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Absolutely delightful
This show is very hard to put in a stylistic box. It is mostly a comedy, but has some genuinely poignant and melancholy moments. Brilliantly written, acted, and sometimes directed by McKenzie Crook. Toby Jones is a wonderful partner in exploration with him, both in the fields and in the rest of their lives. The supporting cast was very well selected. The writing is so good that you know of the quirks of some of the more minor characters who may only show up once every other or so episode. The whole concept of the show, focusing on the hobby of metal detecting, is brilliant. If you're looking for a truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable show, check this out.

Major Crimes

A very worthy successor to "The Closer"
Over the years, this show - and "The Closer" - formed a terrific block of crime drama. Probably my favorite since "Homicide: Life on the Street" many years ago. The cast was terrific and the decision to go in a different direction with Capt. Raydor's character, from the in "The Closer", worked very well. The casting director deserves high marks for getting wonderful actors for some of the surrounding characters: legal staff; families of victims and the villains. One of the consistencies with this show over the years was great writing, with some of the best villains I can remember on any crime show. No formulaic writing as on the very, very tired "Law &Order" series. Something that was always appreciated was an episode just about every season with a dose of humor in it. My sole criticism of the entire run was that there was absolutely no need for either the character Rusty or his story line. It added nothing to the run of the show and at times seemed very forced. (The actor wasn't the problem. The idea was.) I still don't know why the producers thought this character and story line were ever needed when the crime drama part was always so good. Definitely a series I will miss.

Phantom Thread

Phantom plot, if that
I cannot understand the praise this movie has received, aside from that for Daniel Day-Lewis' performance. It is, frankly, an insult to the movie-going public. My wife and I are both very well-educated individuals, which I think is important for anyone to know who thinks we just "didn't get it" with this movie. The same can be said about the couple who saw the movie with us. When it ended, we all looked at each other and felt that we had been had. The movie's title has no apparent connection with what passes for action in the film. Is this movie a love story? A study of the fashion industry decades ago? A battle of the sexes? Well, whatever it purports to be, it fails. It's pretentious, with lingering shots of couples or individuals passing for deep meaning. Long silences that do nothing to advance, or even explain, what passes for the story. Moody stares and shadowy lighting do not make a great film, or one as lousy as this. The musical score is probably the most intrusive of any film I've ever seen. Music swells to let you know that "This is important!" That doesn't work, and it interfered with scene after scene. Maybe the producers and director thought it added gravity to a movie desperately trying to show you that it is meaningful in so many ways. For many years the movie that most offended me, as an utter waste of my viewing time, was "Titanic." It has now been supplanted by this overwrought couple of hours of cinema. The worst movie I've ever suffered through, and that includes many of the ones lampooned on "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Come to think of it, that might be an appropriate venue for future screenings of this pretentious bore.

Big Little Lies

Not as original as the producers would have you think
I didn't see this until after the Emmys, but wondered what all of the fuss was about. So, I watched the entire series - and still wonder what the fuss was all about. The characters are so stereotypical California chic that it was almost funny. All, but one, ultra wealthy and all of the leads are gorgeous. No uglies allowed. I found it hard to be very interested in any of them, and to find much sympathy for them as well. Lots of self-absorption in every episode. The director had lots of filler shots of surf hitting the beach or moody dark scenes to try to inject some suspense. There simply wasn't enough material to have made seven episodes. What story there was could have been easily, and better, presented as a feature-length film. One of the meaningful (and it is) subjects covered in this show was actually done more dramatically in the TV movie "The Burning Bed" decades ago. Some ABC network "After School Specials" covered other aspects of the story, too - and more quickly. I think the show was overpraised and awarded because a) it wasn't on network television, and b) had strong female leads who swore a lot and appeared naked. That's not enough to elevate it to classic status.

King Charles III

Dreadful. If you were a fan of the monarchy, you might not be after watching this
I will open by saying that I'm not a fan of the monarchy, anywhere. It baffles me that taxpayers in the UK and elsewhere are willing to have billions of their funds wasted on a bunch of people who simply by an accident of birth get to live lavishly on the backs of the taxpayers, for almost no return. Maybe it's for tourism, who knows.

I also will say that I've been a big fan of Tim Piggott-Smith for many years, and was saddened by his recent death. It was his presence in this mess that got me to watch it in the first place.

The play is so self-consciously trying to ape Shakespeare that it's embarrassing. Much of the dialogue is stilted as a result of the writer trying so hard. The palace intrigue had potential but was badly handled. If you want great British political drama go watch the original "House of Cards."

I found the acting, aside from Piggott-Smith, to be poor. To be fair, the actors had to work with what they were given as a script.

Overall, it's a bad soap opera dressed up by pretensions to classic drama and the royalty. It simply didn't work for me.

Trial & Error

Just goofy fun
Like a lot of people, I'm a big fan of John Lithgow, who is a very versatile actor. He's one of a select bunch who are adept at serious drama and broad humor, as seen in his turn on "Third Rock from the Sun" and his hosting SNL.

This show isn't pretentious about the humor. It's broad and fast-paced in most episodes. If you don't like one joke, wait thirty seconds or so and we've got another one for you. The writers make use of a lot of devices to get the humor across, including some quick-hitting sight gags you need to watch for or you'll miss them. (As an example, check out the slogan for the health club in one of the episodes as the trial begins.)

Jayma Mays is a bundle of sexual tension in her role as the ambitious DA and is nearly as funny as Lithgow's character. Sherri Shepherd is great in a sometimes too small part. Overall, the cast is wonderful and seems to be having a lot of fun with the show.

I will say that I don't know if this is a show that has a lot of staying power, though, because it's hard to see where it can go after this first season. Still, it's a very funny half-hour that really is a lot different from most of what's on right now. The only show that takes the same approach to fast-paced, packed with jokes is "Angie Tribeca." It works for them and it works well for this show.

The Revenant

Forty minutes of plot; two hours of filler
Let me start by saying that I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was terrific in this film and well deserved his Oscar for the role. However, there is so little plot in the movie, and some really, really improbable situations where his character is rescued and/or escapes that my overall feeling was one of real disappointment. Tom Hardy spends most of the movie talking like he's got a mouthful of hardtack and even when you can clearly understand him, isn't really saying much. The director, to me at least, seemed to understand how little plot and story there actually is in the movie by using scenes of a river or clouds as links between scenes and then lingering and lingering on those scenes of a river or clouds. There is also gore aplenty to help stretch out the running time. Aside from DiCaprio, the praise heaped on this movie mystifies me.

People of Earth

An original and very funny show
I will confess to being a life-long sci-fi fan so when I saw the ads for the premier of this show, I was intrigued. It hasn't disappointed and is one of the most original new comedies of the year. Maybe the most original given retread sitcoms like the stuff CBS has rolled out with Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc.

The premise is very different than anything else on television right now. It holds up thanks to a very good cast, mostly little known actors, and very good writing. It also turns upside down the longstanding portrayals of aliens as all-knowing, advanced beings whose ways are mysterious to Earthlings. Instead, the aliens are petty, incompetent in a lot of technical applications, and have fits of temper. That element of the show is one of the funniest to me and is very well done. The Earthlings are a diverse group with a lot of excellent interactions within the support group of "experiencers."

Even people who aren't sci-fi fans should give this a try. If you haven't watched it from the start, you need to go back to the pilot and catch up.

Here's hoping it has a long run.


An appropriate title
I was intrigued by this show with the ads that appeared during the summer. I've liked Michael Weatherly, but will admit to not being a fan of Dr. Phil, who is both the inspiration for the title character and was a co-writer of the pilot. Dr. Phil: don't quit your day job. The show is simply unbelievable. A multi-million dollar high-tech office, with dozens of staffers, yet no apparent source of income for any of that. The pilot dialogue, to acknowledge Dave Barry's phrase, seemed to come from the wooden dialogue generator. All of the characters are relentlessly hip: there's the now obligatory knit cap wearing techie; a fabulously dressed wardrobe consultant; Bull relieves tension by hitting a tethered baseball in the office, while replete with his oh-so-cool two or three days' of beard growth. None of the characters are people you feel empathy with or care about. Early on, this show has benefited immensely from the prime time slot following "NCIS." I will be very surprised if it holds the early ratings as the season goes on. Maybe not the best career move for Michael Weatherly.

The Twilight Zone: The Invaders
Episode 15, Season 2

One of the most amazing "Twilight Zone" episodes
This episode is one of my all-time favorites, from maybe my all-time favorite series. It's great from so many perspectives: lighting; minimal dialogue; sound editing; and Agnes Moorhead's terrific performance. The tension builds throughout this episode. Having seen it again very recently, I can assure readers that it stands up very well even after the passage of more than fifty years since the original airing. Seeing it again recently made me realize, and not for the first time, that a great writer and director don't need graphic violence and lots of screams to build terror and excitement. This is one of the can't miss shows out of the entire run of the series.

Moone Boy

Flat out funny
This show first came to my attention on a NYS station from Long Island. I was a fan of Chris O'Dowd's, but hadn't seen or heard of any of the other cast members. From the first episode I became a fan. It's a very clever, and original, premise. One of the things I enjoy the most about the show is that even though the imaginary friend is portrayed as an adult, he doesn't have any more smarts than the schoolboy who thought him up. The fractured family dynamic, with the financial and interpersonal struggles, plays very well, too. It weaves in the charm of small Irish towns with some consistently funny writing and plots. I hope that this show sticks around for many more years, at least until Martin gets through high school, because it's one of the shows I look forward to seeing every week.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

I've always loved this movie
I saw this movie when it was first released, which was when I was in junior high school. My friend and I laughed all the way through it. In the decades since then I must have seen it at least half a dozen more times, and still enjoy it - but from a different perspective today. This was maybe the greatest assemblage of comedy talent ever put together in one movie, even if it isn't the greatest comedy due to a pretty thin story line. There are actors in it, like Buster Keaton and Ben Blue, who started in silent movies. Many of the others came out of the vaudeville circuits. The characters are all great, with some wonderful cameos, such as those by Jack Benny and Jerry Lewis. A personal favorite is Jonathan Winters portrayal of the put-upon moving truck driver.While the story line is thin, it's still a funny movie from beginning to end. Today, hopefully viewers will appreciate what a tribute this movie is to a true all-star cast.


A fan since the first episode
I've been watching this show since it premiered several years ago and have to say it's one of my all-time favorite crime dramas. The basis, a story by the late, and genuinely great, Elmore Leonard, has given viewers a terrific group of characters in a setting, Harlan County, KY, that is vastly different to most urban crime stories. For those of you not familiar with Leonard's writing ("Get Shorty" is just one.), the writers have remained true to his sardonic and often dark humor. Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder are one of the all-time great rivals, wonderfully acted by Tim Oliphant and Walton Goggins. Joelle Carter's portrayal of Ava stands right there with them. Over the years there has been a great variety of characters introduced and intertwined, but the focus of the Raylan vs. Boyd rivalry has never been lost. This show has never gotten the awards' recognition it deserves, perhaps because it was up against "Breaking Bad" for much of its run. This is the final season, with no "Breaking Bad" around, so maybe it will finally get some overdue recognition. Definitely one that will be missed.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death may come to the viewer first
I had anticipated this series coming to American television, given the fine productions of Jane Austin's novels that have appeared over the years. While it is an imaginative storyline, it is one of the most boring "mysteries" ever presented on "Masterpiece Mysteries." The cast is outstanding, as are the costumes and settings. Those have become a given in recent years with such period pieces. However, the story takes forever to get organized, with people you really don't care for very much. I get the feeling that the producers had so much invested in the backgrounds, with the costumes and settings, that they felt it had to be a longer series. It didn't. This would have worked much, much better as an hour and a half, or maybe two hour, production. Instead, it became a tedious piece of television. The cast deserved better.


"Mad Men" lite
This period drama does well on costumes and sets, and that's about it. The story lines are convoluted - and there are way too many of them. The supposed mysterious background of the main character isn't very interesting, nor are any of the other story lines. The multiple layers aren't done well. Had the writers focused on one or two things, maybe this would have been better. Sadly, a pretty talented cast is left with some pretty mediocre stuff to work with. Additionally, the mess of multiple plot lines has caused me to lose interest in pretty much everyone in the story. For the most part, the characters aren't very interesting, or likable. I'm left with the distinct impression that the producers saw the success of "Mad Men" and tried to come up with a similar period piece to capitalize on it. Put simply, they failed.

Call the Midwife

As good as anything in many, many years on Masterpiece
My wife and I have been regular viewers of PBS' various British dramas for more than 40 years. I believe that "Call the Midwife" stands with anything that PBS has shown in that time. The cast is outstanding, and is aided by terrific writing. The producers and writers have done a very good job of pulling stories from the books, and presenting an element of 20th Century London history that most American viewers knew nothing about. There is a wonderful blend of humor, sadness, and an overall sense of time and place that is rarely achieved in TV dramas. I have particularly liked the sensitive portrayal of the sisters throughout the series, since (believe it or not) my mother had studied to become a nun. They are consistently shown as a complete person, not characterized as stiff and robotic people. If you haven't read the books the series is based upon, try them. You will see how faithfully the producers have followed them. A wonderful series!

A Mighty Wind

An almost perfect portrayal
First of all, I am of an age to have lived through much of the folk music era that this movie brilliantly spoofs. That said, it is a spot-on portrayal of the music, the performers, and the attitudes of the time. There was great attention to details, even including the look of mock album covers for the various acts and the vehicle that transports one of the acts from Vermont to NYC. It is filled with humor, as is the case with almost all of Christopher Guest and company's films. The cast is terrific from top to bottom, including many of the smaller parts such as Ed Begley, Jr.'s, role as a TV producer. Something that truly impressed me is the fact that all of the songs, and many of the musical arrangements, were written by the cast members. While most of them don't actually play, they do sing - and pretty well.

I'm not sure that younger viewers appreciated just how good this movie captured an era. They may have related more to the earlier collaboration of the some of the principal actors in "This is Spinal Tap" because it was about a heavy metal band. All in all, this is maybe Christopher Guest's best movie.

Brewster McCloud

One of the most surreal movies ever
I saw this movie while I was in college and loved it then, and having seen it again recently can say that it has held up well. It is funny; weird; has a terrific cast; and is one of my favorite Robert Altman films. Bud Cort is rightly known for his work in "Harold and Maude" but I actually think he's better in this. His character, to me, was a lot tougher to "sell" than his character of Harold in "Harold and Maude." The entire cast is great, but another favorite in this film is Stacy Keach. His scene with Brewster as his limo driver, and the sudden soiling of the car, is so funny. I've never understood why this film isn't more highly regarded among Altman's work, but recommend it to anyone.

Breaking Bad

Absolutely amazing since the first episode
I have been a fan of this show since it started. For many years I thought that "Homicide: Life on the Street" was the best and grittiest crime drama I'd ever seen - until "Breaking Bad" appeared. The acting and writing has been terrific from season one right up to now. Bryan Cranston just stuns me, because I still remember him as the moronic father in "Malcolm in the Middle." However, the entire cast is great. Walter White's transformation over the years is one of the best character developments I've ever seen in more than fifty years of watching TV. The intensity of the show is such that I wind up watching it on demand because my wife can't deal with the ruthlessness of the principal characters, and the basic theme. It is well worth the day's wait to catch it the next day. I will be sorry to see one of television's all-time great shows, of any format, wind up after this season.

Last of the Summer Wine

The longevity of this show is a mystery to me
I had read about "Last of the Summer Wine" in a number of articles, and was familiar with some of the cast members (particularly those in the later series) before I ever got to see this waste of electricity. I have great admiration for the British, and for many of their situation comedies and dramas, but how this show stayed on for nearly forty years is one of television's great mysteries to me. The plots are simplistic; the characters ridiculously broad and stereotyped; but maybe worst of all, it's the same dumb show year after year after year. Stupid ideas from equally stupid characters. How many times can something that didn't work when you were 13 seem like a good thing to try when you're 73? Was it the fact that virtually the entire cast consisted of veteran actors what made this a hit in England? While it's nice to see them keep working, it would be better to see them in a show that was complimentary to an older actor, i.e.; "As Time Goes By."

The Americans

A great and inventive new show!
FX network deserves a lot of credit for ordering and supporting this show. It's not another pseudo reality show; not another stupid, fake competition; but an actual original drama, with terrific writing executed by a great cast.

The show has unfolded in a well thought-out manner, by introducing in some depth all of the principal characters, with some well-placed flashbacks. Each week has been gripping and filled with plenty of tension and excitement. In that regard, it may be the most consistently exciting show since "24", one of my all-time favorites.

The writing is at a consistently high level, which sadly is rare in recent years. It's so good that the writers manage to elicit sympathy for the Russian spies. If you watch the show from the beginning, you will have a great sense of each main character and their interactions with everyone else.

I have been genuinely and pleasantly surprised by how good Keri Russell is in her role. Margo Martindale is always terrific, and is especially good on The Americans.

Again, thanks FX for not shying away from putting on a thought-provoking and very original drama.

I want to add a few lines now that this show has ended. My original review was done during the second season and absolutely nothing changed my thinking during the rest of the show's run. It was a very different concept for a drama and brilliantly done week to week. Exciting up to and including the final episode.

The Loved One

Perhaps this movie should have been released in 1968 0r 1969
I had heard about "The Loved One" while I was in high school but never got a chance to see it during the limited run it had in my area of NYS. Years went by and I kept seeing it pop up on favorite "cult film" lists. Finally, about two years ago I finally got a chance to watch it and loved it. I'm amazed at how irreverent, cynical, and, yes, offensive it is - and just how funny it is, too. The ads for it noted that there was something to offend everyone. After finally seeing it I can definitely agree with the ad campaign. The cast is excellent. Robert Morse's transition from "wide-eyed innocent" to one of the most cynical and opportunistic characters is terrific. I was always a huge Jonathan Winters fan, and always felt that his acting was underrated. (Check him out in "The Twilight Zone" episode about a famous pool player.) The entire British ex-pat group is wonderful. Rod Stieger's turn is phenomenal, particularly when you stop to think that he appeared in "The Pawnbroker" within months of this film. Talk about two widely different roles. Finally, Annjanette Comer's change through the film is great. (By the way, look up the meaning of her character's name sometime. It's a very subtle play on the entire theme of the movie.) This film's greatest problem was that it was released at the wrong time in history. It definitely paved the way for a number of dark, very off-beat comedies that followed, like "Brewster McCloud." I can honestly say that all of those "cult film" lists that had "The Loved One" included were on the mark. You should see this long-overlooked film.

The New Normal

I'm disappointed
I had high hopes for this show when I first read about it in the new television season previews. It had a timely plot line and seemed like a bold break in the traditional sitcom format. After watching the first few episodes I have to say it's been one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

Put bluntly, the producers don't seem to be able to make up their minds about whether it's a comedy or a drama. As of now, it's not working as either one. It definitely isn't funny and the cast isn't good enough to pull off selling it as a drama. I find Ellen Barkin's character a ridiculous and offensive stereotype and the granddaughter's quirkiness to be unbelievable. On top of everything else, the show is very preachy. By contrast, "Modern Family" has hit a great balance with Cam and Mitchell's partnership of humor, angst, and tenderness.

I read that NBC has given a go-ahead to produce more episodes. So be it. I won't be watching any.

Hell on Wheels

One of the great new shows
This is the best drama on TV now, with the possible exception of Breaking Bad. It is imaginative; brilliantly written; and has a wonderful cast. One of things I particularly like about it is how convincing the set is in portraying the miserable living conditions virtually everyone lived in during the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 19th Century. The location scouts and set designers deserve a lot of praise.

The acting on the show is compelling, which is saying something since there really aren't a lot of likable characters for viewers to sympathize with from week to week. The writers have done a fine job of revealing previously unknown layers to the characters, such as the background of Anson Mount's lead role, revealing him to be a well-educated member of high Southern society, not a gun for hire. The Swede is another fascinating character, whose transformation has been great to follow. Common's acting ability has been a surprise to me as well. It is a great cast. If you haven't been watching it, catch up to it on demand or however you can. You've been missing one of the great new shows.

The Neighbors

A very funny, off the wall comedy
I tuned in to this show mainly because it was sandwiched between "The Middle" and "Modern Family" and have been happily surprised. It's unlike any other comedies on the major networks with its weird premise, and very funny writing. The cast, particularly Toks and Simon as the alien couple, is excellent. It is definitely not your normal sitcom, and that's great. If you haven't watched it from the beginning, give it a couple of episodes to learn about the characters and the interaction between the aliens and the humans. There is some very clever writing for both sides of the community.

A storyline that shows a lot of promise is the relationship between the children of the two families. It hasn't been explored all that much so far, but has a lot of potential for humor. The "Halloween-ween" episode last night was well-done, and showed (not for the first time) some of the angst that the entire alien community is suffering. This is a new show that's definitely a keeper.

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