Tom Jones Review

When a writer is looking for inspiration, they often look to works from the past. The issue is that some of these stories may contain characters or narratives that are archaic, outdated, or just plain offensive.

The new 4 part Masterpiece/PBS miniseries, Tom Jones, is based on the 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, by Henry Fielding. The title character, Tom Jones (Solly McLeod) was found as a newborn by Squire Allworthy (James Fleet). A widower without children, he raises Tom as if they were flesh and blood.

When we meet Tom at the age of twenty, he is like most of us at that age. He wants to do the right thing, but his efforts don’t always go as planned. He is also not anti-social when it comes to the opposite sex.

Nearby, Sophia Western (Sophie Wilde) is an heiress and the bi-racial granddaughter of a local landowner, Squire Western (Alun Armstrong). She is expected to walk in the footsteps of previous generations of women and “marry well”.

Their childhood friendship turns into adult affection and love. But he is considered unworthy of her. The only way to reach their happy ending is to fight for it.

I have to admit that I have never read the original text. This review is solely based on the television adaptation.

I enjoyed the first episode. The tale is compelling and the characters are fully drawn. I like that Sophia was reimagined as bi-racial. It highlights the issues that are still not fully dealt with. It also creates a bond between our young lovers while adding layers of conflict. Both are key to keeping the audience engaged and hanging on until the (hopeful) happy ending.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Tom Jones airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9pm.

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Some Things Never Change: How Saba Kept Singing Review & Justice for Joey Borgen

As much as things change, they stay the same.

In honor of Yom HaShoah earlier this week, PBS aired the documentary How Saba Kept Singing. The film followed David Wisnia, the late Cantor and Holocaust survivor.

Originally from Poland, David was the only member of his immediate family to see the end of the war. The only reason he walked out of Auschwitz was his singing. The audience travels with David and his grandson Avi as he talks about his past and visits the place in which he nearly died.

I loved it. I was in tears by the end. This was a man who had every reason to be angry and bitter. But he found the light and a reason to live. It is a message that anyone can relate to.

Back in 2021, Joey Borgen was attacked in broad daylight in New York City. His crime was being visibly Jewish and attending a pro-Israel rally.

His attacker (who shall remain nameless on this blog) was given a slap on the wrist: six months in jail and five years probation. Alvin Bragg‘s office claims that they did a thorough investigation. If they did, these men would have been charged with a hate crime and given a significant jail sentence.

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The message is loud and clear: anyone who verbally or physically assaults a Jewish person in NYC will not be treated as the criminal they are. They will be told they were naughty and nothing more.

That is not the city I know and love. Shame on you, Alvin Bragg. You know better. You could have done better, but you chose not to.

Remember This Review

Groupthink is defined as the follows:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.

In Europe during World War II, while many went along with the antisemitic lies that led to the deaths of 6 million of my co-religionists, a brave few did everything they could have to save lives. Among them was Jan Karski. His story is told in the PBS/Great Performances program Remember This.

Playing Karski is David Strathairn in a one-man performance. He starts with the character’s early years, goes though the life-changing and heartbreaking experience during the war, and finally ends with his later years in America.

Stratharin gives a powerhouse performance. It took my breath away and reminded me that even when the masses speak hate, there are still a few who are not afraid to speak truth to power.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Remember This is available for streaming on the PBS app.

P.S. The #StandUpToJewishHate campaign (led by New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft) is unfortunately timely and necessary. My prayer is that it does some good before it is too late.

Flashback Friday: Victoria & Albert: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A wedding is something to celebrate. A royal wedding takes that concept and explodes it tenfold.

The 2018 PBS TV movie Victoria & Albert: The Royal Wedding told the story of the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from the inside out. Hosted and narrated by Lucy Worsley, the viewer is given a micro view of the often unseen and underappreciated details that made the day what it was.

I find this topic fascinating. Though outwardly, it is straight out of a fairy tale, there is obviously much more than the happily ever after. The number of moving parts that could have ground everything to a halt is a topic that deserves the spotlight.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Best New Television Shows of 2022

  1. Obi-Wan Kenobi: The DisneyPlus series answers the question of what happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in between the events of Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977). My favorite part of the series was the introduction of Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram).
  2. Anatomy of a Scandal: Based on the Sarah Vaughan book of the same name, this Netflix miniseries follows the investigation of a politician accused of rape.
  3. The US and the Holocaust: This Ken Burns multi-part PBS documentary exposes how the United States failed to help the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
  4. Ridley Road: This PBS/Masterpiece program is based on the book of the same name by Jo Bloom. It tells the story of a young woman of Jewish descent in the 1960s who goes undercover to stop a Neo-Nazi group from destroying the UK.
  5. Gaslit: Julia Roberts plays Martha Mitchell in this Starz production that tells the tale of Watergate from Martha’s perspective.
  6. Dangerous Liaisons: A sort of prelude Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it started off a bit slow and took a few episodes to get interesting. Unfortunately, Starz canceled it at the end of the first season.
  7. The Serpent Queen: Samantha Morton plays the title character in this Starz series about Catherine de Medici. Wow, that is all I have to say.
  8. Women of the Movement: This ABC/Hulu miniseries told of the murder of Emmett Till and his mother Mamie’s journey to get justice for her son.
  9. Ms. Marvel: A young woman goes from an ordinary teenager to a superhero who saves the world.
  10. Andor: The prequel to Rogue One, the series explains how Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) became the rebel leader who led the fight against the Empire.
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This will be my last post for 2022. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for taking time out of your day to read this humble writer’s work. I’ll see you in 2023.

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Sanditon Character Review: Tom and Mary Parker

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last week. I had other writing priorities that came first.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

The best relationships, whether they be personal, romantic, or professional, are ones in which one person balances out the other. In the  PBS/Masterpiece television series, Sanditon (based on the unfinished Jane Austen novel of the same) the narrative is kicked off when the carriage carrying Tom and Mary Parker (Kris Marshall and Kate Ashfield) crashes. Briefly taken in by the Heywood family, the offer to give the eldest daughter, Charlotte (Rose Williams), an opportunity to spend time with them in Sanditon.

Tom is the dreamer. Mary is a pragmatist. His dream is to turn this small seaside town into a fashionable and popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, his financial means are limited and he is not exactly a details kind of guy. The money comes from Lady Denham (Anne Reid). The nitty-gritty of the business comes from his brother Sidney (Theo James). Sidney also happens to be Charlotte’s first love.

Mary does more than take care of their children and maintain their home. She has the ability to bring her husband back to reality when necessary. When it becomes obvious that their carriage is in need of imminent repair, it is Mary who speaks the truth. Her husband would prefer to believe that everything is fine. That does not mean, however, that she does not lose her cool when Tom goes too far. When she finds out that he bought her a necklace when they are in debt, she is furious (as she should be).

To sum it up: In an era in which marriages were often a business arrangement, this is a love match. What Mary lacks, Tom has, and visa versa. It is this balance that allows their relationship to flourish and prove that love matches are possible.

Which is why they are memorable characters.

Sanditon Character Review: Charlotte Heywood

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Growth does not come from taking the easy way out. It comes from walking on an unseen path, not knowing what lies ahead. The heroine of the PBS/Masterpiece television series, Sanditon (based on the unfinished Jane Austen novel of the same) is Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams). Born to a rural farming family, her world opens tenfold when Tom and Mary Parker‘s (Kris Marshall and Kate Ashfield) carriage crashes.

Grateful for their brief respite, the Parkers offer Charlotte to stay with them for a short time in Sanditon, a growing seaside community. Among those who she meets are Tom’s younger brother, Sidney (Theo James), and Miss Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke). Sidney is a realist while Tom has his head in the clouds. Georgiana is a biracial heiress and is much as an outsider as Charlotte is.

Charlotte is also eager to spread her wings and not find love (at least not yet). She is eager to expand her mind and takes it upon herself to get involved with Tom’s business ventures.

Like many couples, Charlotte and Sidney’s relationship does not start off well. There are misunderstandings and miscommunication. But that eventually turns into mutual attraction, which turns into love. But there is no happy ending for Charlotte and Sidney. To save the family business, he must marry his widowed and wealthy ex. He then dies soon after, leaving her heartbroken.

After spending time at home recovering from her loss, Charlotte returns to Sanditon. Joining her is her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham). Alison is in the same emotional place that her sister was previously. Determined not to marry, Charlotte accepts a position as the governess for Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). She also meets Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones). As with an Austen-ian love interest, there is a question of who is telling the truth and who is a good liar.

To sum it up: Through friendship, falling in love, and heartbreak, Charlotte starts to mature. Even when she is down in the dumps, she finds the strength to move forward and find happiness/purpose. Considering the time and place that she lives in, this is both refreshing and modern. The way I look it at is that if she can pick herself up and move on, then so can the rest of us.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

Lucy Worsley Investigates Review

History is more than a dry set of facts in a book. It is a lesson from previous generations and can be a mystery with clues that are yet to be revealed.

The four-part PBS series, Lucy Worsley Investigates, takes a second look at some of the most dramatic and well-known events in British history. Using first-hand sources from the era and speaking to historians, she takes a deep dive to understand what is a myth and what is a fact.

I enjoyed this program. With her usual intelligence and easy-to-follow narrative, Worsley takes viewers into the nitty-gritty of the subject. With a detective’s nose for the details, she uses a modern perspective to understand why it happened and what we can perhaps learn from it so it is not repeated.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Lucy Worsley Investigates can be viewed on the PBS app or the PBS website.

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The US and the Holocaust Review

There is a famous quote about history. As cliche as it sounds, it is the truth

If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The new PBS three-part documentary series, The US and the Holocaust premiered this past weekend. Co-created and co-directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, actor Peter Coyote narrates the story of the near destruction of European Jewry from 1939 to 1945.

Within the film, there are interviews with historians, survivors, and readings from respected actors such as Meryl Steep, Paul Giamatti, and Liam Neeson. It does more than share what the events in our history books have already told us. It takes the viewer back in time to show what led the Shoah and repeats what most of us (hopefully) know. Though it’s been nearly a century since World War II, it is clear to me that we have not learned from the experiences of that generation.

The thing that hit me immediately is that there are far too many parallels to what is happening now both in the United States and around the world. Xenophobia and hatred have once again become the norm. We have a former President who has authoritarian tendencies, refuses to accept the results of the previous Presidential election, and has convinced many that he is the victim.

What made me angry was the spoken and unspoken complicity of a majority of Americans at the time. Though this country is supposed to be the land of immigrants and freedom. Instead, it became a land of isolation and hypocrisy. That hypocrisy was clear in the first episode when the connection was made between the Nazi’s racial laws and Jim Crow.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say that it is required viewing for every American.

The first two episodes are available for streaming on the PBS website. The third will air tomorrow night at 8PM.

P.S. After I watch or read anything about the Holocaust, I can’t help but think of what the victims or the descendants might have given to the world. The late performer Olivia Newton-John was Jewish on her mother’s side. Her maternal grandparents got out while it was still possible to do so. If they hadn’t, it is very likely that she would have never been born and therefore, not entertained multiple generations of audiences.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Helen Alderson

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

There are two ways to get through life: complain endlessly or just get through it. Though complaining has its place, it takes much less time and energy to just deal with the cards that life has dealt you.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name), Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) comes from a long line of Yorkshire farmers. Since the death of her mother, Helen has both taken the duties of farming and being the surrogate mother to her much younger sister Jenny (Imogene Clawson). Born and raised in this world, she is practical, intelligent, and just does what needs to be done. She is more than capable of getting behind the wheel of a tractor or rangling an unruly animal.

That does not mean that Helen is a tomboy who despises wearing dresses and putting on makeup. When the occasion arises, she is just as comfortable in a dress and heels as she is in overalls.

She is also the object of affection for two different men. When we originally meet Helen, she has been with Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis) for quite a few years. They have grown up together. The next natural step in their relationship is the ringing of wedding bells. Hugh comes from a wealthy family and would be able to provide for Helen and her family.

But there is someone else waiting in the wings. James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) is a newcomer to the area. He nearly instantly develops a crush on Helen and is devastated that she is spoken for. Though he respects the fact that she is in a relationship, James never wavers in his love for Helen. Eventually, Helen and Hugh go their separate ways. It takes some time, but James does eventually propose. She accepts and all appears well for their future.

But neither knows that World War II is waiting in the wings, threatening to turn their world upside down.

To sum it up: Though Helen is the romantic lead, she is not defined by the two men who want to be with her. She is her own woman who can clearly take care of herself and her family. It is that levelheadedness that allows modern women to relate to her but still keeps her grounded in the period that she lives in.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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