Series Review: Castle Rock Season One

Awareness of the Hulu original series, Castle Rock, came to me as a result of a synchronicity thread I’m experiencing. As this year winds down, I’ve already received the word, Enchanted, and the symbol, the Queen chess piece, for 2019. It’s been an incredible experience, receiving confirmation that these are indeed crucial to my journey next year, even if I don’t yet fully understand why.

Riding in my daughter’s car last month, we listened to beautiful music from Max Richter. She shared how the music sounded familiar, when she played it recently, causing her to track down where she had heard it before. Elissa’s search led her to Episode 7, of the series Castle Rock that she had just watched. Her enthusiasm for the series created a desire to watch it as well. And Episode 7, Elissa told me, was titled The Queen! She felt it was the best episode she had ever seen on television. With that title it seemed important for me to view it.

Over the last 10 days, I watched the entire first season of Castle Rock. I’m so glad I did.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock is inspired by the characters and stories of Stephen King. The fantasy/drama stars André Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Melanie Lynskey, Sissy Spacek, Terry O’Quinn, Scott Glenn, Caleel Harris, Adam Rothenberg and Chosen Jacobs. The series carries a MA rating, for language, violence and adult themes, and each episode has a run time of about 45 minutes. Currently the series is only available on Hulu.

Castle Rock is a town in Maine, well known in the Stephen King multiverse. It appears to be a small town where lots of bad things happen. Shawshank Prison looms over the town, literally and energetically. An anonymous call from there brings attorney Henry Deaver (Holland) home to meet with a mysterious client, discovered caged beneath the prison.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock unsettles Henry. The strange man he represents, known only as The Kid (Skarsgård), disturbs him even more. The man was caged by former prison warden Dale Lacy (O’Quinn), who commits suicide, leaving The Kid to be discovered when the new warden arrives.

As Henry attempts to unravel The Kid’s past, he reconnects with his mother, Ruth (Spacek), and her long time companion, former town sheriff Alan Pangborn (Glenn). Henry’s father, the Reverend Matthew Deaver (Rothenberg), died tragically when Henry was a boy. Being home stirs up the past.

Henry has mysterious circumstances in his own life. He was adopted by the Deavers and disappeared for days during a cold Maine winter. Young Henry (Harris) reappeared just as abruptly as he vanished, with no memory of what had happened to him. The father died while his son was gone, and the townspeople believe Henry was responsible for the reverend’s death.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Henry’s dark past distracts him as he digs deeper into The Kid’s story. His mother’s fragile memory is cause for concern and Molly (Lynskey), his former childhood friend and neighbor, has grown into a troubled woman with a secret ability. Castle Rock appears to being growing darker and more violent by the day. Time is running out to protect the people he loves and figure out The Kid’s identity.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Episode 7 The Queen

Elissa’s praise for this episode was justified. Situated toward the end of the season, this episode is the pinnacle of the story. Ruth is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and throughout the show she has lucid moments and times of confusion.

Ruth’s neurologist describes her symptoms as “confusion with time and space”. Ruth tells her grandson Wendell (Jacobs) that she has been snatched from the predictable path of time, and misled into other days and other years. She relies on a system she created for herself, to help her get back to Now. Her Lewis chess pieces, a gift from Alan, are the breadcrumbs that lead her back.

Ruth, who buried her husband in 1991, can walk into a room and suddenly find herself talking to him, or reading a story to young Henry. But when she travels to these other times and places, finding one of the chess pieces propels her back into the present.

This hauntingly beautiful episode highlights the confusion and fear that one with memory loss must live with. What was once ordinary and routine becomes a jumble of mixed up memories and times. Sissy Spacek portrays Ruth with incredible depth and poignancy. Seeing life in Castle Rock from her perspective gives me great compassion toward those bravely battling all forms of dementia.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

The Messed Up Town of Castle Rock

I enjoyed this well done series. Although it stands on its own, whether the viewer is familiar with the works of Stephen King or not, the show has delightful and creepy King touches. The residents of Castle Rock continually blame the town itself for the bad things that people do there. I’m still thinking about the implications of this first season. The finale left the end of the story open to interpretation. I have my own ideas and I look forward to discussing Castle Rock with family members who have already watched it.

I am thinking the most about The Queen. The story intrigued me. Was Ruth a time walker or a sad woman lost in muddled up memories? And what deeper message is there for me? My symbol for next year just keeps showing up, and I know these aren’t mere coincidences. The chess pieces throughout the series, that played a key role in this episode, seemed to call to me as well. I’m still sorting it all out.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Series Review: Doctor Who Season 11

The new season of Doctor Who premiered today. For the first time in the show’s long history, a woman, actress Jodie Whittaker, assumed the role of The Doctor.

I have eagerly anticipated the return of Doctor Who AND this momentous episode when New Who is made even more…new.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

Doctor Who?

As a recap, Doctor Who chronicles the adventures of a time traveling alien who routinely saves the universe. He is particularly fond of Earth and his traveling companions are typically humans. The Doctor, whose name is never revealed, explores time and space in a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) that appears as a blue police box. Looks are deceiving though. This box is a spaceship that is much bigger on the inside.

Peter Capaldi recently stepped down as the 12th Doctor in the rebooted series known as New Who. However this alien with two hearts doesn’t die. He regenerates when he’s near the end of life, assuming a new body and personality while retaining memories. Thus various actors have portrayed the Doctor and continued the series over decades. With Capaldi’s exit, it was time for Doctor number 13.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

New Who Has a New Gender

Season 11 opened today with “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”. Episode 1 starred Jodie Whittaker, Sharon D. Clarke, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh. Jamie Childs directed the debut by new show runner Chris Chibnall.

Doctor Who airs on Sunday evenings on BBC America, at 8:00 PM Central Standard Time.

In South Yorkshire, mysterious things are occurring. Ryan Sinclair (Cole) discovers a peculiar vessel in the woods. Police officer Yaz Khan (Gill), who responds to his call, happens to be an old school friend. As the two examine the strange craft, Ryan receives a frantic call from his grandmother, Grace (Clarke).

A menacing intruder has boarded the train that Grace and her husband Graham (Walsh) were journeying home in. Locked into the train car, injury or death seems certain…until a woman falls through the ceiling, landing in front of them. Unsure of her name, and dressed in a man’s rumpled suit, the woman (Whittaker) nonetheless quickly takes charge of the situation.

Yaz and Ryan arrive at the stalled train. And an unexpected adventure unfolds that involves not one but two aliens, a newly formed group of allies and a woman who fights to save others while desperately attempting to remember exactly who she is.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

I watched episode 1 three times today. Rather than reveal much about the story, I’d rather share a few thoughts about this new era in Who and encourage readers to become viewers.

First, well done Chris Chibnall, cast and crew on creating an engaging story as Doctor Who heads in fresh new directions. I enjoyed the cinematic look and feel of this episode. Chris sets the stage for future episodes that will focus a great deal on the human companions who accompany The Doctor. They have interesting stories of their own, these three companions, and the development of their characters is something to look forward to.

Jodie stepped into the role of Doctor and quickly made it hers. Regeneration episodes are always a bit tricky. A beloved actor has just left. A new person assumes the role. It usually takes me several episodes to get in sync with the new Doctor. I caught glimpses of Calpadi’s Doctor in the words and mannerisms of this fresh personality, and that eased the transition for me.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

My Doctor Who

Jodie became my Doctor today. Confused initially about who she is, she asks Yaz why she keeps calling her “madam”. When Yaz shares it’s because she’s a woman, The Doctor whirls around and asks, earnestly, “Does it suit me?”

She didn’t asked if it suited the others or if it was okay if she was female. I loved that distinction. It was brilliant.

Jodie was brilliant. By the end of episode one I had embraced the change. I await further episodes and look forward to getting to know all of these new characters. What a great group of companions The Doctor has.

My favorite quote of the night was spoken by The Doctor, as she created her own sonic screwdriver:

“There’s this moment when you are sure you are about to die and then…you are born. It’s terrifying. There are echoes of who I was and this call toward who I am, and I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts and shape myself towards them.”

What a tremendous place to exist in. We can grow into the person we are becoming, without losing who we are. Echoes and a call. Trust.

It’s going to be an amazing season.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

Series Review Manifest

I appreciate cleverness in a movie or series, so much so that I am currently watching three engrossing and intriguing shows. I’ll be sharing reviews about all of them in upcoming days. The first review is for the new drama mystery, Manifest.

Series Review Manifest

Manifest Series

Manifest stars Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh, Athena Karkanis, J.R. Ramirez, Luna Blaise, Jack Messina, Parveen Kaur and Victoria Cartagena. Episodes, with a run time of 1 hour, air on NBC Mondays at 9:00 pm central time.

When Montego Flight 828 lands safely after a short but turbulent flight, everyone on board is relieved. However, passengers immediately notice that their cell phones can’t get service. And the number of emergency vehicles in attendance seems out of proportion with the rough landing.

The passengers are asked to exit the plane while on the tarmac, instead of being taxied to the terminal gate. Ben Stone (Dallas) disembarks with his sister Michaela (Roxburgh) and young son Cal (Messina). Due to an overbooked airplane earlier, the three volunteered for this later flight. Ben’s wife Grace (Karkanis), daughter Olive (Blaise) and parents left on the original flight as scheduled.

Series Review Manifest

To their surprise, the passengers of Flight 828 learn that in the few hours they were in the air, five years have passed. The plane was declared missing, and its crew and passengers listed as presumed dead.

Cal’s twin sister Olive is a teenager, while he remains a child. The leukemia that threatens the boy’s life is now treatable, because medical researcher Saanvi (Kaur), who was also on the mysterious flight, sent in her findings as she boarded the plane.

As excited as people are to see their family members alive, much has changed in five years. Ben and Michaela’s mother died. Michaela’s fiancé Jared (Ramirez) married her best friend Lourdes (Cartagena). Relationships feel awkward and strained. People who mourned their supposed losses moved on and created new lives.

As the passengers of Flight 828 adjust to a time leap, they discover that they too have changed. They are more than they were previously, with heightened awareness and new abilities that trouble them. Deeper mysteries are unfolding.

Series Review Manifest

What is Manifesting?

Like many who watched episode one of Manifest, I saw a strong resemblance to another series from the early 2000s, Lost. In both shows there’s an airplane involved and passengers who end up in an unusual situation. Coincidences are abundant, with numbers playing a key role in the whole Lost series and in the first episode of Manifest.

I appreciated Lost, so any similarities were fine with me. Although, I do hope for a different type of ending for this new drama, if it runs for six years. That’s a long time to invest in a series and Lost fell short in its series finale for many viewers including me.

I am intrigued by Manifest. By episode two I wasn’t thinking of Lost any longer. I was trying to think ahead of the show and grasp where the story is heading and what is happening. There are mysteries to unravel for sure. And a creepy, menacing element appeared in the second episode that unnerved me.

I like that the characters’ lives are messy and disjointed, as they would be if five years passed for some and only hours for others. Shows and films about growth, transformation and acceptance are among my favorites to watch and Manifest has caught my attention and my interest.

Episode three airs Monday, October 8 on NBC. I’ll be watching.

Series Review Manifest

Series Review: Jack Ryan

This latest incarnation of Jack Ryan, a well known character created by late author Tom Clancy, secures his place on the small screen this time. I got to know the character through a series of movies, played by a string of actors that included Harrison Ford and Chris Pine.

Amazon Prime released season one on August 31. This is a series review of Jack Ryan.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Jack Ryan stars John Krasinki, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, and Ali Suliman. Episode one, titled Pilot, was directed by Morten Tyldum and carries a TV-MA rating for language and violence. Each episode in this series has a run time of 1 hour and 4 minutes.

Jack Ryan (Krasinki) is a former US Marine serving behind a desk as a CIA analyst in the Counter Terrorism Center: Terror Finance and Arms Division. As he explains to his new boss, he studies marketing and financial transactions in Yemen, looking for aberrations.

He’s found one that concerns him. Massive amounts of money are being funneled into a single account that appears to be connected to a mysterious man known as Suleiman (Suliman). Jack feels the account needs to be frozen and Suleiman tracked down, to prevent another 9/11 type tragedy.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Jack’s supervisor, James Greer (Pierce), initially disagrees, leading Jack to take matters into his own hands. He freezes the account. While getting to know a former colleague’s daughter, Cathy (Cornish), at a birthday party, Jack is interrupted and called in. He and Greer board a plane bound for Yemen, where two men have been captured and held for interrogation.

It would appear that Saleiman and his bodyguard have been apprehended. Far from his analyst desk in Washington DC, Jack finds himself in the middle of an explosive situation that poses a dangerous threat to the entire world.

Series Review Jack Ryan

I was impressed with this premiere episode in a fresh series about a familiar character. As I’ve seen several of the Jack Ryan movies and reboots over the years, it was good to start again at the beginning and see how an analyst ends up as an agent in the field.

John Krasinki inhabits the character well, I think. Best known for playing Jim Halpert for eight years in The Office, Krasinki brought a hint of humor to Jack Ryan and a surprisingly buff body. We get a glimpse of Ryan’s back story and recognize that he suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. Krasinki brings a vulnerability to the role that I liked.

I especially enjoyed the banter between Ryan and Greer. The two get off to a rough start. Greer was sent back to the US as a disciplinary action and reluctantly assumes his new position with the CIA. Back in the field together the men develop a cautious respect for each other.

With eight episodes available for season one and the second season already confirmed, this new series, Jack Ryan, promises action, adventures and dangerous situations to defuse. I’ll be watching. Well done, Amazon Prime.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Yellowstone Season One Review

Tonight was the season one finale of Paramount Network’s big bold series, Yellowstone. I got in on the beginning of the series and was immediately drawn to the story that is best described as gritty and intense. Check out my first review from the beginning of the season. Below are my thoughts after watching all of Yellowstone season one.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Michaela Conlin, and Wendy Moniz. This western drama, directed by Taylor Sheridan, carries a MA rating for language, violence and adult situations, and has an episode run time of 1 hour.

Tonight’s episode was aptly titled The Unraveling Part 2, and was the conclusion of a two part season finale.

Yellowstone Season One Review

A Whole Heap of Trouble

The events in this season ender of Yellowstone tied up a few loose ends in the story, and peaked in the middle of a broiling stew of trouble, creating a wonderful cliffhanger.

John Dutton (Costner) carries many secrets and one of the most troubling for him involves his health. This man shoulders the burdens of owning the largest ranch in the US, a very real kingdom in the west built by his family over generations, and he feels he has no one among his adult children to hand the keys of the kingdom over to. Time is slipping away and it makes him desperate.

The son who was being groomed to run the ranch is gone. His attorney son Jamie (Bentley) has seemingly turned his back on the family to pursue his own career in politics. Younger son Kayce (Grimes) is most like his father but he’s a wild and unpredictable man, as untamed as the horses he breaks for a living. And daughter Beth (Reilly), a shrewd businesswoman, will do anything to take down her father’s enemies. But when Daddy is gone, she will be the first to sell off the ranch, piece by piece.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone Season One Review A relaxed shot of the actors who portray Kayce and Beth.

Who to Trust

The person John trusts the most is his ranch foreman, Rip (Hauser). Loyal to the point of bending the law for his boss, Rip has a better understanding of the workings of the ranch and John’s intentions to hold it together, than any of the children. He will do anything to protect John and Yellowstone.

The level of strife in John’s family is multiplied among the people seeking to destroy him and seize his property. Chief Rainwater (Birmingham) has formed an uneasy partnership with ruthless land developer Dan Jenkins (Huston). The two have plans to build a casino, hotel and housing development on the edge of Yellowstone. Their ultimate goal is to drive the Duttons out and take control of their property. Even John’s love interest Governor Lynelle Perry (Moniz) appears to have her own agenda to topple him.

Other skirmishes are in play among John’s children. Kayce’s wife Monica (Asbille) has left him and taken their son. And Jamie’s political campaign is challenged by a journalist from New York, Sarah Nguyen (Conlin), who intends to expose his father as a corrupt man.

When John Dutton says the whole county has turned against him, it appears to include his own family.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone Season One Review

Character & Story Development

This series is much more “drama” than “western”, in spite of the horses and the cowboys who work on the ranch. I was curious after episode one, to see how the characters and the story developed. I have not been disappointed.

These are complex, convoluted characters. There aren’t good guys and bad guys in Yellowstone. Everyone is a mixture of both, from the people plotting to bring the Duttons down to John Dutton himself. The characters are portrayed as flawed, broken, hurting people who sometimes do dark deeds and sometimes display moments of courageous authenticity in the face of challenges.

I love the inclusion of backstories for the major characters. I get to see how they got broken, who hurt them, and why they now attempt to manipulate and hurt others. I can see the good that was once in them and hope for its reappearance as they grapple with life. And I recognize that while these characters are larger than life, they represent snippets found within all of us. My eyes fill with tears often as I watch their struggles. Why? Because it births compassion in me and makes me look at people in my reality differently. People that hurt, have been hurt, and everyone has a backstory of their own.

I was glad to find out this week that Yellowstone has been renewed. There will be a season two airing in 2019. That’s good news for me because the story of the Duttons and the ranch and the community that surrounds it is far from over. In fact, it has just begun. I look forward to the next dynamic chapter of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Series Review: Yellowstone

I’ve seen numerous previews for this new television series, starring award winning actor, director and producer Kevin Costner. The series premiered last month on the Paramount Network. I only yesterday realized I get that station, via Direct TV. I’ve long respected Costner’s work and although traditional westerns are not my favorite genre, this series caught my attention. I had the opportunity to watch episode one this evening, through Direct TV’s on demand feature.

Series Review Yellowstone

Yellowstone has a large ensemble cast that includes Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Dave Annable, Kelsey Asbille and Gil Birmingham. This western/drama, directed by Taylor Sheridan, carries a MA rating, due to adult themes, language and sexuality. Each episode has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. Episode one is titled Daybreak.

John Dutton (Costner) is a 6th generation rancher and the current owner of the family’s immense Wyoming property, Yellowstone. He is assisted on the ranch by his eldest son, Lee (Annable), who spends long days working the land and caring for the livestock. And John is aided as needed by his middle son, Jamie (Bentley), who is an attorney that specializes in land.

John’s daughter Beth (Reilly), and youngest son Cayce (Grimes), are the family members who, although not quite outcasts, dwell on the fringe. Cayce, whose relationship with his father is very strained, lives on a nearby Indian reservation with his wife Monica (Kelsey) and their young son.

Series Review Yellowstone

Series Review Yellowstone

As the owner of the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, Dutton encounters conflicts with those who share his borders…the reservation with its new Chief (Birmingham), an expanding town, a land grabbing developer, and one of the most famous parks in America.

It’s as the patriarch of his family, however, with its complex and complicated relationships, that true strength and wisdom are required from him.

Series Review Yellowstone

I enjoyed this first episode, and I’m grateful for the ability to catch up on the series through On Demand. There’s intrigue present in the well done story, family secrets, deeper family sorrows, and beneath it all, the land.

Although there are plenty of cowboy hats, cattle and horses in the series, this isn’t a typical western. John Dutton rides in a helicopter, rather than on a horse, to survey his domain. And the family dynamics are as much a focus of the show as the escalating conflicts over land. Kevin Costner definitely shines in his role as a man who, while embracing his duties and obligations as a rancher, has endured much in his lifetime, and who may be growing weary of it all.

I look forward to seeing how the characters and the story develops in Yellowstone. I have one more episode to watch, and then I’ll be caught up and ready for the third episode when it televises on July 11. Ten episodes, at an hour and a half each, should be just the right amount of time to tell this big, big story.

Series Review Yellowstone

Series Review: Colony

One benefit from having a Netflix account is the ability to watch something on demand, rather than at a specified day and time, like traditional network television. I’ve discovered interesting shows and documentaries and movies, that I can watch late at night, after a full day.

This series actually came into my awareness when season three began on the USA Network. I recognized actor Josh Holloway, one of the stars of the long running series LOST, and I discovered that one of that show’s creators, Carlton Cuse, was also involved in the creative process of Colony. But…season three. That’s another benefit of Netflix, and Prime Video in this case. I can go back and start a series at the beginning.

Series Review Colony

Colony stars Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, Kathy Baker, Isabella Crovetti, Jacob Buster, Peter Jacobson, Carl Weathers and Alex Neustaedter. The drama adventure series, with sci-fi overtones, was created by Ryan J. Condal and Carlton Cuse. Each episode has a run time of 42 minutes and carries a TV-14 rating.

Set in the near future, the world has been invaded by an alien force. Humanity is divided into those who collaborate with the new order, and those who resist it. Los Angeles is surrounded by a massive wall, and drones patrol the city from the air while Red Hats, headed by Alan Snyder (Jacobson), enforce the rules from the ground.

Series Review Colony

Will Bowman (Holloway), a former FBI agent, is forced to work for the occupational government, to protect his family…wife, Katie (Callies), son Bram (Neustaedter) and daughter Gracie (Crovetti). Their family has been divided by the occupation. A third child, son Charlie (Buster), was on a school field trip the day of arrival and he is on the other side of the wall.

Will and his partner Beau (Weathers) report to Phyllis (Baker), who sends them out on missions to break up and arrest members of the resistance. Those who are arrested are sent to a place with the ominous name of The Factory. They never return. But many in the resistance seem to disappear just before Will and Beau arrive, leading them to think they have a mole.

Series Review Colony

It’s a time of hardship and lack for the families struggling to lay low, survive and stay united. It’s a time of division as those who work for the new world order enjoy an elite status and privileges. Will and Katie are willing to do whatever it takes to find their missing son and keep their family safe and intact.

I’m only several episodes in, on season one, however I like this show. I’ve long been a fan of Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on LOST. He was a wise cracking charmer on that series, a man who appeared self centered and unconcerned about others, but who ultimately revealed his caring heart. In Colony he plays a more serious role, and I suspect there is much yet to discover about him.

Series Review Colony

Katie works hard to come up with necessities for her family, encourage her husband and find Charlie. There is definitely more to Katie, beneath the surface. She is full of secrets.

I appreciate that the viewer isn’t given all the answers in the first few episodes. Story and character development is underway. I know aliens arrived. They are not shown and they are rarely discussed and yet fear of them or fear of repercussions at least, is evident in every action taken by those in collaboration.

I’m looking forward to discovering more. Who are the aliens? What do they want? What happens to the people who are taken to The Factory? Where is Charlie? I have many questions! I’m willing to watch the story unfold, to get the answers.

Series Review Colony

Series Review: Genius

I love and appreciate stories of all kinds, presented in many different formats. Historical fiction, whether in a book or a film, is one of my favorites, as I feel like I learn more about a real person or actual event. This is why I am enjoying the National Geographic series Genius so much.

Series Review Genius

Genius is an anthology series focusing on the untold stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators. The first season featured Albert Einstein, portrayed as a young man by Johnny Flynn, and as an older adult by Geoffrey Rush. This season, with 10 episodes, is complete and can be watched on demand or through Amazon Prime.

Series Review Genius

Season two focuses on Pablo Picasso, played by Alex Rich in the artist’s youth and Antonio Banderas as the aging man. This most reason season is on Tuesdays at 9:00 pm, central time. Episode seven airs tomorrow night.

Series Review Genius

Portraying such incredibly talented and complex men as Einstein and Picasso was a huge undertaking for National Geographic. They have created an excellent series that explores the scientific and artistic geniuses of both men, while giving the viewer a peek into their personal lives. Their brilliance is revealed, along with their quirks, flaws and challenges in life.

Accuracy is extremely important to National Geographic. The creators of the show gather historical information from documents, letters, photographs and biographies, and mix those facts with creative drama to provide an entertaining and inspiring series.

I am actually watching both seasons simultaneously, having started with Picasso and then realizing there was a season one featuring Einstein.

Albert Einstein has intrigued me since childhood. I often refer to his quotes and appreciate his imagination and creativity. It has been heart touching, and almost painful, to watch his struggles as a young man. So few understood him. His father, his professors, his friends tried to categorize him, when he was very much a round genius in a square world.

Einstein’s immense curiosity often gets him into trouble as he questions those who attempt to teach him. And it’s interesting watching his somewhat childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm about the universe fuel his passion for making major scientific discoveries.

Series Review GeniusGeoffrey Rush on the left and Johnny Flynn on the right, as Einstein.

Pablo Picasso demonstrates a different kind of genius. Introduced to painting at an early age, by his father, Picasso spends most of his life recreating himself, and his art, over and over. I am most familiar with Picasso’s cubism phase, so it has been fascinating to watch how he moved through a variety of movements and styles, from realism to surrealism.

Picasso was always searching for that which gave meaning to his life, and how best to express his unique perspectives of the world. Like Einstein, Picasso often struggled with relationships, especially the romantic ones.

Series Review Genius

Alex Rich on the left and Antonio Banderas on the right, as Picasso.

Both seasons tell the stories of these geniuses by moving back and forth between their early and later years. Einstein does so in a more linear fashion, while Picasso sometimes flips back and forth so frequently that it can get a bit confusing.

However, this series has fleshed out these two personalities so much for me. Yes, it’s dramatized, and yet what is portrayed actually happened. I fact check. I love the way the show humanizes both men. Einstein was more than a scientist with a larger than average brain. Picasso more than an artist who saw and painted the world differently. They journeyed through joys and sorrows, felt frustrations over being misunderstood, made mistakes, and changed the world through their gifts.

Genius shines because it focuses on the intimate lives, rather than the accomplishments, of two extraordinary men. I appreciate Einstein and Picasso even more than I did before. I see them differently. I see their hearts and souls.

Series Review Genius

Series Review: Lost in Space

I was seven years old when the original sci-fi series Lost in Space premiered. A year later, Star Trek beamed into our televisions as well. Although as a teen, Star Trek, in syndication by then, became my favorite show, as a child it scared me. Lost in Space was more child friendly and in spite of the weekly warning from the robot…Danger, Will Robinson…it seemed to present a safer future ahead.

Netflix just released a reboot of Lost in Space, as an original series on its network. All 10 episodes of season one are available to watch. I viewed the first two episodes over the weekend.

Series Review Lost in Space

Lost in Space stars Toby Stephens, Molly Parker, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Parker Posey and Brian Steel. The series carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and intense actions scenes, and each episode has a run time of 1 hour.

John (Stephens) and Maureen (Parker) Robinson have left Earth behind in the hopes of colonizing a new world with a group of scientists and military personnel. Their three children, Judy (Russell), Penny (Sundwall) and Will (Jenkins) are accompanying them, making it a family adventure.

But in the expanse of deep space, far from Earth and not yet within range of the colony, disaster strikes. The ship transporting the colonists comes under alien attack. Families jettison from the collapsing carrier in smaller Jupiter class ships. The Robinsons crash land on an unknown planet, under harsh conditions.

Series Review Lost in Space

They aren’t alone. Two other survivors, Major Don West (Serricchio) and Dr. Smith (Posey) are also searching for colonists who crashed on the planet. And a synthetic robotic creature (body work done by Brian Steel) crawled out of his downed ship as well. He appears to be the one who caused the mother ship’s destruction, but his circuitry is scrambled, wiping his memory banks. When he encounters young Will Robinson, the two form an alliance and the robot joins the Robinsons.

Series Review Lost in Space

The first priority is survival on the hostile planet as the Robinsons get their small ship operational again. Danger is everywhere, from the unpredictable weather to unstable terrain, and within the lies of some of the survivors, who aren’t who they pretend to be. Even Will’s robotic friend carries secrets that could ultimately threaten them all. Being lost is the least of the Robinsons’ concerns.

In spite of some low reviews that I read, I like this reboot. The original series was fun, although a bit cheesy. This retelling of the story is darker, with more intensity and much, MUCH higher quality special effects. The Robinsons are a more typical family, meaning dysfunctional. Mom and Dad vie for control of their children, creating a great deal of tension between them. There’s the smart med student daughter, the younger daughter who hasn’t discovered her place in the world yet, and the son who feels inadequate for this mission.

Series Review Lost in Space

Series Review Lost in Space

Being only two episodes in, Don hasn’t had much character development yet. And he hasn’t actually connected with the Robinsons, having been abandoned by Dr. Smith, who is female in this newest version. She is a mix of contradictions and manipulations. Sometimes sinister, sometimes pitiable, it will be interesting to watch her work her way into the Robinsons’ favor, while carrying out her own agenda.

I like that Netflix makes all the episodes of a season available at once. I rarely binge watch a show, preferring to draw out the experience by viewing one or two episodes at a time. I’ll savor Lost in Space as it transports me back nostalgically to the 60s, and takes me on an exciting new futuristic adventure.

Series Review Lost in Space

Series Review: Big Dreams, Small Spaces

My mom suggested this wonderful series to me, that she discovered recently on Netflix. We ran an errand together this morning, and knowing my love of gardening, she shared about this British show in which horticulturalist Monty Don helps people with small gardens realize their big dreams for the spaces.

I was so intrigued that when we returned to her house, we watched an episode together. I loved it! During tea time this afternoon, I started at the beginning of Big Dreams, Small Spaces and watched the first two episodes.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

Big Dreams, Small spaces features Monty Don, a well know British writer, tv personality and gardener. He meets with two gardeners per episode, offering his wisdom and expertise as he helps them plan out the garden of their dreams, and then bring into reality. There are six episodes in this series, each with a run time of 59 minutes. In the US, this series is available on Netflix.

Not being familiar with him, I had to look Monty Don up. I am impressed. The 62 year old horticulturalist has a long history of gardening, writing and hosting shows on BBC about a variety of gardening topics.

I very much enjoyed his easy going charm as he visited amateur gardeners across England, helping people who faced challenges in bringing their small plots of ground to life.

In the first episode Monty helped a couple transform a steeply sloped back garden into a terraced paradise, just in time for their upcoming wedding. They were able to use freshly cut flowers from their own garden in the bride’s bouquet.

He also assisted a woman who was attempting to create a sanctuary for her bee hives, on an allotment plot that had been abandoned for years. The small piece of land was sadly neglected, overgrown and full of trash.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

In the second episode, Monty divided his time between a woman creating a community garden in her front yard, providing free vegetables for her neighbors, and a young couple who desired to fashion a sensory garden for their young son, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Like some of the other Dreamers, the space that they had to work with was in horrific condition.

What I love about this feel-good series is how Monty meets each prospective gardener precisely where they are…in the dreaming phase of their projects. He’s thoughtful as he listens to their ideas, hopes and dreams, and then views the selected space. He is encouraging as he looks at their plans, if they have one sketched out. Most did. And he is realistic in setting expectations, offering suggestions and advice that comes from years of gardening.

And then Monty leaves them to begin their projects, checking in with them once a month or so, over the summer season. He occasionally shrugs off his jacket, rolls up his sleeves and handles a shovel or prunes back a tree. However his primary role is to encourage, instruct and to keep the gardeners moving forward.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I was amazed by the hard work and determination of the gardeners. They knew Monty would be back by, and they wanted him to be pleased with their progress. He always was. And I was amazed by the transformations as overgrown, junk filled, or drab spaces became gorgeous gardens with water features, masses of flowers and interesting focal points.

I picked up some great tips for my own garden, such as using cardboard beneath a raised bed, to block weeds, and how to create better drainage for herbs. This is a show that I will watch with a notebook nearby so I can take notes.

And, I adore listening to Monty and the others chat in their British accents. I smiled over the differences in pronunciation, and learned new things such as entirely different words for the same flower or vegetable. The vegetable that we call a zucchini is called a courgette in England.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I am inspired by Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Watching gardeners bring their dreams into reality makes me want to get out into my garden and take it to the next level. And I appreciate Monty’s observations and advice. He never took a dream away from a hopeful gardener, no matter how implausible those big ideas were. Instead, he guided them through the entire process, from adapting plans to selecting plants to tucking them into the ground in the right places. Watching those gardens become manifest allows me to dream big as well, and know that with hard work, anything is possible.

Big Dreams, Small Spaces is ideal for gardeners, creative souls, and anyone who enjoys different cultures. It’s perfect as well for those who want to feel good at the end of a program.

Monty Don is a true British treasure and I will be searching Netflix and YouTube, to see what else he offers via television, how-to videos and books. I saw a pic that has me hopeful!