Great women do not become great overnight. It takes years or even decades to be worthy of the title of greatness.
On Friday, Great Performances aired Gloria, A Life. Starring Christine Lahti, the play tells the life story of legendary second wave feminist Gloria Steinem. Via a small cast made up entirely of female performers, the audience is introduced to the real woman behind the icon.
I’m thrilled that this show was filmed for television. I didn’t see the play while it was open, though looking back, I wish I had. I loved it. It was educating, enthralling, and entertaining. If nothing else, the play is a reminder that the issue of women’s right is just a prevalent today as it was fifty years ago.
I absolutely recommend it.
Gloria, A Life can be streamed on the Great Performances website.
No one is without a past, for better or for worse. Ideally, we should be able to learn from the past and watch it disappear in the rearview mirror. But that is not always the case.
Beecham House premiered last night on PBS. This six-part miniseries takes place in India at the end of the 18th century. The viewer is introduced to John Beecham (Tom Bateman). A former employee of the British East India Company, John is eager to move on from his troubled past. But that is easier said than done.
I really enjoyed the first episode. As the lead character, John is compelling, complicated, and human. Filmed on location in India, the setting adds a level of reality that is often not seen in dramas set in this period. It could have been conceived as a technicolor, fairytale-ish land that can only come out of a dream. Authentically re-creating India as it was in the late 18th century helps to draw the viewer in further to the narrative and the characters.
The Windmere Children, a television movie, takes place just after World War II. Britain has taken in 1000 child survivors of the Holocaust. 300 of these children are taken to an estate in England to recover. They are traumatized, both physically and emotionally. They are also most likely the only survivors from their families. It is up to the adults around them to help them become children again. Played by Romola Garai, Iain Glenn, and Thomas Kretschmann, the therapists and teachers are doing everything they can to help their charges begin to heal.
World on Fire is a miniseries that tells the story of ordinary people whose lives are turned upside down by the war. Starring Helen Hunt, Jonah Hauer-King, and Sean Bean, this miniseries follows a group of individuals from various countries as they face the dangerous realities of war. Hauer-King’s character is a young man from Britain in love with two women. Hunt plays an American journalist trying to do her job in Europe as the shadow of war grows ever closer. Bean’s character is a working-class father doing the best he can to take care of his children.
I loved both. The Windemere Children is both heartbreaking and uplifting. World on Fire stands out because it tells the stories of ordinary people who must do extraordinary things to survive.
Earlier in the week, PBS aired an episode of Secrets of the Dead that focused on the fact that though the Allies knew about the death camp and were urged to bomb it, they chose not to.
What makes me angry is that the purpose of this war was to fight for democracy and human rights. And yet, when the Allies had an opportunity to make a statement about the very thing that they were fighting for, they chose not to.
I can’t help but think of the time, energy, resources, and the lives that were wasted in the Holocaust. We will never know what the victims and their forebears might have given to the world. We will also never know what those who worked in the camps might have done with their lives if they had not given into the hate and believed the lies of the Nazis.
We talk about “Never Again” and how we will never let a specific people be ostracized, traumatized and murdered. And yet, in our modern world, with all of the hate that has started to once more consume us, the message feels as important as ever.
May the memories of those who were killed within Auschwitz be a blessing and a reminder of how inhuman we can be to our fellow humans.
Discovering previously unknown parts of one’s family tree is akin to being a detective.
Finding Your Roots premiered on PBS in 2012. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., each episodes focuses on two or three well-known personalities as they learn about their family trees. The cumulative research of genealogists, historians and genetics experts is then compiled into a book of life. As the subject of each episode follows along, Mr. Gates either reveals their family history or answers questions to long-held family secrets.
Genealogy is a fascinating subject, at least from my perspective. It’s more than knowing where your ancestors came from. It’s about connecting the past to the present and revealing that the human experience is a universal one.
Period pieces, especially BPD’s (British Period Pieces) are known pretty formulaic. As much as I enjoy a good BPD, it’s nice to watch one that steps out of the box.
On Sunday, the first episode of the three-part miniseries, The Miniaturist (based on the book of the same name by Jessie Burton), premiered on PBS.
Petronella Brandt or Nella as she is known (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a young woman who has just married Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), a mysterious older man who earns his living in trade. Her treats her well, but keeps her at an emotional arms length. His unmarried and religious sister, Marin (Romola Garai) rules the household. Nella’s wedding present is a dollhouse that looks too much like the real thing. Somehow, the dollhouse is telling Nella the truth about her new life and the people in it, but what message is being sent and by whom?
I loved the first episode. It was tense, suspenseful and pulled me in immediately. If I had a time machine to move ahead to this coming Sunday, I would. But I don’t, so I have to wait.
I absolutely recommend it.
Episodes 2 and 3 of the The Miniaturist air on Sunday, September 16th and Sunday September 23rd at 9pm on PBS. The first episode is available online on the PBS website for a limited time.
Queen Victoria has the rare distinction of being one of the few female rulers in human history. Last year, the television series Victoria (based on the book of the same name by Daisy Goodwin, who is also the series’ show runner ) hit our small screens.
Last night, the second series of Victoria premiered on PBS. The second series starts a month after the first series ended. Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) is a new mother and has been on resting since giving birth. Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) has stepped into his wife’s shoes while she recovers from bringing their daughter into the world. But Victoria is eager to get back to work and like many mothers, has to find the life/work balance that is sometimes akin to walking on a tightrope. While Victoria is trying to balance family life, her marriage and her job, Albert is trying to find his own identity outside of his marriage.
I really enjoyed last night’s episode. Not just because creator and writer Daisy Goodwin brings these real life people into our modern lives, but also because Victoria and Albert’s marriage seems so ordinary, despite their extraordinary status in society. Like any married couple, they love each other, but they disagree quite fiercely. I also very much appreciated that Victoria’s dilemma is quite modern. She is working in a man’s world, but at the same time, she is a wife and a new mother. Any woman trying to maintain the same delicate balance will tell you that it is not easy.
This documentary is the unedited and unflinching newsreels recorded by the Allies as they liberated Europe from Nazi control and were confronted by the horrors of the Holocaust.
Even for someone who is well versed in the Holocaust, I found myself torn. I needed to watch, but I had to look away at moments.
Man’s inhumanity to their fellow man was obvious to all.
This program is not for the faint of heart and not for young eyes. But it is very necessary to watch. If we are to say never again and back those words up with actions, we must remember those who were were murdered. One of the quotes that has come up very recently with this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (which is tomorrow) is that is if we do not back up our words with actions, it is as if the victims were killed twice.
My heart is breaking tonight and it will break tomorrow. When I wake up, I will say never again and I will continue to say never again (and back up those words with action), until we do not have to say never again anymore.
PBS has become a staple of my Sunday night television viewing, thanks to Downton Abbey.
But with the American premiere of Downton Abbey several months away, PBS still keeps rolling out great programming to keep their audience entertained until January.
Tonight, PBS aired the first episode of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. This multi part miniseries follows the lives of former Theodore Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband, former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Using a single narrative as the structure of the documentary, Ken Burns and his team start with the birth of Theodore in the 1850’s and will end with the death of Eleanor in the 1960’s.
It is more than a stiff and predictable documentary. Using pictures, archival footage, newspaper accounts of the day and personal letters and diaries, these three giants of American history are brought back to life. Another stroke of genius was to use notable actors to record the personal writing of the three subjects. Paul Giamatti is the voice of Theodore, Meryl Streep is the voice of Eleanor and Edward Hermann is the voice of Franklin.
I was so enthralled that I thought it was a fictional Shakespearean drama, not a real life story of one of the greatest political families that this country has ever seen. I highly recommend it and I am looking forward to the next chapter tomorrow night.