Tag Archives: PBS

Rita Moreno & Mental Health: A Revelation That Needs to be Heard

Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).

While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.

If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Flashback Friday: Secrets of the Dead (2000-Present)

When someone dies, it may appear that everything they knew was lost when they passed. But if we look closely enough, what they left behind speaks to us as much as the person themselves.

Secrets of the Dead has been on the PBS schedule since 2000. In this documentary series, each episode examines one person or moment in history using the known facts and the objects that stand in for the subject. Part scientific/archeological study and part true-life story, this program is ideal combination of educational and entertaining.

I find this series to be fascinating. It balances the history and the drama to present as much as a complete story as possible. Bringing these people and these worlds back to life, the audience is treated to a compelling drama and a time in history in which they may not have not had all of the facts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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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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Throwback Thursday: The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama

History is both fascinating and truthful, if we are willing to listen.

In 2013, The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama premiered on PBS. Hosted by British born historian Simon Schama, this mini-series talks about Jewish history from the ancient world to today.

I love this series. Schama obviously knows and loves this subject, but does not present it in a way that boring or academic. It is vibrant, alive, and relatable to our time. Regardless of faith or knowledge of the topic, the viewer (at least I did) will learn without realizing it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet Review

Romeo and Juliet is one of those plays that we all know. The convergence of young love, hate, and violence come together in a potent mix that has been irresistible to audiences for centuries.

Last night, Great Performances aired a new adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Starring Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley as our iconic lovers, the play is set on a sparsely decorated theater stage.

This production is fantastic. Emphasizing the narrative and the emotions of the characters, it is one of the best re-creations I have seen in a long time. It also, in my mind, proves that one does need to clothe the actors in Elizabethan era costumes or film somewhere in Europe that looks like 16th century Italy to be true to the text.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Romeo & Juliet can be watched on the Great Performances website.

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My Grandparent’s War Review

The past has much to teach us, if we are willing to listen.

The new four part miniseries, My Grandparent’s War premiered last night on PBS. This four part series follows four prominent British actors as they learn about what their grandparents went through during World War II. In the first episode, Helena Bonham Carter explores wartime experiences of her paternal grandmother Helen Violet Bonham Carter and her maternal grandfather Eduardo Propper de Callejón. The next three episodes tell the family histories of Mark Rylance, Carey Mulligan, and Kristin Scott Thomas.

I truly enjoyed the program. If nothing else, it was just a reminder that that more things change, the more they stay the same. The generation that lived through and survived World War II will soon be gone from this Earth. It is therefore, incumbent upon us to hear their stories in whatever form we can.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

My Grandparent’s War airs on Sunday night at 8PM on PBS.

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The Long Song Pilot Review

Historical fiction is more than just a story based on facts. It has the ability to make the modern person think about where we have come and where we are going.

The new three part miniseries, The Long Song (based on the novel of the same name by the late author Andrea Levy), premiered last night on PBS. July (Tamara Lawrance) was born a slave on the island of Jamaica in the 19th century. She is taken as a child from her mother to work as a personal maid for Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Atwell) and given the new name of Marguerite. Caroline is petty, selfish, and self-serving.

When the slaves start to revolt and talk of freedom, things start to change for both July and Caroline. That change is represented by the new overseer, Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden).

Like many Americans, I was only taught about slavery within the United States. But I was not entirely aware about slaves that were kept by Brits living and working in Jamaica. I enjoyed the first episode. Caroline is a character that is similar to Scarlett O’Hara (aka, you love to hate her), played to perfection by Atwell. Lawrance is brilliant as July, continually outwitting her mistress. The brief introduction of Robert Goodwin (Lowden) toward the end of the episode is just enough to stir the plot up further, making me at least want to watch the second and third episodes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Long Song airs on PBS on Sundays at 10PM.

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Miss Scarlet and the Duke Pilot Review

During the Victorian Era, women lived by a long list of rules.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, premiered last night. Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) was raised by her widower father, Henry (Kevin Doyle) in what was a unconventional manner for 1882 England. She believes that one day, she will take over the family business. But when he dies suddenly, and in debt, Eliza feels like she has no choice but to pick up where he left off.

But not everyone accepts the idea that Eliza can follow in her father’s footsteps. William Duke (Stuart Martin), her father’s protégé who is now a police detective is not sold on the idea. Following up on a promise he made to Henry years ago to protect Eliza, he tries to convince her to give up her detective work. But Eliza will not be swayed.

If I had to make a list today of the best new television shows of 2021, Miss Scarlet and the Duke would be near the top. Martin and Phillips have an undeniable Hepburn and Tracy like chemistry. I love how strong and single minded Eliza is, and how frustrating it is for William.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs on PBS Sunday nights at 8PM.

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All Creatures Great and Small Pilot Review

I don’t know about anyone else, but my first job out of college was eye opening.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by James Herriot, premiered last night.

In 1930’s Britain, James Herriot (played by newcomer Nicholas Ralph) is a young man with one dream: to be a veterinarian. All hope seems lost until he gets a letter from Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Farnon is a veterinarian living and working in rural Yorkshire. James accept the job as Farnon’s new assistant.

His first meeting with his new boss is an eye opening one. Farnon is well, eccentric, to say the least. James is young, eager, and just a little green. Though he is not without allies. Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is fully aware of her employer’s nature and encourages him to give James a shot. There is also Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), a local woman who works on her family’s farm and could possibly be a love interest.

This is not the first time these books have been adapted for television. They were previously adapted in the late 1970’s and late 1980’s. This is my first introduction to these characters as I had not seen the previous series or read the books. To be perfectly honest, I was not sure if I would enjoy the program. I am glad I was wrong. It is charming and a nice way to begin the week anew.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

All Creatures Great and Small air on PBS Sunday nights at 9PM.

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Elizabeth is Missing Review

Living with Alzheimer’s is not easy for both the person is who is suffering and their loved ones.

The TV movie, Elizabeth is Missing, premiered last night on PBS. Maude Horsham (Glenda Jackson) is a woman in her later years who has been diagnosed with with early onset Alzheimer’s. When her friend and neighbor, Elizabeth (Maggie Steed) disappears, Maud is convinced that something sinister has happened to her. While she doggedly tries to put the pieces together, everyone around her thinks that Maud has lost her marbles. There is also the question of what happened to Maude’s older sister, Sukey (Sophie Rundle), who went missing decades ago.

What I liked about this TV movie is that is that we see the world through Maud’s eyes. When it comes to narratives where one of the characters has Alzheimer’s, the perspective is usually on the family members, not the person who is living with the disease. As a viewer, it made me sympathetic to Maud because I saw and heard what she saw and heard.

The problem is, however, is that the drama is not as high stakes as it is made out to be. Granted, in terms of mystery dramas, it is low key. But I wish that there was just a little more meat on the narrative bones.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Elizabeth is Missing is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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