They’ve got a story… but have lost the plot. -Tagline for the film
You may’ve heard that some movies languish in “production hell” for years. This is a documentary film from directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe; they’d intended to shoot the development and pre-production of Terry Gilliam’s (long-awaited) movie- The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. After the movie had to shutdown, Fulton and Pepe were wary of finishing their film, but Gilliam commented: “someone has to get a film out of this. I guess it’s going to be you.” The narrator of the doc is Jeff Bridges, one of Gilliam’s favorite actors.
I think he’s a little bit the Quixote. He’s the dreamer, the idealist. The one who sees things that the rest of us humans can’t see. -Benjamin Fernandez, Production Designer
Before filming begins, Gilliam had to move from Hollywood studio to European financing. The budget was cut from $40M to $32M (V high by European standards). Gilliam is a dreamer (like Quixote), so his vision is uncompromising. His department heads will have to do a LOT w/ what little they’ve been given. During pre-production and filming in Spain, what the director can’t foresee ALL the problems that will arise!
Terry, as we all well know, has the tendency of overloading everything. I mean, there is nothing ever simple and plain. -Nicola Pecorini, Director of Photography (D.P.)
I learned that Orson Welles tried to make his own version of this tale, BUT he failed several times! We’re taken through the pre-production, as we learn about what Gilliam and his co-writer (Tony Grisoni) changed around with the classic Cervantes story. A commercial director named Toby (Johnny Depp) gets sent back in time to where Don Quixote (French actor Jean Rochefort) mistakes him for Sancho Panza, his peasant sidekick; they go on adventures through the book’s stories. There is a brief animated sequence where we learn that Gilliam’s films (aside from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) have been risks taken by Hollywood studios, but they made money and received critical acclaim.
[As a storm comes in, disrupting filming] Which is it, King Lear or Wizard of Oz? -Gilliam
There are humorous scenes w/ the (V large/jolly) men auditioning to play giants. We see a young/optimistic Johnny Depp giving input to Gilliam and rehearsing a few scenes; he looks gorgeous! Depp’s former wife, French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis, is mentioned a few times, though NOT seen much in the doc. She was cast as the female lead and did some costume tests. The extras didn’t have time to rehearse. It turns out that the main location (a nature preserve) is where planes make a LOT of noise up above. There is a powerful thunderstorm that pauses filming; the equipment has to be protected and the people race for cover! We hear that 70 y.o. old Rochefort (who’d been learning English for 6+ mos.) has a prostate infection (so it’s TOO painful for him to ride a horse).
Making a film with Terry is like riding a bareback pony. Just grab onto the mane, dig in the heels and the knees, and hang on, ’cause you’re in for the ride of your life. -Phil Patterson, First Assistant Director
The production company (French) is V worried, an insurance company (American) becomes involved, and Gilliam is losing control (and he knows it). Someone has to be let go, so Phil Patterson (who as First A.D. is to handle the other matters while the director works w/ actors) decides to quitinstead of being fired. The crew had a good sense of humor and were V committed, BUT the movie had to shutdown. D.P. Nicola Pecorini (Italian) ended up working on the final film- which came out in 2017. He did an impressive job (b/c the cinematography is V beautiful)!
“Lost in La Mancha” is an enjoyable celebration of those who tilt at windmills. -Excerpt from IMDB review
Toby (Adam Driver- looking tan and toned), a cynical commercial director, is in Spain shooting an insurance commercial that has a take on Don Quixote. At dinner, a Gypsy peddler has a copy of his student film for sale, a B&W adaptation of Don Quixote. Toby is fascinated by the journey back in time and decides that, since he’s staying so close to where he’d filmed this student project, he’s going to go go back for a visit. The town feels depressing; the girl (who played Dulcinea) has left, and her father is angry at Toby for it. The old cobbler (played by veteran actor Jonathan Pryce) he’d hired to play the lead has gone mad- thinking himself to be Quixote! Through a series of accidents and bits of craziness, Toby finds himself as Sancho Panza, a role he takes up reluctantly. The supporting cast include: veteran character actor Stellan Skarsgard, former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, Spanish actor Jordi Molla, and a beautiful ingenue from Portugal- Joana Ribeiro.
Fantasy and reality begin to mix (which I learned is a common theme for director Terry Gilliam). He has also directed Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985- starring Pryce), The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). I haven’t yet see any of these movies. Gilliam (raised in US, but later became a British citizen) may be best known as member of “Monty Python” along w/ John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman. I watched this movie (once- so far) b/c t was on the list of Driver’s work. Fans know that Driver chooses his projects based on the director and the script. I thought the acting was (mostly) well-done, though I was confused by the presence of some minor characters and the purposed of a few scenes. Critics/viewers either loved or hated it, from what I’ve read (so far). I’ll try to watch it again and see if I can figure out more- LOL! This isn’t a movie for a wide audience. I think some of you’d enjoy the music from the musical- Man of La Mancha.
The film is dedicated to the memory of John Hurt and Jean Rochefort. Gilliam had chosen both to play Don Quixote in past versions, and both died before the film was completed. After eight attempts since 1989, production finally wrapped in June 2017; it has been called the most cursed film in cinema history! Gilliam started working on the film in 1989, but was unable to secure funding until 1998, when it entered full pre-production with a budget of $32.1M (w/o American financing), w/ Rochefort as Quixote, Johnny Depp as Toby, and French actress Vanessa Paradis (Depp’s ex-wife) as the female lead. Shooting began in 2000 in Navarre (the Basque region of Spain), but a significant number of difficulties, such as floods destroying sets and equipment, Rochefort leaving due to illness, and problems obtaining insurance for the production led to a sudden suspension of the production, and then cancellation. The original production was the subject of the documentary Lost in La Mancha (2002).
If you’re going to play with Quixote you really got to play with Quixote. And those were windmills that came along. Those were giants, they killed us once but we’re going to come back. Everybody says ‘Oh, forget about it, put it in the past. Move on.’ No, I won’t because that all sounds so reasonable and I don’t think films should be reasonable. The business we’re in is about exciting people, stimulating people, doing things, changing them, outraging them — it’s not a reasonable business. Especially when you’re spending the gross national product of a country to make a silly movie — this is not reasonable.
-Gilliam, on finishing this movie
 This movie is weird and wonderful. Adam Driver is absolutely hilarious. The scenery is fantastic. It’s like a story within a story within a commercial within a movie. It’s creative and wacky and fun.
 A metaphor. An analogy. An intricate story that blends fantasy and real, history and present, fact and fiction. […] It is similar to films such as Holy Motors (2012), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), so if these ring a bell, please give this film a chance.
 As visual art, the film is superb. But as a story, it is confusing. With all its bizarre references self-reflexivity, the central story becomes a side plot. It was visually beautiful, well-acted, great costumes and music, but thoroughly disjointed and confusing for much of the time. It had me thinking “this movie wasn’t made for an audience.”
 I can’t shake the feeling that the movie wants to be much more that how it ultimately gets on the road. It’s treading water and not making any progress. Does the movie simply want to be funny or does it also want to depict a kind of self-discovering process? Maybe both. But here you can already see the main problem. The movie can’t decide what it wants and as a result can’t transport it to the viewer.
Season 2 of the controversial (yet unique/fascinating) show returned in JAN 2013. Lena Dunham would direct 4 eps and write 7 eps in this season. The show may NOT have always had a huge audience, BUT it was written about by many journos, pop culture critics, and haters. Zosia Mamet recalled (at The Hollywood Reporter comedy actresses roundtable in 2014) that “in S1, we were shooting in Tompkins Square Park, and nobody knew who were were. Then we go back there for S2- paparazzi everywhere! It’s not just taking pictures- they’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the storyline.”
You feel like you are doing something that spurs a conversation, whether it’s for good or for bad. This is the first time that this has ever happened to me. It’s an amazing thing. -Adam Driver (2013 interview, FlauntMagazine)
E1: It’s About Time
Hannah throws a housewarming party with brand-new roommate- Elijah, but it’s hard to move on when she’s still playing nurse to Adam. Marnie gets bad news at work and a visit from her mom; Shoshanna avoids Ray at the party; and sun-kissed Jessa returns from her honeymoon.
The story takes place several weeks after the S1 finale. Hannah is seeing a young Black man, Sandy (Donald Glover- before he became famous), who she seems V excited about. As some of you may know, Dunham received a LOT of criticism for her show being “too white.” Hannah is helping Adam out (his right leg is in a cast); she does errands for him, though he wants her around a LOT more. She tells him that their relationship is over; he doesn’t take it easily. We meet Marnie’s mom, Evie (Rita Wilson- wife of Tom Hanks), for the 1st time. She’s worried b/c now Marnie isn’t w/ a bf, was let go from her gallery assistant job, and her appearance isn’t up to par (“you look 30”)- yikes! Evie had to raise Marnie on her own after her ex-husband left the family; she works/lives in New Jersey (and looks to be doing well).
E2: I Get Ideas
Hannah gets unsolicited musical attention from heartbroken Adam and displeasing opinions on her writing from Sandy. Elijah questions his sexuality; Marnie makes a career compromise when her curatorial dreams are crushed; Jessa revels in married life; Shoshanna and Ray make magic; and Elijah and Marnie harbor a secret.
This ep opens w/ Hannah and Elijah listening to songs by Adam; he is shirtless (of course) and playing a guitar. They BOTH look concerned as they hear this music, wondering IF Adam really is a “sociopath.” On my recent rewatch, I had to LOL at such a funny (yet awkward) situation. Sandy breaks up w/ Hannah after she makes some “ignorant” comments re: race; Dunham said that Glover contributed lines in this scene. Hannah spends some time w/ Jessa; they catch-up and play w/ puppies in the park. When she goes to a gallery for an interview, Marnie gets shot down by the owner, Patricia (Laurie Simmons- Dunham’s mother/a painter). Dunham joked that her mom “changed all her lines” and also “chose her own costumes.” Marnie (seeing no better option) takes a job as a hostess at a men’s club; she has to wear a skimpy uniform. She and Elijah are BOTH feeling down and lonely, so they decide to hook-up (super awkward)! Late at night, Adam comes into Hannah’s apt (he has a key for emergencies). She’s (obviously) surprised and tells him to leave; Adam refuses and she gets scared!
That scene was so fun to film b/c it was a sort of a real Adam Driver tour-de-force, going from terrifying to sweet, to about to cry, to raging out. I mean, the amount of emotional territory he covers in that scene is- to me- mind-boggling.-Dunham re: the pivotal scene (that ends w/ Hannah calling the cops on Adam)
E3: Bad Friend
Hannah gets a new freelance gig, and her editor suggests that she should try cocaine for the first time to write about her experience. In the process, she gets to know her downstairs neighbor, Laird. Meanwhile, Marnie meets her old artist flame, Booth Jonathan, who takes her home to show her his studio.
Hannah starts writing for a hip/young blog that wants content that pushes the boundaries. IF you were shocked by Hannah’s revealing clothes before- this ep MAY be too much. In the party scenes (filmed at Greenhouse- a SoHo nightclub) she wears a yellow mesh tank top. Hannah and Elijah do lines of coke off a toilet lid (ewww)! Then Hannah and Marnie have a big fight re: which on of them is a worse friend; MANY viewers commented that they related to this scene. Hannah turns to Laird (who has a BIT of a crush on her); she’s hooking up w/ him for the experience (so she can write about it). Putting herself in danger is NOT new for Hannah; this ep makes us worry about her perhaps a BIT more than usual!
E4: It’s a Shame About Ray
Elijah moves out, and Hannah invites a group including Charlie, Audrey and Marnie to dinner. Jessa meets Thomas-John’s parents, which finally prompts a confrontation between husband and wife. Shoshanna discovers that Ray may be living with her.
Hannah: You can’t just be a girl in this city and expect to get your way!
Marnie: But we are girls in this city!
Hannah: Not the right kind of girls!
Marnie: Girls none the less!
This is one of the highest-rated eps of S2; a LOT of stuff happens. At a steak dinner w/ Thomas-John’s WASP parents (played by veteran theater actors- Griffin Dunne and Deborah Rush), Jessa ends up revealing some dark facts (incl. her previous addiction to heroin). She lashes out in anger when she feels judged by these (passive aggressive) people. Back at their high-rise condo, we see that Thomas-John is NOT amused; they get into an ugly argument!
Dunham’s (real-life) BFF plays Charlie’s petite/bohemian gf, Audrey (Audrey Gelman). Marnie is upset/jealous seeing how close her ex and his new lady have gotten (in such a short time). Audrey and Marnie get into a big fight! Shosh and Ray have been gotten V close for the past few eps; she says: “I’m starting to fall in love w/ you” (as they wait for the subway). Rannells (already a Broadway star) left the series at this point to front his own comedy series- The New Normal (2012). This was canceled after one season, so he returned in the second half of S3.
E5: One Man’s Trash
A man comes to the coffee shop to complain to Ray that someone is leaving trash in his trash cans. Hannah follows him to his brownstone to confess and ends up spending the rest of the day, and the next day, with him.
This is the (much talked about) ep focused on Hannah’s weekend hookup w/ a handsome/older doctor, Joshua (Patrick Wilson- who lives w/ his fam in Greenpoint IRL). It’s basically a mini-movie starring 2 characters; many viewers loved it and others hated it (calling it implausible). There is a sort of hazy (dream-like) quality to this ep; one of the regular directors (Richard Shepard) did an esp. fine job here. According to Dunham, the idea for the ep and a great deal of the text came to her during a fever dream. While some viewers thought that this was unreal, others pointed out that some men would take the chance of a carefree hookup w/ a younger/willing woman. What happened to Joshua? Wait and see…
The relationship between Hannah and Joshua is quick, but I quite enjoyed it because of Dunham’s writing and chemistry with Wilson. Near the end of this affair we learn more about Hannah emotionally, as she breaks down in front of Joshua, because he has such a good life at his age while she seems to be stuck at her young age.[…] Writing was strong and focusing on only this relationship was great to watch a big move, showing this show truly is special. -Excerpt from IMDB review
When Hannah walks away from his home at the end, all I could think was how similar this episode was to Woody Allen’s style of writing. A realistic fairytale that you relate to in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on. -Excerpt from IMDB review
Hannah is hired to write an e-book, but has trouble finding inspiration. Booth asks Marnie to host a party with him for a gallery opening. Ray goes to see Adam, and they end up traveling to Staten Island to return a stolen dog.
This is the first ep in the series to have a solo writing credit to a man (Murray Miller); he is a problematic creative behind the show (as I noted in my S1 review). It focuses on my 2 fave characters (Adam and Ray); they’re opposites in some respects, BUT walk to their own drummer. Ray goes to Adam’s apt. (Brooklyn Hts) to get his copy of Little Women (which Hannah had left behind). There is a big/angry dog in the bathroom- yikes! Adam explains that he stole the dog b/c he thought the owner wasn’t treating him well. Ray convinces Adam to return the dog (he has tags); they travel via ferry (which I never did when I was in NYC) to Staten Island. I enjoyed seeing the (quirky) chemistry between Adam and Ray; they get to know each other, then get on each other’s nerves.
Adam: She’s like a carnival game, you know? It all seems so simple, but you can’t get the ring on the bottle, because it’s f*****g rigged so you try and try and try until you drive yourself nuts. Then, finally, when you walk away you realize you didn’t even want the crappy prize to begin with. I realize that’s what Hannah is: a giant Tweety doll I would’ve been stuck carrying around the carnival all night.
After Booth fires his assistant, Soojin, he asks Marnie to help host a party for his friends. Marnie is V happy to do this, thinking it’s a big step in their relationship. It turns out that Booth doesn’t think of her as his gf (ouch)! Of course, Marnie is NOT alone- there are MANY women who have been treated in the same way.
E7: Video Games
Hannah accompanies Jessa on a visit upstate to see Jessa’s estranged father, his new-age wife and Frank, their virginal teenage son.
We learn more about Jessa’s (troubled- no shock there) family when she and Hannah travel to upstate NY. Jessa’s estranged father, Sal, is played by Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn (who later made a big impression on the Netflix show- Bloodline and played a villain in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Jessa’s hippie stepmom, Petula, is played by a veteran Hollywood actress- Rosanna Arquette. Jessa felt physically/emotionally abandoned by her father; she tells him that she needed someone on her side when a teen (and going through a difficult time w/ her mom). Hannah is hurt and angry when Jessa leaves w/o her; she calls her parents from the train station to thank them for their support (aww). This was Kirke’s final appearance in S2 (as she was pregnant w/ her second baby). It was tough to feel empathy for Jessa until I saw this ep; her father is selfish and unreliable.
E8: It’s Back
I feel like in the second series, things start to get a little deeper into that, but he’s not someone who’s willing to share. I feel like he’s guarded on it and wouldn’t allow himself to explain himself. He always has this thing going on that he doesn’t need to explain himself at any point. -Driver on Sackler being a recovering alcoholic
Hannah tries to hide mounting anxiety about her book from her visiting parents. Meanwhile, Marnie is stunned by news that Charlie has started a successful app company; Adam gets set up on a date; and Ray’s misanthropy gives Shoshanna pause.
We learn a LOT more re: Hannah and Adam here! Hannah’s OCD resurfaces; she was affected w/ it back in HS. I learned (on the Good Friend podcast hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis) that Dunham also suffers from OCD. The ep opens w/ us seeing Hannah’s various OCD behaviors (so we glimpse into her mindset)! She is having writer’s block, though she has a deadline coming up soon. Also, her parents are coming to NYC to see singer Judy Collins (who plays herself).
After several eps, Adam is back- YAY! He shares his story at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting; he starts talking re: quitting booze, then it turns to his breakup w/ Hannah. A petite/feisty lady named Cloris (veteran comedian Carol Kane) comments to him: “I was very impressed by your honesty.” She also asks Adam how tall he is (6′ 3″). Cloris gives Adam her daughter’s phone number, much to his chagrin. The phone call scene is cute and funny; Adam describes himself as “tall and kind of dashing.” At the dinner date, Adam and Natalia (Shiri Appleby) have fun and (obvious) chemistry.
The unexpected moment of the episode for me was Hannah having OCD which, when I think back on the show, seems to be a bit obvious how she has acted in life. It showed that the Dunham is taking risks to make the character of Hannah more interesting… -Excerpt from IMDB review
E9: On All Fours
[Sackler is] someone who follows his emotions and doesn’t pause and reflect. He’s always following an impulse and is aware of something that he’s lost – it jars with how unsettled he is. The more he tries to gain control, the more things get out of control.-Driver re: his character
The episode was so awkwardly comedic and dark in nearly everything the characters did which is what I really love about the show… -Excerpt from IMDB review
Pressure from Hannah’s aggressive publisher (John Cameron Mitchell) and a looming deadline further jeopardize Hannah’s mental state. Adam and his new girlfriend have their first misunderstanding. Marnie makes an awkward step in following her dreams.
Hannah is stressed out b/c of a deadline, so she sticks a Q-tip TOO deep into her ear (yikes)! FYI: The bemused ER doc who treats her is Ranjit Chowdhury (an Indian actor/ veteran of indies). Shosh tries to be caring gf to Ray, showering him w/ attention. Marnie decides to sing at a party at Charlie’s start-up; it’s V awkward. Adam and Natalia go to her friend’s engagement party at a bar; Angie is played by Dunham’s friend IRL- Amy Schumer. When he steps out for a moment, Adam sees Hannah walking home from the hospital (wearing just a long tee, no pants); they both look affected by their awkward conversation. This is perhaps the MOST controversial ep of the series, as it brings up the issue of consent (or perhaps more accurately- dubious consent). James Poniewozik, reviewer for TIME, called it “the most uncomfortable half hour of television of the year.” We see a dark side (pardon the Star Wars connection) of Sackler! Did you see this ep, and if so, what did you think?
E10 (Season 2 Finale): Together
In order to avoid being sued by her publisher, Hannah must write her book in a single day. Marnie misinterprets Charlie’s intentions; Ray makes a career move which he hopes will impress Shoshanna.
Adam: Is this f*****g Face Space or some s**t?
Many of Hannah’s friends and acquaintances are at a crossroads. Marnie and Charlie will find out if they’re on the same page (after several casual hookups together). Shosh isn’t sure if she can handle Ray’s negativity anymore; he sees this as critical thinking. Ray decides to be more ambitious; Hermie says he can manage the 2nd branch of Grumpy’s in Brooklyn Hts. Adam and Natalia are still together, BUT Adam is trying too hard to fit in w/ what she wants (can’t be himself). Hannah’s life is getting out of control; David threatens to sue, if she doesn’t produce her e-book (after getting an advance). Unable to reach Jessa, Hannah leaves a sad/angry voicemail. Finally, she gives Adam a call; he is breaking down some stuff (angrily) at his apt. Adam notices her OCD behavior and the (uneven) haircut she gave herself. He runs (shirtless- of course) to Hannah’s apt, kicks open the door (after she hides under the covers), and picks her up in his arms. When I saw this the first time, I thought it was quite a rom com type of ending. On my rewatch, I realized that maybe they aren’t good for each other (BUT need each other in this difficult moment).
Maybe not as good as last season’s finale, but still a great episode of TV’s best comedy. The season was less strong then the first season but still great, funny and even more dramatic as this women really faced real life problems. Dunham really showed this season she is a great actress, as well as everything she does for the show. All the women were strong… -Excerpt from IMDB review
This is the much-talked about (and criticized) sequel to SATC; writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), lawyer Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), and stay-at-home mom Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) are now in their mid-50s. Of course, publicist Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) is NOT on the show; many fans objected to how her character was handled. At the start of the show, ALL the pals seem happily married; we see John AKA Mr. Big (Chris Noth), Steve (David Eigenberg), and Harry (Evan Handler). Anthony (Mario Cantone) and Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) are married, BUT don’t look too happy. As for the teens, they’re annoying AF; Miranda’s 17 y.o. son Brady behaves V disrespectfully; Charlotte’s kids- 14 y.o. Lily and 12 y.o. Rose- are spoiled and uncompromising. Why spend SO much time on kids- it’s supposed to be about adults!? Carrie is one of the regular guests on a podcast hosted by a bisexual/non-binary comedian, Che Diaz (Sarah Ramirez).
I mainly tuned in to see Carrie’s realtor-turned-friend, Seema (Sarita Choudhury) who appears starting in E4; she’s mainly a theater/indie film actor; I saw her at a play reading in NYC in 2008 (and she is gorgeous IRL). Choudhury starred opposite a young Denzel Washington in Mira Nair’s indie/drama/romance Mississippi Masala. Seema’s mom is played by veteran/international actor/chef/author- Madhur Jaffrey. Miranda’s prof, Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), and her jazz musician hubby, Andre (LeRoy McClain), are trying to have a baby w/ IVF. Lisa Todd Wexley AKA LTW (Nicole Ari Parker) is the mom of 3 young kids; Charlotte becomes her friend (after they meet while organizing school events). LTW’s hubby Herbert is played by Hamilton actor Chris Jackson; he (sadly) doesn’t have much to do. Where is the fun (I barely cracked a smile; don’t recall LOLs), fashion (Miranda’s wig and outfits don’t suit her at all), and romance!? IF you’re a fan of the original series, I suggest avoiding this one!
Bridgerton(Season 2): Netflix
Everybody (and their mom) has an opinion on the show- LOL! Almost ALL my friends (IRL/online) were talking/messaging/tweeting about it (some more than 2 wks before S2 dropped). Since I’ve gotten a LOT more active on Twitter lately (and have some new connections), I couldn’t avoid the jokes, memes, etc. You have to shut-off your brain to enjoy shows like this (NO offense); it’s been compared to Jane Austen fan fiction and an alternate universe (AU) of Regency era England. MANY women of color (of all ages) esp. liked seeing the Indian (South Asian) representation in the Sharma sisters (played by Brits: statuesque Simone Ashley and petite Charithra Chandran)! I liked the “slow burn” romance (Anthony and Kate), the fam scenes of the Bridgertons (who all have great chemistry together), and (light-hearted/funny) scenes w/ the artist/bohemian bro, Benedict (Luke Thompson). I think the acting is stronger in this season; S1 didn’t impress me that much. There is one V powerful/emotional scene (S2 E3) that is unlike ANY I’ve seen in a period drama!
The Chair (2021): Netflix
This show was tweeted about by MANY women/POC/academics I follow, so I watched it when it came out last Fall. Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) is the new Chair of Humanities at a small/fictional university (Pembroke); she is the 1st woman and person of color (POC) to hold this post. Ji-Yoon is single (by choice) and the adoptive mom to a bright/challenging young daughter, Ju-Hee. The “old guard” at this school are played by veteran actors: Bob Balaban, Holland Taylor, and David Morse. Ji-Yoon’s closest friend/potential love interest, Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass), lost his wife a few years ago and his 18 y.o. daughter leaves for college in the 1st ep.
This comedy/drama series (6 eps; 30 mins/ea.) was filmed on-location in Pittsburgh and nearby areas. To create Pembroke’s campus, the show used Washington & Jefferson College and Chatham University. Annie Wyman (co-creator/co-writer) was actually an academic in an English department; she earned a PhD in English Lit from Harvard). David Duchovny (playing a version of himself) earned a Master’s in English Lit (Yale); he started (but didn’t complete) his PhD. If you (or your fam/pals) have connections to academia, you’ll esp. relate to this show!
The Gilded Age (2022): HBO Max
This is the show for ALL you Downton Abbey fans; it was also created by Julian Fellows, BUT he had several others collaborating w/ him (incl. prof/historian/co-executive producer- Erica Armstrong Dunbar). Another producer (who also directed some eps) is Salli Richardson-Whitfield; most will know her from her acting days. The setting is NYC in the 1880s where “old money” (the Van Rijans/Brooks) and “nouveaux riche” (the Russells) are nabes, BUT def NOT pals! There are MANY theater actresses (over the age of 40) who appear on this show: Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald (who I saw once on Broadway), Celia Keegan-Bolger, Debra Monk, Kelli O’Hara, and Donna Murphy. We also see more well-known movie actors (incl. Jeanne Tripplehorn and Nathan Lane) in small (yet pivotal) roles.
In his January 2022 NYT article The Gilded Age’ Finally Arrives on HBO, Dave Itzkoff reported that the long filming hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic allowed actress Denée Benton (who plays Peggy Scott) “to seek refinements of [her role] to better reflect [her] understanding of history. Benton said she urged the creative team to provide more ways to show that there were Black people like her character, Peggy, who lived in their own affluent and educated communities. I didn’t find Louisa Jacobson (who plays Marian Brook; one of Meryl Streep’s daughters) that compelling; MANY viewers agreed w/ me on this point. Peggy is much MORE interesting than Marian. I thought that George Russell (Morgan Spector- husband of actress Rebecca Hall) was better written than his wife Bertha (Carrie Coon). Coon was written as TOO strident (as some viewers noted online). George’s full beard was quite popular on Twitter- LOL! This is a period/costume drama, BUT it also has some brains (and is somewhat educational also).
Mare of Easttown(2021): HBO Max
If you like domestic drama mixed w/ a cop/mystery show (such as Happy Valley or Broadchurch), then check this out! A detective, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet in an Emmy-winning role), in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a murder of a teen girl while trying to keep her fam/personal life from falling apart. I thought almost ALL of the actors did a terrific job; they seemed like real/unglamorous/flawed people. There was even a (spot-on) sketch about the show on SNL. Much has been talked about re: the complicated relationship between Mare and her funny/acerbic mom (played by veteran actress Jean Smart); these ladies had great chemistry together! I was also impressed by Evan Peters (who plays the naive/younger cop- Colin Zabel); it’s rare to see a police officer w/ doubt and vulnerability. You can also check him out in S1 of Pose. Guy Pearce (who acted w/ Winslet in HBO’s take on Mildred Pierce in 2011) plays Mare’s love interest; he is a writer-turned-prof who is in town as an adjunct. The creator/writer of this show, Craig Zobel, also wrote the recent movie The Way Back (starring Ben Affleck); it received some critical acclaim also.