Books: Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

Not quite as richly written as Innocent Traitor or Captive Queen (two of my favorites by Weir). There is something perfunctory about this take on Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's long-suffering first wife. It reads mostly like expanded bullet points on a timeline.

Maybe this is due to the fact that there is a lot of ground to cover. As it is, The True Queen (first in a series) clocks in at 602 pages, beginning with Katherine's—neé Catalina—arrival in England. She married Henry's older brother Arthur, suffered widowhood shortly thereafter, languished in England while her future was determined, and finally married Henry VIII. The back end of the book becomes the long wait for the Pope to declare whether her marriage to Henry was, in fact, real and true. Alas, waiting around for news does not make for an exciting story, and Katherine's repetitive attestations that she is the true queen, though surely true to her character, eventually become something of a bore.

Weir always does a lovely job researching her books, but sometimes it feels easy to spot the places where she wanted to incorporate a particular letter or some known bit of jewelry. She leans toward detailing clothing in particular.

In truth, there is simply a lot of information here. One would expect no less given the subject matter, but some joy in reading, and in the story, is lost in the myriad of names and machinations. By the end, I felt a bit like I was reading a list of chess moves during some old game that had once been played. Yes, I can picture how the game played out, but there's not much fun in reading it. Still, I'll try the Anne Boleyn book when it comes out. It could be that Katherine—devout and steady—is just a little less interesting than those who followed. I feel bad for her because she does seem to have been ill used, and now she goes down in history as also pale in comparison to her contemporaries.

Television: The Great Indoors, "Pilot"

If you watched Community you'll recognize Joel McHale's character here as just more of Jeff Winger. He's jaded and being forced to face the fact that he's not as young as he used to be. Sure, instead of a high-powered (faux) lawyer, he's now a known "adventurist" who does field work for a magazine. But as the magazine ends its print run and moves to online-only content, it also calls Jeff Jack in to helm an office job. In this equation the magazine office = Community's college, and there is yet another band of misfits that Jeff Jack will at first ridicule but then slowly become fond of.

Millennials probably won't like it, at least not the first episode, in which Jack broadly lambasts them (as do the show's writers). It's low-hanging fruit and nothing we haven't heard before: trophies for everyone! If you're not on Twitter and Instagram, you might as well not exist! You're such a dinosaur if you don't keep up with every new digital trend!

Jack takes it upon himself to try and teach this motley crew that there is life beyond their smartphones. Only in the moments when he passionately describes living with bears on Kodiak island does the character become warm enough to like. Meanwhile, none of the rest of this group is particularly likable (yet), though Stephen Fry does a fine job as the magazine's founder/owner/CEO. Having him wander through a scene is always a delight.

The jokes aren't very funny and the characters are alternately flat and/or too over-the-top to connect with, but I recall feeling similarly about the first couple episodes of Community, and I ended up being glad I stuck it out. I'm hoping The Great Indoors will similarly find its footing. I'll stick it out for another week or two.


Television: Elementary, "Render, and Then Seize Her"

I suppose I'm naturally primed to enjoy anything that features Steve Winwood as a major clue. (Did anyone else think it was "Pie of Love" as a kid?)

Uh... Let's see. A woman is kidnapped. She and her husband run a post-production company that is bleeding money, and the husband is on the brink of divorcing her. And there's a prenup. So of course all signs point to the husband (who also refuses to share key info with the police because he says he's following the kidnapper's orders so he can get his wife back), which means the husband didn't do it.

It's pretty clear that, when dealing with video people, and video of the parking lot where the kidnapping occurred is key to the case, that the video will be unreliable. And—to continue in that line of logic—it means it was an inside job. Because you'd need someone who could manipulate the video and also had access to it. Right?

Whatever. You can take it from there, I'm sure. Meanwhile, Plot B was about how Gregson's girlfriend Paige (Virginia Madsen, now also seen on Designated Survivor) wanted to hire Holmes on the DL to look into stuff going on at her doctor's office. You may or may not remember that she has MS. Anyway, Holmes clears that up fairly easily but then realizes Paige is going broke due to the expense of her treatment and lack of insurance coverage. Or maybe she has insurance but it's not very good? I dunno, I wasn't listening that closely. Anyway, Holmes promotes marriage to Gregson as the answer to this particular problem. At which point there is a ridiculous amount of people saying, "You?! Suggesting marriage?!" which seemed really over the top. I know Holmes has expressed contempt for the institution of marriage in the past, but not as vehemently (to my recollection) as everyone acted like he did. I mean, if it were that Holmes said every time they dealt with a married couple, "This is why marriage is ridiculous," then I'd get it. But he doesn't. So chill, people. Geez.

All in all, it was a cute episode, nicely balanced between the two plots, and fairly engaging overall despite the somewhat predictable crime/resolution.


Television: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, "Horizons"

I working to bring more lightness into my viewing diet, and this one fits right in with that goal. Engaging, funny—it's not fluff, but it's not serious either. Fans of Douglas Adams can embrace DGHDA without reservation.

Elijah Wood plays the hapless Todd whose life is falling apart. His landlord is a car-bashing maniac, he becomes a suspect when a bizarre murder occurs in the hotel where he works, and then he loses his job altogether. Todd has the additional burden of trying to help his sister Amanda through a rare disease that runs in their family but he's managed to overcome. (Or says he has.)

Enter the titular Dirk Gently who decides all signs point to Todd becoming his assistant, a complication in life Todd feels he doesn't need.

I won't go step by step through this pilot, but let's say there is plenty of fun havoc to be had. A myriad of intriguing side plots. Not a dull moment as they say. Sure, Elijah Wood always seems to play this character—the guy (or hobbit) thrown into extreme circumstances and just trying to cope and go on with his life, but he's good at that and makes for a fine straight man to Samuel Barnett's antic Gently.

Bonus: kittens and Corgis.

DGHDA is the kind of fun Doctor Who used to be. I now have something to look forward to on Saturday nights again.


Off Topic

I'm going to ask you for a favor. I have a soft spot for children and animals, and while I know I can't help them all, I do my best, especially when things hit close to home. In this case, it's a screenwriting friend who is in danger of losing her home-based cat sanctuary due to some new laws in her town. There are no other shelters in the area for these cats, and they are on the brink of being booted just in time for winter. Every little bit helps, and if you don't want to give something for nothing you can buy this t-shirt. It comes in three colors and has a simple lotus design. (I'm fond of lotuses; they make me feel at peace.) I designed the shirt via Bonfire, and sure it took no special artistry, but hell, send me your shirt and I'll sign it and send it back to you at my own cost. Just help if you can! Proceeds go to help these kitties, or you can click on the link at the bottom of the t-shirt page and donate directly. PLEASE help the kitties!


Television: Westworld, "The Original" & "Chestnut"

Remember the Yul Brynner movie? Me neither, but that probably doesn't matter much.

I realize I'm behind on this show. I find that, whenever I'm thinking about watching it, I don't really want to. What does that say about me and/or Westworld? That we're not made for each other, I suppose.

I went through my Michael Crichton phase in middle and high school. Very fun, easy reads. And what I like about his work is what I also like about Westworld—the philosophy, the story. The characters are only so-so, but the acting is very good, and the production values are amazing. So why am I not compelled—dare I say I'm "reluctant"—to watch it?

The sex and violence. And before you call me a prude, it's not that I'm made uncomfortable by it, it's that I find it wildly gratuitous and unnecessary to what otherwise is a really interesting story. To me the sex and violence in this show is lowest common denominator programming. It's the bread and circuses of television. And television is spectacle, after all, so maybe deep down I really need to be reading a book rather than watching a TV show.

For the five people out there who don't know what this show is about, I'll give you the short version. The titular Westworld is a sort of theme park in which guests (who pay a lot to go there) get to go live a Wild West adventure. These guests can slake their desires for sex and violence (!) without consequence because all the "hosts" in the park are programmed entities that can be raped, killed, whatever, and then refurbished.

While I can really enjoy the idea of such an immersive experience, I also have to wonder at the kinds of people this park draws. Sadists. Psychopaths. And that does seem to be the underlying suggestion. When one also considers that these guests must have a lot of money, we're led to conclude that rich people are fucked up.

But that's assuming you put that much thought into the show. You could watch Westworld on the level of just watching, or you can watch it and really think about it. Your choice. I'm a thinker.

I also have to wonder why Michael Crichton hated amusement parks so much. Did he have a bad experience at Disneyland as a kid or something?

In Jurassic Park we have John Hammond. In Westworld it's Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). In JP we discover Dr. Wu might have designs beyond his station; in Westworld it's Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). Note that this is only what I've gleaned from the first two episodes. Namely, there are a lot of politics involved in creating and maintaining a sophisticated amusement park.

I have an idea that Ed Harris' Man in Black is actually one of the hosts, and that when he says he's "not going back" he means cold storage or whatever. But I'm probably getting ahead of myself. After all, that wouldn't explain why he's unable to be harmed by other hosts. In any case, don't spoil it for me. I'll manage to wade through the episodes eventually. Or maybe I should just find copies of the scripts. As lovely as this show is, its attempts to shock and titillate me are actually big turn-offs.


Movies: The Conjuring 2

Just in time for Hallowe'en!

I enjoyed this one more than the first (and I didn't think the first one was bad, so . . .)

Not to say there weren't issues. Some very basic things, like why not get rid of the chair that seemed to be central to the ghost's activity? And, why didn't Ed give the girl that crucifix right from the start?

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, The Conjuring 2 covers what was known as the Enfield Poltergeist which terrorized a family in Enfield, England. In particular, 11-year-old Janet was the main target. As ever, things start strange and get stranger, yet no one seems to think it's worth mentioning or doing anything about it until the furniture starts moving. By then, however, it's too late. Janet finds herself repeatedly possessed by what claims to be the spirit of Bill Wilkins.

Meanwhile, Ed and Lorraine Warren have just come off the famous Amityville case, and Lorraine wants to take some time off. She's been shaken by a vision of Ed's death and also some kind of demonic nun. (Here is where another issue pops up: why hang the painting of the demon nun in your office?) But when they hear of this family in England that needs their help, despite Lorraine's misgivings, they go.

[potential spoilers follow]

I think this is supposed to build some kind of tension in the sense that we're supposed to worry Lorraine's vision of Ed's death will be realized. But I never felt worried for Ed at all. Being that Ed and Lorraine are real people, I kept thinking, I'm pretty sure that's not how he died. Not that I know how he died; I've never looked it up. But it's the kind of thing where I'm pretty sure I'd have heard that story if that's how it had happened, if that makes any sense.

If you look up the realities of the Enfield case, you'll see that Janet, once grown, admitted to making some of it up, along with her older sister. Many investigators believe it was entirely made up. The movie addresses this slightly by having Janet caught on camera throwing stuff around in order to make it appear that the spirit had done it. However, it also excuses this by having Janet tell her siblings that the spirit threatened to kill them all if she didn't make the investigators leave (and her being caught faking it caused them to pack it in). One also has to wonder whether, while possessed, a person might not wreak destruction in any case?

The ending was, to my mind, a bit weak after all the build-up. The first half of the movie is simply watching the spirit ramp up its offense against this family, and then the Warrens come on the scene, and there is a kind of wire crossing between Bill Wilkins and Demon Nun, and things devolve from there. Are we supposed to believe the demonic nun lured the Warrens there? Seems excessive. Also, why did the demon tell Lorraine its name? Surely it knew that information would give Lorraine power over it? Then again, why does any demon do any of the things it does?

Sidebar: A Bit of Fun

While watching, my husband and I kept thinking the Simon McBurney character reminded us of Moss on The IT Crowd. We couldn't stop laughing over it, and now we really wish they'd do some kind of Hallowe'en special. Jen could be the skeptic played by Franka Potente? Can that be made to happen?


Movies: Café Society

I'll start by stating the obvious. Woody Allen's movies are really just ways for him to reaffirm either what he thinks about the world or what he wishes were true. By which I mean, he likes to believe women make bad choices and then pine for what they could have had while men leave their wives and get the young girl and live happily ever after. (Or some variation on this, but it generally boils down to the same.)

In this particular version of the story, we have young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg doing his best imitation of Allen) leaving New York to go try and make a life in L.A. with the help of his uncle Phil (Steve Carell). Phil is a powerful Hollywood agent, and in no time Bobby is rubbing shoulders with the stars. But he's more interested in young Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, who always seems not to know what to do with her mouth), who also works for his uncle. Unfortunately for Bobby, Vonnie has a boyfriend—namely, Phil. He's married and much older but they're having an affair.

When Phil breaks things off, Bobby moves quickly to take up room in Vonnie's heart. (He has no idea her boyfriend was Phil, btw.) But when Phil finally leaves his wife, Vonnie chooses him over Bobby, and Bobby returns to New York. He ends up quite successful in running a nightclub, marries a model-worthy woman, has a baby, and is largely none the worse for wear. Even when Phil and Vonnie come for a visit, Bobby gets to have his cake and eat it too, so to speak. He sees that Vonnie is a little miserable, he gets to spend time with her, even kiss her, but also hold on to his perfect little life. Meanwhile, the women get the short end of everything. Phil's wife gets tossed aside, Vonnie gets the sadness of longing for someone else, and Bobby's wife gets cheated on. Men are assholes in Woody Allen movies, but somehow it's all excused while women are left to pick up the pieces.

This is nothing new, but Café Society was very obvious about it. It also made plain the ideal that New York is better than L.A. In this movie the L.A. people are loud and superficial. They name drop, and every interaction with them is like oil on water. Nothing feels real or true. New York is grittier but also seen to be more satisfying. Bobby glides through his nightclub, true, but his interactions with the patrons feel more rooted than those in L.A.

It's an okay movie. Somewhat Gatsby-esque in themes. But I found myself distracted by all these glaring aspects; it was as if I had to squint to see past them and watch the movie. I realize these things have been present in Woody Allen movies for forever, so maybe it's just that my tolerance for them is depleted. Either way, Café Society left me grimacing.


Television: Timeless, "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln"

Lucy boarders dangerously on "helpless." I get that she's sort of overwhelmed to be time traveling; who wouldn't be? But I need her to have a bit more backbone.

In this episode—surprise!—Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus travel to the time and place of Lincoln's assassination. The show doesn't seem to want to delve too deeply into the racial politics of any given time, I've noticed. It touches on them, of course, as it must. But "touch" is the operative word here. Maybe we'll get deeper stuff as the show becomes more established, or maybe the writers and creators are determined to keep things light. Tough to tell.

Meanwhile, Lucy is again confronted by Flynn, who continues to drop obscure hints about Rittenhouse or whatever. Jesus, why not just tell her outright? It's clear we're leading up to Connor Mason being the true villain, right? Instead of dancing around it, maybe they should just up the stakes.

I'm still enjoying the show. But I can see all these pitfalls, these places where it may begin to fall apart, and I'm really hoping it doesn't.

As for this particular episode, the lingering question continues to be whether they should attempt to change history or not. Their being there necessarily changes history in some ways anyway, but it's kind of like Star Trek's Prime Directive in that they are supposed to not interfere any more than they have to in order to catch Flynn. I don't have much to say about the plot here in particular except that it was sweet to have Lincoln's son ask Lucy on a date of sorts. I honestly felt chemistry there and was led to wonder what would happen if someone were to fall in love in another time and then have to leave. Potential for lots of drama there.


Television: Elementary, "Worth Several Cities"

Holmes is abducted by a street gang and pressed into finding out who killed one of their smugglers. In return, they promise to find out who sold bad heroin to one of Holmes' friends. Then the whole thing spins off into a story about an ancient Chinese artifact, and once Ron Rifkin turns up, you know he's the bad guy because, hey, Ron Rifkin.

In truth, I had a hard time staying interested.

Also, Watson continues to help Shinwell, the guy we met last week. She finds him a place to live and then tracks down his daughter, though as it turns out he does that on his own, too. I realize this story line is meant to be part of Watson's character development/arc but, oh my God, is it dull. There was Alfredo for Holmes, now there's this guy for Watson . . . Why can't we get some fun characters for a change?

Ratings continue to slump, and if the show keeps on with its dirge-like pacing, they'll only slide further. Elementary is starting to feel too heavy, and you know what heavy things do—they sink.

"You're No Fun Anymore"


Television: Timeless, "Pilot"

This show was every bit as cute as I hoped it would be, which makes me super happy.

In a nutshell: history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is tapped to accompany a scientist and a soldier on time travel missions as they attempt to foil the plans of and apprehend Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic). Flynn stole one of the time machines, and in the first episode he goes to mess with the Hindenburg disaster.

Time travel is hot right now. Never mind Doctor Who, which has sauntered vaguely downward in recent years—there's tons of other options now. Bookstores are rife with time travel and portals, both for adults and teens. My worry, then, was that Timeless was just jumping on the bandwagon. And maybe it is, but they've succeeded in making Lucy an engaging protagonist, and I'm eager to see how the supporting cast develops as well.

Of course, time travel is always open to a lot of people poking holes in this or that theory. If Timeless took itself more seriously, I think it would invite that kind of scrutiny. But because it's fairly light in tone, it's easy to just enjoy for what it is. There are shows that prompt debate, argument even, but (at least based on the pilot) this isn't one of them. And after so many shows that cause fan theories, etc., I'm kind of glad this one is what it is. Television has become too exhausting in trying to keep up with all those discussions. It's nice to have a show that's just a show.

[Now I've done it. The mythology will begin to build and this one will be just as bad as the rest. Sigh. When did TV become an interactive sport?]

In short, I'm looking forward to more of this.


Movies: Snowden

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Kieran Fitzgerald and Oliver Stone, from the books by Luke Harding and Anatoly Kucherena
Endgame Entertainment, 2016
R; 134 minutes
3.75 stars (out of 5)


I know I should probably be more outraged than I am about the NSA culling private emails, phone calls, etc., but it's never fazed me. Still, I was glad to get a bigger sense of what was going on and how Snowden came to do what he did. Of course, with a movie like this, I kept asking myself what had been regrouped, so to speak, to make it easier to follow. What had been changed for dramatic effect. It can be difficult, after all, to make a bunch of computer stuff compelling for two hours.

They did a nice job of weaving Snowden's personal life into his career. I think this is largely done to make him sympathetic and personable. Otherwise Snowden would just be a weirdo. But while Shailene Woodley worked her tail off in this, I didn't feel the chemistry I needed to feel in order to buy in to the relationship. Maybe I'm supposed to read this as there being a barrier there put up by Snowden's secretive work, but it just came off as flat.

Still, that didn't mar the movie. There was a fun time of saying, "What's Nicolas Cage doing here?" and "What's Tom Wilkinson doing here?" because I didn't read anything about the film before going to see it. And then I had a great, "Look! Nicholas Rowe!" moment, which made me stupid happy and probably biased me for the rest of the film.

It's a good film. Nothing special in my book, but solid. Not the action-packed kinds of stuff audiences are used to these days, but . . . It gives a concise account of what happened, which I suppose is the point.


Movies: Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

I was obsessed with Indiana Jones as a kid. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first movie I can remember seeing in the cinema (my parents insist it was Bambi at a drive-in, but I don't remember that at all). I was five when Raiders came out, and I mistaken thought his name was Petey instead of Indy, and I thought he was a cowboy because he wore a hat. But that didn't dent my fascination. Later, after having gotten my facts straight, I would talk my best friend into playing Indiana Jones frequently, though we often had to fold in Star Wars to keep her happy. Han and Indy were distant cousins or something. It was terrific.

All this is to say, a fan film version of Raiders is the kind of thing we would have done if we'd had a camera. (We did make fan films of other kinds when we were older, but that's another story.) So I thought I'd be all over this documentary about two kids who did just that—made a shot-for-shot fan film of Raiders, all except the airplane scene. And so a big part of this documentary is about them attempting to complete the project so many years later.

And yet . . . It didn't hold my interest.

Despite my love for Raiders, I wasn't invested in seeing these guys finish it out. And the lack of organization in the documentary made it difficult to follow. There were hints of fallings out, hard times, but it was told so haphazardly I could only glean the story as one who skims scum off a pond. The one real bit of drama, and they don't plunge into it. I was left thinking, "Wait, what?"

I think I was meant to focus on the possibility the airplane scene wouldn't get made. Behind schedule, out of money, bad weather, blah blah blah. But since they hadn't really made me care . . . I didn't.

Good on them for getting attention for their crazy childhood fixation, I guess. But this documentary needed a stronger thru line. As it stands, it was putting me to sleep.


Television: Elementary, "Folie a Deux"

The fifth season kicks off with Watson still living in the brownstone, so I guess she decided not to stay in Moreland's safe house or whatever it was. Am I even remembering right? It probably doesn't matter. Safe to say we start with a kind of "reset" in which normal, such as it is for these characters, has been re-established.

Plot? Oh, something about a bomber. Holmes and Watson zero in on the culprit fairly quickly, and from there it's a matter of proving it. A lot of blind alleys, but of course Holmes ends up being right in the end. No, I don't consider that a spoiler. I think it would have been more interesting if he hadn't been though.

The "real" story in this episode—the emotional underpinning anyway—is about how Watson may or may not (a) be getting bored with being a detective, and/or (b) miss helping people the way she did as a doctor or sober companion. Holmes naturally points out that they help people, too, by finding the bad guys and putting them away, but there is, of course, a distinction. It's one thing to actively help people and witness them getting better. It's another to avenge those who have been victimized. Group A has the sense of being there in the nick of time. Group B is more like cleaning up the mess when it's too late to really save anyone.

Watson isn't getting bored, but she does miss being Group A rather than Group B. Lucky for her, this episode introduces someone she once performed surgery on—a man who recently got out of jail and is looking to get back on his feet. Through Holmes' persuasion, Watson goes to help the guy in Group A fashion. Similar to being a sober companion, maybe she can keep ex-criminals from backsliding?

In truth, it wasn't an episode that wowed me, and I hope the season doesn't attempt to string out this Watson angst. The character arc is natural enough, but somewhat somnolent. Angsty Watson is less entertaining than angsty Holmes, not because of the angst but because of the way the other character responds. Holmes isn't a natural nurturer; Watson is. Maybe if we saw Holmes being more uncomfortable in the role of nurturer when Watson needs that, it would be more interesting. As it is, it just kind of happens with no real tension. However, when Watson is called upon to nurture Holmes in some way, Holmes' spiky nature does add tension and often comic relief. It hearkens back to the initial conceit of the series, in which Watson was a somewhat unwelcome addition to Holmes' life. That conceit worked and still does when tapped.

Alas, ratings for Elementary are slumping. The Sunday night time slot isn't great, and there are times the show seems to have run out of ideas, if not for crimes of the week then for the characters themselves. It could also be that we're seeing the downward arc of the recent spike in Sherlock Holmes' popularity in general; these things come and go in cycles, after all. Like a Ferris wheel—try to enjoy the way down as much as the way up, and please wait until the ride comes to a complete stop before disembarking.


Television: Narrowing It Down

So I can strike two shows off my viewing list. (You may remember in my previous post I was agonizing over everything I wanted to watch.) I tried Crisis in Six Scenes, which is that Woody Allen thing on Amazon. Boring. Not funny. Didn't even finish the first episode. I was like, "What am I supposed to be getting from this? Cuz I'm getting exactly nothing." Well, okay, one less thing to watch.

And then I switched over to the second episode of Luke Cage. But I really can't get into that show either. The politics of the urban underworld just don't interest me in the least. So, much as I like the character of Luke Cage, this story isn't for me. Another thing I can cross off.

This is progress!


Television: I Can't Even

I am so behind on television, you guys. Like, so behind. This is what happens when you get a life, I guess.

I have this list of shows that I either want to start watching or else started watching and want to continue but haven't had the chance.

  1. Timeless — it's on the DVR, looks super cute
  2. MacGyver — also on the DVR, and I think I'm, like, three episodes behind now
  3. Designated Survivor — watched the pilot, want to keep watching
  4. Luke Cage — also watched the first episode, wasn't blown away but I do want to see where it goes
  5. Elementary — premiered a couple weeks ago and is sitting on my DVR
  6. Documentary Now! — we do manage to watch this usually; there's only one on the DVR at the moment
  7. Scream Queens — loved the first season, watched the first episode of the second season and haven't gotten any further than that
  8. AHS: My Roanoke Nightmare — sounds like my kind of thing, hoping to get around to it
  9. Westworld — looks cool, plan to watch it . . . someday . . .
  10. Luther — I keep being told to watch this and I really, really want to because I love Idris Elba, but I just don't know when
  11. Poldark — another one I keep being urged to try, but the hubby isn't keen and we only have one telly

This doesn't even cover the fact that we also watch Supergirl and The Flash with the kids. At some point we'll loop back and grab Arrow, too, I suppose. Geez.

The shows we keep up with in real time are Brooklyn Nine-Nine and This Week Tonight with John Oliver. I won't go to bed on Sunday without seeing Johnny first. He makes my week and is the only television I consider "appointment television" any more. As for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it just airs at a time that's convenient. By Sunday evening we're ready to relax prior to the week starting, and we usually want light rather than heavy (Game of Thrones excepted given that we do John Oliver after). I also will often manage to catch up with any House Hunters at some point during the week when I'm looking for something mindless and undemanding. These days, busy as I've been, I often do want something unchallenging to watch.

How about you? What do you watch? Is there something I should add to my growing list? Something on the list I shouldn't bother with? Tell me about it in the comments!



So while I'm away at InD'Scribe this weekend, you can pick up a couple of my Sherlock Holmes stories FREE and my spy novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller for just 99 cents! What are you waiting for? Click here!



You will be able to see me—in person—this coming weekend. I'll be on panels talking about villains and character-themed stories. I'll be dressed up in a Regency gown at the Dreamweaver's Ball. I'll be decked out red-carpet style for the RONE Awards. And I'll have an author table in the signing room. This doesn't happen often, so if you have a chance to come down, please do!

If you're very, very lucky you'll get to meet these guys too:

They're semi-retired but will be traveling with me. Should be fun!


Television: Designated Survivor, "Pilot"

Yeah, so I'm a week behind on this one. But I enjoyed it for what it was: squarely network political drama.

Let's all take a moment to appreciate the utter ridiculousness of the fundamental plot. Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, a low-level (Housing and Urban Development, I think it was?) Cabinet member who gets tossed into a safe room during, I dunno, the State of the Union or something. He's the titular "designated survivor" in case anything should happen to the rest of the Cabinet and Congress and whatnot. And of course something does happen, leaving Kirkman as acting President.

It's all played very straight, but if you think about it too much you'll see it's pretty silly.

Still, Kiefer does a great job as a very un-Jack Bauer character thrown into a Jack Bauer situation.

I do wonder if there is/was something going on between him and that Rhodes chick, though.

Kal Penn is on hand as a speech writer who has no faith in Kirkman's abilities. And of course there is a shady, warmongering general plotting to get rid of Kirkman because clearly Kirkman has no ability to lead (based on the whole hour or so he's been in charge and his refusal to bomb everybody).

I feel like there would surely be an emergency election or something, right? But I don't know enough about how our system works to be sure, and Designated Survivor is banking on most people not knowing much either. It's one of those shows that does just enough to skirt believability. Maybe the whole election thing will come up later. When you're in scramble mode after a major attack, who has time to run for president?

Overall, I found the show amusing and entertaining, which is all I really wanted from it to begin with. I'll keep watching.

Television: Luke Cage, "Moment of Truth"

I'm fond of Paul McGuigan's direction, and this pilot episode for Luke Cage is nicely done. It's just so s...l...o...w... I realize they wanted to take time to establish Cage as someone longing only for a quiet life under the radar. We see he's lonely, and good deep down. They're also setting up the overarching situation of how club owner Cottonmouth is powerful and bad, and this may be where they lost me a bit because I have little to no interest in mob or mob-like things, the seedy underworld of making deals with politicians, etc. It's why I wandered away from Gotham, and if anything drives me away from Luke Cage, it might be that or—unless things begin to move—the pacing.

In short, less plot and more of Luke himself, please.

I felt like I waited the entire episode for that bit at the end, in which we finally see Luke do his thing by taking on henchmen menacing his landlady. It's a fabulous moment, and McGuigan's style shows through. I suppose it's the payoff for sitting through all the rest, but I really just want more of that. Afterward, his landlady offers to hire Luke [for protection] but he declines. For someone who has spent the last hour talking about needing money, this feels silly, though it doesn't at all feel out of character. Still, I thought he was supposed to be a "hero for hire." Looks like he's more of a boy scout.

It's probably too soon to tell how it will all play out. Unlike with Jessica Jones, I didn't feel like I could watch more than one of these at a go. If it starts to move faster, maybe I'll feel differently.