Tis the Season for Too Much (Great TV)

December 16th, 2013

We all know the holiday season sometimes becomes the season for too much —too much on the credit card, too much good food, too much shopping, too much to do, and too many places to go and people to see.  It’s fun and we love our frenetic traditions, but it can be overwhelming.  I have the perfect antidote: too much TV!  Take a break from the holiday hoopla or the January aftermath and binge on some great episodic TV on DVD, free from the library.

Have you noticed that TV has gotten better lately?  Modern TV series have dramatic plots and characters that resonate and draw the viewers into otherworldly experiences.   The vast wasteland of old, mediocre TV has become a new frontier of intriguing, engaging, habit-forming and downright excellent programming.  The kind of television that leaves you desperate to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Why wait for one episode a week to dribble out?  Watching multiple episodes of great TV on DVD back-to-back can be a very satisfying experience.  It’s just like reading a great “I couldn’t put it down” novel and then gorging on the sequel.  And there are some wonderful series you’ve maybe never heard of available now from the library on DVD.

Think of these recommendations as “I couldn’t take my eyes off it TV.”  Don’t be afraid to binge (it’s calorie neutral) and enjoy some well-earned down time over the holidays or in the new year:

An epic story of love and betrayal, set during a formative period in British history, from the twilight years of the Edwardian era to the end of World War I. Based on the quartet of novels by Ford Madox Ford, this five-part miniseries was adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard.  BBC delivers with beautiful costumes and settings and “Sherlock” fans will adore seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in a different role.

Due to his old-school style, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in a poor, rural coal-mining town in Eastern Kentucky. Lawman Givens is a tough, soft-spoken gentleman who never gives an inch.  Based on a novella, “Fire in the Hole,” by Elmore Leonard.

The 1971 granddaddy of Downton Abby.  One of the first of episodic PBS TV series that went viral due to its riveting plot lines and engaging characters.  Production values were initially crude, but no one knew any better.  The story of life in the home of British aristocrats and their servants holds up today (and in my opinion, develops more deeply than Downton.)

A Netflix original series now on DVD.  Frank Underwood is a cunning career politician.  Zoe Barnes is an ambitious young journalist. Together, they forge a partnership that trades powerful secrets for political access, and so much more.  This story of inside-the-beltway political evil and intrigue will hook you.

British series about four women who worked as code breakers at Bletchley Park and have taken up humdrum civilian lives after the war.  They can’t help but apply their code skills to their routine lives. Susan has collated data about a series of murders. She tries to convince the police she knows where another body is, but they are unable to locate it and dismiss her. She turns to her three code-breaker friends to work out where the next victim will be taken and find the killer.

This HBO original series takes a behind-the-scenes look at a high-rated cable news program at the fictional ACN Network, highlighting the on and off camera lives of its acerbic anchor, a new executive producer, and their newsroom staff.  Critics have loved it or hated it.

When headline-making, life-ruining trouble rears its ugly head, there’s only one person to call: the legendary Olivia Pope. With her steadfast rule of always trusting her gut, Olivia leads an expert team of crisis management consultants skilled at making even the most sordid, salacious scandals disappear. But as these self-proclaimed “gladiators in suits” begin to reveal the cracks in their own armor, will the masters of damage control be able to control the damage in their own personal lives?

In this British import set in London in 1956, the BBC has just launched “The Hour,” a topical news program. At the heart of the show are three contrasting journalists: enigmatic producer Bel Rowley, a spirited woman in a man’s world; her best friend, Freddie Lyon, a brilliant and passionate reporter; and charming, well-connected front man Hector Madden. As Freddie moves to cover a significant but controversial story, the trio becomes entangled in an intense interplay of politics, ambition and romance, all ignited by a mysterious murder and chilling conspiracy.

A modern-day mockumentary that looks at the exciting world of local government. The series examines the mundane but necessary ways that people interact with their government, and asks why it’s frequently so complicated — standing in line at the DMV, applying for home construction permits, or trying to get the city to fix a pothole.  Check out the librarian!

The story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens in Northern France to stay with the Azaire family and falls desperately in love with Isabelle Azaire. They begin an illicit and all-consuming affair, but the relationship falters. Years later, Stephen finds himself serving on the Western Front in the very area where he experienced his great love. He must learn to endure the ravages of war and make peace with his feelings for Isabelle.  Based on the popular novel by Sebastion Faulks.

What are your favorite shows to binge watch?

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Where Did Our Ears Go?

September 30th, 2013

Like many baby boomers, I ask “What did you say?” more and more frequently these days.  To my doctor it means I have hearing loss and should do something about it.  To me, it means a trip down memory lane thinking about all the great loud music I have listened to over the last 55 years or so.

I grew up with TV, but the most significant technology in my life was the transistor radio.  My dad was always a gizmo guy so convincing him that I needed a radio didn’t take too much convincing.  We picked it out of a catalog and one of the selling features was the genuine leather case and carrying strap—so I would never lose or drop it.

It was a beautiful silver and black plastic box about the size of 5 smart phones stacked up.  It had a dial and a pointer that moved up and down a single AM scale and depending on the weather, what time of day it was, where I was standing or where the antenna was pointing, I could hear music from as far away as WLS Chicago or KAAY Little Rock or as close as KIOA Ft. Dodge, Iowa.  It was such a personal object—I got to choose what to listen to just for me.  I could put the tinny speaker right up to my head or jam the little molded ear phone into my ear for a private, monophonic experience.

And what an experience it was!  To be born in 1948 means that you got to personally experience the great music of the 50’s as a kid, the 60’s as you came of age and went off to college and concerts and the 70’s as a young adult.  The oldies were all newies for us—a top 40 fabric of our lives, so to speak.

Here are my favorites from the 60’s—turn your transistor radio up to 10 and enjoy.  Get your hearing checked tomorrow.

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Brian Hyland)
Save the Last Dance for Me (Drifters)

Travelin’ Man (Ricky Nelson)
Runaround Sue (Dion)

The Loco-Motion (Little Eva)
He’s a Rebel (Crystals)

He’s So Fine (The Chiffons)
It’s My Party (Leslie Gore)

I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)
Leader of the Pack (Shangri-las)

Mr. Tambourine man (Byrds)
Get off My Cloud (Rolling Stones)

Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel)
Summer in the City (Lovin’ Spoonful)

Respect (Aretha Franklin)
Light My Fire (Doors)

Mrs. Robinson (Simon & Garfunkel)
Aquarius (Fifth Dimension)
Honky Tonk Woman (Rolling Stones)
Leaving on a Jet Plane (PP&M)

There will be lots of opportunities to share your memories and favorites as CCPL celebrates the 60’s throughout the fall.  Check out our programming and the CD music collection, which contains many blasts from the past.

Photo credit: By ArnoldReinhold (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons