Good Viewing(s)

My last post criticized some recent television programs, particularly The Flight Attendant. We all could do that. It is easy to pick things apart, of course.

So I will stick my neck out here. What would I consider some good recent programs? Here are six:

Borgen (an informal name for the Danish government, meaning “the castle,” after the palace where parliament is housed), on Netflix.

Produced from 2010-2013, available now dubbed into English (and Danish seems so close to English at times that you often don’t even notice the dubbing), you would not think a program revolving largely around the Danish prime minister would be so engaging. While, for example, there might be a debate on procuring a new fighter jet – you get the impression that would mean the country will then have two planes, doubling the size of the air force – an episode is more likely to be built around expanding child care benefits or better governance in Greenland. It is kinda The West Wing… without the parades of armored SUVs and sirens and over the top ceremonialism.

Danish ministers, you see, often cycle to work. (There are 30 one-hour episodes total.)

Devils, a 2020 production on Sky (here in Britain), about banking and the aftermath of the financial crash of 2001 in Argentina, and then 2008 in other places, starring Patrick Dempsey and Alessandro Borghi is surprisingly excellent drama.

Borghi is a major Italian star and here brilliantly plays a multimillionaire trader.

Dempsey, his boss, is most familiar to us from Grey’s Anatomy. Here he portrays a London-based American banker. He is usually soft-spoken, appears in complete control of the universe, and is unfailingly debonair even as he is about to devour you. (We just finished watching the first 10 episodes of that one. There is evidently to be another 10 episodes.)

Emily in Paris, which I have discussed before (emphasizing its downside), is also on Netflix. Yes, yes, yes, I know it is not heavy stuff; but not everything needs to be Shakespeare. It is escapism perfect for a pandemic which prevents us from traveling and regularly reminded me of an old-fashioned 1960s or 1970s U.S. sitcom.

It is in most ways also the predictable foreigner (especially the American) in Paris stuff, but has some new twists on that – and unlike Schitt’s Creek it usually made me laugh out loud at least once an episode. (The first season was 12 roughly half hour episodes. There is a second season due to be made.)

Frankly I feel the real “star” of the show is “Emily’s” boss, “Sylvie,” seen above… who steals every scene she is in.

Also these, which I mentioned near the end of a post a few months ago, and are worth re-mentioning here:

The Colombian-produced Netflix-distributed Bolívar (2019, in Spanish, with English subtitles), about the life (and loves, in 60ish one hour episodes) of the South American independence fighter of the early 1800s. It is very much a “telenovela“-type program. Yet it is worth a watch as an introduction to the man, NOT the final word on him.

On a simple level, he is a George Washington to much of northern South America. While little-known in the U.S. today, he was much better known in the early 1800s. Interestingly, Confederate general Simon Bolivar Buckner was named after him, as was Bolivar County, Mississippi

…and the Confederacy, including Mississippi, of course fought to maintain slavery in the southern U.S. states between 1861-1865, while ironically the original Bolivar had 50 years before fought to FREE slaves in South America.

Le Bazar de la Charité (The Bonfire of Destiny, in French with English subtitles, or dubbed into English), an eight episode French TV and Netflix-distributed 2019 production, based initially on a true 1897 Paris massive fire and its fictional aftermath seen through the eyes of three women striving to cope with their changed lives.

That it is available on Netflix also dubbed into English may seem unremarkable. However, that there is a dubbed version is noteworthy because English-dubbing is not a common practice for French television productions. I am just guessing here, but I do wonder if such is evidence that its creators also hoped to reach possibly a Downton Abbey-era-interested (Downton was very popular in France as globally) English-speaking viewership who are not wild about watching subtitles.

As an aside, I saw somewhere (I can’t now recall exactly where) reported recently that Netflix and other streamers have learned during the pandemic that U.S. viewers have not been as resistant to watching subtitled programs as they had been previously. Obviously looking for new stuff to watch and at home with lots of time on their hands, Americans have been willing to become more adventurous and give subtitled international programs a chance. In doing so they have discovered non-English speaking programs that would never before have made much of an impression in the U.S.

Indeed, subtitles really are just like reading a “graphic novel,” no? LOL!

Here is another…

Ekaterina on Amazon Prime (in mostly Russian, with English subtitles), is a Russia TV-produced forty episode (2014-2019) series about Czarina Catherine II, known as “the Great.”

An astonishing German-born woman who went from being reared simply to be a wife of a noble, she ended up marrying a czar, “succeeding” that husband (evidently thinking he was going to have her killed, she beat him to it and likely had him killed first), and then ruled Russia on her own from 1762-1796.

Because we cannot be everywhere at once, it is human often to see matters in isolation and overlook that much else is going on at the same time elsewheres. Case in point: her entire life was lived at almost exactly the same time as George Washington’s. He was born 3 years after her (1732) and died exactly 3 years after her (1799)…

…Gee, looking at that choice of programs again, I think my general viewing tastes are pretty obvious. LOL!

Have a good Monday, wherever you are. 🙂

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