Tag Archives: BBC America

Orphan Black, season 2

tumblr_n2w6c7vKaA1rh0u2ko1_r3_500How ironic that I am moving to the UK and will no longer be able to see this BBC America show. Wait–is that irony? Alanis Morissette has completely ruined my ability to discern irony. Whether it’s ironic or not, it’s definitely annoying and stupid.  I really love this show. I think it’s a good show, and I think Tatiana Maslany is spectacular.  The fact that she hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy at this point is an actual crime.

There’s a scene where Sarah is handcuffed to a shower (happens to the best of us), and Helena appears with a massive knife.  I’ve never seen anyone look as afraid as Sarah does in this scene.

0Particularly when you consider the fact that a-the person she’s pretending to be afraid of is herself, and b-there was no one there to react to at the time. The Helena part was added afterward.

Season one ended with a focus on Sarah and Helena, who are apparently twins, born to the same surrogate mother. We also saw the inner workings of the Dyad Institute, including the clone-in-charge, Rachel.  Season two begins with Mrs. S and Kira gone, Cosima and Delphine ‘infiltrating’ the Dyad in order to learn more about the clone program. Alison is turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with the fact that she let her friend die–note to self, never run the garbage disposal while wearing a decorative scarf. Or any scarf, I suppose. Most disturbingly, Cosima is starting to show signs of the illness that killed Katja.  I swear, if they kill of Cosima I’m done. She’s my favorite.

Helena is a close second.  Helena is amazing.

timthumbShe goes through some shit this season. Kidnapped by a creepy Eugenics cult that seemed to combine the most horrifying parts of Mormonism and Nazi medical experiments.  Very very gross. Forced to wear horrible clothes out of Little House on the Prairie, and injected with (her own) eggs fertilized by the creepy prophet/cult leader.  Nope, nope, nope. On the upside, she gets to have a dance and a kiss with a guy in a bar, and she eats a lot of food.

The season focuses on a few things. Rachel, the uptight psycho who runs the Dyad Institute and treats herself and her fellow clones like subjects in a science experiment, but secretly harbors extreme anger over her loss of her parents, and her inability to have children. Major rage issues. The clones all learn more about themselves, both through Cosima’s work in the lab and by finding their ‘creator’, who also served as Rachel’s adoptive father, before he went into hiding. They (and we) learn that the clones are infertile by design (Sarah and Helena are the only known exceptions), and the respiratory problem (caused by tumors) can be treated with stem cells–from Kira.  We also meet Kira’s father, who looks and acts like Aiden from Sex and the City, but clearly has something to hide.  The question is, what did he know when he was dating Sarah?

I love all of the characters in this show, and I really enjoyed the plot. Shows like this have to walk a tightrope. Reveal too much and you lose audience interest. Reveal too little and you frustrate everyone (e.g., Lost).  Orphan Black does a great job answering questions and keeping interest.  You feel like you’re getting somewhere, even if the somewhere you’re getting is into deeper trouble for all the characters.

My only real complaint about the season is the same as everyone else’s, I think. Tony.

orphanblack_2x08_tonyLook, I have no issue with seeing transsexual characters on TV–it’s great for improving acceptance.  But this was not well done.  Tatiana Maslany didn’t do that bad of a job with the acting itself, but there were a few big issues.  One–the terrible pasted-on, barely-there facial hair.  No.  Do better.  The look overall, actually, was quite badly done in my opinion. Look at Boys Don’t Cry for better examples.  Actually, that terrible Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man made a more believable male character.  Of course, Tony isn’t actually male (anatomically). He’s a pre-op transsexual, if memory serves.  He’s taking hormones, which would account for facial hair and a deeper voice. But I was thrown by the long hair and feminine eyebrows they retained.  But other than just the appearance, the writing of this character was not good.  He wasn’t likeable, and the pseudo-flirtation between him and Felix made me feel a bit gross, just because…Sarah is Felix’s adoptive brother and best friend, and this is basically Sarah’s twin.  I find it weird when people date their best friend’s family, particularly if they look similar.  Part of why Harry and Ginny bother me as a couple. The whole episode just made me unhappy and it broke the cognitive dissonance and left me cringing. I was also annoyed by his appearance, his possession of cryptic information, and then *poof*, he’s gone.  Annoying. I’m ready for him to never come back.

Setting us up for next season, they also introduced Marion. Marion is above Rachel in the Dyad Institute and whatever else they are connected with. I recognize the actress from her turn on True Blood, so I was all ‘Danger, Sarah Manning!’. She cannot be trusted.  Or killed, if she’s anything like her True Blood character.

Orphan-Black-210-Marion-Sarah-CharlotteCharlotte is the little girl in the foreground of this picture.  Marion tells us that, after hundreds of attempts, Charlotte is the only clone they’ve produced since the first batch.  Sarah’s face kind of says it all–imagine coming face to face with your 8-year-old self.

I’m going to have to figure out a way to watch this next year, because I really like it. It surprises and amuses me, and how often do both of those things happen in a TV show? That being said, I hope Tony only makes one more appearance, relaying a cryptic but important message before being tragically killed.

Wild Things, season two

WildThings-ShowThumbThis show could also be titled ’45 minutes of me watching through my fingers’.  Because…there are almost always snakes. Case in point: In the first episode, Dom is searching for a ‘Giant Spitting Cobra’ in Kenya.  Cobras are, without a doubt, the scariest animals in the entire world. I have a difficult time even standing next to the life-size cardboard cobra at our zoo. And as amusing as I find this picture:

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The picture scares me so much I think I have to delete it from my computer right away. My mom told me once that she rented Silence of the Lambs. She watched 15 minutes of it, and couldn’t go any farther. She had to rewind it immediately and take it back to the video rental place (kids: ask your parents what this was)–she didn’t want it in the house. My fear of snakes is really strong. I am prepared to move one day to New Zealand, Ireland, or Hawaii.  No snakes in those places. None at all. But what if I’m flying to my new snake-free haven and the plane is filled with snakes?!  I’m not Samuel L. Jackson; I will not survive that shit. I’d probably fling myself off the plane rather than deal with that.

But I digress. Back to the show.

This season, Dom continued to search for unusual, unique, and difficult-to-find animals. Usually of the non-cuddly variety. He looked for a Gaboon Viper in Zambia, the aforementioned cobra, the Titan Beetle in Brazil, Gila monsters in the SW US, Box Jellyfish off the coast of Australia, etc. There was a truly fucking terrifying bit with an anaconda that I had to watch from the other room. But, there were a few more cuddly and likeable animals in the mix this season. He looked for the Ghost Bat (yes, bats are cute. if you disagree, you are wrong), a tiny Lemur Leap Frog, and the Slow Loris, possibly the 3rd cutest animal ever. If you’re wondering, my dog was the cutest animal ever.  That’s just a fact.

There were also some great moments when Dom helped a sloth cross a road, hung out with some tiger cubs, and there’s a really interesting bit with an elephant.

DominicMonaganWildThings02_m_0324They have to sedate it so that they can help to dress a would it’s received from poachers. Poachers, by the way, are the world’s worst people. They help the elephant, but there are a few really sketchy moments after it wakes up.  Frank (the cameraman) almost gets trampled.  Later, Frank gets hit with a nasty bit of jumping cactus.

My favorite part of the season was when Dom re-united with his fellow hobbit, Billy Boyd.  Part of the reason I’ve had a crush on Dom for the last ~10 years is because I watched/listened to all the Lord of the Rings special features. He and Billy are hilarious together and I have a sort of deep affection for them both. So a reunion was very fun to see, though Billy is starting to look like an adult man, and I disapprove of that in general. I mean…he’s 45, but still!

tumblr_n54865IyDS1sm6um6o1_500Luckily, Dom still looks like a 10-year old, who is about to see a fire truck.

They toured New Zealand together, looking for the Giant Wetapunga. Billy brought his snake stick, which is particularly funny since there are no snakes in New Zealand.  I would definitely watch a show that just followed the two of them around in their regular lives.  Get on that, TV gods.

My only real complaint is (once again) with BBC America.  WHY do you, BBC America Execs, choose to show me only 45 minutes of a 1 hour show? You suck. Just make it an hour and 15 minutes. Then you can fit your commercials in, and I still get to see all of the stuff. Or if you can’t do that, put the cut scenes on the website so I at least have a chance to see them. It’s fucking ridiculous. I missed major scenes in Broadchurch, which made me irritated. With this show, I knew because of interviews (and the presence of a bandage) that Dom got hurt during the filming of the 2nd season. In the interviews, he admitted he needed 40 stitches, but didn’t want to say what animal it was, so people would tune in and see what happened. Well, they cut that bit. Fuck you, BBC America.  You know, in the age of the DVR, there’s no need for this crap.  I record the show, so I don’t care if it ends at 9 or 9:15. Just show the whole show. Or at least make it possible for me to see the whole thing. What is the point of you, you network? You make me unreasonably angry. I want to stomp on your foot.

To make myself less angry, here’s a picture of Dom and a sloth.

domincmonaghan-april14-1

Ripper Street – Season 2

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The second season/series of Ripper Street began on BBC America in February, and finished last month. I have my ups and downs with this show, and can’t ever decide how I feel about it. But I never really love it, and the second season was more of the same. It’s the sort of show you watch, but it doesn’t really hold your interest, and when you’re done you can’t really remember what it was about.

The second season had Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) again leading a Whitechapel detective squad with his right-hand man, Sergeant Drake, and his American scientist, Homer Jackson. But it’s the private lives of all three that bring about most of the problems across the season arc. Reid begins to see a new woman, June Cobden, after his marriage had fallen apart.

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I like her more than I like him, to be honest, and I’m comforted to see she’s based on a real person. She’s a feminist, a leader, a politician, and very interested in reforms that can help poor families. As a bleeding-heart liberal woman, I am 100% happy about her. But I still don’t really like Reid. He hides behind the guise of a good, moral man. Perhaps he is as moral as a man can be in that position in that age. But you cannot be a good, moral man, who employs a personal ‘enforcer’. I was most pleased with this season because the show finally addresses this fact. Drake has a certain moral superiority over Reid, because though he is doing the ‘enforcing’, Reid is the one pulling the puppet strings. I get really irritated with shows (like Copper, and somewhat Ripper Street) that imply that you can be a good guy, and still shoot/beat/intimidate people in order to get your own way, and that that behavior is somehow allowed because you are in search of justice.  Nope. The ends do not justify the means.

In the previous season, Drake wanted to marry Rose, one of Susan’s girls. She rebuffed him, determined to be an actress/singer. He marries a different one of Susan’s girls. This tells me that more than he wanted Rose, he just didn’t want to be alone. Forgivable. But the one he does marry, Bella, turns out to have a lot of baggage. She used to be part of some sort of violent, incestuous, proto-cult. She drags Susan into the matter and things go from bad to worse there. Drake loses his wife, and probably most of his mind. He leaves the station and deals with his grief by putting his body through physical pain—he works menial jobs (gravedigging, etc.) during the day, and at night he is a ‘boxer’. I hesitate to even call it boxing, because he has his hands tied behind his back and people make bets about how many punches he can take before he passes out. I would liken his behavior to a 19th-century form of self-harm. Easier to deal with physical pain than the emotional.

But this foray away from the precinct puts Reid in a very awkward spot. He has always been able to keep his hands clean of the riff raff. He would nod at Drake, and Drake would punch witnesses until they talked. Without Drake around, Reid is forced to come up with alternative tactics, or forced to do the punching himself. That made me feel better, but by the end of the season this dynamic reverts to where it was, without much change on either side.

The other big character shift was the relationship between Jackson and Susan. He loses her trust and her love, and things go from bad to worse between them. Men are so stupid sometimes, and Jackson is definitely one of them. Susan is forced to go through a lot of horrible things to keep afloat after Jackson’s stupid decisions.

08-RIPPER-STREET-S02-E05-Homer-Jackson-and-Susan

The other constant on Ripper Street is the highly unlikely plot points, usually relating to new technology emerging at that point. The first season had the invention of video—in order to make snuff porn. This season, in addition to featuring proto-cults, there were opiates, people smuggling diamonds in their anuses, electricity scheisters that did something very disturbing to a farm animal in order to prove the safety of their form of current (sadly, this is based on a very real and very horrifying truth), telegraph messenger boys as a front for gay pedophiles, police corruption, a garroted man, Joseph Merrick (the elephant man), and several scenes with pig carcasses that I had to watch between my fingers because yuck.

The problem I really have with Ripper Street is the lack of depth. They put a lot of effort into salacious plots and nefarious villains, but the character development is sometimes lacking. Reid has almost no internal emotions portrayed, and people are too often separated into the wholly good or wholly bad. There are exceptions. The women are believable, and have the most depth. Drake is probably the only man that I think has a level of substance that makes him relatable. Despite Reid’s use of him as a bulldog and nothing more, Drake has an understanding of the world and of himself, and also a fear of those same two things, that make him the most interesting man on the show.

Ripper Street

BBC cancelled Ripper Street after season two. But the fans of this show pulled together and sent emails, signed petitions, etc. to get it renewed. And it worked! Sort of. Amazon is going to make the third season. It will air on BBC and BBC America, after being streamed online. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the show, that makes me feel good. I wish things like email campaigns or kickstarters had existed when I was younger. That being said, I’m not sure I’m going to watch season 3. Despite my love of all things Victorian, I just can’t get into this show. This is a show that often eschews emotional substance in favor of flashy scandalousness. I would prefer a show that did the opposite.

 

Upcoming British TV

It’s that time of year again!  Time for Christmas specials, followed closely by new premieres in 2014!  We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

First, there is the Christmas special for Doctor Who

Doctor Who, Christmas Special 2013 - Artwork: Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt SmithThe Time of the Doctor  (Christmas Day in the UK and US) will mark the end of Matt Smith’s run and the beginning of Peter Capaldi as our 12th incarnation of the eponymous Doctor.  As happens every time there is a regeneration, I am dreading it, but know that the new Doctor will win me over pretty quickly.  It happened with 10 and with 11, so I have faith that 12 will be just as good.  Okay, no one is actually as good as David Tennant, but they do try…

The Downton Abbey Christmas special will play on Christmas Day in the UK, but the US will have to wait a few months–we haven’t even aired season 4 yet.  Season 4 premieres on PBS January 5th. So the Christmas Special will air sometime in February or March.  Festive.  I am looking forward to it because we finally get to see Paul Giamatti as Cora’s rakish, financially-irresponsible brother

downton-abbey-christmas-special-2013

I also notice Edith missing from this picture.  I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen season 4, but I’ve got a guess where she is…

One week after Christmas is (to me) the most important premiere of the last several years.  Sherlock (series 3) premieres on Jan 1st in the UK, January 19th in the US (again on PBS).

sherlock_series_3_fan_poster_2_by_crqsf-d52873pI’m almost done with my re-watch of the first two series.  I just have the heinously painful, ugly-cry-inducing Reichenbach Fall. And then there will finally be new episodes! There’s rumor of a mini-episode premiering on Christmas Day (on BBC 1) that acts as a sort of prequel to Series 3. (Here’s hoping I can find it online).  The proper episodes run January 1st, 5th, and 12th in the UK.

A boatload of new shows and season premieres are slated for Spring 2014 here in the US.

Fleming-The Man Who Would Be Bond is a BBC America look at Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.  It stars Dominic Cooper as Fleming, and looks like a combination between The Hours and Mad Men.

460x300_flemingThat’s Lara Pulver (aka Irene Adler) as the proto-Bond girl, Ann O’Neill.  I’ll withhold judgment on this one–I’m not a big fan of Bond, but I’ll give it a try. It premieres January 29th.

Despite being (rudely) cancelled after its second series/season in the UK, Ripper Street will get a full second season airing in the US.  I’ve already heard that the ‘finale’ wasn’t very rewarding, because the showrunners didn’t know (or didn’t know early enough) about the show’s fate.  Season 2 premieres on BBC America in February (no fixed date yet, that I’ve seen).

March 30th will be a big day for PBS viewing.  Call the Midwife AND Mr. Selfridge return for their 3rd and 2nd seasons, respectively. Here’s a trailer for Mr. Selfridge:

April 13th sees season 2 of The Bletchley Circle premiere on PBS.  It premieres much earlier (January 6th) in the UK.

Shortly after, on April 19th, Orphan Black finally returns on BBC America.

There are several other shows without announced premiere dates, but we know are coming soon.

The Musketeers–a BBC America show, taking place in 17th century Paris. The (four) Musketeers are all hot young men in this incarnation of the classic story. I’ll give it a try, though I’m not really one to go for men with feathers in their hats. The BBC America website says ‘Coming in 2014’, so this one could be a while.

Similarly, they’re very vague on the dates for a few other shows.  In the Flesh is definitely going to have a second season/series, but all the info they give is ‘Spring 2014’.  I would guess March or April.

Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan is already filming season 2, with special guest star and fellow hobbit, Billy Boyd.  No release date for that one either, but I’m guessing late Spring/early Summer, based on my zero expertise.

It’s going to be a busy season of TV watching this Spring!

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Extravaganza

Doctor-Who-50thThere’s something really lovely about being involved in a fandom, a special sect of people that understand why a TV show/movie/book is incredibly important and amazing.  There’s something even more wonderful when that fandom is recognized and appreciated by the wider public.

Though Doctor Who has been mainstream in the UK for many years (decades, really), it’s only grown to great prominence in American culture since the newest iteration started with Christopher Eccleston in 2005.  It’s still a bit of an outsider’s club on this side of the Atlantic, but that makes it a little bit more fun, if I’m honest.  But even in the US, the knowledge that the 50th anniversary special was happening this week was everywhere.  Theaters held special simulcasts of the episode, pubs had special nights for Whovians. I’ve heard rumors that a Mini Cooper painted like a TARDIS was spotted nearby.  We got our Google Doodle, though ours came one day later than the google.co.uk version. Is there any greater measure of cultural importance and legitimacy than a Google Doodle?  I think not.

BBC America started their Doctor Who marathon early in the week, and new content was there when I started my weekend.  Though I didn’t learn much from Doctor Who Explained, I really loved An Adventure in Space and Time. This was a made-for-TV movie about the origins of the show, and about the first doctor, William Hartnell.

4482503-high_res-adventures-in-space-and-timeI’ve actually never seen any of the pre-2005 episodes of Doctor Who, so I learned a lot from this movie about the beginnings of the show.  David Bradley (Harry Potter, Broadchurch, Game of Thrones) plays William Hartnell, and I think he did a superb job.  I also think the whole movie made me very sad.  When I compare William Hartnell’s love of the character and devotion to the show, with Christopher Eccleston’s attitude toward it…I’m forced to think very badly of the latter.

The movie also starred Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced, the History Boys) as the first director of the show, and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Doctor Who) as Verity Lambert, my new personal hero.  She had a wardrobe of the most amazing ’60s clothes I’ve seen ever. Way better than on Mad Men. More importantly, she was a kickass feminist, dealing with a bunch of stodgy old men in sweaty tweed suits (the Old Guard).  She fought for Doctor Who, not just because it was her first producer job, but because she grew to love the subject matter and what it could be used to communicate. She forced the BBC staff (from executives, to set designers, to technical staff) to take the show seriously; we owe her a huge thanks.

Jessica-RaineThe movie itself was well-acted and had incredible sets.  A good portion of it took place at the iconic elliptical BBC building:

BBC-Television-Centre-007Probably didn’t take a lot of work to make it look like the 1960s again inside here, though they must have cleaned up since James May & co. drove a motorcycle through the interior.

After the movie, we had the Saturday simulcast to watch.  The 50th Anniversary special, complete with Doctors 10 and 11 (together at last), and John Hurt (Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), all playing different iterations of the Doctor:

Doctor-Who-2458109Seeing David Tennant in his brown suit and Converse sneakers again made me literally giddy.  I miss his Doctor so much.  And we got to see Clara, and Rose (but not really), and all of the living actors who’ve played the doctor (sort of…damn you Chris Eccleston).

I thought the special was actually really excellent.  As long as I never think too much about the timey wimey stuff, I will continue to think that.  I have the feeling that the ‘time fissures’ and the Time Lord art won’t stand up to much rational scrutiny, so I will dutifully avoid any such scrutiny. I loved seeing Matt Smith and Clara, I adored seeing David Tennant again, and I thought John Hurt was fabulous.

It also felt really appropriate that we finally get to see the moment of the Doctor’s life that has really defined the show since the 2005 reboot.  The Time War. The moment the Doctor had to decide to kill his own species, in order to save the rest of the universe.

We also got to see the much-talked-about relationship between Ten and Elizabeth I.  Starring Joanna Page (Stacey of Gavin and Stacey) as Elizabeth I.  I thought she was great, although I don’t really think Elizabeth would have had a Welsh accent.

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I think my only real complaint is that, despite having Billie Piper and David Tennant together again, they don’t get to interact as Rose and the Doctor.  And I was hoping for more of Peter Capaldi as 12 (or he’s really 13?) , more than just a shot of his furrowed eyebrows. I suppose their keeping his costume and his persona under wraps until the actual regeneration happens.

Sometimes, when Doctor Who tries to do something big and important, it can be a bit of a belly flop.  I usually end up enjoying the little, one-off episodes more than the big important two-part season enders.  But this, despite hype and importance, was really fun and lovely and I was just grateful to see David Tennant again.  I think if he’d turned up with the suit and the shoes and the glasses, and read the phone book, I’d be just as thrilled.

I’m ready for the Christmas Special! To which, we now have a short teaser trailer:

Copper, Season 2

Copper_S2_DVDThe second season of Copper ended last month, but I haven’t felt particularly excited to review it. The truth is, the show is just not exciting enough to talk about for an entire 500-word post.  But, if you were wondering whether you should watch it, I’m here to tell you you shouldn’t bother.

As season 2 opens, a lot is going on:

  • Corky has been reunited with Ellen (his wife), and they are living together with Annie (the Lolita from season 1), but things aren’t going well.  Ellen and Annie are both mentally disturbed, and their time together does nothing to improve either of them.
  • The 6th ward gets a new boss , Brendan Donovan. Corky likes him because he’s Irish, and he at least purports to want to bring order and justice to the seedy parts of town.
  • Copper-Blog-DonalRobert and Elizabeth are to be married, but Elizabeth is keeping the horrible secret that she was conspiring with Kennedy (the confederate traitor).
  • Dr. Freeman and Sara prepare to move back to 5 Points to confront their horrible memories of the race riots they endured, and so that Dr. Freeman can practice where his skills are needed

By the end of the season, a whole lot of shit has happened.  One of the women is dead, another is addicted to morphine, Lincoln has been assassinated, Sarah’s mother has been rescued from the deep South, Frances Maguire is reinstated as a detective after being cleared of all charges. Donovan proves to be formidable and despicable.  Dr. Freeman, Robert, and Corky are forced to remember and relive their horrible experiences in the war.

With all of this happening, you’d think the show would be truly compelling.  In trying to think about what has me so ‘meh’ about it, I can only land on the writing.  There’s little suspense, and emotional peaks and valleys for the characters are more like speed bumps.  Maybe it’s just the sheer number of characters we need to care about that makes it difficult, but…It’s almost as if the writers are afraid of being too climactic.  But this isn’t a Jonathon Franzen novel, it’s a TV show about an incredibly dramatic and violent time period.  They’re not afraid to show nudity and violence, but they do seem incapable of focusing on grief or tragedy or disgust in a quiet and overpowering way.  In the entire season, I never felt a strong emotional connection with the characters.  None of them.

Part of it is that we’ve all seen shows about the detective, obsessed with justice, willing to go to any length to see it done.  Luther comes to mind as a show where this is done perfectly.  But still, it’s a common trope.  If you’re going to make that the crux of your show, you have to do it in an unusual way, or do it unusually well.  I don’t think Copper accomplishes either thing.  And I think it’s got to be down to the writing. But I don’t know what goes into the directing, so maybe I’m not knowledgeable enough to point out the flaws there. I’ll let them share blame.

The show exists in a world where death is nearly constant, so I think it’s inability to show grief is what bothered me most. They devote almost an entire episode to the funeral/wake for Corky’s wife.  She’s been mentally ill, she was pregnant (did we ever find out who the father was?!), and then she killed herself.  What a better writer could do with all of that…but for all that happened, it’s as if she just died in her sleep one night after a peaceful life.  Death is something that (in my opinion) you can’t pretend you’ve experienced if you haven’t.  It seemed to me, watching this episode, that the people involved with it either had never experienced true grief, or were desperately pretending they hadn’t.  It didn’t ring true at all. Real grief, especially at an unexpected loss, involves a fair amount of numbness, of shock and inaction.  There should be anger, in this situation there should also be relief. And then more anger. But it was just flat, a flat grief that I have never experienced in my life.

I just read that the show won’t be returning for a third season.  Obviously I’m not terribly disappointed; I wasn’t going to be turning in either way.  On the other hand, I feel like it should be common practice for networks to either a-let showrunners know in time for the last episode to be a true finale or b-give the show one last episode, maybe during the summer, to create some closure.  I despise leaving a show behind on an open-ended episode.

The show had some compelling characters–I imagine this is down to the actors who played them–but they were never given enough to do.  I rooted for Corky, as I was meant to. I liked Robert and Eva.  Dr. Freeman is a tough one; he was presented as such a paragon that it’s difficult to take him seriously as a character.  But I liked him too.  These likeable characters were always bogged down by such tiresome secondary characters and plot lines that I never felt I had time to appreciate them in the show.  In fact, a lot of them are likeable because they are around such unsavory (or worse, boring) characters.

The whole season was just–and I feel terribly harsh for saying it–a waste of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Orphan Black

Orphan Black bannerOrphan Black premiered on BBC America in March, and the season finale was earlier this month.  Rumor has it the show will air on BBC 3 in the UK, but no air date yet. A second season is coming next May.

The show, as we quickly realize from the trailer, is about clones. Tatiana Maslany plays almost all the characters in the show, all different versions of the same genetically engineered person. We start with Sarah, the main character.  She is a bad-ass Brit, has an excellent collection of Clash t-shirts, and terrible taste in men.  She witnesses the suicide of her doppleganger, Beth, a homicide detective.  HelenaCosimaLater, we meet Helena, a religious crazy person, Allison, an uptight soccer mom, and Cosima, a lesbian pot-smoking evolutionary biologist.  Of course, all of these are played by Maslany.  She detailed her process of getting into character in a few interviews.  She created separate playlists for each character, and would listen to that playlist before each scene.  For the first two or three episodes, I was acutely aware that this was all the same actress, but by the end of the series I just thought of them as completely and wholly different characters, as real and diverse as any other non-Maslany character in the show.  Still, when you look back and think about it, it is an amazing bit of acting.  More confusing when you think of Maslany playing Sarah pretending to be Beth.  At one point Helena pretends to be Sarah, but we could tell before the reveal, because of the look in her eyes.  Amazing bit of acting.  And think of all the time, during scenes like this:

three maslanys

when she was just acting to nothingness, and had to respond to nothingness later on. Acting into a vacuum.  Reacting to a future or past performance she herself had given/would be giving.  She is pretty amazing.  Also, she makes me want to hit the gym for the rest of my life.

So, the plot.  Sarah sees Beth commit suicide and makes the split-second decision to pretend to be Beth.  She stays at her apartment and makes use of her car and cash (and boyfriend).  All this is a terrible decision and Sarah doesn’t really think of the consequences, even when the dead body on the train tracks is identified as ‘Sarah Manning’, instead of ‘Beth Childs’.  She does it to avoid a stupid no good boyfriend, who she punched and from whom she stole 20k worth of drugs.  Brilliant move, Sarah.

The only person she can rely on is her foster-brother (they’re both orphans) Felix, who is awesome. FelixSeriously, though, if this guy is in on the conspiracy, I’m going to be really upset. The writers come up with a lot of reasons for Felix to end up in suburbia, interacting with suburbanites, and those might be my favorite moments of the show.

Sarah finds out she’s one of many clones pretty early on in the show, and she also finds out that someone is killing her fellow ‘sisters’.  Things get pretty dramatic pretty quickly.  We meet other clones, and the three main surviving girls (Allison, Cosima, Sarah) work to find out who has done this to them and how deep it goes.

Part of what is built into this show is not knowing who to trust.  Each of the clones has a ‘watcher’, someone in cahoots with the people who created them.  There are medical tests, conducted while the girls are asleep.  Lots of speculation on who is watching whom, and who works for whom.  I won’t give anything away.

Add to that, at least 1 of the clones is sick with some genetic tuberculosis type disease, and, oh yeah, there’s someone murdering them.  These girls don’t have easy lives.

The show isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I really enjoyed seeing what was going to happen next.  I found it got a lot better toward the end of the season. Part of this was due to Sarah no longer acting like a lone wolf and starting to be invested in the fates of her ‘sisters’.  I’ve enjoyed the progression of all of the characters over the course of the season, and it gives me a feeling that the show-runners know what they’re doing.  Hopefully, anyway.

Occasionally, I get a little irritated with the show when people are making obviously stupid mistakes for no discernible reason.  Really, you’re going to walk into the street without looking?   You’re going to let someone die with no proof that they are what you think they are? You’re going to leave your important secret files just laying around while entertaining a potential enemy? You allowed the government to declare you dead and didn’t think your family might find out?

Jennifer-Lawrence-ok-thumbs-up

Why are characters on TV so stupid sometimes?  Those moments made me really irritated and very unsympathetic.  Sometimes, if you’re going to run out into the road, you’re going to get hit by a car.  If you’re a fictional character, I get to judge you and think you’re stupid.

Other than these moments of glaring stupidity (maybe this stupidity is written into their DNA?), I enjoyed all the characters and the story arc.  I’m looking forward to the next season immensely.  Half of the fun is just watching Tatiana Maslany work, but it’s a lot of fun, so I’m fine with that.

Summer British TV

Summer and Winter seem to be when the best of the British channels finally hits our shores. This summer is no exception. Just because Doctor Who is over, and Downton Abbey is months away, don’t despair! There are a lot of premieres in Summer and early fall. Starting in chronological order:

Family Trees

Family TreeChris O’Dowd’s new show on HBO started last month, and I have really enjoyed it so far! It’ll be running every Sunday through early July. Chris plays Tom, a somewhat depressed, slightly pathetic man living in London. His great-aunt dies and leaves him a trunk of family paraphernalia. He gets interested in his history, and goes about tracing his family lineage by finding out more about the objects in the trunk. It’s a very British show, so far, but later Tom does take a trip to the states to find out more about one branch of his family. It’s a hilarious show, very self-effacing and extremely odd. Tom’s sister, uses a monkey puppet to voice all her strangest and most offensive thoughts. She has conversations with this monkey all the time; she goes everywhere with the monkey. Tom also has a best friend, Pete, who is dumb as a post, and his dad is played by the always hilarious Michael McKean (of Clue and Spinal Tap fame). The show relies on awkward and embarrassing moments to make you laugh, which is a theme with British TV I think. Probably because awkward situations are the biggest fear of most English people.

Here’s a trailer (though I must warn you that it plays up the American part of the show far more than has happened in each episode yet):

In the Flesh

In the FleshThis is a miniseries that started June 6th. I’m not a zombie person, okay? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but that’s about it. Okay, I’ve seen Zombieland. And 28 Days Later. And Shaun of the Dead…okay I’ve consumed more zombie books/movies than I thought. Still, it’s not a concept I’m particularly attracted to. On the other hand, this is only a 3-part miniseries, so I might as well give it a try. It aired in the UK and March, to generally positive reviews. These zombies are presented as a socially-marginalized minority, have been diagnosed with PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome), and have been rehabilitated with medication and cosmetics. It sounds vaguely like True Blood‘s approach to vampires. At least In the Flesh won’t be just another scary movie a la Dawn of the Dead. I’m willing to give it a try. My only qualm is that I’m not very good with gore. Even in comedy films like Shaun of the Dead, I’m horrified by the sights and sounds associated with…zombies eating human flesh. Particularly while said human is alive. But it’s on BBC America, so it can’t be too bad. Here’s the trailer:

On June 23rd, the second season of Copper premieres.

Copper trioI was on the fence about this show throughout the first season. The three characters I liked (conveniently pictured above) are all coming back, so I’m going to give it a try (new motto for me?). This show always seems to be on the edge, teetering on the precipice of me not wanting to watch it anymore. I dislike the violence and blatant corruption, but I like the fact that it is set in the 19th century, and I think it always has potential to be a really great show. I’m hoping this year, now that it is a bit more established, it will reach that potential. Here is the trailer:

Also, on June 30th, the twentieth season of Top Gear premieres in the UK. No word yet on BBC America’s air dates, but last season they were only about a week behind, so hopefully more info will be forthcoming.

In early July, PBS will begin airing Endeavour, a prequel to the long-running Inspector Morse detective series. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Inspector Morse, so this wasn’t on the top of my Must-See list. But, I had second thoughts when I saw who they cast as Morse:

EndeavourAdd to the obvious appeal of…whoever this guy is…it’s still set in Oxford. Oxford is so picturesque, and so quintessentially English (it’s what we think of in America when we think of an English village) that I could watch just about anything that takes place there. Plus, I have a certain weakness for incredibly smart, rail-thin detectives, even when they are not played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s only 4 or 5 episodes, so I’m going to go ahead and watch. I hope not much will be lost on me for not having followed the original series closely. Trailer is here:

The same night Endeavour premieres, the biggest thing since sliced bread is set to hit BBC America.

BroadchurchDavid Tennant stars in Broadchurch and uses his Scottish accent, which is my favorite thing in the world. This show was a huge hit in the UK this Spring, and I’ve been waiting anxiously for it since. A second series has already been announced.

It’s a whodunnit murder mystery set on the Dorset coast. In addition to Tennant, Olivia Colman co-starred and co-produced the show, and Arthur Darvill (Rory!) also co-stars. This is at the top of my Must-See List, FYI. Trailer:

Since I will be thoroughly busy watching all of these shows, I’m glad there is a bit of a break before more begin. The next one starts August 18th. It’s called The Lady Vanishes.

The Lady VanishesPBS is airing this remake of a Hitchcock thriller about a woman who goes missing, and another who tries to alert authorities about the incidence, but is not taken seriously. Listen, I tend to think any remake of a Hitchcock film is just a terrible idea. Are they going to improve on his direction? No. Is the addition of color going to add more suspense and creepiness? No. Are there modern actresses/actors who could play these roles better than the likes of Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart? Hell no. But, this actually got pretty good reviews, so I’m going to watch and keep an open mind. I’ve never seen the original, so that should help. Trailer:

At the end of August, PBS is also airing Silk, a legal drama. Prepare your powdered wigs, we’re off to the Old Bailey!

SilkI don’t have a lot of info on this one, partially because the title is very hard to Google well. Apparently it deals with two rival barristers. PBS is airing it in 3 two-hour increments from August 25th-September 8th. Bonus-it features Rupert Penry-Jones, of Whitechapel. Less of a bonus–his character looks like a d-bag, judging by the trailer:

Next, starting September 3rd, the all important Idris Elba returns to my life on BBC America.

luther series 3You gorgeous man, you.

There’s not a proper trailer for this one yet (that I could find), but they made an ‘announcement trailer’

Judging by this video, I’m guessing the episodes for the new season will disturb me just as much (if not more) than the last two seasons. Don’t care. Idris Elba calls, and I must answer.

Last, but not least:

The ParadisePBS is airing this one on October 6th, and calling it The Paradise. It’s an adaptation of an Emile Zola novel, and was sort of squared off against Mr. Selfridge when it aired in the UK, because of the similar subject matter. The show revolves around the first department store in NE England. It looks a little more soapy to me, based on the trailer. But I plan to watch and compare. Bonus–Arthur Darvill is also in this one (briefly).

Beyond here, there be trailers:

I’m going to be a busy blogger over the next 3 or 4 months. Yay!

Spies of Warsaw

Spies of WarsawBBC America aired this 2-part miniseries in April, though it aired in the UK in January.  The miniseries was based on a spy novel by Alan Furst, and takes place in Poland (obviously) and throughout central Europe in the late ’30s. David Tennant plays Colonel Mercier, a French aristocrat and spy. Janet Montgomery plays Anna Skarbek, an official with the League of Nations and Mercier’s love interest.

I can’t say I loved it, to be honest.  I think there are a number of reasons for this –some my own preferences and some general problems with the miniseries–and I’ll run down them briefly.

First, I’m not crazy about the subject matter.  Almost all thoughts of World War II make me so upset as to be nauseous. The only thing that terrifies me more than Nazi uniforms are Hitler Youth uniforms.  But this is my own personal preference, and doesn’t reflect on the quality of the series.

Second, the format left something to be desired.  This was two 2-hour episodes; 2 full movies in other words.  I think there could have been a lot more tension built around the characters’ fates if it was split into maybe 4 parts.  I wasn’t entertained enough by it to focus solely on it for two entire hours.  And this isn’t just my attention span that is the problem–each episode of Sherlock is 90 minutes long, and I’m riveted for most every second.  I couldn’t fathom picking up my iPhone and doing solitaire while watching that.  I spent good chunks of my viewing time for Spies of Warsaw playing a geography game on my phone.  Hey, anyone need to know where Guinea-Bissau is? Because I’m hoping that knowledge will bring me the big bucks in life.  The point is, it was too long and moved too slowly for 2 hour blocks at a time.

I think that the miniseries has something in common with Parade’s Endwhich was on HBO a few months ago.  Each dealt with the lead-up to war.  Each featured a smart, strong male lead convinced that war was coming.  Both protagonists struggled to make their compatriots understand the catastrophe Germany was about to unleash upon Europe.  Stylistically, both featured long (long for a modern film audience) shots of not much action, interspersed with more tense and action-filled scenes.  Each had good acting and good writing, and yet each suffered from the problem of not quite connecting emotionally with the audience.  And I’m not enough of a film student to comprehend what about each fails to really move me.  I liked Parade’s End a lot at times, but with Spies of Warsaw, I found it difficult to care much about what was happening.  I think my apathy came partially from not having a vulnerable or relate-able main character.  Mercier sees what his coworkers do not, he’s a great spy, he cares about people, he is too good and too capable.  It takes away from the tension of what might happen to him, because even in moments of distress and danger it seems impossible that he won’t come out of it just fine.

I will say that these two miniseries (plus Casablanca) have utterly convinced me that love affairs are really difficult in situations of World War.  Note to self.

David Tennant’s acting is great. I’ve seen him play serious before (Hamlet, for example) and he’s really good.  The female character, Anna, has almost no personality in it, so they didn’t give Janet Montgomery much to work with. In response to finding out her new boyfriend is a spy, she…doesn’t say anything, really.  I would have liked both characters to be far more flawed, unsure, stumbling along through ridiculous times.  It does an audience no good to think of anyone existing at that time as a paragon.

I remember watching a great but horribly violent movie, fittingly titled A History of Violence.  Viggo Mortenson plays some sort of ex-mafia criminal who starts a new life in a small town and is completely reformed.  When someone tries to rob his restaurant, instinct kicks in and Mortenson’s character kills the robbers in self-defense.  From that moment, his past starts to come back to haunt him. His wife (Maria Bello) finds out who and what he was, and she has an incredible reaction.  Vomiting, shouting, running out of the room, and then they have this crazy, scary, exciting sex scene.  It’s a real and varied and unnerving response to finding out your beloved is not who or what they said they were.  When I think about Anna Skarbek’s character, I don’t expect the same reaction, but it almost seemed like there wasn’t one.  She finds out her new beau is a spy and she….just kind of accepts it and moves on.  I suppose you could argue that everyone in the series is someone other than who they pretend to be.  After all, if you were inclined to disagree with Germany (or Russia, for that matter), you wouldn’t be inclined to advertise it.  Perhaps Anna is used to it, but I found it off-putting that she had such a monotonous emotional landscape.

To her credit, she does get properly angry with Mercier later when she thinks he ordered the French to turn her defector ex-boyfriend over to Stalin.

Confession: I am not a spy novel aficionado.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a spy novel. Maybe that’s part of the problem–I don’t speak the lingo.  On the other hand, I’ve seen Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and at least one other Bogart movie.  And I followed those just fine.  I think they were just better.  Also, I really liked Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which falls right in there with great spy films.   Spies of Warsaw has the music of a great spy film, and some of the quintessential visuals, but none of the tension.  And tension is everything.  Have you seen Strangers on a Train?  Hitchcock can make a tennis game the most tense and suspenseful thing in the world.  This was no Hitchcock, unfortunately.

They did a great job recreating a bleak and terrifying Central European landscape for this miniseries.  Security checks and random searches, the Poles sandwiched unhappily between the Gestapo on the west and the Russian NKVD (later, the KGB) on the east.  France being still (at this point) a relaxing place nicely separated from all the riff raff on the other side of the Black Forest.  Parties in Paris…but still a feeling of the doors closing in, for the Jews particularly.  The costuming, the set design, and the cinematography all made the world really believable.

I think the fault must lie in the pacing and the writing (two things that I imagine are closely intertwined when writing a movie/mini-series).  There’s not enough tension or enough direction in the plot.  It feels disconnected at times, and the ending is thoroughly confusing.  It tries to make you feel uplifted that they’ve escaped Poland (which is good, obviously) with a bunch of Polish gold to keep it from the Germans (also good).  But they’re headed to France, so the modern audience knows that this isn’t the end; this isn’t a happy ending, even though they almost literally walk off into the sunset.

Also, it is a bit confusing for an American audience to have two Brits with British accents playing a Frenchman and a Polish woman.  I kept forgetting Mercier was French.  Maybe this wouldn’t bother me if the actors were American, because I wouldn’t register their accents as something already foreign.  I doubt it bothered Brits.  Still, when you have David Tennant playing a French man with a British accent meeting an English aristocrat with an English accent, it’s difficult to remember they are supposed to be from different countries.  Others, like the Russian ex-boyfriend has a proper Russian accent.   Tennant explained the action choices in this Joycean quote:

There is actually an internal logic to the concept. Since the main character is French, but the audience is English-speaking, we hear him speak with a sort of a neutral English accent, and anyone else speaking English is actually speaking French, and the other nationalities speak English but with their natural accents, and the Germans speak German with English subtitles – which I suppose makes [the subtitles] French. I can see your eyes glazing over.

I think my brain just glazed over.  Sorry David, I love you and I don’t blame you, but this just wasn’t very good.

Upcoming TV highlights

There are a whole score of new and returning shows on TV this month and next. I thought it might be a good time to discuss them.

First of all, the end of March marked the return of Doctor Who!

The Doctor and OswinAnd there’s a new outfit, a new TARDIS, and a new companion.  If you watched season 7, you already know Oswin.  Can I say already that I love her?  I love her.  She is super smart, she is a conundrum, and she is simultaneously friendly, playful, and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor.  Add to the wonderfulness of her character, she is a real enigma.  The Doctor doesn’t understand her, and he finds anything he doesn’t understand really mesmerizing.  It’s a totally different dynamic than the big brother relationship he had with Amy and Rory.  And I really like his new coat.  I feel like maybe I’m getting my expectations up too high.  Last season was a little disappointing for me, and I don’t want to get too excited and then be disappointed again. But…it’s probably too late.  I’ve seen the first episode and I really liked it, and I love their dynamic, and I’m really excited for what’s coming next.  Dr. Who is on BBC America on Saturday nights at 8 Eastern.

Orphan Black bannerPremiering that same night was the new series,  Orphan Black. Although this is on BBC America, it doesn’t actually seem to be a British show. It is set in Canada, I believe, though it is never explicitly stated.  The ‘main’ character, Sarah, is British, as is her best friend Paul.  Only the actors aren’t actually British, but whatever.  The show seems interesting; I haven’t made my mind up about it yet.  It begins with Sarah (a woman with questionable morals and a shady background) seeing a woman, Beth, who looks exactly like her, jump in front of a train.  She takes over Beth’s seemingly swanky life (wasn’t this the plot to that Sarah Michelle Gellar show, Ringer?), mostly based on the fact that the woman had money and nice clothes.  Remind me to never take over my dead clone’s life based on her clothing quality, because it just doesn’t turn out well.  She has to get to know Beth’s boyfriend (including possibly the most graphic sex scene I’ve ever seen on a non-premium channel), deal with a police inquest over a shooting in the line of duty (oh, Beth was a cop?) and a mysterious safety deposit box full of birth certificates.  Sarah proves herself to be pretty stupid in this first episode.  Her goal is to get her daughter back from whomever is caring for her, and to start a new life.  Her first plan is to steal heroin from her ex and sell it for $20k.  Her next plan is to have her best friend identify Beth’s mangled body as Sarah, and steal all of Beth’s savings.  It never occurs to her that her daughter might find out that Sarah has been declared dead, but of course that is what happens.  She seems to really lack the ability to think about consequences, but we know very little about her back story, except that she is an orphan.

This show is iffy.  Could turn out well, could be implausible and ridiculous.  I’m going to give it a few more episodes before I make a verdict.  It’s on after Doctor Who, Saturdays on BBC America at 9 Eastern.

Mr. SelfridgeThe last weekend in March was a big one for me! Also premiering, on PBS this time, was Mr. Selfridge, a proper British period drama about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of the eponymous store on Oxford Street.  I had no idea he was American, but apparently he emigrated from Chicago to open the world’s best department store in London.  It just finished airing in England, so kudos to PBS for getting it over here in less than 6 months.  They’re getting better!

Jeremy Piven plays a non-douchebag, which I didn’t approve of at first.  Have they seen Entourage?  I haven’t, I’ll admit, but his suits were too shiny for me to see him as a non-douche.  Right? Look at this picture and then argue with me:

Ari Gold

So, I’ll reiterate that I wasn’t sure about all this, but Jeremy Piven is really good!  It helps that the character is bombastic and grandiose. He needs to act that way because, as we learn in the very first episode, he is in deep trouble with money.  He needs a lot of money, press, and publicity to make his store a hit, so he has to be more confident than he is.

The show follows Mr. Selfridge, obviously, but it is also a Downton-esque ensemble cast of high- and low-class characters. There are: his wife, who meets a (very) handsome artist at the National Gallery; the shopgirl Agnes Towler who works in the accessories department and her struggles with her brother, her father, and her suitor; other employees in the store both friendly and not; Miss Love, the actress and potential mistress for Mr. Selfridge; ruthless investors in the store; and I’m sure there will be more in later episodes.

There were a lot of interesting dynamics between classes, like any British drama worth its name.  Add to that, the genuinely interesting concept of the first true department store.  Most shops prior to this time period, especially in England, did not have displays as we do now.  There were counters, and you would go up and ask to see a specific type of glove or hat, etc.  Or, if you were wealthy, you would have a dressmaker, milliner, etc., come to your house for a fitting in your own home.  The art and hobby of shopping wasn’t the same.  Ready-to-wear clothing wasn’t the same, either.  So seeing this revolution happen in the show is intriguing.  I found the first episode really entertaining and cannot wait for the next episode.  Hopefully the quality stays the same throughout.  My only complaint is that in the intro on PBS, Laura Linney was talking about the show and described it using the following words about Mr. Selfridge: “He was the first person to know what women really want.  They want to go shopping.”

Oh, Laura Linney.  Why?  Why would you say that? Who wrote that?  Blech.

The Spies of WarsawAttention all Doctor Who fans! David Tennant is returning to our TV screens!  For a limited time only!  This is a two-part mini-series on BBC America, about a WWII era spy.  It begins in 1937, in Poland, France, and Germany.  David Tennant stars as Col. Mercier, a French ‘military attaché stationed in Poland. He alone sees the war coming, where his comrades don’t want to admit what is happening in Europe.  I don’t know much about the plot yet, but the NY Times called describes it almost as a whodunnit, more like a Christie novel than Casablanca, which it seems to want to be.  There is a love triangle, but the upcoming War is the real story of the mini-series.  Also according to the Times, despite the weaknesses in Spies of Warsaw, “there is nothing more satisfying than a prewar espionage story that shows, up close and told-you-so, how most of Europe slept through Hitler’s rise.”

It’s playing on BBC America on April 3rd and 10th, but I’m quite certain they will replay it several times over the next month or two.

Although I didn’t watch it, I should mention that the second season of Call the Midwife also premiered at the end of March. It airs every Sunday night on PBS, and is also available on their website.

Also coming soon on PBS is something I’m really excited to see: The Bletchley Circle

The Bletchley CircleThis aired last year in the UK.  Set in 1952, it follows four women who worked as code breakers at Bletchley Park (the main center for decryption/codebreaking in the UK during WWII).  If that wasn’t bad ass enough, it’s also a murder mystery. Police are overlooking a pattern in the killings, but these code-breaking badass ladies in their cardigans are smart enough to see it. It’s only a 3 part mini-series, but it sounds awesome. I love to see women in period pieces that have more to do than just swoon and get married.  The Bletchley Circle premieres on PBS on April 21st.

Looks like it’s going to be a great spring for us anglophiles!