Amazon has mostly produced series that are okay, with the exception of Transparent. Season one was as good as any series on television and made us hope that Amazon would produce other new series which were better than okay. With the possible exception of The Man in the High Castle, Amazon is still lagging behind the other streaming services. However, Transparent is back for a second season and I’m sure it is also excellent. Watch it all.
The Returned is actually Les Revenants, a French series that airs on SundanceTV in the US. It’s the zombie series you didn’t know you wanted. Since it’s French, it’s existential instead of violent. That’s an endorsement.
I’m not religious, or at least I don’t admit to being religious. I believe in The Big Bang, in evolution, in everything happening for a reason except that the reason is probably trivial. I believe that the Earth orbits the sun and our solar system is part of the Milky Way which is part of something bigger and so on and so on. I believe there is life on other planets and I’m pretty certain that this will not be proven in my lifetime. There is plenty of wonder in the world, and most of it can be explained by science or a belief in chaos or a conviction that the answer has yet to show itself but is either science or chaos. I can believe this because I have never had to live in a world like the one in The Leftovers.
The Leftovers was created by Damon Lindelof (previously of Lost) and Tom Perrotta (based on his novel of the same name). The series and the novel both start two years after two percent of the world’s population disappeared without a trace or explanation (the “Departure”). The reactions are as you’d expect; some try to use science to find an answer, some try to move on as if it never happened, and some start to believe that it is not possible to understand the world only through reason. Just as our ancestors came up with explanations for the moon and seasons and the meaning of life, some in the world of The Leftovers take the opportunity to polish up the old religions or to start up some new ones. The post-Departure world is as fertile for belief systems as the Holy Land of five or two or one and a half millennia ago.
The most interesting choice in The Leftovers (and I believe also in The Leftovers) is that no attempt is made by the series to explain the Departure. This allows us to watch the series and imagine ourselves in it. What would it mean to me? Who would I be in that world? Nora Durst, who lost her husband and two children, needs to believe that the Departure was a one-time event and will not happen again. Kevin Garvey, Nora’s boyfriend, wants to keep his new family together and move on even as he is haunted by someone who killed herself in front of him. Nora’s brother Matt Jamison is a pastor who thinks he can shoehorn the Departure into his faith. John Murphy, new in season two, does not allow that anything supernatural exists in his world, all evidence to the contrary.
The only thing that all the characters share in The Leftovers is grief. They grieve for the ones who Departed. They grieve for parts of their lives that were destroyed by the Departure. They grieve for the world that no longer exists. What do you hold on to when the world has proven to be so unreliable?
We will never know who is right, just as our ancestors never knew if they were right. One of Arthur C Clarke’s “three laws” is that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Leftovers shows that any sufficiently unexplainable occurrence is indistinguishable from the miraculous. What would you do in response to the miraculous?
I was late on season one of The Knick, partly because there were so many other things to watch. Eventually, critics like Matt Zoller Seitz wore me down and I dove in. It was well worth it. The Knick is probably the best directed series on television — all by Steven Soderbergh — and features excellent performances, particularly from Clive Owen and André Holland.
Will season two be as good? Soderbergh, Owen and Holland are all back. Sounds promising.
Alright, so you didn’t watch the first season when it aired. Me neither. But I caught up by bingeing season one on Hulu. I hope you did also. The season may have dragged a little in the middle (didn’t someone swallow plutonium) but it finished strong and left me wanting more. Well John Benjamin Hickey, Olivia Williams and Ashley Zukerman are back. Watch it!
Admit it. You didn’t think there was any way that season one of Fargo would be any good. You thought it was a terrible idea that wouldn’t work, but it did work. Now the question is, can they do it again or will this series go the way that True Detective did in its second season? (I’m required to compare the two series as they are both anthologies.)
The first season of The Affair seemed to promise a lot and deliver little. It never justified its use of multiple, often conflicting, viewpoints and didn’t take advantage of an outstanding cast. Have the writers learned anything from the failings of season one? We shall see.
The first season of The Leftovers was divisive. Some thought the show took itself too seriously. (The opening credits didn’t help.) But those who stuck around through episodes three and especially episode six were rewarded with a series as good as any other last year. Now it’s back for a second season and if the critics are to be believed, it’s even better. Watch it. Read the recaps. Spread the word.
“There is horrible sadness and pain coming, and we’re inviting it in.” Beginning a relationship often requires a shared delusion of happily ever after. But what if you understand going in that it’s not likely to be that way, and you make the leap anyway? We may not be Gretchen or Jimmy but we’ve all been there. As the first season went on You’re the Worst became deeper than you’d expect. Now it’s ready for greatness in season two.
So in Review, host Forrest MacNeil reviews various life experiences suggested by his viewers. This included things in season one like eating fifteen pancakes, getting divorced, and eating thirty pancakes. MacNeil’s commitment is total.