Tag Archives: HBO

True Detective – A Character Study

For once, I haven’t read what other critics have written about True Detective, but simply watched the show and marveled at the writing, acting and storytelling. I am addicted to the show like I haven’t been to a drama in a long time. I loved Broadchurch and Top of the Lake, miss Masters of Sex, and can’t wait for The Americans to premiere soon but True Detective fills some kind of void. I have always been drawn to detectives and crime because it’s akin to seeing ourselves and what we’re capable of and frankly I prefer darker material. I rode with the homicide detectives in the city of St. Louis for six months for an article I wrote many years ago and that experience changed me. I have written my own material about detectives and missing persons and watch hours and hours of the Discovery ID channel. I have always been as fascinated by the detectives as to the crime. I watch each episode of HBO’s compelling series many times to witness all the nuances. I have many friends who couldn’t wait for the second season of House of Cards to come out, so I’ll be adding that show to my viewing time but I’m jealous they can watch the entire show over a weekend. I would like to be able to do that with True Detective. I’m not alone. Even Barack Obama has asked HBO for advanced screeners of the show. Ok, today, I obviously started reading what others have written about the show. 

Nothing that’s been written was a major revelation or something I hadn’t considered, but then I have been writing about television for decades and have interviewed many talented show runners.  But it was a pleasure to connect with others who love the show as I do, even if I disagree with some of their observations. I do watch television differently than some of my friends but it has been fulfilling to be a viewer, to look forward to each episode as they roll out for everyone. I’m not overanalyzing the show. I loved the first few episodes, was fine with it pacing and the way each episode delved into the character’s lives. Matthew McConaughey is such a pleasure to watch as a tortured and tightly wound detective and Woody Harrelson is his equal. have theorized where the story is going but even if the destination isn’t what I would have wished for, the journey to get there has been so well worth my time.  


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The Big C and True Blood are Back with More Bite

The humidity is thick where I’m so it’s either sitting at the pool or in the central air conditioning watching two of the most provocative series on television. One, Showtime’s The Big C is grounded in reality yet plays out this serious subject with dark humor while HBO’s True Blood operates in a total fantasy world but is grounded in real-world politics.   

The second season of The Big C is different this year and that’s intentional say executive producers Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks because Cathy (Laura Linney) is angry and in a fighting mode so there’s a bit more edge. Watching the first four episodes brought back memories of my friend’s battle with breast cancer and the devastating news that her treatment wasn’t working and how she, like Cathy, left her doctor for one in charge of a new clinical trial.  Cathy does finally get in to see a new cutting edge physician Dr. Atticus Sherman, a great guest appearance by Alan Alda) and lands a spot in his upcoming trial but when she finds out the reason, another patient died, it’s heartbreaking.

Finding the right balance between Cathy’s bout with cancer and how it affects her personal relationships with her husband (Oliver Platt) and son (Gabriel Basso) is definitely challenging, sure the writers would agree. And sometimes it’s hit or miss on the show and a bit over the top but so far this season the compelling drama realistically tackles the struggles of a cancer patient to beat back death while still being mostly a story about how to live.      

Right out of the gate, True Blood is spinning new storylines and Sookie (Anna Paquin), who we find out, has been gone a year in fairyland and returns alive to the surprised natives. The triangle of Eric or Bill will play out this season, along with other strange goings on but this is pure entertainment and just right for what looks to be a hot, hot summer.

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Sex and the City Still Sizzles

What do you do when you’re visiting family who don’t have HBO, Starz or Showtime? I’ve been watching reruns of Sex and the City and even the occasional episode of The Waltons. The latter because I long for how connected John and Olivia and their offspring are in contrast sometimes to spending time with my own family and the former because it’s like catching up with a long lost friend.

Even seven years after its run on HBO ended, the writing still sizzles and watching those first few meetings between Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) still shakes me out of my viewing malaise. The Modelizer episode and so many others that first season offer an inside view of dating behavior and rituals but it’s the relationship between the friends that stands out. Let’s all toast our imaginary Cosmopolitans to the women and men of HBO’s Sex and the City, the television show when they were at their best, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte  (Kristin Davis) and of course Carrie Bradshaw. There was a bit in each of them that I could relate to and few television shows have come along since then that truly show relationships warts and all and at the same time is about female power in all its glory!!

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HBO’s Cinema Verite — A Powerful Retelling of the First Reality Show

HBO has been a home for some of the most daring and provocative original movies and miniseries for decades and their annual sweep of the Emmy Awards is proof enough of their supremacy in this category.  Add Cinema Verite, which premieres on Saturday, April 23, to the list.

While the movie is a retelling of the making of An American Family, a 10 part series about the Loud family of Santa Barbara that aired on PBS in the early 70’s, it’s much more than simply a docudrama in the hands of the husband and wife team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) who direct from a script by David Seltzer (The Omen) franchise). Instead it’s a cautionary tale in some ways of the darker side of “reality” television that changed the television landscape forever. 

Cinema Verite stars Diane Lane and Tim Robbins as Pat and Bill Loud, the couple who seem to have it all, a home in sunny California, a swimming pool and five children.  But that’s definitely not the case and once James Gandolfini, as the producer Craig Gilbert, convinces them to allow cameras into their daily life they become anything but the typical America family. Instead they reveal the darker side of marriage and family life and in their eldest son, Lance, one of the first openly gay males ever to be featured on television. This may not seem that scandalous today but back then the television version was sugar-coated in shows like Leave it to BeaverBrady Bunch and The Partridge Family and  Louds were vilified by the press and the public who were shocked by their behavior, especially Pat asking Bill for a divorce in one episode.

What makes Cinema Verite so compelling is the filmmakers use of clips of the Louds from the documentary as bookends to some of the scenes that are recreated by the cast. Since many viewers under 50 have not seen American Family  this technique adds weight as we realize early on that the Louds are real…that even though we are watching essentially a film about the making of another film…and what we see really happened.

 While Gilbert (Gandolfini) has been viewed as manipulating Pat (Lane) to allow Susan and Alan Raymond (Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins) to film these very private scenes, Springer Berman and Pulcini, as documentary filmmakers themselves, could grasp this twist on reality.

“We could relate to Craig and understood his perspective as we’ve been in similar positions. You’re always trying to walk a line between best representing your subjects as well as best serving the movie,  ” said Pulcini. “We could also relate to the Raymonds who were a young couple, idealistic and thrilled to be working on this project.”

To this day The Raymonds and Gilbert do not speak and have major differences of what really happened while filming An American Family.  

“Gilbert set out to make a film with artistic merit, a window into a real American family but he definitely may have influenced Pat to do things she might not have on her own,” said Springer Berman. “Pat and Craig had a complicated relationship. She went to Standford and he to Harvard and he provided intellectual  stimulation while she’s a housewife raising five children and trapped at home a lot with a philandering husband.”

Whatever your personal opinion about the making of American Family, don’t miss Cinema Verite and the chance to see, for better or worse, how reality television came to be and the incredible power of the camera.

While the Loud family didn’t participate in the making of the HBO film, Pat and Bill did reunite as a couple after their son, Lance, died.

“In a way the documentary ripped the Loud family apart but in the end they all came back together,” said Springer Berman.

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New Episodes of AMC’s The Killing and HBO’s Game of Thrones Rev Up Sunday Night Viewing

I haven’t read the books by George R.R. Martin but I’ve really enjoyed the first two episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones, starring Sean Bean, Lena Heady and the rest of the strong cast.  Power, lust, loyalty and betrayal — it’s got it all plus great cinematography of the vistas of this fantasy land. 

New episodes of AMC’s The Killing continue to peel back the layers of the crime drama’s central story — who killed Rosie Larsen?  Based on the Danish television series Forbrydelsen, the 13-part series is set in Seattle and began with Sara Linden (Mireille Enos), the lead homicide detective finding the missing and murdered Larsen. Along with her new partner Stephen Holder (Snabba Cash), she works the crime while Larsen’s parents Mitch and Sam, played wonderfully by Michelle Forbes (True Blood) and Brent Sexton (In the Valley of Elah), deal with the loss.  The local politician, Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), who’s connected to the case, is considered a suspect.

Enos, who played the twins Jodean and Kathy Marquart on Big Love, is great in the role of the quiet, introspective, no-nonsense detective . She’s all about getting the job done but can come off cold and detached.

“Sara spends so much time in her own mind, seeing things that other people don’t see. Where her partner processes things by talking and thinking aloud she’s quite the opposite and that makes it a beautiful relationship,” said Enos.

Shooting in Vancouver, Enos, who is a new mother of a daughter, Vesper, found it hard to play some of the scenes of the murder of a young girl, especially some with Forbes. “Anyone that spends that much time around death would have to come out the other side emotionally wrecked or a bit shut down.”

Enos can’t say enough about Veena Sud (Cold Case), the showrunner of the series I just read the latest episode and I email her and her team of writers because I feel so honored by the writing,” she said. 

The series has a lot of dark, gloomy skies, which is definitely like Seattle, and it sets a mood and tone to the piece that might be a bit cerebral to some, but I highly recommend tuning in at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The Killing is produced by Fox Television Studios.

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Odds-n-Ends — Big Love, Californication and The Good Wife.

Ok…first off I have been very sick for a long time…but I’ve also been a couch potato too and watching lots of television. Let me say that watching the Sex in the City reruns, even on E, which butchers them and bleeps the curse words out…that show still holds up…is so well written and was always about the relationship between friends.

Speaking of sisterhood. I’m still reeling from the series finale of HBO’s Big Love. While I kept thinking that Bill (Bill Paxton) was definitely going to be punished for his hubris but more for trying to make his lifestyle accepted in the state, to say it was a shock that he was killed by his neighbor is an understatement. But he paid the ultimate price for his faith…like Jesus dying on the cross? I don’t know if that symbolism was present for the writers or more of the suppressed anger and rage so many people have these days that they try to solve with a bullet. 

As much as I loved the show, it was inevitable that Bill would have to be brought down as much for his wanting to go public with their lifestyle as for trying to destroy the compound. What always interested me more though and what the show was really about was the relationship between the sister wives. And that’s what the creators left us with.three very different, and often flawed women who still love each other and will keep the family together.  Was it a satisfying payoff…I am still not sure but when the show ends with the wives together with their children in a send off to Margene (Gennifer Godwin), it seemed right that the “little girl” who has grown up went out to explore the world, while Barb (Jeanne Triplehorn became a  priest holder and the empowered woman she has always been and Nicki (Chole Sevigny, who will continue to act out and represent the wounds of the radical polygamist agenda. What she said to her daughter still haunts me and it’s that part of Nicki that is very hard for me to reconcile…in an era where sister wives are on a reality show and some appeared on Oprah polgamy has gone a bit more mainstream. And that’s what the show really pulled off was that as much as that lifestyle seems so strange to me, I was always drawn to the relationships between the women…how they dealt with marriage, sex while trying to grow and develop in their own right. That they definitely did…much more I think than Bill who ended up seeming much more naive and clinging to a way of life that no longer made as much sense to the members of his own family.

On to Showtime’s Californication’s season finale last night. As I’ve grown a little sick of Hank…even though he was afraid of the prospect of going to jail (funny that both he and Bill on Big Love were facing time for statutory rape)  it seems to have made no impact on him. Or maybe it will next season. But I am really tiring of the rampant sex…and him making the same mistakes over and over. Is it realistic, yes to some degree as we humans seem to do that…but as a writer I guess I assumed that he would be more reflective.

While Rob Lowe’s character has been hilarious…and the whole movie industry and Hollywood satirized to extreme…I am sick of sex being the way the characters communicate. Hank’s relationship with his daughter is the most rewarding to watch…always has been but it would seem that he would do anything to redeem himself in her eyes.  If he’s going after them as he drives into the sunset, the question I have is why is he always chasing them but when he has them in his grasp he always messes it up. It’s time for some tough love Hank and for you to grow up.

 The Good Wife revealed a zinger, too.  Of course I’m talking about Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). Early on in the CBS drama, I suspected that she knew something about Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), that there was some secret they shared but definitely didn’t suspect it was a sexual encounter. Guess a tryst should have crossed my mind since Kalinda uses her sexuality just like she uses people so what she really wants or who she really is has always been a bit up for grabs. But now maybe we will see the real Kalinda stand up and deal with Alicia (Julianna Margulies), someone who she seems to respect. So now we wait…hopefully not too long and please creators don’t make Alicia finding out part of the cliff hanger! But please do let her see another side of Will Gardner (Josh Charles) that may give her pause and fuel her realization that he may not be that different from her husband, after all. In the end, perhaps Alicia will let both go and just be on her own…the good wife no more.

 Looking forward to watching the new episode on Tuesday.

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Golden Globes FUELED BY “Girl” Power In TV Noms

The Golden Globe nominations for Best Television Series, Drama included four of my favorite shows — The Good Wife, Dexter, Mad Men and The Walking Dead and also Boardwalk Empire.  The Big C and Nurse Jackie receiving nods in Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy was sticky sweet icing on the cake.  These two comedies along with The Good Wife feature strong female leads that are allowed to be real flesh and blood women with major flaws. And Juliana Margulies should definitely win the Golden Globe, as she should have won the Emmy.  That’s no bashing Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer or the other nominees but Margulies is doing some of the best work, if not the best, of her career on this smartly written CBS hit, one of the few shows that my mom and I both enjoy.  And Laura Linney, without a doubt, should win Best Actress for The Big C…her performance literally hit the bullseye and delivered on material that could have been less powerful in the wrong hands. The Big C is my pick for best comedy, too.

While Mad Men was a bit uneven this season, it’s still so compelling and moving and that’s due in large part to Jon Hamm’s performance. Even though Don Draper is man who I wouldn’t want to date, I still can’t take my eyes off Hamm and that’s not just because of his looks (or that we both have roots in St. Louis and the University of Missouri) but because he’s a great actor who can also dance and sing. What’s not to like? And Thomas Jane should also win for HBO’s Hung, as he gives one of the best performances with blue-collar grit of a true Midwestern man who’s sexy yet  rough around the edges. 

Idris Elba should definitely win for his work on the BBC America’s Luther but I was a bit surprised that Timothy Olyphant was shut out as I love his work on Justified, which I am eagerly awaiting the drama’s second season on FX.  Love Chris Noth so if he wins for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture for The Good Wife I’ll sleep ok, but Scott Caan is one of the best parts of Hawaii Five-O so if he wins that’s fine.

Julia Stiles is excellent on Dexter and although no one could be as provocative as John Lithgow was last season Dexter’s foil, her character has added a new and welcome layer for the drama.

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