Screenings in the Sickroom

by wjw on April 4, 2020

I’ve been sick for 10 days now, and I improve day by day.  I am only rarely doubled over with coughing.  Occasionally my eyes will uncross and I can read and even plan ten or fifteen minutes into the future.  Kathy’s illness is about three or four days behind mine, but then hers isn’t as severe, so she’s doing well too.

I don’t think we’ve got COVID, and now that I’m almost over it, I’m almost sorry it’s not.  If I were recovering from COVID, I could relax a bit right now, because my immune system would be primed and ready.  As it is, my immune system is defending me with weapons pointed all in the wrong direction.

Being both sick and in self-isolation are double the reason to watch TV, so that’s pretty well what I’ve been doing.  Here are my recommendations for wasting away in Coronaville.

MR RIGHT— It’s like a Lifetime romance with lots of guns, blood, and violence.  Anna Kendrick has just dumped her cheating boyfriend, and goes to New Orleans with a girlfriend in order to, basically, stay drunk the whole time.  There’s a meet-cute with Sam Rockwell, and a proper romance ensues until it’s revealed that Rockwell is a world-class assassin who’s decided that he really wants to kill all the people who hired him, which cheeses off former boss Tim Roth, who decides to kill him right back.  The revelation sends Kendrick into a tailspin until she’s kidnapped by a large gang of targets gangsters, after which a whole lot of vengeance happens until our lovers get their well-earned HEA.

This movie has the potential to go wrong in so many ways that it’s a major miracle that it doesn’t.  The movie can’t possibly work unless the romance works, and it can’t possibly work unless all the action works, and miraculously enough it all comes together.   Kendrick and Rockwell are so strong that they bulldoze any objections, moral or otherwise, clean out of the frame.  Call me a soppy sentimentalist if you like, but I really enjoyed this one.  (On Netflix, I think.  Or maybe Amazon.  I don’t remember, I’ve been ill.)

zerozerozero— Speaking of blood and violence, we have here an Amazon original about the effort to transport $50 million in cocaine from Mexico to southern Italy.  It consists of three stories, one about the Mexican narcos, another about the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria, and the third about the American shipping family charged with moving the cargo.  The narco story is one we’ve seen before, and so is the Italian gangster story, but the American transporters are new, and held most of my interest.  Very well made, but you have to be willing to swim through many oceans of blood to watch it.  Why did Scorsese have to be so damned influential?

Locke and Key— a young adult series on Netflix, based on a graphic novels series by Joe Hill (not the labor martyr, but Stephen King’s son), about some siblings who have access to keys that open doors to places, memories, times, and their own brains.  Be prepared for lots of teen drama amid all the eldritch doin’s.  I’m enjoying it, but it’s not exactly brain surgery.

I particularly enjoyed the postmodern wink given to the explanation of why it’s mere children who have to solve the mystery, not the adults.  “It’s just like Narnia!  Grownups don’t remember anything!”

The Irishman— Speaking of Scorsese.  God, this thing dragged on forever, and worse, you know right from the start how it’s going to end.  De Niro mugged his way through his worst performance ever.  I gave up halfway through.

Marriage Story— gave up on this one too.  Excellent performances, but man, could I see it coming.  The worst date movie since Scenes From a Marriage.

Cadfael— I saw only a few of these back in the 90’s, and now we’re going through them one by one.  Excellent production values for the period, a great performance from Derek Jacobi, and though some stretch credulity past the breaking point, the mysteries are mostly pretty solid.

Episodes— Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan star as the writers/creators of a successful British TV series about an urbane school headmaster.  When they sell the rights to an American network, they fly off to Hollywood only to find their series wrecked on the shoals of their American star, Matt LeBlanc.  Soon the series is about a hockey coach and is renamed Pucks!  LeBlanc plays himself, sort of.  Really funny, in that painfully embarrassed British way.  On Netflix.

Time Team— on Britbox. Sir Tony Robinson, who most of us remember as Baldrick, hosts a show about archaeology, with real archaeologists digging real stuff up ranging in period from the Mesolithic to Celtic to Roman to Medieval to Victorian to World War II.  I find the sight of grown people grubbing around in the dirt for bits of broken pot very satisfying, and I completely understand why it ran for 18 seasons.

Walking Through History— Britbox again!  Tony Robinson again!  Sir Tony takes long walks and point out objects of historical interest along the way.  For those of us self-isolating, the lovely countryside is a perfect tonic.

QI– Britbox, though for some reason earlier episodes are found on Acorn.  Stephen Fry, and later Sandi Toksvig, host what is ostensibly a quiz show, but which in reality is an excuse for five really sharp comedians to be hilarious about whatever topic is on offer.  There were times when we were so helpless with laughter that we had to rewind the episode in order to find out what we were laughing about.

So, fellow isolators, what are you watching?

Urban April 4, 2020 at 3:44 am

I’m finishing last season of Killjoys. Deep in Person of Interest and Breaking Bad, rewatching Farscape (first season was more excellent than I remembered, but not the 2nd…) and am planning on rewatching Dollhouse.
All at one episode/week, just like usual.
But during holidays I allow myself 1 ep/day of short series, I think it’s going to be Hyperdrive during Easter.
My small problem is actually books; Since many years I alternatingly read one new and re-read one but now I’ve got really few unread on the To Read-shelf.
Quillifer the Knight arrived OK ( 🙂 !! ), but at the moment I don’t know how meaningful it will be to order books and while I’m not actually forbidden to go to bookstores I won’t.

Derek April 4, 2020 at 11:55 am

Cadfael is wonderful. On the strength of the show, I read “one corpse too many” by Ellis Peters and can recommend it. Despite growing up in the U.K., I didn’t have much background on the Anarchy; Cromwell’s civil war is far better known.

We watched “Picard” recently, since I’m a fan of Patrick Stewart’s work. It had a few moments but the totality was disappointingly forgettable and “grimdark”.

I may re-read “Ten points for style” as a balm for these troubled times.
Best wishes!

Emily Marie Wagner April 4, 2020 at 6:18 pm

Ozark. What a crazy show.

Chong Go April 5, 2020 at 2:10 am

I’ve been watching the Beforeigners, and it’s definitely got my interest. Set in Norway, it has people from the mid 1800s, the Viking age, and the stone age appearing randomly in the harbor. Really interesting world building and setting. Definitely one of the better programs I’ve seen in a while.
Mr Right sounds interesting, and I 100% agree on the Irishman, god that was terrible. Long and plodding, and DeNiro looked like his face was made out of wax, with that stupid grin for half of the movie.
Did the release date of the next Praxis book get pushed back? I thought it was coming out in May/June, but just saw that it’s now December. 🙁

Clyde April 5, 2020 at 3:30 am

Started watching Have Gun — Will Travel from the beginning. I missed a lot of episodes when originally broadcast; those were teenage years and my Saturday nights were often taken up with other concerns. The production values were actually pretty good for the time. The casting was cringe worthy at times — apparently it was hard to find true Native Americans and Mexicans, but at least they found an actual oriental to play the Chinese “Boy” in the SF hotel. Still the writing was pretty good and — hey, Richard Boone!
Also started season four of Outlander. Mixed feelings here. Book four was where I gave up on the book series and I may do the same with the video series. I hate it when the writer makes the characters do stupid things just to create plot complications. (I mean really, can’t even one of the characters see/ask the obvious.)
And, catching up on some Midsomer Murders episodes. Almost always good British style whodunits. (Has that show really been going 21 years?)

Steinar Bang April 5, 2020 at 10:15 am

Lots of linear TV, in particular news, aka. “Latest about corona”.

Easter in Norway means a long standing tradition of British crime drama on the telly (“påskekrim”), so I expect to see some of that.

I’m pondering getting amazon prime to see “Tales from the loop”, season 4 (and maybe 5…?) of “The Expanse”, “Star Trek: Picard” and “The Hunters”.

(I don’t really want to give Bezos more money, but the reasons for getting amazon prime keep stacking up…)

Robert M Roman April 5, 2020 at 10:58 am

I re-read Quillifer and read Quillifer the Knight, and liked them both, especially since I’m beginning to have doubts about him as a reliable narrator. Finished Tade Thompson’s Rosewater trilogy; the first two volumes I liked alot. Right now I’m reading Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Mother. So far, it’s very good. These are among the few dragons I can take without resorting to antihistamines.

No TV, cable or otherwise, and no income to spare for subscriptions, so my video watching is limited to YouTube and Vimeo. There’s a lot of interesting and almost interesting short stuff available (and even more chimeric cliched items that leave you glancing at the grains of sand dribbling from the hourglass of your life), a lot of it science fiction / fantasy. I was just thinking that in many ways these are the new pulp fiction, though without the influence of editors and a very different fan community.

I’ll second the motion regarding Time Team. It managed to be both hilarious and educational with a mild admixture of mostly manufactured “reality TV” drama. When you include the specials and making of shorts, there’s enough there for a long illness! Apart from being the presenter on what seems like an endless series of British history documentaries, I mostly think of Sir Tony’s appearance in one of the BBC translations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld… not a great performance, but I’m inclined to blame the director.

Being in a high casualty rate demographic, including living in Chicago, I expect to be cocooned for a while… And the local libraries are closed… But otherwise, I ain’t dead yet.

John Appel April 5, 2020 at 11:03 am

Like you, I enjoyed MR RIGHT, which I wasn’t sure I would. And like Urban I’m now catching up on the final season of Killjoys.

The final season of The Magicians aired as this whole mess began. I thought the overall season was good, but it didn’t quite stick the landing at the end. Not hugely disappointing, unlike GoT; it was at least on-target, just not close enough to the bullseye for me.

I started watching Giri/Haji but while it’s very well-done, and the characters & plot engaging, there’s something about it that worked for me three weeks ago when I started it that suddenly doesn’t now.

We were very late to the game on Parks & Rec but my wife binge-watched it in the early days of lockdown while her university was on spring break. It was great but felt like it was from an alternate universe.

Steinar Bang April 5, 2020 at 12:59 pm

After posting two replies above. on a whim, I dug up my box set of the original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan and that’s what I’m watching right now.

Scott Alan Rhine April 5, 2020 at 6:54 pm

We’re just about to finish the Dexter series. Dark humor abounds.
I tried the preview of Westworld, but they tried too hard to be MA and turned us off. Great premises and tech, though… and Hopkins! Reminded me of Dollhouse.

mearsk April 6, 2020 at 9:55 am

I’ve been rewatching the Great British Baking Show. That has to be the most relaxing TV show currently available.

Jim Janney April 8, 2020 at 8:52 pm

Some Nordic not-noir: Hilda, an animated series based on a series of childrens’ books, concerning the title character and her encounters with the local trolls and other creatures. The Untamed is also based on a series of books, this one about clans of magicians battling it out in China. The cast is too large to keep track of, but comes color-coded for your convenience (watch out for the red guys). Both on Netflix.

Steinar Bang April 11, 2020 at 3:22 am

NRK are now running trailers for season 4 of the The Bureau, so I’m looking forward to see what happens to DGSE agent Guillaume Debailly, codename “Malotru”.

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