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Friday, June 26, 2015

Primetime TV Binge Update - June 2015 Free HBO/MAX Weekend

Here's a quick description of all of the shows I've watched and completed in June 2015 during a free HBO/MAX four day weekend. Of course, as always, there is a possibility of spoilers for any primetime show I mention.

During the four day weekend, I viewed five different series and/or miniseries on HBO. They were the following: "Game of Thrones" (season five), "Hung" (all seasons), "The Jinx" (miniseries),"No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"(only one season), Olive Kitteridge (miniseries), and "Parade's End" (miniseries).

Game of Thrones was rife with controversy online during its fifth season. I was glad to finally see what all the complaints were about. That said I wasn't that offended. Do I think GOT has gone to the women abuse angle too many times? Yes, but in that universe the females are objectified and victimized. If Sansa was treated with love and respect by Ramsey Snow now Ramsey Bolton, I'd have been stunned and felt it out of character. Did I like that she was raped numerous times by her admission by her husband? Absolutely not, but at least we only had one scene where we saw it happen. Cersei being punished by having to do a literal naked walk of shame was shocking, and very anti-woman, but again she did deserve to suffer. Killing off her daughter was a lot more depressing as was the human sacrifice of a young female child. Only one character died a natural death the maester at the Castle Black, and that thrilled me that someone died without foul play. Jon Snow being killed bugged and hope he returns even if it is in another body. I want to know who his parents actually were. Arya going blind hopefully is temporary though I want her to get revenge on everyone who hurt her. That said I think Arya would have been thrilled over what happened to Cersei.

Hung ran for three seasons on HBO from 2009 - 2011. The show was a dramedy, as the main plot is about a guy named Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) who becomes a prostitute. Ray was a successful coach and teacher, but didn't have enough money to survive as he had a house fire. Later his job at the school was eliminated due to budget cuts, and he became a full time whore. For much of the program, he was torn between his two pimps Tanya (Jane Adams) a poet, former teacher and proof reader at a law office and Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff), a life coach and personal shopper who used to work with Tanya at the law office. Ray still has feelings for his former wife Jessica (Anne Heche), who was married to another man named Ronnie (Eddie Jemison) for the majority of the series. They share teenage twins Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) and Damon (Charlie Saxon), who live with Ray until the fire and are closer to him than their mother. During the last season, Stephen Amell (aka Oliver from "Arrow") plays a character named Jason who is another male whore. What was cool about the show is that it was mainly filmed on location in Detroit. Due to the subject matter, it isn't for everyone. I enjoyed it for its unpredictable storytelling like having Ray's best friend Mike (Gregg Henry) filling in for Ray and thinking he was using a dating service. Then Mike fell for his "client" Frances (Roxanne Hart) who he later wed. Tanya had a relationship with a pimp Charlie (Lennie James) who had girls on the street, which was another unusual pairing. While Jessica found out what Ray actually was, the story was left somewhat unresolved. I also appreciated seeing people like Empire's Kaitlin Doubleday, Ana Ortiz from Ugly Better and Devious Maids and Natalie Zea who was Gwen on Passions.

The Jinx was a documentary that aired originally earlier in 2015 over six weeks. The miniseries was about the life of Robert Durst, a scion of the Durst family who owns many important real estate locations in New York City. In the 80s, his first wife went missing, and later his neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas was found dead. He went on trial for the death of Morris Black, but was found not guilty even though he admitted to the crime. His friend Susan Berman was also murdered, though he hadn't been implicated. Andrew Jarecki was the director of the show and also his main questioner. We saw the making of the documentary as it continued. During his last interview, Durst was given two samples of handwriting, which would implicate him of Susan Berman's murder. After it wrapped up, Durst left on his microphone and he admitted to all the crimes.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency aired in 2009 and is based upon the universe created by writer Alexander McCall Smith. The show was coproduced by the BBC and ran for 7 episodes. The program was filmed on location in Botswana. Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott) moved to Gabarone to become the only female detective in Botswana. Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose), her assistant, got 97% at secretarial school and later became her assistant detective. JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati) was the owner of the auto repair shop and Precious' eventual fiance. DB (Desmond Dube) was her best friend and also a hair dresser even though he was bald. The program had a very light tone and was filled with laughter. Unlike many mystery programs, more than one crime was solved each week and people weren't murdered each episode. Imagine a cozy mystery come to life where people are being investigated for cheating or doing background checks and you've got this show. It is disappointing it only lasted for so few episodes, but after watching the series I'm interested in the novels.

Olive Kitteridge was a four-part miniseries that aired in 2014 starring Frances McDormand in the lead role. Richard Jenkins played her faithful husband Henry, who never acted on his feelings for his pharmacy assistant Denise (Zoe Kazan), while Olive had feelings for Jim (Peter Mullan) another teacher. Jim died in an auto accident during the first episode. Olive and Henry spent their lives together and had a son named Christopher, who was played as an adult by John Gallagher Jr. from "The Newsroom". Olive was a teacher in the local school until she retired and was known for being very strict, which was due to the pain she suffered as a child. She reached out to a little boy named Kevin, and his mother Rachel (Rosemary DeWitt) as Olive didn't want Kevin to lose his mother. Later, Henry and Olive have to deal with being held hostage. Sadly Henry dies after years of being non-responsive after a stroke and Olive contemplates suicide after Henry's dog has to be put down. Eventually Olive moves on with Jack (Bill Murray). I could understand why this program got so many awards as it is very well done. The book it is based upon won the Pulitzer Prize, so I'm curious as to how different it is from the original source material.

Parade's End was a five-part coproduction with the BBC and had a love triangle at its center. Christopher "Chrissie" Teitjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) wed Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) as he believed he was father to her unborn child. He developed feelings for Valentine Wannop (Adeline Clemens), while his wife was off with Potty Perowne (Tom Mison). While Sylvia's relationship with Potty was short-lived, Valentine and Christopher continued to care for one another. World War I loomed and Christopher was disgusted by his work, so he joined the war effort on the battlefield. He had to deal with a lot of false rumors without being happy from his alleged friends. Some believed he was sharing a mistress with his friend MacMaster (Stephen Graham). Life in the UK changed after the war as did the societal expectations, which references the title. By the end of the story, Christopher chose happiness and decided to leave his wife for Valentine introducing her to his fellow soldiers.

So that's what I watched and during the free preview of HBO and Cinemax in June 2015. I was glad to see the fifth season of GOT so quickly as now I won't have to be avoiding spoilers for months. All of the other shows were closed ended, which is great so I don't have to worry about playing catch up the next time there is a free preview. Happy Viewing!

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