Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Catherine Drea

As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star

 

TV has seeped into my brain.

I’m now counting out different parts of last year in Netflix events. “O yes! Schitt’s Creek, that got me through the first lockdown!” I’m responding to a friend who is looking for recommendations. “Or how about Grace and Frankie? Loads of episodes, I watched that going into the second lockdown?”

Consuming media, podcasts, Twitter and of course TV, has never been more important in my life. As it’s been raining now for three days I notice a lot of people are again asking for ideas of what to watch. Being a bit quirky in my taste, I’m going to share some of my own favourites that you might not come across in the mainstream. Listen, it’s my new expertise!

Before that though, and at the top of the popular list would have to be the absolutely superb Succession. (It’s on HBO and I don’t subscribe to that but I’ve discovered that you can sign up for a month to Now TV and watch everything good on these things and then sign off again). Also on HBO is Big Little Lies. Must say that was very entertaining, full of drama and cliffhangers.

 

‘The usual suite of Italian actors are now older, brilliant and even more crotchety. As Joe Pasci would say, “It’s what it is!”‘

 

Hugely popular and brilliantly entertaining were Bridgerton, The Crown, After Life, The Kominsky Method, The Queen’s Gambit (all on Netflix) and every series of the Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu).

But you probably knew all that! So how about going off the beaten track a little bit? If you are to enjoy the best of everything that’s available you have to be able to handle a few subtitles. So let’s start with foreign language telly.

My absolute favourite of all was actually a French language series about a film industry talent agency; Call my Agent. I could rabbit on about this for ages, suffice to say if you like funny dramas, full of characters and bonkers plots, this is for you. Plenty of memorable passionate French swearing and starring roles for famous French actors happy to send themselves up in hilarious ways. There are loads of episodes, each one a little gem. The new series starts now.

How about an Italian language series called My Brilliant Friend? (HBO). Based on a series of novels and set in 1950s Naples. I loved this for the mystery at the heart of it, the beauty of Italy and the exploration of young women’s lives as they grow up in those darker times.

Maybe our native language is a bit of a foreign language to you? Don’t let that put you off exploring TG4! Like a lot of people I have become a bit more interested in the original creative programming made by TG4. I’m not an Irish speaker but believe me, we all know much more Irish than we think and anyway a lot of TG4 is a mix of Irish and English.

TG4 obviously is a low budget operation but what they lack in funding they make up in imagination. In particular their documentaries are very engaging.

Samhlú is wonderful. It’s a series of documentaries about creative people thriving in the pandemic. Or if you are in a more in depth documentary mood, go to their player and seek out programmes about Dr. Andrew Rynne, Martin McGuinness, Liam O’Flynn; there are loads. TG4 also offers loads of music and US boxsets like Fargo and Orange is the New Black.

In the movie department, the Irishman is very much about men of a certain era, but Martin Scorsese can’t go wrong in my book. Perhaps one of the main attractions of watching this is wondering why is Martin Scorsese so obsessed with the Mafia? The usual suite of Italian actors are now older, brilliant and even more crotchety. As Joe Pasci would say, “It’s what it is!”

So now for a few wild cards. Constantly on repeat and now showing on RTE2 is Rick Stein’s Hidden France. You can watch it back if you haven’t seen it. Has French cooking lost its edge? Can you still find fabulous little bars in out of the way villages? Has France been ruined by tourism and too many cars? Can Rick reassure us that all is well?

Now this one is not for the faint hearted. Fran Lebowitz is a New York writer and all round “character.” I googled her only to find that she has had writer’s block since 1968. Anyway they made a documentary series which is her talking about everything that drives her mad about living in NYC and anything else you would care to mention. It’s called Pretend it’s a City, and if you can keep up with her train of thought and her mouth, which speaks only in full fast paragraphs, then give Fran a whirl.

Yes, telly, but not as we know it…

Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com

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By Catherine Drea
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