Archives for category: TV review
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that ABC had done something really cool by permitting YouTube to show some of its movies from the 1970s TV series The ABC Movie of the Week. Many of these movies were quite good and unavailable on DVD. Unfortunately, my elation over ABC was premature. A couple of days ago, I discovered that most of these movies had been deleted. 

Airing these long forgotten movies was the sort of thing that could have helped ABC develop a sort of cult following and reminded people that ABC even existed. It’s unlikely ABC will ever get direct revenue from these movies, but they could have gotten some positive viral marketing. No wonder network TV is losing its audience and quickly becoming irrelevant as an entertainment medium.  


Bewitched was an American television series that ran from 1964-1972. It was one of my favorite shows. It continues to play in re-runs, and is currently on Me-TV in Portland at 8:00 PM. Surprisingly, the show still holds up.


Perhaps, the biggest controversy on the show was the switch of Darrins. Dick York played Darrin from 1964-1969 until Dick Sargent replaced him. The phrase “Darrin Syndrome” (AKA “The Other Darrin”) comes from the show. It’s a term for replacing a character on a TV show without explanation. It happens a lot on TV shows, but in the case of the character Becky in the series Roseanne, there were jokes about the switch. In one episode, the family was watching Bewitched on TV when the actress Sarah Chalke (the second Becky) remarked that she preferred the second Darrin. 
The ABC Movie of the Week (1969-1976) was a weekly television series featuring made-for-TV movies. The show began with dazzling graphics (1969 style) and with this hard to forget introduction:

The Move of the Week. Presenting the world premier of an original motion picture produced especially for ABC. Tonight, on The Movie of the Week

I remember watching these movies with my mom. They were on a little past my bedtime (8:30 PM), but my mother would make an exception and let me stay up to watch. This television anthology series featured a lot of B movies, but there was some remarkably good stuff too, including Tribes with Jan-Michael Vincent, Go Ask Alice with William Shatner (yes, that William Shatner), How Awful About Allan with Anthony Perkins, and That Certain Summer with Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook, the first TV movie to deal sympathetically with homosexuality. 

Sadly, few of these movies have been re-broadcast. Now, ABC has done something cool! They’ve put dozens of these movies on Youtube, in full and without commercials. They bring back a lot of memories. The last few days, we’ve been watching a few of them, including Along Came a Spider with Suzanne Pleshette, and Home for the Holidays with Sally Field, Jessica Walter, Eleanor Parker and Walter Brennan. Even though some of these movies are disappointing, quite a few are still entertaining. 

We forget that in the days of pre-cable television and the internet era, people had few entertainment options. The Movie of the Week was a gem; and although, these movies were low budget and never demanding, the acting was generally first rate and the scripts innovative and tightly written. 

Call the Midwife is a refreshing BBC series available on Netflix streaming. (It will soon be broadcast on PBS.) Call the Midwife is a gritty, realistic, and nuanced period drama set in London’s East End circa 1958. It stars Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, and Jenny Agutter. (I’ve been watching Ms. Agutter’s career since The Railway Children and Logan’s Run). It’s also narrated by the glorious Vanessa Redgrave.

I love the music soundtrack and the attention to 1950s detail. Period dramas like the overrated and implausible Downton Abbey have made me weary of this type of series. Luckily, I took a chance on Call the Midwife. It’s funny, poignant, and at times, sentimental in the very best way. It also reminds us of how the UK’s National Health Service improved the lives of people by making health care a national right and not a privilege.  
Call the Midwife is a refreshing BBC series available on Netflix streaming. (It will soon be broadcast on PBS.) Call the Midwife is a gritty, realistic, and nuanced period drama set in London’s East End circa 1958. It stars Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, and Jenny Agutter. (I’ve been watching Ms. Agutter’s career since The Railway Children and Logan’s Run). It’s also narrated by the glorious Vanessa Redgrave.

I love the music soundtrack and the attention to 1950s detail. Period dramas like the overrated and implausible Downton Abbey have made me weary of this type of series. Luckily, I took a chance on Call the Midwife. It’s funny, poignant, and at times, sentimental in the very best way. It also reminds us of how the UK’s National Health Service improved the lives of people by making health care a national right and not a privilege.  
The former Gainsborough Studios in East London
has been turned into apartments. The studio was used by
Alfred Hitchcock and now has a Buddha-like statue
of him in the courtyard. I think statute captures
the perplexing essence of Hitchcock. 


The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a 15 part TV series (900 minutes) tracing the history of cinema from the 19th century into the digital age. It’s a detailed examination of movie making that explores everything from lighting technique to sound engineering.

For example, who would have known that a Chinese actress, Ruan Lingyu in The Goddess (1934), would introduce a natural style of acting decades before Brando. Or that Orson Wells’s innovated use of the deep focus technique in Citizen Kane was not original but used in earlier European and Asian films. It’s tiny bits of film history like these that make the series fascinating and hypnotic. 

The Story of Film is as spellbinding as any thriller on the big screen; and for a film buff like myself, I don’t think I will ever see a movie in quite the same way.

The former Gainsborough Studios in East London
has been turned into apartments. The studio was used by
Alfred Hitchcock and now has a Buddha-like statue
of him in the courtyard. I think statute captures
the perplexing essence of Hitchcock. 


The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a 15 part TV series (900 minutes) tracing the history of cinema from the 19th century into the digital age. It’s a detailed examination of movie making that explores everything from lighting technique to sound engineering.

For example, who would have known that a Chinese actress, Ruan Lingyu in The Goddess (1934), would introduce a natural style of acting decades before Brando. Or that Orson Wells’s innovated use of the deep focus technique in Citizen Kane was not original but used in earlier European and Asian films. It’s tiny bits of film history like these that make the series fascinating and hypnotic. 

The Story of Film is as spellbinding as any thriller on the big screen; and for a film buff like myself, I don’t think I will ever see a movie in quite the same way.


A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across Spiral (aka Engrenages), a dark and unsettling French crime drama set in Paris. Spiral is about the most compelling drama currently on TV. There’s nothing cliche about SpiralThe plots and characters are well drawn with surprises at every twist and turn, and there are plenty of cliff hangers to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

I was hooked from the very first episode of the series, which opens with a view of a horribly mutilated female corpse. Yes, the murders are hideous and gruesome, but they have a point (and most scenes are not gory). I love the clever writing, and the story lines are pure genius. 

It’s also fascinating to see how the French legal system works. The interactions of the police, the prosecutor, and judge are quite different from the American and British systems. For one thing, the Judge is an integral part of the investigation.
 
In case you were wondering, Engrenages means “cogs” or “gears,” but it also has a figurative meaning as in a spiral of violence. Spiral is available on Netflix streaming. 

Maine in January is COLD! In fact, it has been nail biting cold with daily high temperatures in the low teens and nights below zero. Temperatures are expected to remain low through the weekend. Brrrrr!


On days like these, I enjoy a warm cup of cocoa while reading a cozy Agatha Christie mystery or watching something fun on video. Recently, I discovered the comic talents of Catherine Tate. She’s like Jennifer Saunders with a dash of Tracy Ullman. Her show is available on Netflix streaming, and it’s worth a watch. 

Maine in January is COLD! In fact, it has been nail biting cold with daily high temperatures in the low teens and nights below zero. Temperatures are expected to remain low through the weekend. Brrrrr!


On days like these, I enjoy a warm cup of cocoa while reading a cozy Agatha Christie mystery or watching something fun on video. Recently, I discovered the comic talents of Catherine Tate. She’s like Jennifer Saunders with a dash of Tracy Ullman. Her show is available on Netflix streaming, and it’s worth a watch.