Category Archives: TV Review

The Cook of Castamar Review

Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.

The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.

The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, Mental Health, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury Review

In the Jewish faith, Psalm 137 has the following lines:

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [her cunning]/ If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

The new six part CNN miniseries, Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury premiered last night. Over the course of the six episodes Sundays, the program tells the story of the city of Jerusalem via six key battles that changed the fate of the city and the region. Combining re-enactments with interviews with historians and Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars, the viewer is given a 360 degree picture of it’s past, it’s present, and perhaps, a glimpse of its future.

The first episode focused on the glory days of King Saul, King David, and the downfall of ancient Israel after the death of King Solomon. I enjoyed the first episode. If nothing else, it proved that humanity has not changed one bit. Externally, the world may look different, but inside, it is the same as it ever was. It is also, I think a pathway to understanding what has come before us so we can create a better world for future generations.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury airs on CNN on Sunday night at 10PM.

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Filed under History, International News, Television, TV Review, World News

My Unorthodox Life Review

Walking away from the family we were raised in and the world that we have known our entire lives is not easy. In the world of Orthodox Judaism, the term is called “off the derech“.

The new Netflix reality show, My Unorthodox Life, follows the life of former Orthodox Jew and businesswoman Julia Haart. Living in New York City with her second husband and three of her four children, the viewer is introduced to the tug of war between Haart’s previous life in Monsey and her current day to day life.

After watching a few episodes, I can understand why some Orthodox Jewish women are annoyed by how their community is portrayed, I think the viewer has to take into account that this is Haart’s perspective. I like the mental health aspect of the series, addressing how many women in conservative or fundamentalist may feel trapped by the constraints of their gender and the rules of their gender. I also liked how positively Judaism is portrayed. Though Haart is no longer Orthodox, she is still Jewish and not afraid to be open about it. It is educational without hitting the audience over the head.

It has the gloss of a Bravo reality show, but it is slightly less trashy and not as much of a brain drain as other programs in the genre.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

My Unorthodox Life is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Feminism, Mental Health, Netflix, New York City, Television, TV Review

Flashback Friday: America’s Funniest Home Videos (1989-Present)

There is something personal about home movies. They give us an insight into the family as only one made by a loved one can. It can also be incredibly funny.

America’s Funniest Home Videos has been on the ABC schedule since its premiere in 1989. It was originally hosted by Bob Saget (Full House). The program’s current host is Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Viewers send in funny videos of pranks and unplanned physical comedy. Every week, the producers choose the best of the submissions and the inhouse audience votes on the top three. The winner receives a cash prize.

I haven’t watched this show in a long time, but it still makes me laugh. It is one of those programs that you can sit down with the family and watch without having to explain adult concepts to young children.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

History of the Sitcom Review

The beautiful thing about art is that it is never static. It adapts to both time and culture, giving creators the ability to match what is going on in the wider world.

The new eight part mini-series CNN miniseries, History of the Sitcom, premiered on Sunday night. Each episode focuses on how the sitcom evolved over time and reflects on how it explores the different aspects of our lives from family to work to school, etc. Interviewing actors, writers, and producers, it delves into how this genre has shaped American culture.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. The first one focused on the evolution of the family sitcom and how it has evolved from the white, suburban Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show programs that populated the television schedule of the 1950’s. The second one talked about how sex, sexuality, the LGBTQ community, and the different variations of gender have been seen by audiences.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

History of the Sitcom airs on Sunday night at 9PM on CNN.

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Filed under History, Television, TV Review

Alias Grace Review

The accusation of insanity can be vague. Depending on the circumstances, it can be used correctly or an easy excuse when a viable reason cannot be found.

The 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace is based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name. Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is a young woman in 19th century Canada who has been found guilty of killing her employer, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). After languishing in prison for fifteen years, she is being analyzed by Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) to determine if the verdict can be removed due to insanity.

First of all, I have a problem with the all too common use of the word “insanity”. We live in a world in which mental health is both real and diminished in importance compared to physical health. By doing so, it lessens the experiences of those who live with it every day.

That being said, I really enjoyed this series. It is never quite clear if Grace had a hand in Nancy’s murder. But like that ambiguousness, it kept me engaged and wanting to know if the truth would ever be revealed. It also spoke to the idea of class and who has certain rights and who doesn’t.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Alias Grace is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Netflix, TV Review

Throwback Thursday: Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist (2016-Present)

The news does not stop when the traditional work week ends.

Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist premiered back in 2016 and has since become a regular part of the NBC schedule. A weekend offshoot of the long running talk show The Today Show, host Willie Geist walks the viewer through headlines of the day.

It is a pleasure to wake up to this show on Sunday morning. Geist has an every person quality to him, making it seem as if he is having a one on one conversation with the audience instead talking into a camera beaming into millions of televisions across the country.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

Loki Review

Audiences love a good antagonist. They have the ability to make the narrative more interesting and challenge both the protagonist and the audience.

The new DisneyPlus series, Loki, premiered on Wednesday. It start where Avengers: Endgame left off. When Loki (a glorious Tom Hiddleston) is able to get his hands on the Tesseract, he evades justice. But it is a short escape. Captured by the Time Variance Authority or TVA, he is accused of changing the timeline. His minder, Mobius (Owen Wilson) is in charge of building the TVA’s case against the prisoner. But when a greater evil emerges, Loki may turn from villain to hero.

What a way to kick off a new series. Hiddleston, Wilson, and company are having fun and it shows. I loved the transition from Loki being a straight up baddie to a complicated character who you want to root for, in spite of his past. Kudos goes to the production design team who created a set colored by shades of 1970’s brown and burnt orange. It is a nice change from the bright and colorful world that the Avengers live in.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

New episodes are released every Wednesday on DisneyPlus.

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Filed under DisneyPlus, Movies, Television, TV Review

Throwback Thursday: True Caribbean Pirates (2006)

When it comes to certain era and personalities in history, there are two facets of the story: the myths that persist generations and centuries after they lived and the reality that is not always Hollywood-ized or convenient.

The 2006 History Channel documentary, True Caribbean Pirates, is the story of four legendary 18th century Caribbean pirates. Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny (and Calico Jack Rackham and Mary Read by extension), and Black Bart Roberts. Interviewing historians, writers, and presenting filmed depictions, these elusive characters are presented in full color to a modern audience. It presents not just the expected imagery of the lives we expected them to live, but the pitfalls as well.

This is one of my favorite documentaries. It is entertaining, educational, and a window into a world that these days is seen to be more romantic and heroic than it actually was.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

Flashback Friday: Masterpiece (1971-Present)

Good TV is sometimes hard to find. It’s easy to turn on a reality show or a rerun that you’ve seen a dozen times over.

In 1971, Masterpiece premiered on PBS. Importing British drama from the UK to the US for fifty years, this program has been a hit with audiences for decades.

Masterpiece has been my Sunday night must see TV for quite a few years now. Most of their programming I find to be intelligent, entertaining, and perhaps a bit educational without realizing it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review