Sure it's summer TV rerun season, and most of the new programming out there is the level of America's Got Talent crap, however we have discovered a fantastic new sitcom... smart, funny, totally bitchy, we love it! The show is called Vicious, and it is a BBC import that shows on PBS on Sunday nights (and is available on DVD). In Vicious, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi are Freddie and Stuart, an elderly gay couple who have been together for 48 years and maintain a love/hate relationship... they are bitter and petty and bitchy and yes vicious to each other. And it is awesome. I told my husband this was our future... his response was that this is our now. Underneath Freddie's and Stuart's vicious co-dependency bickering they have a deep love for each other and it is sweet in it's own way. Joining in the fun every week are their lovelorn best friend Violet (Frances de la Tour, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and Ash (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones), their young, hot upstairs neighbour. The first season of Vicious aired in the UK last year (it's only 6 episodes) and is on here now. A second season is coming later this year. Check Vicious out... it is fast, it is funny, and let's face it, at this time of year your other options are Botched and Dance Moms.
In The Scarlet Letter Society, three smart successful women meet monthly for an early breakfast book club... not that unusual, until you realize that the books are all about women having extramarital affairs, and the women have this in common in their real lives as well.
As with most book clubs, the book talk is quickly abandoned for real life talk, and in this case sex and relationship talk. It is dishy and fun and insightful, and sometimes yes touching.
My bloggy buddy Mary McCarthy, semi-famous for Pajamas and Coffee, has FINALLY published her first novel, and the timing is perfect... this is an ideal summer read, a fast, fun, sexy, chatty beach book.
Besides being a breezy read and interesting take on grown-up relationships, this Scarlet Letter is loaded with self aware pop culture references... a book with people talking about books, with poppy references from Sixteen Candles to the Eagles to Stevie Wonder to Erica Jong... if I didn't love my 70s and 80s shallow pop culture I may think was too much, but so not an issue for me at all... never enough!
In The Scarlet Letter Society, there is wit, there is humour, there is sex, and most importantly there are three women who think they're slutty but may just be lonely; okay, one of them is totally slutty, but in a wonderfully charming bi-curious kind of way.
Between monthly book club breakfasts we follow each woman's life; Eva the lonely attorney with a chef on the side, Maggie the vintage retailer with her ex on the side, and Lisa the baker with a different kind of secret. You will come to adore them all.
And yes there is a totally fabulous gay best friend, who has a totally sweet gay wedding to his boyfriend ALFRED!
Put this one on top of your summer reading list, and spend some time with these fun, fascinating, fidelity-challenged women, and their friends and lovers, in The Scarlet Letter Society...
Disclaimer: the publisher sent me a digital copy of this book. This review is my own, no compensation was received. Jelly beans would have been nice.
Tomorrow we see Cher and Cyndi Lauper live in concert (okay, okay, sort of live, as there may be some Cher lip syncing involved).
I love Cher, have seen her twice before, she puts on an amazing show…. and her 'comeback' album from last year, Closer To The Truth, is fantastic in a glitzy touching over-produced danceable-with-some-sadness kind of way… so totally Cher! Believe... If I Could Turn Back Time... Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves... Woman's World... Song For The Lonely... Dark Lady... Half Breed... You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me...
So while yes insomnia totally sucks, there are ways to handle it... drugs, exercise, hypnosis... I don't do any of them when I can't sleep. I read or watch TV. Usually I choose chopper gadget infomercials or Golden Girls reruns, but this week I chose Netflix... and discovered they are showing two recent acclaimed gay films I had read about but never had access to before. Both are awesome.
Stranger By The Lake, France, 2013 (English subtitles)
This sexual thriller is unlike anything I have seen before... at first I was thinking "what's the big deal" and then I was holding on to the edge of my seat to see what would happen next. The whole film takes place within a few days on a gay cruising beach. Franck is an out gay man who goes there looking for conversations, sex, and maybe love, unlike the other mostly closeted beachgoers just looking for anonymous sex in the woods. This is a beautifully shot work, with the lake and nearby woods by day and by night being postcard gorgeous. In more ways than just the scenery, the film overall is beguiling... and oh yeah, good to note, very sexually explicit. Franck becomes enchanted with Michel, another attractive man who spends his afternoons at the beach having sex with different men. He then realizes Michel has a possessive boyfriend. And while watching them from a distance, he sees Michel deliberately drown the boyfriend. Franck knows he should report this to the police, but is so infatuated he keeps quiet and starts getting involved with Michel. And two days later the body is discovered and police start interviewing all the closeted men at the cruising park, which you know is not gonna go well. And the mystery evolves... This is an original, suspenseful, explicit, dark and twisty thriller. Highly recommended.
Gayby, USA, 2012
This one is much lighter fare, the story of a gay man and straight woman who are best friends and decide to have a baby together. Sure this store has been done before -- hell, Jennifer Aniston and Madonna each did it in a couple of crappy films fifteen years ago -- but Gayby is fresh and fun. It's a bitchier, more vulgar Will and Grace.
Writer-director-actor Jonathan Lisecki's tale of thirty something BF's Mat and Jenn agreeing to try to have a baby together — he's gay and recently single, she's straight and loveless — is as fast and quippy as you expect a movie built around dry, neurotic, yoga-loving, comic-book-reading New Yorkers to be.
Gayby's warmth and character development lift it above sitcom status. The actors are highly appealing as they move from awkward sexual coupling to awkward fertility treatment, while simultaneously navigating new romantic possibilities outside their arrangement.
I adore 9 to 5 icon Dolly Parton, from her endless talent to her amazing community work to her bawdy humour, she wins all around for me. Even like the plastic surgery and how she openly talks about it. Like her enough to forget about that crappy movie with Sylvester Stallone... almost.
I have lots of her music in my car for road trips... love it!
Parton is out on a media blitz promoting her new album Blue Smoke, and was asked about marriage equality.
Same-sex marriage might not be recognized in Dolly Parton's native Tennessee, but the outspoken Parton, herself married for almost fifty years, supports equality for all.
"I didn’t know any gay people in my childhood. I do have a lot of gays in my family now, but some will never come out," the singer, who was one of 12 children in a Pentecostal family living in Locust Ridge, Tenn., told Britain's Event magazine.
"I think everyone should be with who they love," Parton, 68, continued. "I don’t want to be controversial or stir up a bunch of trouble but people are going to love who they are going to love. I think gay couple should be allowed to marry. They should suffer just like us heterosexuals. Ha ha ha!"
I have been an avid reader since I was a kid -- fiction, histories, business books, auto-biographies, almost everything except war stuff. And while I am always waiting eagerly for the next Sue Grafton mystery, I am currently on an autobiography frenzy, and last week's read was Elaine Lui's Listen To The Squawking Chicken. Elaine Lui is a social media icon in Canada -- blogging as "Lainey" at www.laineygossip.com, appearing on E-talk television (our low rent version of Entertainment Tonight) and co-hosting The Social (our low-rent version of The View). Lainey is always a hoot -- she is smart and fast and funny and bitchy and totally awesome. And while Lainey is fast and funny and bitchy, I excepted the same from her autobiography. I was wrong. While Squawking Chicken is interesting and fascinating, it is not funny or bitchy... it is more passive and dysfunctional, like a Chinese-Canadian traffic accident I could not look away from. Lainey's "Squawking Chicken" is her overbearing mother, who she lived away from for many years and who was -- and apparently still is --- controlling, judgemental and dictatorial. Lainey talks about being "feng shui blackmailed" and "shamed" through her life. Laine has lived an interesting life and -- as she always does - has interesting stories to tell. She seems to know that her mother's behaviour is abnormal and controlling and socially unacceptable and yet she accepts and somehow condones it. Weird. Interesting to read though. My issue with the story -- not the book, which I zoomed through, but the story itself -- is that strong outspoken Lainey has a Stockholm Syndrome-y thing going on when it comes to justifying her mother's behaviour. She rationalizes the Squawking Chicken's humiliating remarks, excessive meddling, demands for money, over-the-top control, imposition of superstitious beliefs, and condemning attitude towards everyone. The woman is damaged and mean. I guess all families are weird in their own way, and Lainey's is not an exception. While this dysfunction is disturbing, Lainey is a strong writer and her story is interesting to read about... now bring on the next book, Lainey, and make it dishy and funny!
His cuteness Alfred is my best fur friend, and today the little dude is seven years old! So while we may have a toy or two for the little furball, it is a tradition on alfred lives here to mark this occasion in a bigger way…
So in honour of the birthday of the world's cutest canine, also known as Alfie, Alfredo, Eggplant, Furball, ADD Alfred, Ewok, Moocho Poocho, Beagle Wannabe, Alfie Poop, Little Dude, The Instigator and Have-Many-Needs Havanese, ... here's the deal… As I know that Alfie is more pampered than your average pooch, we are gonna celebrate his birthday by raising money for the animals in tougher circumstances. For every comment left on this post today and tomorrow, April 26 and 27, we will donate $1 from Alfie's allowance to the Humane Society… so leave a comment! How much money will Alfie raise this year?
How I Met Your Mother ended its run last month, and Scandal wrapped its season last week, and now we we will see endless season finales, some memorable, others deservedly under the radar (The Middle… who watches that?)..
With the advent of HBO and Netflix the TV season is no longer just September through May, and now what's left of the traditional TV season is wrapping up… here are some highlights and lowlights… what were your favourites?
A terrific cast led by Kerry Washington leads the crazy fast West Wing meets Dynasty political soap, which just wrapped season three about the Washington 'fixer' Olivia Pope and dirty politics, terrorists, secret government spy agencies, family drama, and murder… if you are not hooked yet, go back to season one and start there. Addictive.
The Good Wife
Starting the season with a resetting of the series by breaking up the law firm, and then killing off a central character partway through, with great cases and prickly family drama all around, this was the best season yet of a smart suspenseful award-winning modern classic. Great drama.
NBC Late Night
Things got interesting with the forcibly retired Jay Leno not giving a fuck and getting cranky and funny in his last few months, and then funny and enthusiastic Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers coming onto the scene with their new shows… late night is really the only time NBC is worth watching.
Honourable Mention To…
Looking - HBO's gay Sex And The City (okay, gayer Sex And The City) started off slow but became touching and real and totally entertaining
Mr Selfridge's much improved second season
Downtown Abbey's fourth season lacked the heartbreak of #3 but was still sudsy intriguing drama
Days Of Our Lives' charming same-sex wedding storyline
The 'Meh' Mediocrity Awards…
Two shows that were great and are now just ok... The Voice - Looking forward to new coaches next season, as this year was too familiar -- more of the same makes it miss-able Dallas - still sudsy fun, and the show shines when Judith Light appears as the cocaine-loving evil matriarch, but other than that are missing JR Ewing more than good writing should have let us
How I Met Your Mother - many seasons of laughs and warmth were wrapped up with a claustrophobic not-so-funny season and an annoying cheat of a finale. Thumbs down. The View… you lost me at Jenny McCarthy. Revenge/Crisis/Hostages/ Revolution/Resurrection … aside from the soapy Revenge which I gave up on after season one, these generic names were new generic shows that were skippable even from the previews...
Gotta Catch Up On...
True Detective (never seen), Breaking Bad, and season 2 of House of Cards (loved season one)…
Now that How I Met Your Mother has ended its long run, Emmy winner and former Doogie Howser child star Neil Patrick Harris is headed back to Broadway as the lead in a revival of Hedwig And The Angry Inch.
Harris will be wearing heels and fishnets in the play, and for the new Vanity Fair he is wearing a snake down his pants, as photographed by Annie Leibowitz.
Clearly this guy is out to change his image… and he has enough talent to pretty much pull anything off (rumour has it he was a contender for Letterman's job). Hopefully there is another sitcom on the horizon.
Here is the out actor in more typical photo, with his partner David Burtka and their kids… these guys are just way too cute together…
Now he should head back for another gig hosting the Tonys (for which he won an Emmy), and guest-starring on Glee (another Emmy)...
Over the last couple of weeks two of my favourite shows, Scandal and The Good Wife, have had surprise twists and killed off major characters… both were surprising and heartbreaking and great drama. And both created really valuable social media buzz for these already buzzy shows.
The Good Wife killed off leading man Will Gardner in a truly shocking moment, as the actor playing him, Josh Charles, wanted out of the series after five seasons. While he was not the 'bad' husband, Gardner was the true love of the 'good' wife and this death will play out for the run of the series.
Scandal killed off James Novak, the White House spokesperson and husband of Chief Of Staff Cyrus Vance, as a plot twist, and therefore said goodbye to actor Dan Bucatinsky, the only actor to so far win an Emmy for Scandal.
Downton Abbey killed off two main characters in season 3, then was relatively peaceful in this year's season 4. Thankfully.
Next weekend I am binge watching House Of Cards season 2, and I know from the internet chatter I am trying to avoid that there is gonna be death there too.
And I don't even watch The Walking Dead, which apparently kills off main characters all the time. Man I could not take that.
High-profile deaths work on dramas -- they add surprise and drama, they give other characters a big story line to be involved in and react to, and potentially reinvent and reinvigorate the story line with a whole new trajectory. And in an era of PVR and TV on demand and Netflix, surprise buzzy twists encourage us to watch live, to believe again in appointment television.
The risk is of course that once the character is gone and the drama has moved on, if fans were especially attached to that character will the stay with the show? If not, the show fades away, or we get a Bobby Ewing back-from-the-dead "it was all a dream" ridiculous plot twist. Lesson learned there -- mourn the character quickly and move on, don't dwell forever … if the show misses the character too long, the audience will also.
Downtown Abbey stumbled a bit in season 4 post deaths, then found its way. Brothers and Sisters handled the death of Rob Lowe's character so badly and so slowly that many of us -- or at least me -- got bored and gave up on the show. I think The Good Wife and Scandal writers are smart enough to touch our hearts and move on, but we'll see as the season plays out.
To the producers of my other favourite show, The Big Bang Theory, I say HANDS OFF, don't kill anyone, even in a super-sensitive How I Met Your Mother kind of way.
However, if the producers of 2 Broke Girls or Revolution need a jumpstart, please kill of a main character… hell, kill them all off!