1/17/2012

Secret Desires


Many people have congratulated me on finishing my graduate classes and returning to my "normal" life...whatever that is. What am I doing, plan to do, you ask? What am I looking forward to the most? Shhh!!!! Don't tell anyone.....I just missed the past year and a half of my favorite tv shows. While not a tv junkie (hubster, you know who you are- that man has a big screen in every room of the house, so he can wander about and never miss a moment), I do follow the occasional series. Favor police crime type shows, Masterpiece Theater, dramas, comedies. It is so restful to come home from work, have a glass of wine, eat dinner, and read or watch tv snuggling with my dogs. Sure beats being in class till late, and then having to read/study/write papers till late.
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Here are a few shows worth watching:
Masterpiece Theater "Downton Abbey" - This show has gotten a lot of buzz lately, and it is well worth catching. It debuted last year and, due to considerable media praise and audience acclaim, was granted a second season, currently under way, with a third being filmed as we speak. The story of a wealthy aristocratic family and their servants during the tumultuous WWI era in a Britain country estate, many will compare it to the iconic "Upstairs, Downstairs" but the characters of "Downton Abbey" are less lovable, more scheming, and the aristocratic Crawley family seems less moribund than the Bellamys ever were. This show dwells on themes similar to Upstairs Downstairs: societal events that contribute to the breakdown of British class relations during the WWI era. Female characters, especially the mother (Elizabeth McGovern), the mother of the heir apparent (Penelope Wilton), and the dowager mother (the inimitable Maggie Smith) play more vibrant roles as the try to out maneuver each other in various power plays, and the males are often the befuddled agents in their little games. Could be said to be the "Pride and Prejudice" of the Edwardian era, as romance and finding a suitable spouse are major themes for the three daughters and the various household staff .
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"The Good Wife" - I have to admit the trailer for this show left me cold and I only watched the first episode out of curiosity. After that, I was hooked. This is a high end, law firm soap opera, with well drawn compelling characters that leave you pulling for them. Every episode ends in a cliff- hanger that leaves me panting for more. The plot really isn't about the "good wives" we are used to seeing in the political realm, standing by their (scurrilous, rapscallion) men - the titular character is far more nuanced than that. Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) is left to pick up the pieces of her life after her politician husband is sent to jail for something or other- she has to go back to work, take care of the kids, and keep her scheming mother-in-law from snooping through her drawers. As she moves back into the work force, she regains her sense of identity and redevelops her confidence. This leads to her eventual questioning of the meaning of her life and whether she truly loves her husband, (or what he has become) after all. Romance and intrigue are daily events at the law firm where she works, amid a cast of well-drawn characters who are good, evil, and a conflicted mixture of both. I absolutely love Kalinda Sharmos(played by Archi Panjabi), the law firm's hip bi Indian investigator, and Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) as the sometimes good, sometimes evil, always scheming junior partner rival to Alicia at the firm. Whenever I get in a bind at work, I ask myself : "What would Alicia do?"
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"Blue Bloods" -This old style police procedural drama follows four generations of a New York Irish cop family as they struggle with issues of morality, both on the job and off. Once a week they all gather around the family dining table to discuss it all over the Sunday meal together. Charming in its antiquated notions, it reaffirms the myths we tell ourselves about what is good in American culture. Tom Sellick heads the cast as the gruff yet lovable patriarch. It's like the Waltons, complete with grandpa offering humorous advice from his days on the force, only instead of worrying about whether Jim-Bob won the spelling bee on Walton's Mountain, we worry if cop son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) will get shot chasing heroin addicts through dark alleys.
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"Big Bang Theory"- This is my absolutely favorite comedy of the past few years. The basic premise is that a bunch of nerdy super smart young scientists, just living their daily lives, provide good material for humor, especially when love interests/young ladies are thrown in to the mix. I am married to a scientist and spent my childhood around guys just like these, and maybe that's why I find these characters so lovable. Being a bit of a nerd myself, of course, enables me to get all the jokes about Star trek, Star Wars, old science fiction books and movies, ComicCon, and other intellectual pastimes.
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"How I Met Your Mother" - Remember "Friends"? This show is the next generation version, following the dating foibles of a group of (originally playing 20-somethings, now they are well in to their 30's)young professionals making it in the Big Apple and finding love along the way. Cute premise has a frame story wherein the dad is telling his kids "how I met your mother", but just as in any long convoluted story, there are many digressions along the way. Neil Patrick Harris has finally escaped his Doogie Houser shadow and now I can only imagine him as Barney- wait for it ! Stinson. All star cast: Josh Radnor, Colbie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan (escaping her Buffy the Vampire slayer persona) and one of my all time faves, Jason Segal. (I still think "Forgetting Sarah Marshall " was a brilliant role for him,allowing him to showcase some of his many talents.)
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"Psych" - Fake psychic /con man Shawn and his best buddy Gus work as consultants for the local Santa Barbara police, never do things by the book, and are always on the make with the ladies. Along the way, they get into some Lucy and Ethel kind of scrapes and toss off humorous one-liners. James Roday reminds me of a guy I used to date, and maybe that is why I find him so appealing. Corbin Bernsen gets a redemptive, creative role as Shawn's old style ex-hippie now straight man cop dad.
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"Burn Notice" - Many of these shows on USA started, I think, as mid-season replacements during the writer's strike a few years back. Whatever their genesis, they each off a unique mix of drama and humor, an exotic setting sunny setting (perfect for winter snow and cold bound audiences dreaming of a warm locale), and a premise that is completely different, even fringe , from traditional tv shows of recent years. (Anyone tired of "Survivor" or "Big Brother House" yet? Someone, please vote reality shows "off the island" ! ) Burn Notice is no exception. Michael Weston ( Jeffrey Donovan) is a "burned" former US spy, dropped suddenly in Miami with only a few wacky friends and eccentric family members to help him figure out why, all while he operates as a "problem solver" to various desperate locals who need someone outside the law to scare away criminal syndicates, fetch their child from kidnappers, prove their innocence from crimes they did not commit, or take back the bodega from local drug lords. Many of these shows offer break out roles to older actors trying to escape an identity from iconic roles/series of their past and this show is no exception. Sharon Gless stars as Michael's typical Miami little old lady mom (stuck in the 60's, chain smoking, gold lame wearing, puffy white haired with giant plastic earrings and matching purse) - and I want to be just like her ! Watching old reruns of "Cagney & Lacey", I can't even imagine these two characters come from the same actor. What a great opportunity to create a role so different and refreshingly funny.
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"Royal Pains" - Mark Feuerstein plays the serious character, Dr Hank Lawson, while Paulo Constanzo plays his nutty eccentric conning "business partner" brother, Even R Lawson. Never mind that one is Jewish and one is Italian, they are brothers- accept it ! Basic premise is : the doctor gets fired from his NYC hospital job for not treating a wealthy hospital donor client before an indigent kid, and ends up free-lancing as a house doctor to rich people in the Hampton's. (What is that, some kind of hell? You get what you deserve? ) However, what makes this series charming is the ever-changing cast of eccentric rich patients, each with their own story to tell ( it ain't easy being rich!), framed by the ongoing foibles of nutty brother Evan, whom Hank has to constantly get out of trouble. Another very Lucy and Ethel type of comedy. Add a couple of strong female characters to fall in love with, and off you go.
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"Law and Order: SVU" -I have long enjoyed the mystery/CSI/ crime/police procedural genre, and shows with richly drawn characters draw me in, week after week, year after year. Of all these types of shows, this one is my favorite, mostly bc I love the characters Stabler, Benson, Cragen, Munch, and Finn. I love the main characters' back stories that seep in around the edges of each episode's main plot involving sexually related crimes in NYC : Stablers' on-again, off-again relationship with his wife, and his unrealized love affair with Olivia, his struggles with his faith, each character's family, fears, and foibles. I will be sorry to see Christopher Meloni depart the series, but I understand actors need variety in their careers. This long-standing role may feel confining to him, but I gotta say, I've seen him in other movies, and never liked him as much as I do here.
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"The Mentalist" - "This show, like "House" (which I used watch, until I got tired of the main character's crankiness, the constant arguing among the staff, and the fact that every episode was starting to become exactly the same: at 20 minutes after the hour, you knew some one's brain was going to explode, and at 5 min till the end, House figures out it was the very first disease he considered, only to have over-looked something key in his diagnosis), has a formula that is often annoying. However, once again, charming characters draw me in: I enjoy the back story of the hidden love affair between Rigsby and Van Pelt, the banter between Lisbon and Jane, and Cho's absolute tough guy persona as he tosses away in a completely dry manner these hysterical one-liners (mimic-ing old episodes of "Dragnet".) Simon Baker is an interesting, appealing actor- the character he played in "The Devil Wears Prada" reminded me of my old college archaeology prof.
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"Person of Interest" - The pilot of this show annoyed me, for some reason, and I missed the first few episodes. Hubster was watching it - he thought this was a sci fi show, as it has a giant computer like "Big Brother" that watches everything we do - and I caught a few episodes with him, and it started to grow on me. Mostly because I think Jim Caviezel is another interesting actor.....his character in this show is a former special opps kind of guy, also burned, who goes around helping people involved in crimes....hmmmmm, I'm noticing a trend here, are you ? Anyways, watching his gentle manner, I can't help but think of Jesus......... :o) ( joke)

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