I’ve gathered up some bits of wisdom of late that I’d like to share.
First up, how to…
…Figure out what streaming service a particular show is on
Netflix, Apple TV, Disney+, Prime, Crave, Tubi, CBC Gem… It’s nuts. So many services! I don’t subscribe to them all, but enough to make it hard to remember what’s where.
It’s even more confusing for Canadians, since US media will tell us a show is on a service we don’t have in this country (Hulu, Peacock, HBO+)—but that doesn’t always mean we can’t get it on a service we do have. Even more confusing, just because it’s on an American version of a service we have (like Netflix or Prime) doesn’t mean it’s also on the Canadian one. Could be on some other service entirely here.
This is why I love the JustWatch app. You select the streaming services you have access to and it serves up what’s on each. You can set up a Watchlist of every TV show or movie you’re currently watching, or plan to watch, and have one-page look of everything you’re currently caring about. You can mark off episodes or movies as you watch them. It will notify you when new episodes or a new season become available. And it has a pretty good recommendation engine if you need more to watch.
Of course, you can also use it to look up some show you’ve heard about, to find out if it is available to you at all, and if so, where.
…Watch Poker Face
Solid as I generally find the JustWatch app to be, one thing it doesn’t quite get is conventional cable. Particularly when it behaves unconventionally.
That it did wonders for my mental health, there’s no doubt. Despite the constant consideration of risk to physical health in everything we did.
Jean wanted a vacation that actually felt like a vacation, which to him, meant getting out of the province. We weren’t up for flying, though, and of course wouldn’t have wanted to go to the country to the south even if we were allowed to, which we weren’t. In a week, the only “outside Ontario” destination that was possible was Quebec.
We did start in Ontario, with a couple days in Ganonoque. Then it was three days in Quebec City, and two in Montreal to finish. In the days leading up, I became obsessive about reading the daily Covid case counts—which at that point, were actually pretty good. And while away, Ontario trended up a bit, but Quebec was still on a downswing.
It did feel like a vacation. Though one unlike any other. (Including the slightly uneasy feeling about blogging about having managed a pretty good vacation in these times… )
Having finished the latest seasons of Glow and Mindhunter on Netflix, and the six episodes of Chernobyl on HBO (those are all recommended series, by the way, as is the new Stumptown), Jean and I needed a new show to stream. I short-listed four:
When They See Us
Jean declared interest in all but the last (about the Central Park Five), which he thought he’d find too depressing.
We decided to start with the six-episode Good Omens, from Amazon Prime.
The premise here is that history as told in the Bible is actually true, and all that dinosaur evidence to the contrary is just God’s idea of a joke. Also, the apocalypse is nearing. An angel (Aziraphale) and a demon (Crowley), who have both been on Earth for quite some time, and have grown rather fond of the place, secretly team up to try and thwart it.
Four episodes in, we’re quite enjoying it. It’s quirky and funny. The cast, led by Michael Sheen and David Tennant–but also featuring John Hamm, Michael McKean, and the voice of Frances Macdormand–is terrific. The episodes don’t waste any time in speeding along toward the end of days. As an added bonus, it also happens to feature a great deal of Queen music.
If there’s anything the show reminds of me of, that would be my favourite network show, NBC’s The Good Place.
Currently in season four, with past seasons available on Netflix, The Good Place is a half-hour comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Dansen. It begins when Eleanor Shellstrop dies and finds herself in “the good place” (as opposed to “the bad place”). Only, given the wonderfully charitable lives the other inhabits of “the good place” have led, Eleanor fears that she has mistakenly been assigned there. And has to figure out how to avoid being found out and sent to the bad place.
But that’s just the initial setup. This series goes places in its four seasons, with twists you don’t see coming, unexpected alliances, and utterly bold time jumps and compression. The series is really better watched unspoiled, so I don’t want to give much away. But it does share with Good Omens the off-kilter look at religious themes, the representation of the forces of good and evil as largely banal bureaucracies, and a cartoon-like comedy approach to dealing with deep subjects. Like the best of fantasy series (hi, Buffy) both use the fantastical to comment on modern human realities.
Still, you can’t push it too far. Good Omens is a six-part series of one-hour episodes, based on a beloved (albeit not read by me) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel. It’s largely about poking fun at the absurdity of literal religious beliefs. (I think. I mean, I still have two episodes to go.)
(But, one of my favourite parts of Good Omens so far is the look back at the time of Noah’s Ark.
[The following are not exact quotes, but…] “What’s going on, then?” asks Crowley. “God’s feeling tetchy. She’s decided to drown everyone. Big storm,” replies Aziraphale. “What? Everyone? Even the children?” The angel nods, mutely. Then adds, “Well, just the locals. I don’t think she’s mad at the Chinese. Or the Native Americans…”)
Whereas The Good Place is a completely original, four-season (all short seasons) sitcom. It does not take on traditional religion and its beliefs, but really digs into morality and philosophy: can people change? What does it mean to be good? It’s stunning that there is a half-hour American sitcom about that, isn’t it? (And yes, it’s hilarious!)
So, in summary, Good Omens and The Good Place are both good shows that are somewhat similar but also not really, except that both are deserving of your time and attention.
In a TV interview, actor Eric McCormack talked about the very enjoyable challenge he faced in balancing his role in Travelers, where he plays a very serious character facing life and death situations, and his role on the comedic Will and Grace. That’s all I remember about that interview, yet somehow it was enough to cause me seek out Travelers on Netflix, where it was described thusly:
A federal agent tracks four people who suddenly seem to possess entirely new personalities, leading to a startling discovery about humanity’s future.
That sounded quite interesting to me (despite Netflix’s estimate that it only 70% matched my past interests), and something that Jean might like, also. Having blown through the six episodes of the British The Bodyguard, we needed a new show.
But hat’s all I knew about it. And that was great! Because holy, moley, was this an addictive show. Full of twists, none of them spoiled by the media, who never seemed to mention this show, or by any friends and acquaintances, as hardly anyone else seemed to watch it.
And which likely explains why, after three seasons, it has been cancelled.
But the three seasons remain available on Netflix, and you just might want to check them out. Jean and I started watching Travelers in mid-December and were done all three seasons before the end of January. For us, that’s some record bingeing speed. We’d sometimes watch two episodes in a row! Nothing else seemed as interesting as long as another Travelers episode was available. (70% interest, my toe.)
I want to avoid revealing too much plot, but can say that it involves time travel, with this particular take: the consciousness of people from the future can be transported into people from the past (our time), called hosts. All hosts selected are about to die. The traveler from the future inhabits their body seconds before that death is to occur, and takes action to prevent it. Then lives on in their body.
They are doing this to try to improve humanity’s fate.
But oh, the complication and ethical dilemmas that ensue! Especially as they have rules about when and how they can and cannot act on their knowledge of future events. But also, only a fragmentary idea of what the overall mission is.
The core cast is a team of five, two women, three men, each with particular skills and individual challenges based on their host’s situation. The acting is very good. The characters are compelling. I miss them already. (Especially Phillip.)
You can watch to find out why there are six people in this photo. And which one of them is Phillip.
And I will mention this: Season 3 has an ending. It’s the sort of ending that they could have built on for a Season 4, had Netflix decided to renew. But not the sort that leaves you all frustrated about a cliffhanger—which would have been the case, for example, had it ended with Season 2 rather than 3.
Me: Why do you say that? Because my Dad buys them?
Jean: And my Grandmother. She always had a bowl of those out.
Me: Come to think of it, my Grandmother always had mints like these around, too.
But would your Grandmother buy shoes like these?
(Or allow shoes on the couch?)
So the mission here was to get another pair of comfy shoes that weren’t sandals (as it seemed, at the time, that Fall weather was coming). And I did succeed at that:
But then I saw these other shoes, and they were so cute.
The truth is, outside of ballroom dancing—which requires special dance shoes—I have few opportunities to wear heeled shoes. At work I do the stand-up desk thing, and you can’t do that in heels.
But still…. Pretty cute. And on sale!
I have managed to wear them to one party that was mostly a sit-down affair, and have worn them at work as well, for the sit-down parts of the day. For heeled shoes, they’re pretty comfortable: despite the point, they don’t squish the toes, and the back strap doesn’t dig in. And with so few occasions to actually wear them, they should last for years, right?
Anyone want to borrow a T-shirt?
It’s possible I have a T-shirt problem.
The above were all acquired this summer, in Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and right here in Waterloo. And it’s not as though I didn’t have any T-shirts to start with.
A double shot
We came home from one vacation to find that the drip coffeemaker was no longer working. A fuse or something, I guess—you’d press the button and nothing would happen. That was a Delonghi dual espresso / regular coffee maker that I’d received as a work gift. Only, the espresso part broke down within weeks. It looked impressive, but for years had supplied only regular coffee, and now couldn’t even do that.
Still, when we put it out with the trash, someone took it away within minutes. Good luck to them in trying to make it useful again.
Meanwhile, we were doing Bodum coffee, which is very good, but presented a timing issue. Jean is more of a morning person that I am. He’d get up and make enough coffee for both of us, but by the time I was up and ready to drink it, it was often more lukewarm than hot.
We started by tasting a single-origin coffee to determine which cheap machine was most acceptable to discerning coffee drinkers, then ran the panel a second time with preground Dunkin’ Donuts house blend from the corner store. The Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Coffee Maker (46201) swept both rounds of testing. It placed second to the Oxo [9-cup coffee maker, a $200 US coffee maker] in Round 1 and actually beat the Oxo during the Dunkin’ round.
That Hamilton Beach unit was more widely available in the US than in Canada, but Amazon could ship it to us from an outfit called Moto Liquidation that warned would be “like new” but “show signs of handling/unpacking and usages, boxes have damage.”
That proved pretty accurate—box was somewhat battered but unit looked new. Only the first day we tried it, we found that we only got about half the amount of coffee requested—the rest of the water spilled out all over the counter.
We contacted Moto Liqidation who said that we could either get a refund, or they would send us another coffeemaker. Either way, they said, we could keep the one we had. And hence:
Unit 2 has a slight wobble, but not one that interferes with coffee making. And if any of the parts ever break or fail, well, we can pillage them from unit 1.
It does make really good coffee.
TV in the kitchen
I believe it’s not so unusual now, but when we got our kitchen renovated 15 or so years ago, our designer considered it very odd that we wanted space for a TV in there. Still, she penciled one in, above the stove top, plenty big enough for TVs of the time.
Fast forward, and the space is just barely big enough for the smallest of today’s TVs. And there’s absolutely nowhere else in the kitchen a TV could go (short of doing another renovation).
Furthermore, at some point I decided I also wanted the option of listening to music in the kitchen, and I don’t mean over headphones. So we got a Sonos Play 5, with the idea that when we bought a small digital TV to replace the old tube one, we could hook it up as the TV speaker.
But the Sonos 5 is large, and trying to find a spot for it near the TV was a challenge. Not just in having enough room, but also in the fact that anything near the stove top gets totally coated in disgusting grease, and I didn’t want that to happen to my nice speaker.
Then Sonos came out with a new speaker that was exactly what we needed. The Playbase is a wide, flat TV (and music) speaker that the TV is meant to sit on. It’s sized to exactly fit in the limited space we have available. The sound quality, by all accounts, incredible. The only problem? It’s a pricey sucker.
[All Sonos Playbase reviews, summarized: Woah, that sounds awesome. … Wait, you want how much for it?]
So I kept dawdling on it til the the September long weekend, when I just decided to go for it.
The only available TV spot in the kitchen is… not wide, and at risk of grease
A better view of the Sonos playbase. The other little box is the Rogers digital adapter.
The new TV took two tries, as the first one had a cracked screen. Figuring out just how to get the cable through was trickier than expected (tip: even it’s a digital TV, you still need a digital adapter to decipher the channels).
But the Sonos was problem-free in hooking into our network of other Sonos units. And it does sound great. And having the Chromecast on the TV opens up new viewing and listening possibilities: Netflix, YouTube, Spotify (even if not paying for Premium), SoundCloud app.
(The neighbourhood scavengers, by the way, had no interest in the tube TV beyond the power cord. But no worries, we properly e-cycled it.)
As for the grease, we’re trying to minimize its effects by using the back burners more. It’s making that back corner kind of gross, but so far so good on keeping the speaker clean.
So I was happy. Until the following Tuesday (i.e. the next business day) when Sonos decided it was time to offer me 15% off a new Playbase. As long as I hadn’t already bought one, of course…
Bah. Good thing I saved money with the on-sale shoes and the cheap coffee maker, eh?
Just because I haven’t been blogging lately doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about stuff…
Not writing about news is good news
I’ve actually started a number of posts about current events, but it all gets so depressing. And it changes so fast.
Like after Charlottesville, I was going to write a thing about how Canadians could join the Sleeping Giant twitter campaign to discourage companies from advertising on the alt-right Rebel Media website. But within days, The Rebel seemed to be sort of falling apart anyway, and it no longer seemed, maybe, the best way to spend one’s limited amount of time for activism.
“We have a chipmunk living behind our TV cabinets”, I wrote to our catsitter.
That was mid-July, and it had already been around for a couple weeks. Nearing September, the chipmunk was still with us.
Yes, they’re cute. But they’re still rodents.
It seemed to have a developed a routine of leaving its hiding place mid-morning to drink water from the cats’ bowls (handily kept right near the TV cabinets) and scrounge for food—which it was clearly doing successfully, given its longevity.
[Something I just learned from “Interesting facts about chipmunks: “Chipmunks are diurnal. In other words, they only come out during the daytime. The reason is not because they are blind at night, but because everything is too dark for their main defense system—their eyes—to work to their advantage.” Would explain why I never saw it in the evening.]
The chipmunk became increasingly brazen, stopping to give me a look to determine that I still appeared unable to catch (it was right; there is no catching a chipmunk!) before scurrying up the stairs to see what treasures could be found on the main floor. The cats occasionally decided to give chase, but more often just watched it, bemused.
The chipmunk was too big to be caught in mouse traps, too small to set off the squirrel trap, which we’d find untripped, bait missing. (“Great,” I said. “Now we’re purposefully feeding it.”)
We’d leave windows open a crack, but it showed no interest in exiting.
Maybe we need a rat trap, Jean suggested.
Before going that lethal route, we tried one more live trap, this one apparently designed for chipmunks: The Havahart Model #1025.
It took three days, but it actually worked: Chipmunk out for its rounds, almost immediately entered the trap, and… Trap door shut!
Chipmunk not happy.
I was a little freaked out by the success, especially as the little thing was making a terrible ruckus trying to bang its way out. Then I got it together enough to throw a pillow case over the trap (that’s supposed to calm the animal), and cary it out and over to the park, where I released it into the woods.
Herein ends your unrequested lesson in how to get a chipmunk out of your house. Now if only we could locate its entry point, so it can’t find its way back in…
Beyond the Lights or under the radar?
It was nominated for an Oscar and won some BET and critic’s awards, but I’m not sure how many people have heard of the movie Beyond the Lights. I was sort of looking out for it when it was released in 2015, but if it came around, it didn’t stay long.
I saw it recently as a DVD loaner from the library (it’s also on US Netflix). It’s about a young black woman, Noni, whose latest single is a big hit and whose first album is hotly anticipated. But after an award-winning night, she goes off alone and stands on the balcony of her fancy hotel room, thinking about jumping. She’s rescued by the young black officer on duty to protect her. They really seem to connect…
So yes, this is a romance, but better-written than most. Their challenges as a couple—the paparazzi, parental disapproval on both sides, conflicting career aspirations (the police officer also has political ambitions)—seem believable, not just plot contrivances. That Noni has a stage mom is a bit of cliche, but the character isn’t just a cartoon villain. The movie also offers a critique of the highly sexualized way young women are marketed in the music industry. (The film was written and directed by a woman, Gina Prince-Bythewood.) The actors are good, and lead Gugu Mbatha-Raw does have a lovely voice.
So if this sounds like your kind of thing, I think you’ll enjoy it. (And if not, like Jean, you’ll likely still admit it’s a decent film.)
Also recommended—but I assume most people have heard of this movie—the “still in theatres” The Big Sick. Making comedy out of the unfunny matters of race and illness.
Amazon pricing: Maybe it’s a game?
So back in November, the first-ever official live Queen + Adam Lambert blu-ray was released, initially sold only from a Japanese website. I most definitely wanted this thing, but when I did the conversion from Yen, it was $120 Canadian for the single disc + CD, plus shipping from Japan, which seemed… pricey, given that your average blu-ray is about $20.
So I waited for it to be available from Amazon as an import, whereupon it was listed for… $145. This was not going in the right direction. I kept checking it periodically, but the price remained stubbornly high, and nowhere else (including ebay) seemed to offer anything better.
Then one day Amazon emailed me to inform me that the price had dropped. Which it had… To $101.
I was considering that, but wasn’t yet convinced.
Then a little over a week ago, I had a random look Friday at lunch time and… It was $48.
So, fine, I ordered it. (And despite them telling me that by not choosing Prime, I’d have to wait til Thursday to get it, it arrived on Monday, Prime time!)
But the thing is, when I looked at the price again later that very same day—when I happened to be logged in as Jean—it was $62.
And right now, for both of me and Jean, it’s $67.
I’ve heard that Amazon has these sophisticated pricing algorithms that causes pricing to vary at any given time based on your past purchasing habits.
Which makes me wonder: Did I cave too soon? If I had kept checking at random times and days, would I have eventually acquired this item at $25?
And does this mean that all Amazon items are cheaper for me at lunchtime? Or on Fridays? Or have I ruined both now by going through with a purchase at that time and day?
And what’s up with the wildly different prices on the same piece of clothing at different sizes?
One dress, but each of its four sizes is a different price with a $140 range!
Anyway. The blu-ray is a gorgeous thing, with the best video and sound I’ve ever seen and heard on recorded Queen + Adam Lambert material. So I’m happy with it, even if the camera operator doesn’t always know when it’s important to focus on Adam (like, when he’s getting on his bike, and riding!).
Netflix: Giving us the sitcom revivals we didn’t know we needed
I don’t know that the world was clamoring for a remake of the Bonnie Franklin-starring 70s / 80s sitcom One Day at a Time, but Netflix has gifted it with one anyway. I was surprised to see how high it appeared on lists of best Netflix originals, so I decided to check it out.
What has it retained from the original? Well, there’s still a single Mom living in an apartment with her two teenage children, and a building supervisor named Schneider. Also, the same theme song, only re-recorded in a cooler version.
With its live studio audience and typical sitcom wisecracks flying, the series initially lulls you into thinking it will be super-light entertainment. But though it never gets too heavy, almost every episode touches on serious and often timely subjects: Dealing with PTSD. The challenges veterans have getting help from the VA. Figuring out your sexual identity. Raising boys in the age of online porn. Crackdowns on undocumented immigrants. Pay equity. Affirmative action.
(Hey, I somehow circled back to news, sort of.)
It wasn’t the sort of addictive thing that I had to keep watching, but I enjoyed every episode and grew quite fond of the characters. Despite that list of Serious Issues, it is a comedy, and a funny one. I was sad to see the end of Season 1. Fortunately, it has been renewed for a second season.
Vacation means more time to read, and I did get through a few works that I found worthwhile.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known for Anne of Green Gables, and like many people, I expect, the Anne books are the only ones of hers I’d previously read.
The Blue Castle was first published in 1926, but I first heard about it in 2017 on Twitter. Kady O’Malley (@kady) was highly recommending it, saying it’s a book she returns to annually.
I got it as an epub and, being out of copyright, it was very cheap, but also not formatted properly. It wouldn’t load at all on one of my devices, and on others, wouldn’t paginate properly. No matter; the technical glitches did not take away from the pleasure of reading it.
It’s the story of a young woman of 29, Valancy Stirling. Unmarried and expecting that will never change, she lives with her domineering mother, obediently and quietly following all house rules, though they make her miserable. She escapes only in her imagination, to a blue castle and the company of the man who lives there.
One day, in an act of minor rebellion, she goes to a doctor who is not the family physician, to find out about some chest pains that have been troubling her. The news is the worst possible: she has a heart condition that gives her only a year or so to live.
This leads to some serious introspection about how to spend her remaining days. She concludes:
I’ve been trying to please other people all my life and failed. After this I shall please myself. I shall never pretend anything again. I’ve breathed an atmosphere of fibs and pretences and evasions all my life. What a luxury it will be to tell the truth!
Therein lies the fun. Her domineering family thinks she has gone insane, and are now somewhat afraid of this previously meek creature who now speaks her mind and does what she pleases. With time she moves out. She meets a man. He has a house on an island. Things have a way of working out, which is not a surprising in itself, but the way in which they do is. A delightful read.
The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History
And now for something completely different…
This 400 or so page tome indeed tells the history of Jon Stewart’s time on The Daily Show, in the words of the various people who were there: correspondents, writers, directors, producers, publicists, and Jon himself. You’ll need to have some investment in this show to find this behind-the-scenes look at how it unfolded over 17 years of interest.
For myself, I was surprised at how much of that 17 years I had watched the show. I knew I wasn’t there from the very start, when Jon took over from Craig Killborn—but I got in there pretty early, with Indecision 2000, Chapter 2 of the book.
The other surprising thing was how much melodrama and personality conflict was occurring, at times, behind the scenes in a show whose contributors don’t really make the gossip columns. I had heard about a few, like the problems between Wyatt Cynac and Jon, but most… Who knew?
Also striking was the horror they felt at what was going on in the George Bush administration. Of course, he was not a great President. But still, you can’t help thinking… Dudes, you have no idea…
13 Reasons Why
This one is not a book. Well, it is a book, but I haven’t read it. What I have done is watch the Netflix series based on the book, some months after most other people did.
Though definitely aimed at young audience, Jean and I got totally hooked on this thing. Whenever we had some lounging time at our hotel on our week off, we’d put another episode on. We finished up shortly after we got home.
Partly thanks to the performances of the two leads, it seemed important to find out what part Clay had played in Hannah’s suicide. In the book (I read afterwards), Clay listens to all the tapes in one night. In the series, he gets through only about one per episode, allowing the series to progress in both real time and flashback, which is often handled rather deftly.
I’m not sure how a season 2 of this will work, but I’ll likely be checking it out to find out.
A Man Called Ove
This was our vacation audiobook, because it had really high ratings on Audible.com. (Highest rated ever, by the way, is Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.) It’s a translation of a Swedish novel, and has also been made into a movie (that we haven’t seen yet).
Its central character, Ove, a 59-year-old recently (and unwillingly) retired man, is initially pretty unlikable—unfriendly, blunt, critical. But he’s unlikable in an entertaining, often hilarious, way, so we can stick with him.
As the novel progresses, we learn more about what led to this point in his life. How he was raised. The people he’s lost along the way. His innate nature.
This is set against the event of a young family moving in next door and insinuating themselves into Ove’s life whether he likes it or not. His interactions with them, along with the gradually unfolding story of his life, makes Ove an increasingly sympathetic character. Even though he never becomes a warm and carefree one.
So I just finished Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. It’s a novel about three beautiful women who all become rich and famous—but not without being victimized, betrayed by love, and addicted to valium (sedatives, the “dolls” of the title). It’s an addictive read, and while certainly not literary, I was left pondering just what the message was supposed to be here.
The novel is set between 1945 and 1965, or so, and the portrayal of women is something to behold. Like the assumption, throughout the novel, that a woman should quit her job—no matter how fabulous—the minute marriage or even just engagement is on the horizon. Pile on the more dramatic horrors of involuntary incarceration in a mental institution and choosing suicide over the potential loss of fabulous breasts to cancer, and you’re left feeling rather glad to be living in these times.
One gets a similar sense from the much-hyped TV series Mad Men, set in 1960. One character, Peggy, becomes the first “since the War” to do any copy-writing for the Stirling-Cooper ad agency feature. “It’s like watching a dog play piano” says one of the men, of Peggy’s writing abilities.
The most recent episode I watched focused on the Nixon-Kennedy election. The firm—which the creator notes is a “dinosaur”, destined to be rocked by the changes of the times, not participating in them—is backing Nixon. And having to accept that their man has been bested by the young, charismatic Senator from Massachusetts.
And here we are, with the year’s US election, and the old man of the Republican Party figures his best chance of defeating the young, charismatic Senator for Illinois is to put a young, dynamic woman on his ticket.
Good thing she didn’t quit her job when she got married.
As mentioned previously, during the TV writers’ strike, we stared renting DVDs of the remade Battlestar Galactica series, which I’d read was really good, but felt I was too far behind on to watch on “live” TV. (One friend was amazed I’d never seen this series; another equally amazed that I had any interest in seeing it. In the immortal words of Dr. Temperance Brennan, I don’t know what that means.)
I’ll start by saying that I don’t remember the old series at all, though I imagine that I watched some of it at the time. So until watching the extras, I had no idea that Boomer and Starbuck were men in the original, or that one of the recurring guest stars was played by Richard Hatch, the original Apollo. So I judged this one on its own merits. And found it to be good.
It is, indeed, a drama in space, and not so much a space drama. Character is paramount, and each episode continues from the last—two features I always prefer in my television. So I’m drawn in by the story, and I care what happens to these people—even the ones who aren’t really people. The underlying mythology retains its interest. We’re halfway through season 2 now, and the full motives of the cylons remain mysterious.
The series is dark. There are moments of joy and triumph, but mostly the characters are struggling, running, and fighting. It can be kind of haunting. So though we’re getting through the disks pretty quickly—an average of an episode a day, I suppose—it’s also good to have a break from that world, to watch something else. To enjoy an escape that the characters themselves rarely experience.
It’s been somewhat amusing reading some TV columnists on the strike, using adjectives like “dire” and “desperate”, that seem just a wee bit strong to describe a temporary weakness in entertainment options. Truthfully, it’s taken me a while to really notice. After all, shows didn’t run out of scripts immediately. But an awful lot of them have reached that point now. So what am I doing?
Well, probably watching a little less TV, for one! I’m doing more workouts to fitness videos instead of to prerecorded DVR programming (on the treadmill). Maybe I’m reading a little more. But of course, I haven’t given up TV entirely. I’m still watching:
CBC stuff. They have four new dramas. I’ve checked them all out, and have stuck with two (the low-rated ones): Jpod, which is weird, but I read the book; and MVP, which has its moments of awkwardness, but is mostly soapy fun. Then there’s the stalwart Marketplace, which I really think more people would benefit from watching.
Jon Stewart. It’s not quite the same—he’s calling it A Daily Show instead of The Daily Show—but it remains worth watching in this time of particularly interesting US races for the White House.
Documentaries. On PBS, CBC, CTV, and even the Documentary Channel. Often somewhat depressing programming, is the thing, but this week’s DocZone documentary is about Happiness, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Reruns that are new to me. Only this year have I regularly been watching Bones. Lately they’ve been rerunning episodes from past seasons. They’re all new to me, and it’s fun to catch up. (They should start doing that with How I Met Your Mother.)
DVDs. Done rewatching My So-Called Life, working on WKRP, with more on standby. And just rented Battlestar Galactica; let’s see how I’ll like that.
I hope the strike doesn’t end until the writers get what they want. Their demands seem perfectly reasonable, the networks very greedy. Be great to have some new episodes back, but in the meantime, I’m “coping” just fine.