Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women's Tales

I'm going to do something a little different since it's the weekend...give you some entertainment recommendations. But first a little background.

As I embarked on my 30's during the mid-1980's, my reading habits underwent a pretty dramatic change. I found that I could not read any more books by or about men. It was as if I'd spent my life up until that time starving for real stories about real women and had to do everything I could to feed that hunger. And so for the next few years, I indulged myself.

I'm currently undergoing something similar when it comes to television and movies. A few months ago I gave up subscribing to television and am now dependent on Netflix for home entertainment. So as the guys revel in their super heroes and the kids all seem to be into vampire tales, here's what I've been watching:

At the top of my list would be the BBC series Prime Suspect staring the amazing Helen Mirren. The cops in this series tackle some difficult social issues - which makes it worth watching. But Mirren's character is strong, smart, and perhaps even more importantly - a flawed human. 

Speaking of flawed human beings - along comes Glenn Close in the series Damages. This one is so well-written and acted, you wind up rooting for Close's character - even though she is cast as "the evil one."

Set in post-WWII England, the BBC series Bletchley Circle finds four women who secretly worked as code-breakers during the war setting out to use their skills to track down a serial killer. 

The Honorable Woman is the story of a Jewish heiress whose father made his fortune as an Israeli arms dealer. She decides to use her inheritance to build opportunities that benefit both Israelis and Palestinians. If you've ever questioned why the tensions between these two countries are so intractable, this story will give you a pretty good understanding of the complexities involved.

I'm not normally into sci-fi, but I love the CBC series Continuum partly because the main character played by Rachel Nichols is a bad-ass cop from 2077 with very human emotions and limitations. But its also fascinating because the time travel back to 2012 provides all kinds of interesting morality questions about the choices we're making today.

At first, the storyline of Last Tango in Halifax is just sweet. Its about two 80 year-olds who were sweethearts as children and find each other again after their grandchildren get them signed up on Facebook. But the acting and plot gets much deeper as it also tells the story of their two adult daughters.

Sarah Lancashire (who is becoming one of my favorite actresses) plays a cop in the BBC series Happy Valley. She's also a 50-something divorcee who is raising her grandson after her daughter committed suicide. 

The Assets tells the story of Soviet spy Aldrich Ames from the point of view of the two female CIA officers who were primarily responsible for tracking down the mole in their midst. 

Another BBC series - Hit and Miss - sounds really bizarre. It's about a transgender woman who works as an assassin and finds out that she has a son from a previous relationship whose mother recently died. But even with all that, it's both entertaining and provocative.

Finally, there's Grace and Frankie - the only comedy on the list. Sure, it's worth watching just to see Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play a gay couple. But the real story is about the growing friendship between two 70 year-old women who are total opposites. Priceless.

That's some of the best in women's tales that I've been watching. I'm always looking for more, so what are your recommendations?


  1. Good afternoon Nancy, the other place I have been watching shows is at Check it out. You can get 300 credits for 40. and it takes 2 pts or .20 cents to watch a show. The new ones are listed on their that night of viewing or the next day. It is surpasses Netflix or Hulu-Plus for me. However, I did resign with Charter for at least a year, got a wonderful deal much less than what I was paying just for internet and telephone. Anyway, check it out.
    Have a great Sunday. I wrote down all the shows you were talking about I will check to see if they have them on showsday. and then make my list when I watch them. Good advice. I love shows with strong women characters. Woot. !!

  2. Thank you! I'll check the BBC listings on Time Warner On Demand. I particularly interested in Bletchley Circle, since I read a book entitled "A Man Called Enigma" which was about the code breaking project at Bletchley and I've always been fascinated by the story.

    And while it is not a series, I recommend the PBS documentary on the Roosevelts. It has done a good job of documenting Eleanor's contribution to progressive initiatives launched by FDR. Many folks who have seen the documentary have commented they had no idea how influential and ground breaking she was. Of course I was raised by New Deal Democrats so I had already read about her, but the program has helped me to appreciate her even more.

    1. I've also watched some good documentaries on Netflix. I'll check to see if the Roosevelt documentary is there yet.

    2. I've been recording Roosevelt documentary, missed the first one & will have to watch it on line on PBS. I couldn't find a replay of it on PBS, maybe they will later. That is going to be one of my Saturday down days that all I am going to do is catch up on recorded videos. :-)

    3. I really enjoyed The Benchley Circle.

      As for the Roosevelt documentary, I would wait to see, when they re-air it. I missed the first two episodes, and the scheduling programming wasn't accurate. I've been watching it on VOD from Comcast. I'm up to Ep. 06.

  3. I've enjoyed many of the same shows. One that I'm watching right now (on Hulu) is called New Tricks. I'm a sucker for police shows and this a British cold case unit. It's headed by actress Amanda Redman who heads a team of three elderly retired police officers. I love this show for the fantastic, witty, understated writing, the fully developed characters, and Amanda Redman. She is very good looking, but not a pinup and she wears stylish but not inappropriate clothing. Her character is obviously capable of handling anything thrown at her, as well as her three old men (they are of a generation in which the police were less regulated than now, shall we say?). Her capability is presumed - her "female in a top position" is not highlighted, just a given. Interestingly, the actress has scarring on her arm that happened when she was a little girl. She wears tops that are short-sleeved, long-sleeved, and sleeveless. The scars are perfectly visible and are never explained. They just are. I had to go on IMDB to find out about them. On U.S. tv they would either be well hidden, or they would be a plot point with a lot of explanation. Can't say enough good stuff about this show. I hope you can find it on Netflix.

  4. Don't miss Bomb Girls on Netflix. Women centered ensemble drama about workers in a WW2 Canadian munitions factory. Two other Canadian shows you can find on the web, North of 60, about life in a First Nations community in the far North, with Tina Keeper as the local RCMP Constable, a great tv dram from the 90's. And for comedy, it doesn't get much better than Corner Gas an ensemble comedy set in small town Saskatchewan, very dry Canadian humor with a great cast of women and men.

  5. You might want to check out Orphan Black. Some of the choices made by the characters not to mention the first five minutes of the entire series are not for the faint of heart. However the issues of gender, identity, personal agency and the (sometimes chilling) implications of genetic research are explored at level few others are currently delving into.

  6. Thanks. That looks fascinating. I just added the discs to my que at Netflix.