There are plenty o’ football games variety and specials to eyeball on this weekend of final holiday visitations, but there are also plenty of alternate viewing options, (aside from the obvious Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Scandal, etcetera) to take advantage of. For this is officially the Holiday Marathon Viewing Season.
I speak of the surfeit of Gold to Platinum-plus dramatic programming readily available to view upon a moment’s notice and with a bit of digital streaming know-how.
If you have a suggestion you’d like to pass on to the readers—do so in the comment section, and have a Happy New Year from all of us at The TVolution.
The Crown – (Netflix) Queen Elizabeth is, perhaps, the last royal personage anointed by god, who has led a life so cloaked, we can only imagine what must be going on behind the castle walls. Rumors and snippets of stories passed on from mothers and fathers to children and grandchildren begin to take on their own mythology until it becomes difficult to separate the fantasy from the truth of it.
Enter Netflix’s The Crown, which might, for many, seem to be a subject as intriguing as the boringly placid gaze the Queen’s perfected over the years; both in her official portraits and personal appearances. Nothing about The Crown, I acknowledge with pleasure, is either boring, or placid.
A rich romp through post World War II British history; the result of its purported $130 million cost is evident in every frame of every scene. Replete with political plottings, romantic mis-machinations, sibling rivalry and familial strife, the 10-part drama delivers on things we ‘plebs’ thought we knew, but mostly didn’t.
Adapting The Crown from his 2013 play, The Audience, screenwriter Peter Morgan maintained historical integrity through well researched historical events and the integration of first-hand personal accounts. Yes, there is a bit of dramatic license thrown in here and there, still he has kept to the truth of the events surrounding the 25-year-old Elizabeth (Claire Foy), just before and the years following the death of her father: King George VI (Jared Harris).
Here Morgan explains the overall arch of the continuing drama: “The Crown is not only about the royal family but about an empire in decline, a world in disarray and the dawn of a new era.”
Churchill is portrayed by John Lithgow, Prince Philip by Matt Smith.
Directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, 2000) The Crown will return next year. Until then, Season One makes perfect viewing for all things royal.
Stranger Things – (Netflix) — Relax and fallback to the 1980s; a time of childlike wonder when mysterious beings—perhaps inspired by Friday night viewings of Castle horror pictures—were conjured from the depths of young boys or girl’s imaginations. These otherworldly creatures were then plunked into the middle of ongoing terrifying tales for overnighters and weekend campouts.
This then is the springboard for Mat and Ross Duffer’s Stranger Things—a most surprising throwback hit of the summer—which will provide more than its fair share of wonderful, goosebump moments for all in the family.
The Duffers manage to pay tribute to filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and John Carpenter (among others) with their 8-part Sci-Fi/Fantasy Horror series. The trio of youngsters who jump-start the tale, look as if they were plucked right out of the 1980s, so perfect is the casting. This also applies to an outlying web of characters familial or emotionally intertwined within the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana: the central character of Millie Brown, who plays the mysterious Eleven, as well as Winona Ryder, David Harbour and Matthew Modine in pivotal roles.
A lover of this genre? Don’t hesitate: This a perfection of a streamer you will want to remain flowing from the initial Fade In to the final Fade Out.
Murdoch Mysteries – (Acorn TV presents a CBC Production) —This Canadian produced, 1890’s era crime drama, has been a TVolution favorite since the days when one had to wait season to season for the DVD to be available for the U.S. market.
Here’s how it was described in our initial report: “Based on Maureen Jennings’ bestselling detective novels, Murdoch Mysteries is a whole lot of fun; a turn-of-the-century forensics show with Montreal native Yannick Bisson (Sue Thomas F.B. Eye) starring as the attractive and curiously inventive detective William Murdoch,” “equal parts historical fact and plausible fantasy, episodes are structured around cases which inevitably employ some newfangled invention—developed by Murdoch—in the solving of the crimes.” (TVolution 2011)
Murdoch which boasted a 10-year run was reupped for another year which will be its 11th season. With it, a new character has been introduced. They are definitely doing something right.
Click HERE to read the rest of the original review and put this on your list for entertaining streaming. It can be found online at Acorn TV or streamed through the Acorn app on Amazon Prime.
Agatha Raisin – (Acorn TV) — In brief, the title character is a former public relations genius, who retires to the country in search of a more meaningful, well-spent life while she’s still young enough to relish it. She turns to sleuthing in order to clear her name, when she is accidentally implicated in a murder. Her neighbors are as eccentric and nosey as one would expect small town inhabitants to be in this fictionalized village. Chock full of jimmy-jammy merriment, Agatha Raisin (a terrific Ashley Jensen) is also full of the charm of the English Cotswolds, where it takes place. It was The TVolution’s fun TV-pick of the summer (read more HERE) and as it just premiered in the states this past June, there is only, to date, one season of eight episodes. Enough to bring in the New Year smiling.
Poldark – (PBS/Masterpiece Theatre) – Author Winston Graham’s first book in the Ross Poldark saga was published in 1945. When the original BBC series starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees premiered to great acclaim on PBS (1975 to ‘77) Graham’s pen remained inspired. He had a lot of story to tell and, hence, turned out many more chapters. There are 11 books in total; the last hit the streets in 2002.
The timing of the current PBS boot-up, with Aiden Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson in the primary roles of Ross Poldark and Demelza, is right-on-time for 18th Century period piece lovers. The Cornish country side is breathtakingly wondrous, with ocean breezes ever-rustling the glorious manes of our attractive hero and heroine even as they struggle and strive through threadbare times and the traitorous double-dealings of the envious George Warleggan (oily-played by Jack Farthing), Ross’s long-time nemesis.
Poldark is a first-class period romance drama guaranteed to tug at the strings of your heart; though, men will like it too, I dare say.
Black-ish (ABC / streaming on Hulu) Perhaps this setup sounds familiar: The Johnson’s are a typical family. They live in a comfortable house in an upper-class neighborhood. The dad is a successful ad executive with a beautiful wife and four lovely children who exhibit from time to time the behavior of most children who have everything and want for nothing. Thus dad, Andre Johnson, aka Dre, feels impelled to instill a sense of cultural identity and old fashioned virtues into his kids whether they understand the whys or wherefores of it.
Anthony Anderson makes me laugh. Tracee Ellis Ross makes me laugh. They are the parents: Andre and Rainbow Johnson. The Johnson kids make me laugh and Pops Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) makes me laugh too. With two and a half seasons worth of shows, get ready to ring-in the New Year in a feel good way with ‘black-ish.
Of Note: Since the sudden departure from his show on Comedy Central a few months back, Larry Wilmore has returned to ABC with the signing of a multi-part producing deal which will have him identifying up and comers for the network as well as producing other works and developing his own platform. A fitting home for the Wilmore who joined Black-ish series creator Kenya Barris and the rest of the production team as exec-producer and show-runner. He stayed on with the show as a consulting producer after his departure to begin The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. We look forward to what else he brings to the ABC template.
Galavant — (ABC / streaming on Hulu) This medieval musical parody being way under my radar, was brought front and center by TVolution contributor, Ernest Kearney. A bawdy parody with more than a few similarities to the PG-rated Princess Bride; except that Galavant is a musical. Only two seasons worth of material, but enough for a night of smiles, chuckles and a few guffaws. Aside from the theme song, which is quite catchy, the music probably won’t stick in your head, however, the lyrics are clever and the dance numbers cheerfully executed. Enjoy!
Grantchester – (PBS/Masterpiece Mystery) For a Sunny D-lightful who-dun-it, how and why, with a bit of illicit, romantic feelings thrown in for a dash of push-and-pull on the love strings, there’s Grantchester, adapted from a collection of short stories by author James Runcie.
James Norton is more than a pretty face when comparing this attractive turn as sensitive parish vicar Sidney Chambers, to his role as the psychotic Tommy Lee Royce in BBC One’s Happy Valley. Robson Green is Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, the somewhat hard-bitten constable who, although intrinsically opposite of Chambers in terms of their methodology, develops a partnership with Sidney that leads to an even closer friendship.
Week to week, whatever case the two clear off their dockets, leftover is always a core point of morality gleaned from the situation, which winds up in the vicar’s weekly sermon at the close of each episode.
They who sleuth together end up in harmony together, it would seem.
Downton Abbey – (PBS/Masterpiece Theatre) (available for streaming) Not much to say about what is sure to make any top 100 TV show list forever and ever ‘til the end of all time. This show is to the world of television what It’s A Wonderful Life is to Holiday movies, which made it a must for this New Year’s Watch List. Downton Abbey has it all: love, hate, jealousy, happy times and suspenseful intrigue wrapped up in cultural traditions, compelling relationships, world affairs and family battles.
Upstairs or Downstairs there is someone for everyone in the family to either love or hate. Perfect for a weekend of nonstop viewing for, in the words of Cora, no matter how bad it gets, things always “look better in the morning.”
These selections are either available On Demand or for streaming with one of the many online vendors. A few are for all ages in the family while others are for more mature members; check the guidelines of each and be sure to check out New Year’s Watch List, Part II: The Darker Side.