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!

Series Review: Better Late Than Never

I don’t know how I missed this series last year. Four American icons, aged 69 to 86, travel together exploring countries and cultures, and the dynamics of friendship. They are accompanied by a younger sidekick, who rather than keeping them out of trouble, seems to delight in leading them astray!

I have enjoyed watching the hilarious adventures this year as the group travels across Europe, discovering the truth in the adage, better late than never.

Better Late Than Never stars William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman and Jeff Dye. I say star…in this reality comedy these men are being themselves, and taking us along on their journeys. Each episode is an hour long. The series airs Monday nights at 8:00 Central Time on NBC.

On season one the group traveled across Asia. I intend to go back and watch those episodes. Season two follows the travelers through Germany, Sweden, Lithuania, Spain and Morocco.

William Shatner and Henry Winkler are well known film and television actors. Henry has produced and directed behind the camera as well and authored a dozen children’s books. Terry Bradshaw quarterbacked for the Pittsburg Steelers in the 70s, leading his team to four Super Bowls. Legendary boxer George Foreman was undefeated in 40 consecutive fights. And Jeff Dye is an up and coming comedian and actor who got his start in stand up comedy and moved on to hosting popular music shows.

Better Late Than Never is a travel show…about friends. Or a friends’ show…about travel. Or perhaps it’s a comedy based in realism or a reality show that is comedic. I think it is all of those things. The five men have diverse backgrounds, with the common bond of celebrity status.

As they explore exotic places and meet new people and try unusual foods, they don’t relate to each other as icons, as stars. They chat with bystanders and allow a few photos, but for the most part, they are real men having real experiences in fun, but real, places. They have wild, crazy adventures. They push beyond their comfort zones. They learn new things.

I laugh, a lot, watching these guys. Surprisingly, I also tear up. In spite of the ages of four of the travelers, or perhaps because of it, the group makes the most of each visit. They are experiencing life with zest and seizing the day. They immerse themselves in whatever culture they are in, so that later, there are no regrets, no “I wish I woulda”, even when the results are laughable.

Bill, Henry, Jeff, George and Terry inspire me to see life as an ongoing adventure, no matter what my age. By their example they encourage me to seek out new places, new cultures, new people and be an active participant in that adventure, not just a tourist or a bystander.

And the group of friends shows me the value of having traveling companions to share the journey with. I think that’s what I enjoy most about this show…the oft times humorous interactions between these guys. Bill and Henry especially crack me up with their endearing banter and yet the mutual respect they have for each other is undeniable.

This show makes me want to grab some friends and head off on an adventure…in my city, across the US, in far off country. It creates in me the desire to experience all that life has to offer. Now. Better late than never, indeed.

Series Review: The Alienist

I discovered this new television drama by accident. Using IMDb (International Movie Data base) to look up an actor who used to be in the comedy Monk, I found him scheduled to appear in an intriguing sounding limited series on TNT called The Alienist.

The premiere was Monday. Thanks to the ability to record shows, I got to enjoy this story last night.

The Alienist stars Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning, Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear, Ted Levine, and Brian Geraghty. Based on the novel “The Alienist”, by Caleb Carr, this serial mystery will run for 10 episodes, each lasting an hour. It is rated MA, mature audiences, for depicted violence, gruesome crime details and brief nudity.

The Alienist is set in 1896 New York, at a time when Theodore Roosevelt (Geraghty) was the police commissioner. Yes, the same Teddy Roosevelt who later becomes president of the United States.

Commissioner Roosevelt enlists the help of alienist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Bruhl) and newspaper illustrator John Moore (Evans), to solve a series of grisly murders in the city. Someone is preying on young male prostitutes, leaving their bodies to be discovered. Dr. Kreizler in turns asks for assistance from Sara Howard (Fanning), a secretary at the New York City Police Department, and Marcus and Lucius Isaacson (Smith and Shear), brothers who use innovative scientific methods to study the bodies of the deceased.

An alienist is a criminal psychologist, one who studies those who are alienated from themselves and society resulting in deviant behavior. Dr. Kreizler, a brilliant man of science with views that are considered controversial, finds himself a bit of a pariah as well. Some consider him a quack and his methods of investigation fraudulent. But he understands what can drive a man, or break him, and with his team of outsiders, all living on the fringes of acceptable New York City society, he intends to track down the killer.

I liked the premier episode, The Boy on the Bridge, for several reasons. It is historical in nature, with extravagant sets, props, costumes and characters. I loved getting a peek at the City as it might have existed at the end of the 1800s. Teddy Roosevelt, five years away from becoming president, really was the police commissioner at this time. And he did indeed hire a female secretary who would go on to become NYC’s first female detective.

The story reminds me of a good Sherlock Holmes mystery, American style, with Dr. Kreizler as the eccentric detective and Moore playing the part of his sidekick Watson. Kreizler also uses deduction and his analytical mind to sift through information, evidence and clues. Moore provides balance for his colleague, while using his artistic abilities to sketch crime scenes.

And, while the plot of the story is dark…I cringe over crimes against youth…the series lends itself well to the audience playing detective along with the characters. I feel like I should be taking notes so that I can figure out what’s going on and who the perpetrator is, along with the team.

The actors are still finding their places within their roles, in episode one. However, I am a fan of Bruhl, Evans and Fanning, and I look forward to character development in future episodes. The story is fast paced and captivating. And the series, which is listed as the most expensive one that TNT has ever done, has a richness to the quality of filming that allows it to play like a theatrical movie…something I appreciate.

The Alienist airs Monday nights at 8:00 Central time, on TNT. I will be watching. I am still waiting for actor Ted Levine’s character to step up into a larger role!

Series Review: The Crown

I recently began watching the lavish Netflix original series, The Crown. I’m three quarters of the way through the first season, which premiered in November of 2016. Season two just released last month. The series has a projected run of six years. I’m glad. Being a history enthusiast, and one with a long time interest in the royalty of Europe, I am enchanted by this well done show.

The Crown stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Victoria Hamilton, Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and Jeremy Northam. The historical drama, directed by Philip Martin and several others, is based upon the award winning play “The Audience” by showrunner Peter Morgan. It carries a Mature Audience rating, and has a weekly run time of 58 minutes.

The Crown chronicles the ascent to the throne of Elizabeth II (Foy) at age 25, after the death of her father, King George VI (Harris), and her life from the 1940s to current times. The king, who was more ill than his family realized, died unexpectedly, deeply affecting his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (Hamilton) and his daughters, the future queen and his younger child, Margaret (Kirby).

Elizabeth II has a young family with her husband, Philip Mountbatten (Smith), the Duke of Edinburgh, a naval officer whose career is on the rise. She expected to have years living a somewhat normal life with her growing family before she would be required to wear the crown. The first season covers the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and the intrigues and challenges of the monarchy, along with the political rivalries between an aging Winston Churchill (Lithgow) and prime minister hopeful Anthony Eden (Northam).

The focus of the series is on the relationship between the young Queen and her husband, the Prince. They must learn to live in this new world they find themselves in. Philip gives up his naval career, his last name and the home he shares with Elizabeth and their children, to become the Queen’s consort.

Elizabeth is in the important role of queen, which must take precedent over that of wife. She must adapt, and quickly, as the needs of the monarchy never cease.

I am not only enjoying this beautiful production, my perspectives about England’s royal family is shifting. The casting is excellent. Matt Smith embodies Prince Philip. I read he was given one piece of advice from Prince William, about playing the role. William described his father as “legendary “.

I feel strong sympathy toward Prince Philip. He knew he was marrying the future Queen of England. However, the ascension to the throne happened earlier than they dreamed possible. Philip finds himself in a role he doesn’t quite yet know how to play. He will never be king, and yet he is a pillar of quiet strength beside his wife.

Matt Smith and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Claire Foy and Queen Elizabeth II.

The newly crowned Queen draws my earnest respect. She was so young when she took the throne. And yet she shouldered the heavy and demanding responsibilities well, learning quickly, making decisions that oft times were contrary to tradition or against the wishes of the Queen Mother or her husband. I find her life fascinating, and I am already seeing the royal family as so much more than figureheads with a celebrity type status.

There were, and still are, many political decisions to sort through and masses of people to care for and a country to represent, all while living in one of the most elaborate glass houses in the world. This family is under constant scrutiny, and I can’t imagine living day to day under that kind of pressure.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.

I look forward to furthering my education about this powerful woman, and her stalwart Prince, who have, in reality, been married for 70 years. That is a lifetime together. I appreciate The Crown, and the peek I am getting into that extraordinary life.

Series Review: Stranger Things

I had to roll to Plan C today. I am a bit sad that I missed a one time showing of the film, Loving Vincent, about painter Vincent Van Gogh. I figured movie goers would not appreciate my coughing outbursts. I hope I can catch the movie later on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Plan B was a creative project, that I simply lacked the energy for today.

The truth is, I spent most of the day in bed, nursing myself through a nasty cold. That is what my body needed most today, rest. I’ve sipped on an antioxidant rich smoothie, thyme tea, ginger water, and hot water with a drop each of Young Living Thieves essential oil and lemon essential oil.

Plan C matched my day of self care. I tuned in to the extremely popular Netflix series Stranger Things. I’m a little late to the Stranger Things party. Season 2 released last month. The great thing about Netflix is, one can easily catch up on a show by watching the earlier seasons. I am now two thirds of the way through season 1.

Stranger Things stars Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Matthew Modine, and Noah Schnapp. This fantasy drama is written and director by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. The episodes have a run time of 55 minutes each. This Netflix original series premiered in 2016.

Nothing much ever happens in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, until the night of November 16, 1983. That evening young Will Byers (Schnapp) disappears, after a day of playing Dungeons & Dragons with his best friends, Mike Wheeler (Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (McLaughlin) and Dustin Henderson (Matarazzo).

Sheriff Jim Hopper (Harbour) feels he must be under a curse, when a friend dies seemingly by a self inflicted gunshot shortly after the disappearance. There hasn’t been a missing person reported in Hawkins since 1921 and 1961 was the last suicide. As the sheriff begins the search for Will, the whole town starts to experience strange occurrences.

More people disappear. Will’s mother Joyce (Ryder) is sure her son is alive and in horrible danger. She is convinced Will is communicating with her via electrical lights and bizarre phone calls. At first everyone thinks Joyce is crazy. But gradually her elder son Jonathan (Heaton) begins to believe her. He recruits Mike’s older sister Nancy (Dyer) to track down a menacing faceless monster that seems to be behind the disappearances.

The trail Sheriff Hopper is following leads to a well guarded facility, Hawkins National Laboratory, run by Dr. Brenner (Modine). With a history of experimental and questionable practices, Hopper feels there is a connection between the lab and the chaos engulfing the town.

And only the three remaining friends know about the existence of the most mysterious person in Hawkins. She appeared the night Will disappeared. With closely cropped hair and clad in a hospital gown, the girl goes by the name Eleven. She has that number tattooed on her inner arm. Mike sneaks her into his family’s home, where she takes up residence in the basement. Eleven rarely speaks, but she has amazing psychokinetic abilities. The boys consider her gifts to be superpowers. She promises to help them find Will.

There is much going on in Hawkins, in the seen world and the unseen. Eleven seems to hold the key to the door between worlds. What will happen if that door is opened?

I have heard nothing but enthusiastic words about Stranger Things. I’ve deliberately not read detailed reviews about this series, so I could watch without a preconceived idea about the story.

I love this show!

Stranger Things is a campy cross between X Files and the 1986 movie Stand By Me. That’s deliberate. The creators wrote Stranger Things as a tribute to sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies and series of the 1980s. Several of the themes in this series were inspired by Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter. I enjoy the genres of fantasy and sci-fi, and a good horror flick if the focus is on the story and not blood and gore, so I found much to appreciate about Stranger Things.

The cast is phenomenal, especially the youth. Eleven’s portrayal by Millie is perfectly delivered. And my heart was pierced by Winona’s Joyce, the mom who refused to give up on her missing son. When evidence seemed to prove he was dead, Joyce stubbornly trusted her instincts that told her Will was alive. Her actions and beliefs appeared crazy to everyone else, and yet she was actually following the guidance she was being given.

I have three more episodes to watch in season 1, and then I am ready for season 2, which released in its entirety. This is easily a binge worthy show. I couldn’t stop after each episode, thinking Just one more…

I don’t know how this first season plays out. I haven’t looked ahead to season 2 at all. I’m watching the story of Stranger Things unfold one episode at a time. I am already hoping there will be a season 3.

Series Review: Kevin (probably) Saves the World

I have seen trailers for this series, which premiered on ABC on October 3. And I’ve seen several headlines giving the series great reviews, using words like “charming”, “fresh” and “unique”. Today, in between planned activities, I caught another preview and something about it upped my curiosity, transforming it into intrigue.

I was able to watch the first two episodes today, catching me up in preparation for episode 3, which airs Tuesday evening. I was immediately captivated. I laughed. I teared up. My heart expanded.

This is Kevin (probably) Saves the World.

This new series stars Jason Ritter, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, India de Beaufort, and Chloe East. The comedy/drama/fantasy was created by Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas and has a run time of 1 hour each week.

Kevin Finn (Ritter) is a down on his luck man, miserable in his New York City life. He becomes so disheartened, in fact, that he attempts suicide. In recovery, he leaves the big city and relocates to Texas, moving in with his widowed twin sister, Amy (Swisher) and his teenaged niece, Reece (East).

Feeling disconnected and without purpose, Kevin is struggling to cope, when a meteor that falls to the earth turns his world upside down. The meteor brings with it a woman named Yvette (Gregory), who announces that she is a Warrior of God. She tells Kevin that he was one of 36 righteous people on the earth. He appears to be the last of the righteous. Yvette’s mission is to journey with Kevin as he carries out his mission…locating 35 righteous people via his willingness to help others.

Kevin’s disbelief, and his conversations with a being only he can see, creates confusion and humorous interactions with his sister and niece…and also with former classmates and friends and his ex-girlfriend Kristin (de Beaufort). However, as he moves from disbelief to trying to complete the mission in his own way, to a sense of wondrous purpose, Kevin begins to understand that he is being called to something amazing and beautiful, to a bigger life than he has ever lived.

No matter that to everyone else, he appears to be a weird man. Obeying a wild call to transform, Kevin’s heart is changing and opening to a guidance he didn’t know existed. The more he opens and follows that guidance, the more wonders he is shown.

I am still processing this interesting show, after viewing the first two episodes. But I can tell you this, I will definitely be tuning in for episode 3 on Tuesday.

Jason Ritter, son of late actor John Ritter, delivers the perfect portrayal of a man who has been brought low by difficulties and now catches the first glimmers of hope, that perhaps there is more to life. His delivery, facial expressions, and mannerisms, all reminiscent of Jim Carey, bring both comedy and sympathy to his character.

I like the premise of this show, which is be kind to each other, and help each other. And, I certainly identify with the kind of journey Kevin has embarked on. It is full of signs, synchronicities and wonders. It emphasizes having a personal relationship with God that goes way beyond attending church. As Kevin begins to see with different eyes, more and more is shown to him.

This series is quirky, funny, and heart touching. ABC has placed it in a difficult day/time slot to survive in. And I don’t know if people will get the deeper messages present within the humor. I don’t know if it will last beyond its initial eight episodes.

But I like it. I appreciate what it offers and the way it portrays life’s journey. Kevin (probably) Saves the World is worth watching and worth pondering. I’ll be doing both.