Before, But Now It Seems They Really Are Over (or Always Were Really Over Before I Saw Them)

I can’t post about television without mentioning the following two British series that I watched hungrily when I first discovered them, devoured a new season of each the day it was released, and wish there were more. I’ve written about them on the blog before.

The Detectorists, available sometimes on Acorn, and currently on Netflix. There’s so much brilliance in this show, from the writing to the acting and directing. The action centers on the lives of two metal detectorists who scour the British countryside near their homes, using their metal detectors to find “treasure,” which typically means some odd modern bits of nuts and bolts and sometimes a small toy car. Mackenzie Crook wrote and directed the two seasons and plays Andy, best friend to Lance, played by Toby Jones. The acting is so good the two seem to have a genuine longstanding friendship. Both are dodging various responsibilities and realities in life. There is humor here, but it’s of the subtle, often sad variety that never finds its way into US sitcoms. In other words it’s a deep and satisfying look at friendship and life choices.

“Raised by Wolves” is reviewed at length in “Recent TV Viewing” from last year. There are two seasons of this excellent comedy available for streaming on Acorn. It didn’t raise funding for a third season. I still wish there were more episodes coming.

Detail from this post’s opening image.

I watch and rewatch episodes from both of these shows all the time. They don’t go stale.

Which brings me to the following:

“Family Tree” starting Chris O’Dowd is an 8 episode gem of a series. My favorite character is Monkey. (I can’t tell you any more about that without spoiling the show’s “surprises” which are actually pretty much in your face, but it would spoil it, so I’m not saying, it’s just that sometimes I watch the “Skype” scene between Monkey and Chris O’Dowd over and over and can’t stop laughing. It is sheer brilliance. This series follows the main character’s search into his family heritage. A journey which takes him from England to the US. I originally found it on Amazon Prime. I believe it’s available to HBO subscribers in HBO’s show library. It’s so worth seeking out. My second favorite scene is the one between Monkey and Christopher Guest’s character at the end of the series. Everyone needs to see this series. We all need humor in our lives.

Of course in all of these shows there are actors who are very fun to sketch! I just thought I should mention that.

    • Julana
    • March 24, 2017

    It is always fun to read your tv reviews. I’m sorry to say I laughed out loud over your response to Orange is the New Black. We only make our way through one series at a time, and have been on Acorn’s Midsomer for awhile, usually half an episode per evening. I love the buildings and the landscapes, but the plots are thin, and the crimes often gruesome. The main actors are likeable, but I really can’t recommend the show, unless you just love those settings, which I do.
    (I thought Poirot was the best for sketching. Something about the styles of that period.)

    1. Reply

      Julana I agree that there is something odd going on in Midsomer!!! The people always meet the most violent and gruesome and belabored ends, with statues or tanks rolling over them or snakes wrapping around them. But I continue to watch and enjoy the show because the 90 minute show average is perfect for a nice indoor cycle! And I have a high tolerance for gruesome. I enjoyed Poirot a lot, but not so much for sketching, though the costumes and set design were wonderful, I agree. I prefer to sketch from ANY version of Miss Marple. I like all the actresses who played her, but all for different reasons.

        • Julana
        • March 29, 2017

        I laughed out loud with relief rhat you agree with me on the gruesomeness. The deaths in that show are just not like the others. It is not just me! We have really liked the Barnaby, Joyce, Troy, and Jones cyaracters. We are in season 13, the last of the first Barnaby.
        I will have to give the Miss Marples another try.

    • Cathy
    • March 24, 2017

    I love your tv reviews too. I agree about the commericals, once I was started using Netflix and Amazon firetv, watching tv shows with commercials can be a slog.

    1. Reply

      I am completely ruined for commercial TV. Even my sense of timing is fed by the easy way you stream to the next scene on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I don’t even like to use the DVR and fast forward through commercials. But I do. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the note.

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