Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Television series”

Hysterical Drama: Victoria


Settling into a corset series, one of those lavish PBS costume dramas based on a historical figure or event, has been a go to strategy for dreary winter evenings, long before stay home/stay safe became a mainstay.

The truth is in the telling

Watching people come to life in all their period finery, re-enacting events that shaped history is both enlightening and entertaining. Although show runners tend to lean more towards the entertaining, rather than the enlightenment aspect when presenting their slice of history.

Victoria, now in its third season, is quite guilty of drifting towards a soap opera since its attention to accurately portraying events leans more towards hysteria than historical.

Major considerations:

Victoria constantly refers to her miserable childhood at Kensington, especially being an only child. While it’s true life at Kensington was abominable in many ways, Victoria was not an only child, a lament she emphasizes. In actuality she had the company of her much older half-sister Feodora until she was eight years old and they had a close relationship through correspondence, although actual visits to London were rare. The scheming frenemy relationship portrayed is all for show.

Skerretelli: ah, the romance of the head cook and the queen’s dresser is so endearing, so captivating—so untrue. Charles Francatelli never married the Queen’s Head Dresser. Nancy, whose real name was Marianne Skerrett, served the queen for twenty-five years (and was 44 years old when she came to the palace to serve the 18 year old monarch). She spoke several languages, came from a well-connected family, and had considerable responsibilities. Francatelli did not work long at the palace, and there is no record of he and Skerrett being together. Skerrett was married to her job. So much for that romance.

Another false romance is that of Ernest and Harriet. In real life, Ernest was married at that time, and so was Harriett, plus, she was twelve years older than him. Oh, she eventually had eleven children, while Ernest did not have any with his wife. He did have that problem referred to throughout the episodes—thanks to his dear Papa who introduced him to brothels. Albert declined, of course that initiation.

Albert’s parentage remains a historical titillation since Leopold happened to be visiting when Albert’s mother conceived. Even historians tend towards questionable conclusions.

And yes, there were several assassination attempts on Victoria.

As for Lord M…much ado about nothing. Lord Melbourne did indeed have a huge influence as her prime minister, yet he acted as a mentor for the young queen, advising and guiding her first years as a monarch. He was more of a father figure, although it might be conceivable Victoria had a crush on Lord M, although being 40 years older creates doubt.

Other points of detouring from fact include the Duchess of Bucceouth being in her spritely 30s instead of the curmudgeonly older woman Diana Riggs brought to the role.

The duchess and the footman romance is loosely based on Caroline Norton’s sad experience (accused of adultery with Lord M), and being denied access to her children. She was able to change the law so women had more rights—now that would make for an excellent episode. Instead we get trysts and time outs.

Although Queen Victoria is not one of my British monarch faves, costume dramas, BBC style, are so colorful and elaborate, such a visual feast, such an escape, especially in winter when evenings start at 4 pm.

I do wonder why the writers feel the necessity to tinker with the historical truths. Actual events were plentiful and interesting enough in their own without elaboration or bending.

So, an open request to BBC showrunners: Really, we can handle history as it happened. If we want dramatized history we can turn to Shakespeare.

That reminds me—maybe it’s time to revisit The Hollow Crown since I’ve gone through All Creatures Great and Small, Sanditon, Wolf Hall, and even a revisit of Dr Who’s second season.

What series gets you through winter evenings?

All Creatures Redeux


As a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, both the books and the original television series, I have mixed feelings about the recently released update to Herriot’s classic.

New faces for an old favorite

On one hand, I’m thrilled to see an updated version since the old version’s filming style was not very creative, just basic camera angles and editing.

Then again, an update might focus too much on making the series “pretty” through extra scenery shots which takes away from how the books focused on the dynamics of the people, as well as the wonderful animals.

On one hand, I look forward to seeing new faces in old roles.

Then again, how can anyone expect to replace the absolutely marvelous cast led by Robert Hardy?

So—last night I tuned in my PBS Passport (best ever Christmas present to myself) and watched the first two episodes of the first season.

Verdict:

It is a pretty update, with its sweeping shots of Yorkshire, and there is plenty attention on building dynamics within the cast. We’ll make that a positive.

As for the cast itself. Samuel West brings credit to the inexplicably frustrating, insufferable, yet charming Siegfried Farnon. The other cast members are unknowns, and hold their own. I am puzzled by Mrs. Hall, the housekeeper. I remember her being much older in the books, and in this update she appears to be Siegfried’s age, and their inevitable clashes come off more as married couple bantering than the respected nemesis that the original Mrs. Hall appeared to be. This is a marring point, because Mrs. Hall apparently has a wayward son by the name of Edward, but she doesn’t appear old enough to have a son able to be out and about living independently. Sadly, this is a sticking point for me. Mrs. Hall wasn’t that prominent of a character, yet here she is quite entrenched in the household.

Overall verdict:

To be fair, I will have to put aside my strong allegiance to the old series and view this new series on its own merits.

What are your thoughts on the updated All Creatures Great and Small?

Movie Musings: The Librarian


Someone finally got it right: they created a movie that showed how librarians are more than capable of saving the world from evil doers. I discovered these movies long after they had first been released, but enjoyed them nonetheless.

Noah Wyle from ER fame, established himself in that long running role (11seasons!) as the likable character who was a bit different from others due to background and interests, and sets the tone by choosing what is beneficial for others. This appeal transferred well into the Librarian series.

In the initial movie, Quest for the Spear (2004), Flynn Carsten is a poster boy for failure to launch. He has 22 degrees, lives with his mother, doesn’t have a job or any relationships going (never has, and doubtfully ever will), and would rather spend time with his books because they “speak to him.” His professor signs him off, telling him to go live in the real world. Flynn looks for a job, but then a job finds him. Sent a personal invitation to apply as The Librarian (notice the emphasis), Flynn joins the que of perhaps a hundred applicants.

Thumbnail: he gets the job, he discovers his penchant for all the knowledge that he amassed comes in handy, and that the most important knowledge is not what is in the head, but is found in the heart (great mom advice).

While the movie’s initial production quality is a bit thin, it does have a campiness that is fun. There is a combination of all those jungle adventure movies, mixed in with some Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and James Bond. Sometimes there is a hint of Doctor Who, as Flynn gains experience and status as the “fixer” of what is strange and how it affects the world. Fairly clean family entertainment, except for hinted love scenes, and tame fighting sequences.

A total of three movies plus a TV series meant The Librarian has a fan base of reckoning. Noah Wyle’s character grew in each movie and TV episode until he became a legend in his own time.

His Librarian skills transferred well to Falling Skies, a Steven Spielberg TV series about life after aliens have invaded the planet.

If you haven’t seen The Librarian and are looking for some easy going entertainment, check out the movies. If wanting a more developed, continuing sequenced plot look into the series.

Quest for the Spear” (2004), “Return to King Solomon’s Mine“ (2006), and “Curse of the Judas Chalice“ (2008).Nov 12, 2009

Movie Musings: The Crown


Oh, those royals. They are always in the news. From wedding bliss to adorable Charlotte pics they somehow beguile us. At least they beguile me.

Maybe my interest, bordering on fascination, with the royals stems from my Bardinator status, that compelling need to embrace the world of Shakespeare. Part of Shakespeare’s world is Queen Elizabeth I. Without Good Queen Bess’s nod of approval to Shakespeare’s acting troupe, the world might not have been influenced by his wordsmithing.

Becoming smitten with QEI wasn’t difficult-wow, whatta monarch. Patron of the arts, survivor of parental malpractice, as well as sibling rivalry to a dangerous maximum, she led troops against the Spanish Armada, turned down marriage for the good of her country, and ruled the most powerful country at a time when women were considered property. And yes, I have watched the adaptations of her life. My pick is Helen Mirren.

I also pick Helen for her portrayal of the current Elizabeth. It’s always been risky to present suppositions of living persons, especially ones as iconic as Britain’s current monarch: Elizabeth II. Yet, Mirren’s portrayal provided sensitivity and respect which is credit to her abilities as an actress.

This is why it was with difficulty I finally succumbed to watching The Crown. First of all, Buckingham palace isn’t known for leaking royal tidbits, so I sensed there would be much embellishment about presenting the private moments of Elizabeth as she began her long and unexpected reign.

My verdict? Stunning production. Five stars for the lavish attention to details to create impressive time period background. Four stars for acting in totality. Matt Smith stepping from Doctor Who into Prince Philip barely toned down his man-child persona and comes across as a sulking bad boy. Claire Foy, an unknown to me, interprets her role as the young queen being perpetually surprised, or that’s what her subdued reaction to the antics of husband, sister, and world events registers as: a demure deer caught in the headlights. Then again, she doesn’t have much to go on. It must be awkward to represent someone so well-known but so unknowable.

In rating the storyline, the first season drops down to a two out of five stars. So much drama. Too much in the way of soap opera hysterics. Clandestine love affairs, political intrigue, marriage trauma–it became mundane watching the script try to spice up gathered intel on the Windsors. I felt like I was watching a lavish gossip magazine story: all glitter, without substance.

As much as there is not like about season one, I am queuing for my turn for the library’s copy of season two. I am still wondering why. Then again, there is something about those royals.

Are any of you royal watchers?

The Doctor Is In…Kind Of



Image: http://www.comicbook.com

Having discovered Dr Who rather just lately, I’m finding myself binge watching to get caught up. It’s difficult to catch up to a television series that has been around since the sixties. It’s cutting into my book reading, that’s for sure.

What I’m not going to do is a great big discussion on “Whoism,” there is much dedication to Doctor Who, and I am not qualified (actually I’m a bit terrified of offending the fan base).

What I am concerned with is my unmitigated preference for the former doctors. I’m not in the least interested in the new doctor–at all.

Why?

He has transgenerated into a woman doctor. The doctor now ponging about the universe is a she instead of a he, and that really bothers me. The issue is not with the new doctor, Jodie Whitaker–don’t know of her at all. I’m more bothered that I’m bothered.

Let’s make something very clear. I applaud capable heroes. Big fan of Captain America. Mostly I like James Bond. Angie’s Lara Croft set a standard. JLaw’s Katniss is so empowering and endearing. And I absolutely cheer the new Wonder Woman.

Notice there really isn’t a pattern. Men and women heroes dashing about saving people, because that’s what they do.

And that’s what I like about The Doctor. It’s been set up since the show started that this peculiar (some Doctors being more peculiar than others) alien preferring human form, is running away from his home planet responsibilities getting in predicaments, getting out of them, saving the universe, saving people. Because that’s what he does. It worked in the prior series. It works very well in the reboot. David Tennant and Peter Capaldi bring a new dimension to Doctoring–smart scripts and dazzling production are mentioned here.

The Doctor is a pattern: idiosyncratic intelligent alien with human characteristics–a guy ranging in age anywhere from 30ish to 60ish. A guy. Oh yeah, he has a sidekick known as a “companion.” These have been mostly women, a couple of times a guy has helped drive the Tardis.

It’s not a gender thing. Really it’s not. I think it’s a pattern thing. I’m used to a Doctor pattern and they changed it up. However, I relished how the Master became a Mistress. Missy brought some dazzle to the frenemy role. Just leave the Doctor as is, thank you.

Think about it. Would it be okay, acceptable, if suddenly James became Jane? “Bond. Jane Bond.” I wouldn’t care for that at all. I am okay with the all female Oceans 11. Nice switch out. Not okay with the change up that’s happened with The Doctor.  So I am running through some self-diagnosis about my Doctor preference..

Am I gender-biased? A traditionalist? Close-minded? Maybe I just know what I like. Okay, I can handle being picky. It’s quirky that I abhor cucumbers yet adore pickles–baby dills, thank you. So, I rally towards male Doctor Whos and instead utter “really?” towards the female Doctor Whos. I didn’t care for Jenna Coleman’s stint as Clara being a Doctor for the nano second she had the part and I think Clara quite capable. I imagine she could parallel park the Tardis when needed. Nope. The Doctor Who I need to save my planet from Daleks and company is an idiosyncratic guy, particularly with a Scottish accent.

Am I alone in my Doctor dilemma? Anyone else in a quandary?

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