Saturday, 30 August 2014 03:08

 

longmire roberttaylor3
I know we've written about television and films a lot lately—but they’ve all had an interest for our readers.

But this essay hurts—after three successful seasons A&E is cancelling Longmire, the television series based on Craig Johnson’s best-selling series about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire.

What?

Yes, and this cancellation makes no sense.

Now, I don’t use the word successful causally when mentioning Longmire the TV series.

A&E network admits that Longmire is its “most-watched original drama series of all time.”

Despite that, A&E will not renew Longmire for a fourth season.

In a lame statement, the A&E announced: “We would like to thank the phenomenal cast, crew and producers of Longmire, along with our partners at Warner Horizon, for their tireless work on three seasons of quality dramatic storytelling. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”

I say poppycock. If A&E was so proud of what they have achieved together, the network would be signing up Longmire for at least three more seasons.

What makes Longmire the television series—as well as Johnson’s novels—so compelling is the insightful look at a modern-day sheriff dealing with the contemporary crimes that have infiltrated the Old West. And while these crimes are contemporary, many of the atrocities could have occurred when Wyoming was first being settled.

Robert Taylor nailed the role of Longmire, settling in this role as the Australian actor would in an old pair of comfortable jeans.

And who didn’t love to see Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear? He is one of those actors I love to see in anything. Katee Sackhoff brought emotional strength to the role of as Vic Moretti.

longmire Lou Diamond Phillips2
According to several reports, including from Deadline Hollywood, the second season of Longmire averaged nearly 6 million viewers, up 9 percent from the first season.

While the third season dropped to 4.6 million viewers, it still is stronger than many of the series A&E airs, coming in only behind Duck Dynasty in terms of viewership.

I still haven’t gotten over the cancellation of The Glades that ended on a cliff hanger. Likewise, let’s not forget that Longmire’s third season, which aired a few weeks ago, also ended on a cliffhanger.

The adage “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t even apply here. Instead A&E is taking a successful product, breaking it in many pieces and then shrugging away. And this from a network that once had a reputation of quality programing.

Apparently, Longmire’s studio Warner Horizons is looking for another network to air the series.

It would be great if Longmire were to be picked up by another network. TNT has had much success with Rizzoli & Isles and Major Crimes.Longmire would easily fit into TNT’s grid.

Meanwhile, readers and viewers should take comfort that Johnson’s novels continue with more involving plots.

By Any Other Name, the 11th novel in this series, was released a couple of months ago. Buying his books is the best revenge—and protest—for this cancellation.

Photos: From top, Robert Taylor as Longmire; Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear A&E photos

Thursday, 28 August 2014 02:08

beforeigotosleep sjwatson
S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep was one of the most haunting novels of 2011.

In this psychological thriller, the British author tackled the power of memory, or rather the lack of memory, and how what we remember can affect our lives and even our emotions.

Before I Go To Sleep was the result of a writing workshop in Britain and was a best-seller in Europe where it was released in the US. Critics and readers were pretty much unanimous in our enthusiasm about Watson's debut.

In Before I Go To Sleep, Christine Lucas wakes up not knowing who she is or who the man is next to her.

She thinks she is 27 years old, but clearly she is not. She has to look in the mirror to see that she is in her mid-40s. Her loving husband, Ben, tells her they have been married for 14 years and that she lost her memory following an accident years before. (A few ages and other details have been changed from the novel.)

But did she?

And why doesn't she care more about Ben, who clearly adores her? Ben, so patient, so kind, so careful to leave her a list of things she might do that day, things she might enjoy.

Her lack of memory also has taken away her feelings and she cannot connect with her husband. About the only person she seems to have a bond with is a neurologist. He has to remind her every day that she is keeping a journal and where to find it.

Before I Go To Sleep was one of my top debuts of 2011. I remember thinking that with the right cast, this could be a suspenseful film, a kind of updated Gaslight.

I got my wish.

The film version of Before I Go To Sleep will be released on Oct. 31. Just looking at a few photographs and a couple of clips, the casting seems perfect. Nicole Kidman stars as Chrisine with Colin Firth as her husband Ben and Mark Strong as Dr. Nash. Director is Rowan Joffe.

For a very creepy trailer of Before I Go To Sleep, visit this site.

Photo: Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman in Before I Go To Sleep. StudioCanal photo

Sunday, 24 August 2014 02:08

breathless tvshowcast
It would be easy—and it has already been done—to call Breathless the British Mad Men.

After all, this British series making its debut as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! is set in 1961 and is thoroughly steeped in the sensibilities of the era.

As we all know, that was a time when societal mores and attitudes were beginning to change, when revolution was in the air, from social reform to the music.  

Breathless is divided into three two-hour episodes. The first two-hour Breathless will be shown at 9 p.m. Aug. 24, followed by Aug. 31 and Sept. 7. Check your local listings for changes in times and airing.

Breathless certainly has much in common with Mad Men, that is if the American series were set in London and the advertising firm were a hospital and the “mad men” were not just doctors but gynecologists.

But Breathless delivers even more cynicism about the times that were a-changing, going from the old boys’ network—or, I guess this would be the old chaps’ network—to one in which women and minorities would have more of a piece of the pie.

That changing of the times is the crux of Breathless, a fascinating, often perceptive, but sometimes hollow look at the early 1960s in London.

After watching the initial screening, I am interested enough to want to see the rest of the series.

But I fail to see how Breathless fits with PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series. Yes, a cop conducts some sort of an investigation and a death occurs midway in the series. But there seems little in the way of any mystery. Endeavour Morse, Poirot, Miss Marple, and the various Sherlocks have very little in common with Breathless.

Even the British police procedural George Gently, set in the same time, is light years away from Breathless.

At its heart, Breathless is more of a soap opera about men who seem to care little about women’s health—which makes us wonder why they chose gynecology—and more about manipulating women and having as much sex as possible.

Yet, amid this misogyny there is some concern about women’s health.
breathless davenport
Jack Davenport stars as the brilliant London surgeon Otto Powell, a respected physician, a devoted family man with a lovely wife, Elizabeth, and a bright son. But look beneath the surface. He also fools around with nurses, patients, neighbors, and the wives of colleagues whenever he can, and has some dark secrets.

Yet, despite all his caddish ways, Otto is the most unlikely champion of a woman’s right to choose. And he performs safe—though still illegal—abortions on the side to desperate women, many of whom can afford to have a private physician, anesthesiologist, and nurse come quietly to their home. These are not those back-alley procedures that movies of the 1950s showed. One society woman greets Otto and his crew by saying, “I’ve been such a silly muffin.”

Otto’s side business is only one aspect of Breathless. The series’ main focus is showing how steeped the era was in racism, classism, and sexism and how these men, arrogant, snide, thinking they are masters of the universe, are about to get a rude awakening. Anesthesiologist Charlie Enderbury (Shaun Dingwall) can’t believe that the promotion he was sure of might go to a doctor of Indian heritage.

Otto is being investigated—the reason never clear in the first episode—by Chief Inspector Ronald Mulligan (Iain Glen), a ruthless detective whose pursuit seems to harken back to a war. But Mulligan also is a controlling father who was forcing his daughter to marry a man she didn’t love. Mulligan seems determined to disgrace the doctor because his daughter vanished from the hospital and he can’t find her.  

Although Breathless is rather weak on plot, its strength is in watching the characters maneuver amid unforgiving times. A newlywed has had to give up her brilliant career as a nurse because, well, she is married. She spends her days smoking, drinking, and trying new recipes, and is constantly being intruded on by the nosey wife of one of her husband’s colleagues. Another wife is being forced to go on tranquilizers because her husband believes “the change” is driving her mad; her rage is inspired not by hormones but by her husband’s affair.

The cast is uniformly good. Davenport has always been a personal favorite since Coupling and The Talented Mr. Ripley; others may recognize him from Pirates of the Caribbean and Smash. He gives a sense of decency and concern for women to Otto, as well as the physician’s sense of entitlement.

Other recognizable actors are Zoe Boyle (Downton Abbey), Catherine Steadman (Mansfield Park), Iain Glen (Downton Abbey), Natasha Little (Case Histories), Oliver Chris (Sharpe's Challenge), Joanna Page (Love Actually), and Shaun Dingwall (Touching Evil).

Breathless also is one stylish series. The cars, the clothes, the little details of the era are lovingly displayed.

The sexual revolution, as Breathless shows (as does Mad Men) was really good for men, giving them a wider field to bed. Not so much for women who may have slept with a man before marriage, but were still stuck with antiquated attitudes about their reputation and freedom. Sure, there was the birth control pill, which was approved in the US in 1961. But in London, this was still a rumor. It wasn’t until 1974 that single women could be prescribed the pill, and during the early 1960s, married women were supposed to have their husbands’ permission.

Breathless didn’t leave me breathless, but, like Mad Men, gives a perceptive window into an era.

Captions: Top, from left to right: Natasha Little as Elizabeth Powell, Jack Davenport as Dr. Otto Powell, Zoe Boyle as Jean Meecher, Oliver Chris as Dr. Richard Truscott, and Sarah Parish as Margaret; center photo, Jack Davenport. Photos courtesy PBS.