jax713

IMDb member since August 2005
    Lifetime Total
    75+
    IMDb Member
    15 years

Reviews

Instinct
(2018)

Out-cools itself
Despite its number one goal of trying to be "cool" at every turn, this show is a boring mess. Let's sidestep the many dumb notions like people telling Alan Cumming that he needs to lose weight or get back his mojo or his lawyer boyfriend signing a lease with a gaping loophole that no layperson with an ounce of sense would agree to. Look instead at the scripts which have inane dialog and are too easy to predict and which reach their resolution as fast as a speeding bullet, absent any tension or complexity. Look at the characters: the too-perfect Dylan with his daunting academic credentials, best selling book, spiffy wardrobe, cool motorcycle & CIA background. His only flaw seems to be that he acts like he's on speed all the time. Lizzie is a tiny sprite-like cop who fears nothing and no one though she could be swatted like a fly by anyone bigger than her. How she affords her NYC residence on a cop's salary is a mystery. Her too-young lieutenant boss has shown no ability for investigative strategy though she mentions how over worked she is. There is also the idealized liberal version of a NYC mayor: a young, beautiful black woman.

Everyone here is young, zippy and cool. And not believable. There is not one iota of wit, wisdom, suspense, plot development, or character authenticity to be found anywhere. But. hey, that's cool in today's American TV programs. (Minus) One star.

Frankie Drake Mysteries
(2017)

The Mysteries are missing
I've watched 3 episodes of Season One and am on the fence about continuing. There is very little that has reeled me in and, in fact, I dozed off during the second & third episodes and had to rewind. The acting is so bland and the injection of politically correct situations is forced in what is supposed to be a period piece and these two things do not lead to character invovlement. The only character I enjoyed so far was Frankie's mother in the first episode thanks to the skills of the actress. But the biggest sin in what I have seen is the absence of any mystery. You can pretty much figure out how the "mystery" is going to turn out within 10-15 minutes and then you have to sit through highly predictable character exposition where nothing is a surprise. Even the character of Ernest Hemingway is flat. It seems the "mystery" is a big challenge for the writers so it takes a back seat to all the various relationships going on which aren't very interesting because we've seen them all before. Send the SOS for better acting and better scripts! One-star for costumes.

Striking Out
(2017)

Easy to watch but raises questions
Premise is good, acting is very good, dialogue is very good. Amy Huberman in the lead role of Tara is a strong actress able to carry the show but she has quite a few stellar actors in supporting roles to add a high level of polish to this show. The two sets of parents shine like stars in their limited scenes and the maverick mentor, Vincent, supplies just the right amount of edginess. After watching Season 1, I have hopes that follow-up seasons will expand those roles and also that the cafe owner will become more important in a variety of ways. I like that the philandering fiance was kept in the storyline and wonder if there's any way to redeem him, though I think not because he has a megalomania that would take years of therapy. Though I enjoyed this show, I was left with unanswered questions about what I felt were muddled plots: I wasn't sure how the bigamy case ended in favor of Tara's client (veiled references to stashed cash and something to do with jewelry); I wasn't sure about the conduct of the dad in the custody case; I wasn't sure about the extent of corruption in the bidding case; and the lease problem seems weak. I also have quite a few questions about Vincent's background because that role is so pivotal & entertaining. However, these are minor questions since the legal cases are overshadowed by the dynamics of all the relationships among the main characters but they add up to a 7 out of 10 rating. Looking forward to Season 2.

Without Motive
(2000)

Inside View of Police Politics & Procedures
Grizzly, dark and gloomy but highly watchable. Viewers get to see all the work the police have to do to try to catch a crafty serial killer, how they cope with the stress of failure, public opinion and lots of overtime, and why careers can sink because of a single case. I had misgivings about the development of the main female characters - a policeman's wife who has a very odd attitude about the case, and two police women who do some very dumb things. I found it difficult to accept these characterizations all in one storyline to use as a catalyst and filler for subplots because the female victims, for the most part, were also negative stereotypes. Other than that, the acting is top notch, the clashing personalties in the police hierarchy are believable, and the construct of the serial killer provides some suspense because we don't see much about motivation or methods so we're left guessing. I was surprised by some aspects of the investigative process which led nowhere, the fact that the detectives had no blue light to put on their unmarked car during a car chase, and the idea that a local police official had a full time driver. But these were little bumps in the course of watching a basically good story play out.

Keeping Faith
(2017)

Read the negative reviews first
Before you watch Season 1, read the reviews titled "Stop the madness..." and "Dumbest Smart People." They say everything I would have written here. In summary: painfully slow, devoid of suspense, Eve Myles' overacting and obsession with her hair, her character's highly questionable mothering skills and overall goofiness, truly dumb decisions by lead characters, an 8-part series that should have been a 4-parter at most. To this I would add the most annoying moaning music score with an intermittent screeching tea pot noise in episode 1, a director's overuse of overhead shots and useless panned shots that stop the action presumably to insert artsy film frames, and a confounding reliance on strange, transparently artificial, plot devices too numerous to list here invented by a writer who needs more guidance and experience. There are only two positive things I can say about this show: the uniformly fine acting by all the actors except Myles, and the well-delineated characters of Cerys, Tom and Terry. Nevertheless, I persevered to the end because I wanted to review this and tolerable only by fast-forwarding. I was curious enough to see if the mystery was solved but the flip-flops crammed in made it ultimately disappointing. I am convinced the high-ratings reviews (really? 10 stars?) shown on IMDB were written by friends and family of those who produced this bomb.

800 Words
(2015)

Normal people can be interesting, BUT...
I just binged on 3 seasons of this show and could easily have rated it 10-stars. The setting is a beautiful resort town populated by a wide variety of people each of whom have their idiosyncrasies, but all of them are basically normal. The genius of this show is that it hooked me immediately by making normal people interesting. The show proves that you can find a wide audience for entertainment that doesn't need perversity, foul language, toilet humor, preachy social or political commentary, or gratuitous sex & violence to drive stories. These are people dealing with sex, love, relationships, financial issues, social & political snafus, raising children, high school, career concerns, etc., all in the struggling ways most of us do, with the exception that the writers have given us gems of insight and wisdom along the way. Every viewer will find one or more characters they love or relate to, and one or more they don't, just like real life.

Which brings me to my 8-star rating. It's really a 10-star show except I feel some of the female characters are not as well-drawn as all the male characters. The men are all multi-dimensional; even the town patriarch, who is supposed to be a villainous sort, is relatable, likeable and very surprising. Even the high schooler, Arlo, is interesting in the way he handles (or doesn't handle) things and his enjoyment of food & cooking. But some of the key women are essentially boring. Shay, the central daughter role, is a bossy know-it-all whose storyline is boring. She thinks she is an artist but has not really demonstrated this talent and spends no time painting or doing anything artistic like making jewelry to sell to tourists, decorating her room, painting their house inside and out, designing clothing to sell, whatever. Instead, she has dropped out of high school and earns pocket change waitressing or cashiering in local shops. True artists have a NEED to express themselves creatively & constantly. Her love life is equally boring. Katie, the local sex kitten with a sweet nature is also boring. Like Shay, she considers herself an artist, but for 20 years and while raising a now high school aged son, is always broke and has done little to improve her lot in life. She is a 40-something with an attitude like a hippie from the 70's. This do-little, passive, childlike lifestyle is boring. Her character with no agenda of any kind is a black hole in the array of vivid personalities granted to the rest of the cast. She mainly reacts to the men & women around her and if her role disappeared, it would not at all affect the zeitgeist of this show. In fact, if her role disappeared at this point, it would greatly enhance opportunities for humor, suspense, drama, and insights in coming seasons, if there are any more. So 1-star knocked off for these central characters and a 2nd star knocked off because I'm categorically opposed to any movie score that has lyrics which this show has in abundance. No, I don't need or want a song with words about feelings.

I highly recommend 800 Words because I think most people will find it engaging and memorable in so many ways. You will find townspeople with many stories to tell and a town that you'll want to visit.

Winter
(2015)

Double plot sometimes confuses
There are two parallel plots that sometimes gets in the way of this otherwise engaging police procedural. The solid acting and direction is why I upped my rating from what I really think (6.5) to 7.0. The effort to keep both the local and federal investigations in the center of the story often creates tangents that dilute the suspense. Also, the police in both camps commit mistakes that I don't believe would happen in real life but are used here to simply insert action and use up time. Minor flubs made me shake my head such as why a criminal would mount the timer for a car bomb in full view on the dashboard. Or why a police artist's sketch of a suspect would not *immediately* be electronically circulated to all involved. However, despite these little things and the slightly irritating over-development of some peripheral characters whose demise and/or personal dramas serve little purpose, I wanted to follow this to the end because there were a few central questions to be answered. And, oddly, this was the first time I've been constantly distracted by an actor's mustache or non-mustache. What is up with Lachlan's unattractive shadow above his lips?

Christmas Next Door
(2017)

Even for Hallmark, this is a real dud
I've watched a considerable number of Hallmark Christmas movies this year, whenever I feel I can tolerate their constant ad breaks for diseases and drug warnings. Quite a few have been enjoyable but Christmas Next Door is the worst so far. So bad I'd rate it zero stars if I could. Here we have a famous author who writes about bachelorhood but is very dumb about women coupled with a violin tutor who giggles and laughs after every dull sentence. Oddly, Miss Violinist can afford to live in the same neighborhood as the famous author, who drives a snazzy sportscar to boot. The author has to sleep on the couch when his niece & nephew come to stay because apparently his fancy house has only one bedroom.

All together the boring dialog, nonsensical scene setups, the total lack of any real plot device to separate it from the generic Christmas theme, and the ridiculous character portrayals made me think I was watching what would have been just the outline for any other film. Skip this one - it's very low budget and you'll miss nothing.

Coming Home for Christmas
(2017)

One of my pet peeves
I have a few pet peeves when it comes to movies & TV shows. To name some of them: 1) When the main cast all resemble one another, like all longhaired brunettes or blondes for female roles; 2) When someone's house looks big on the outside but there is no extra bedroom for a guest and they end up on the couch; 3) When the actor/actress does not look age appropriate for the role. Number 3 has become even more of an issue in recent years because so many actresses get plastic surgery and now they look like an older sister instead of a mom. Another iteration of the incongruence of physical appearance is when a petite baby faced actress plays an aggressive cop, like Robin Tunney in The Mentalist.

In Coming Home for Christmas, I again encountered a Hallmark favorite, Danica McKellar, who simply looks too young for the role, or any role as a romantic lead. While she is an accomplished actress, with her baby face, long spiralng hair and tiny frame, she looks about 13 years old. Danica is a staple in Hallmark's casting office but I would encourage the producers to look elsewhere for their female love interest because she is not convincing. The rest of the cast played well.

Christmas in the Air
(2017)

Hallmark movies are a great escape
I watch all types of TV shows and I count on Hallmark to produce quality 'escapist' material. Anyone who tunes into the Hallmark Channel should expect wholesome love stories and mysteries that are absent of gore & perversity and this formula works for a lot of viewers. Even though the scripts lack the unique wit of British television shows, the fictional stories are a relief to watch because they eschew the coarseness, profanity, and general lack of intelligence & good role models so prevalent on American TV.

Christmas in the Air is a good example of Hallmark standards - a gentle love story surrounding a couple who are a case of opposites attracting. Robert and Lydia have unusual professions that are an enjoyable element in this story, normal values, the usual frustrations of modern life, with the added dimension of a single father of two kids. As the widower, Eric Close gets to play a frenzied father who really wants to be there for his kids and we viewers are spared any overly sorrowful moments. Catherine Bell never disappoints as the demurely sensuous yet down to earth beauty who easily commands the lead female role. The predictability of these types of movies is not a negative. In fact, I consider them encouraging and comforting in this day and age.

The Good Cop
(2018)

He's the guy
Breckman "is the guy" who created Monk so, right away, we're going to look for similarities and make comparisons. But doing this sets up The Good Cop for failure because Monk achieved so much with its characters, actors, plots & puzzles, not to mention a high level of emotional engagement. I've watched the entire Season 1 of The Good Cop and am on the fence about whether it's good enough for a second season. Maybe with a lot of tweaking. Most of the episodes devolved into downright silliness, with Danza singing & dancing, trying to corrupt his straight arrow son, and behaving like a frat boy continually looking for a party. The son is oblivious to many clues a good cop would see and his nerdiness often becomes annoying; minutes are spent on his inability to communicate important information. Then there is a lazy cop ticking off the days left until retirement, and a kick-butt female cop who barely justifies this motley crew as a team. Most importantly, little to no thought has been given to making the solving of the crime clever or surprising. I also questioned the casting because Monk's actors were so superb. Throwing in comedy to this weak recipe only serves to dilute the overall product - what is it we're watching? I didn't even begin to care about the characters because they all had a plain dumb or boring side and plot development is sorely lacking. If I were in charge of the money, I'd have to think twice about giving Breckman another season, even though the better episodes were written by him. But then again, Monk improved with age.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
(2008)

Fascinating
As an American watching this British show via Netflix, I find it educational and endlessly fascinating. While I do believe there is a lot of pre-conceived intentional folly in the buying choices of the antiques experts who compete for profits, this is excusable for its entertainment value. In every episode we see two experts shopping various venues for good deals on collectibles with the goal of re-selling them for a profit. Inevitably, one of them fails by either losing money or making an embarassingly paltry sum usually because they bought something with very narrow appeal at too high a price. The mistakes are part of the fun for us viewers who, like me, groan when the expert is not negotiating hard enough or has something in hand that is of highly questionable value. Mixed in are genuine finds that reap profits, even though the profits are often so small they could not actually support an ongoing business.

What I find so absorbing about this show is that it presents the antiques business in a very amusing way, it shows the sheer volume & diversity of collectibles that can be found in Europe which is awe inspiring, and it presents the unique retail culture in the UK that is still comprised of hundreds of small, independently owned specialty shops and artisans who continue honored traditions of quality. This is so different from the U.S. retail scene where strip malls and shopping centers offer up the same merchandise no matter what city you're in. The host-experts all have great personalities and you can tell this show gives them an opportunity to indulge in riskier, sometimes silly, purchases they would not normally make. Nevertheless, you are bound to learn something about antiques in every episode, smiling all the while. I deducted one star because I find the frequent reminders of the budget amounts vs. what is spent repetitious and unnecessary.

The Good Fight
(2017)

What is this?
As a fan of The Good Wife I looked forward to this spin off because I loved the character of Diane Lockhart and I had hopes some of the other roles would follow her into new territory. This is very disappointing. This is not a good TV show which should entertain, enlighten with new ideas & perspectives, and make you care about the characters. Initially, I thought the show was going to be about Diane starting over, possibly starting a new firm, but it's nothing like that. It's basically a platform to fertilize a political agenda and the amount of manure thrown around stinks! This show is teeming with racism, hateful politics, annoying and/or shallow relationships, curse words, over-saturated political correctness at every turn, and flat dialogue. My biggest gripe was in Season 1 when the all black law firm Diane joined was targeted by a grand jury. Here we have a huge firm of smart, successful black lawyers with million dollar salaries and their strategy for testifying was to play the race card. What??!! This is banal writing in spades. The lazy writing is pretty blatant in the legal cases, too, which are snooze inducing.

My two stars are for: 1) the excellent acting all around (love Delroy Lindo - cheesh, what energy!) including the return of Marissa, Elsbeth, Lucca, and most especially Kurt (a very, very essential character perfectly played by Gary Cole); and 2) the wardrobes. Beyond these, this show needs a complete overhaul.

Escape to the Country
(2002)

A travelogue of sorts
I think it is Season 2 that I'm watching on Netflix in the U.S. and am quite enjoying this version of a house-hunter show. So far, none of the buyers have actually purchased a house so it's different from American shows of this type that end with a house being chosen and then usually there is an additional conclusion of what changes (if any) the buyers have made to a property and seeing them entertaining guests. Nevertheless, for me this is an interesting travelogue of the U.K. and I enjoy seeing the villages and the interiors of various types of residential dwellings which are quite different from American homes. The British often make do with a lack of certain conveniences in their homes and it seems 2-story homes are generally preferred over single story. This contrasts with the American market where such things as separate laundry rooms, multiple bathrooms, and a garage has been the norm since the 1960s. Single story homes in the U.S. have been very popular for decades, and since the late 1980s a ground floor master bedroom suite in a 2-story house has been a "luxury" offered by builders. The presenter-hosts of the show are all engaging as they provide historical facts about the counties. One of them, Jules Hudson, seems to have a very limited wardrobe as he's been in the same blue jeans for every show so far.

House Doctor
(1998)

Good show but decorating is awful
I've been watching the 2016 installment of this show and, while I love to see home make-overs, the design sensibility of Tracy Metro leaves a lot to be desired. In many of the scenarios, it was apparent that some of the homeowners had a better eye for decor even though their projects were incomplete. Clutter is a major problem in most of the make-overs and you don't need a decorator for that. I understand that the design budget was very small but Tracy's re-dos are very cheap looking colorations and upcycled furnishings. In one house, she painted a brick fireplace surround battleship gray in a living room with colorful bird wallpaper on a white background and dark beige carpet, and then hung dollar store paper fans in bright colors on the wall as "art." The room looked disjointed and in need of an immediate make-over. Tracy has a nice expressive tv personna but she's no decorator. I've rated this 3 stars because I always enjoy seeing the inside of homes in the UK because they are so different from American houses.

NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service
(2003)

Declining series
Just finished binge watching Season 14 and I have watched this show since the beginning. Maybe the producers or whomever are trying to set a record for the length of the series, but there is little other reason for this show to continue. The exit of vital characters like Ziva & DiNozzo has created a downward slide into mis-casting key roles and creating dubious plots. The one bright spot in casting is Reeves, the MI6 transplant - both the actor and the character bring a breath of fresh air to the otherwise dowdy team. The loss of Vance's wife and Ziva's father was a preposterous plot twist. The addition of Quinn and Torres to fill the gaps in the NCIS team is weak and failing. Quinn has nothing to do and Torres doesn't belong there. Neither character is interesting nor entertaining in any way. Maybe, like Reeves, the producers should have considered another foreign import, French or Swedish?, to add some dimension. Bishop is marginally effective as an analyst, but is not believable as a field agent. It would have been better to keep her married and have her be the nerdy info bank who gathers and sorts backgrounds & personality profiles, even if it were a smaller role. That kind of role would be a fair replacement for the departing Abby, and Bishop's tricky relationship with her NSA lawyer-husband would have brought new fodder to episodes. And why do we have to be subjected to Jimmy Palmer's buffoonery in every episode, said buffoon scenes becoming longer with each passing season? I'm also now very tired of Franks showing up in a delusion to drive a story. Kind of pathetic. There is lots more I could say but basically it's time for this series to go out with some dignity left. I know the show has been slated for a 16th season but I can't imagine it getting any better if it stays on the same path.

Big Little Lies
(2017)

Binge Worthy
Excellent cast, story, and production! Not since "The Women" (original 1939) have I seen a woman-centric story that captures numerous female personnas as precisely as this show, all the while pairing up friendships between the rich and the working class based entirely on individual mutual respect. In this contemporary drama, the main characters are genuinely believable and their various dilemmas are relatable. All of the plot and sub-plots could indeed happen so you are swiftly swept along the sorting out and, thank the gods, to an ending that, while satisfying, leaves you with curiosity about *all* of the women in this town. Children, husbands and other supporting characters are also at the center of this story and they are given enough screen time to further immerse you in the dynamic without diluting the significant women's issues. The length of Season 1 was perfect, no wasted dialogue or obviously filler scenes, and acting is top shelf for every single role. I rated this 8-stars because I deducted one star each for a music score I found distracting and because of a few too many f-bombs which I consider a writer's crutch. Otherwise, highly recommended and looking forward to Season 2!

The Big Family Cooking Showdown
(2017)

Season 1 a bit of a let down
Not as entertaining as the Great British Baking Show because the contestants have too much to do and there are a lot of contestants so the race is on in every challenge. The judges and the "hosts" are good, and I was surprised to see Nadiya from GBBS there, though she did a great job. I was very disappointed in the winners of Season 1 because everything they cooked was in the style of their ethnic background. The other families demonstrated real skills with a much wider range of food styles and, even if some dishes fell a little short, IMO they deserved extra credit for reaching beyond tried & true recipes they grew up with and have probably cooked a hundred times. This takes the contest aspect out of it completely. Duh. I think to level the playing field, there should be quite a few challenges that are more specific, like make your best Italian lasagna, or Mexican chili, or American Barbeque, or Greek chicken, or Peking duck. I don't think the point of this show should be perfection, but rather who can consistently execute really good family food because they have an educated, adventurous palate and kitchen skills.

The Great British Bake Off
(2010)

DELICIOUS! Thank you BBC and Netflix!
Yep, 9 stars for a cooking show! Even I'm surprised at that. Thank you Netflix for bringing 4 seasons (series) to your U.S. audience. Please bring us more! I would love to see every episode since its inception. I had no idea Brits take their baking so seriously so this was a real eye opener. The variety of bakery items and the wide range of genuine talent among hobbyist home bakers is truly astonishing. This show has wonderful personalities in key roles, plus the contestants present us with their unflapable, always polite demeanor, along with a good deal of humor as they deal with the nerve wracking stress of their tasks. The contestants are all so engaging that it's hard for the viewer to pick a favorite from show to show. One contestant in the U.S. Series 3, Ian, could have his own tv show, he was that entertaining. Be prepared to get a craving for something sweet when you watch this.

Nailed It!
(2018)

Horrors!
Only in America can you have someone invest money in a celebration of crudeness, mediocrity, and stupidity. I had to force myself to watch the entire first episode and it was also my last. Here you have a host, Nicole, screaming as she flails around the set without an ounce of wit. Then you have contestants who know so little about what they've been brought in to do that it definitely seems fake and, further, all need glasses as they can't even copy a frosting color. Did none of them ever color Easter eggs as a child when they would have learned to start with one drop - two at the most - of food coloring?! The obnoxious host and the rewarding of incompetence with $10,000 makes the show purely revolting. I would give this a minus-10 if I could and I think IMDB should offer a way to do that.

The Open House
(2018)

I rate this negative 5 stars
LOL...if Netflix paid more than a nickel for this movie, it was robbed. I think maybe the script writers are, oh, about 12 years old. They think it makes sense that a big fancy house would have no lighting in the basement and that characters enter rooms that have lamps late at night without turning a light on. The writers feel sure they'll scare you by putting most of the action in the dark. About half way through I wanted to turn it off but then decided to see how bad it could actually get. Even I was surprised that someone got paid for a plotless, pointless, sophomoric story that doesn't deserve even one frame of film. The actors all did a good job but it must be a huge embarrassment to be asociated with this tripe. Hey, Netflix, if you're starved for original content, call me.

Billions
(2016)

A Billion Yawns
I just watched Season 1 and nodded off numerous times. You'll notice from the reviews here people either love this show or hate it, there seems no in between. I've seen a lot of shows that have had plot problems, character development problems, credibility problems, casting problems, script problems, yada yada. But this show takes the cake for BORING because it has been showcased as a compelling drama but it fails. It has ALL those problems! WTH?

The writing is so weak, overflowing with platitudes, metaphors and utterances of Zen-like philosophy. Some of the lines are plain stupid such as a guy who came up from the street calling someone a "quisling." WTH! Someone is using a Word-of-the-Day calendar to write dialogue! Let's put aside the many financial games played here that don't ring true and look at the main characters. The married couple, Chuck and Wendy Rhoades, might be the most boring people on the planet. They go to work and play sex games and that's it. Their conversations with each other and everyone else are boring! Bobby Axelrod is a caricature of the kid who got sand kicked in his face who grew up to become filthy rich. Along the way he became a benevolent dictator with self-imagined God qualities and we are manipulated into sympathizing with him regardless of the cheating and law breaking at the base of his wealth. WTH? The script is a droning & predictable seesaw between two themes: insider trading and sex, neither of which is fascinating with these one dimensional characters. The Big Short did a supremely better job of making "follow the money" a gripping plot line with believable and interesting characters. And even better, that truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story was all about legal stock trading by risk-taking wizards and it showed you how they work.

I also think this show was miscast. Paul Giamatti is a good actor but the constant hiss of his whispery voice coupled with his Milquetoast exterior was at odds with the traits one wants to see in a prosecutor. There was no energy or charisma in his performance so it became tedious to watch. Damian Lewis overacted most of the time and his wardrobe emphasized his little-boy body making him seem like a 12 year old at the helm of a Sherman tank. The good casting and acting was done in supporting roles which led me to another WTH? conclusion. It was the supporting cast that kept me awake. This gets one star from me and no interest in further viewings.

The Code
(2014)

Snooze-fest
I watched all of Season 1 over two days and found it difficult to stay awake. I stuck with it mainly because of the IMDb rating. The theme of the black market in nuclear weaponry, surrounded by corporate and political malfeasance, topped off with computer hacking and murder, and all tied together with investigative journalism should result in a suspenseful thriller. But no, instead I was subjected to endless scenes of relationship issues between brothers, lovers, coworkers, et al. Nearly every single character in this show (and there are a lot of them) was treated to a mind-numbing exposition of their personal relationships. I ended up not caring about any of them, including one of the two central characters, a sporadically dysfunctional computer geek who is supposed to inspire sympathy. I have to assume there were many scenes that were cut in order to focus on all these relationships because the advancement of the main plot was choppy and frequently left me wondering how we got to a particular scene because there were sudden shifts in what was going on. Episode 1/Season 1 was a melange of different events that took quite a long time to get the viewer acquainted with who was who, you know that artsy attempt to "not to tell the viewer too much" style that is supposed to get your curiosity going, but in this case it seemed it would never get to the point.

I plodded through all 6 episodes hoping some suspense would occur, but it did not. I had to fast forward through many scenes just to avoid becoming completely annoyed by all the time spent on Jesse's behaviors, grieving families, hollow careers, and disjointed uninteresting sub-plots. The show did not give me the story line as advertised. Further, I could not help moaning aloud when, every few minutes, another scene of clouds speeding across the sky was shown. Egads, give it a rest!! I would suggest the producers take a look at such shows as State of Play, House of Cards, or even the old 3 Days of the Condor for lessons on pacing, exposition, and character development and how to stick to the story. My two stars are for the acting which was excellent all around in spite of the lousy end product.

Agatha Raisin
(2014)

Great escape!
I watched Season 1 over a few days and am disappointed there may never be a continuing series. As a big fan of British TV mysteries, this was a highly entertaining departure for me. While it reminded me of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries because of the main character, I liked Agatha Raisin much more. I haven't read the books so I had no preconceived notions about any of the characters but the TV Agatha is so appealing that I'm hard put to understand some reviewers not liking the interpretation made by the show producers. If the TV Agatha has a different color hair, so what?

Since I've known many female PR executives in real life, for me, Ashley Jensen is a perfect example of an accomplished career woman in that profession: intelligent, pro-active, confident, goal oriented, oftentimes domineering, and always a fashionista. I found it funny that Agatha still wears the fabulous clothes and high-heeled shoes traipsing about the English countryside that she wore in the more sophisticated landscape of London. So ingrained is her high style wardrobe that she seems not to notice the potential threat of navigating cobblestone roads and marshy grasslands in stilettos. Because Agatha is supposed to be an "older" woman, Jensen is also the right age for this role as she shows a very wee bit of the start of drooping skin in certain lighting, but does not detract at all from her good looks, putting her more in the updated cougar category even though she is not interested in scoring with all manner of men. The trendy hairstyle, red lipstick and always manicured red nails is a welcome & fitting contrast to the "country" women in her village. Miss Marple she is not, and instead of knitting, Agatha cycles. The rest of the cast is nicely tuned, particularly Jamie Glover whose normal, regular guy personna is humorous in itself as he tries to protect and woo the effervescent Agatha. I also fully enjoy the character of Roy who brings that certain brand of hilarious gay humor to the show and also provides Agatha with a deep friendship that has history, an invaluable asset to any lead character. I'm not sure if the bi-racial coupling of the vicar and his wife was in the books, but it seems odd to me and I wonder if it was a decision based in tokenism. Of late, many British shows present mixed couples but, conversely, I can't recall seeing a strictly minority couple. Perhaps this is some kind of trend.

I see all kinds of potential stories for this series especially if Agatha is married. Not since The Thin Man have we seen a happily married couple who lead an unconventional lifestyle that sometimes involves solving a murder. It would be nice to expect another season or two. Update August 2018: VERY EXCITING NEWS - SEASON 2 is in the works!!

Midsomer Murders
(1997)

I love Neil Dudgeon
I've been watching Midsomer Murders since the beginning and I wrote a review several years ago which rated this show 5 stars. I based that rating on John Nettles' performance in the lead role. I deleted that review so I could write an updated opinion since the lead actors have changed as have some other things. I now consider this a 9-star series, mainly because of Neil Dudgeon.

Many viewers were big fans of Nettles, but I always felt his performances were flat and one dimensional. I was hooked more by the mysteries and how they were solved. Now the tables have turned and I am more engaged by Neil Dudgeon. As Dudgeon's character is a cousin to Nettles' Tom Barnaby, he bears some slight resemblance but his portrayal of John Barnaby is so much more enjoyable. Casting him in this takeover role was brilliant. He brings a range of emotion, a wry sense of humor, and a confident intelligence to the character merely with a subtle facial expression or change in body language. I found Nettles' performances quite wooden. Home life is now quite different, too. The original Tom Barnaby barely reacted in conversations with his wife and he looked almost uncomfortable when hugging his daughter. With Dudgen we immediately sense a relaxed and deep relationship with his wife and newborn daughter.

Since the departure of producer Brian True-May, I've noticed some other changes which, though not entirely earth shattering, are somewhat disheartening. During his leadership, the scripts were more clever and the depiction of the rural English villages in the county of Midsomer were more what I imagined from reading some of the books. I think preserving these principles is a worthy goal because the Midsomer series can eventually be a time capsule reflecting a unique culture and mores as well as enthralling entertainment.

One other note is on the departure of Jason Hughes. I truly loved his character, Ben Jones, and hated to see him go but it was time for him to get a promotion. Hughes' performances were often one of the highlights of the show. His replacement, Gwilym Lee as DS Nelson, is doing a good job, but I think the scripts can back off a bit on his dating activities. It looks like filler. We saw only a few romantic overtones with Ben Jones and it was usually part of the larger plot or it was treated with brief humor, mainly because the mystery was fully developed with details taking up time. Now we see less of the investigative part of crime solving. Most of it is showing up at the crime scene and then communications from the morgue. Here, the new medical examiner is given a time to shine and she does, but the scripts are deliberately avoiding defining a potential relationship between her and DS Nelson. This is an unnecessary manipulation of the audience. And is it my imagination or are more scripts relying on musical themes as a substitute for meaningful dialogue?

All in all I look forward to every new episode but I wish Brian True-May would come back to oversee it's future now that Neil Dudgeon has brought a bright new & invigorating spark to the show. This series deserves the best.

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