The Great (Hulu 2020)

3 Kernels

I am almost embarrassed to give this series three kernels. If I had a shred of decency in me, I would give it one kernel and appear morally superior. This series is raunchy, filled with sex, swearing (including the F-bomb every sentence), possesses disturbing scenes, orgies, terrible morals, disgusting attitudes, and supposedly a comedy that has yet to make me laugh. Even though there are tons of sex scenes, you won’t see much skin. The skirts are voluminous during this time period, so it’s basically an up-the-skirt event. It contains a disclaimer that it is not exactly historically correct, although the underlying story revolves around Peter III and the young Catherine, his wife, who eventually becomes Catherine the Great of Russia.

It begins with the young Catherine arriving from Germany to Russia to wed the tsar. She kisses the ground, believing she is destined for greatness as the wife of Peter the III.  Filled with romantic notions about sex and ruling a nation, she soon discovers that her husband is an absolute soulless ass. He is ignorant and keeps the people in ignorance, thanks to the church who guides him in that direction. Catherine, however, has ideas on how to make a great country, educate the people, bring them an ounce of happiness, all of which Peter could care less about.

The court is filled with immorality and ignorant women, while Catherine is the only one who can read. Whenever she tries to assert her wishes to educate or make things better, her ideas are squashed. Her thoughts of happiness soon turn to unhappiness, leaving her with one recourse. She decides to initiate a coup and overthrow her husband’s reign, to become empress and rule Russia.

Frankly, I’m appalled at myself for continuing to watch this trash but can’t help myself.  I guess it’s the 44% Russian DNA in my veins. If Peter III was really such a disgusting fool, it was a good thing that Catherine did overthrow him, as the history books tell us, and take over the country.

If you decide to watch, do so with CAUTION.  If you are easily offended, this is not the show for you.  There have been so many stories about Catherine the Great, I guess Hulu decided to put a spin on it.  I find some of their shows difficult to stomach. I couldn’t get through Harlots and it appears they enjoy using the shock factor.  The only reason I have a Hulu subscription right now is to watch Mrs. America, which is currently streaming. I’ll no doubt cancel it after that show is over.

Okay, enough said.


The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu Series 2017)

Handmaid5 Kernels

Eventually, the multiple Emmy awards, the constant streaming of advertisements, and the general hype about The Handmaid’s Tale sucked me into a disturbing futuristic world created by Margaret Atwood.  This sometimes savage story about totalitarian theonomy that has taken over the United States is enough to make you nauseous.  There were times I wanted to turn it off but felt imprisoned to watch the outcome much as the poor handmaidens are kept enslaved.

Written in 1985, the book has won multiple awards, including the series itself. It’s based on the story of a woman who was once known as June who narrates her tale in the given name of Offred. The plot summary is rather detailed, including the Republic of Gilead and how it works in the scheme of this new world.  Because the future has left an immoral and out-of-control society, a fundamentalist group of men rise up and gain enough power to bring about change.  The revolution kills the leaders of the free world, takes away the rights of women, disbands the Constitution, and initiates a social order based on Old Testament theology, sprinkled with a few verses from the New Testament, and extreme religious fanaticism.  Thinking these people are Christians could not be further from the truth. It’s a new religion of sorts, while they destroy the old beliefs and tear down churches.

In addition, the world has been polluted and diluted from disease to such an extent that the population is diminishing. Women are infertile; men are sterile; few women remain who are able to bear children.  To breed, the higher caste who run the government inslave fertile woman, calling them handmaidens of the Lord. They base their practice upon the Biblical story of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, who entreated her husband to impregnate her handmaid since she was barren.  The new society turns it into a rather disturbing ceremonial ritual that leaves you appalled.

Because this new society of Gilead is so detailed in its workings you should head over to Wikipedia and read the explanation of who plays what role in this caste society.  Even their dress and colors have various meanings, as well as their names. I must admit that Margaret Atwood’s fantasy-created world is seriously distressing but genius storytelling.

This series has done an excellent job on many levels, which despite the story that gives you the shivers, does deserve its accolades as well.

  • First and foremost the acting is phenomenal for all involved.  I cannot rave enough about Elizabeth Moss’ performance and well-deserved Emmy win. It’s not often that an actress can portray such hopelessness, fear, and loathing with such intensity that you experience the same emotions during the scenes.
  • The music adds to the terror and tenseness of the plot with expert precision.
  • The awards speak for themselves:  Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Cinematography, Outstanding Direction, etc.


My warning about this show is that you may find it deeply distressing.  The story may shock, grieve, anger, and bring you to tears.  It will incite in your heart fear and make you question whether something like this could ever happen in our lifetime.  It will cause you to ponder how a group of people could gain dominion and control over society with such force.  It is religious fanaticism forced upon the masses at its worse.  You will wonder if faced with the same scenario, would you give in and obey or would you never let the bastards win.  Perhaps that is the purpose of this story — to leave you troubled and vexed for a good reason.

As most of us know, there are pockets of such societies that sadly exist upon this earth today.  To make matters worse, some groups are still intent on imposing their beliefs and controls upon others elsewhere in the world.  Let us pray, if you do pray, that nothing like Sons or Jacob or Gilead ever rises to power in our lives.

In the meantime, if you have enough courage, head on over and immerse yourself in the frightful scenario of the land of Gilead.


Madame Bovary (BBC 2000)

4 Kernels
Like Jane Eyre, it appears there are enough adaptations of Madame Bovary to keep you busy for weeks watching each one with a bag of popcorn and a glass of French wine. Another new version is on the horizon (see trailer below), which will soon be released in the United States in June.

Curious about the story (gasp, yes I hadn’t read the book or watched another version until this one), I tuned in on Hulu (swearing at every commercial, but it’s not streaming on Netflix) and watched the BBC series done in 2000 with quite a few great actors that I like.

The cast includes Frances O’Connor as Emma Bovary (aka Mrs. Selfridge); Greg Wise as one of her lovers (aka Willougby in Sense & Sensibility 1995 movie); Hugh Dancy as another lover (who played in Daniel Deronda); and Hugh Bonneville, who plays her husband (well, you know what Earl that he is).  Fantastic lineup and great acting move this melodramatic story along.

If you haven’t read the book or watched an adaptation before, this one will no doubt be as memorable as Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Madame Bovary was written by a French author by the name of Gustave Flaubert in 1856.  Emma is the central focus of the story, who is a young lady who is in love with love and hungry to experience the world of passion.  (Hum, sounds like my character Ann Seddon in Blythe Court.)

She marries a kind and fairly good-looking doctor, who gives her a comfortable life. He is a widower and emotionally mature but soon discovers, after his marriage, that Emma has her head in the clouds when it comes to love, life, and reality.  Unable to satisfy her constant yearning to experience something more, she quickly succumbs to the seduction of two men who fall madly in love with her.  Illicit affairs begin, but it’s obvious that Emma has a screw loose somewhere.  As she begins to smother each of her lovers demanding constant attention, they eventually leave.  (Clue – don’t smother men. They tend to run.)

Not only does she crave passionate sexual relations, she also craves things.  She’s the type of woman that in this day and age you definitely don’t want her to have a credit card.  Even in Madame Bovary’s day, purchasing on credit was as easy as signing one’s name. Of course, just like our due dates and bills of the 21st century, there’s a time to pay up.  After losing her second lover and the creditors calling in her debits, things turn bleak, having bankrupted her husband.  Arsenic is the answer to her problems, and a young, vibrant woman comes to a tragic end.  Frankly, she would have been better off doing herself in like Anna Karenina – at least it would have been quick and less painful (well, maybe not less painful).

Both Tolstoy and Flaubert’s stories are hailed as literary greats. I do find it interesting, though, that each touches on the sad outcome of women who dare to find solace outside the realm of passionless and boring marriages. It was perfectly acceptable in that time period for men to have mistresses. You never read a tale from a 19th-century author of any brokenhearted male throwing himself in front of a train or downing arsenic over a lost love – at least I haven’t read any.  Enlighten me if you have found such drama between the pages of a book.

Nevertheless, in these stories we are given tragic endings to apparently remind the female gender that if they sought such romantic trysts, only tragedy awaited them as punishment for their sins.  Of course, had her husband done his duty (which most men didn’t do either in those days except copulate to have heirs), perhaps Emma would have stayed in the bed she belonged and received the love and passion she longed from her spouse. Okay, I’ll stop ranting about the discriminatory attitudes of morality in the 19th century (even before and after that century).

With the new version about to be released, I can honestly say that I found this BBC series a satisfying and well-done portrait of poor Madame Bovary.

Below is the trailer for the new movie.  Will you go?

Hunderby (TV UK Sky Series 2012)

3 Kernels

Stars: Julia Davis, Alexandra Roach, Alex Macqueen

So at the prodding of my son, I signed up for Hulu.  Since Netflix didn’t renew a lot of the BBC shows (shame on them), I went over to Hulu because they are brimming with British sitcoms.  I only have one complaint.  WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THEY HAVE COMMERCIALS?  Grrr…..  Ditch them, already.  I’m paying them as much as Netflix a month, who lets me watch straight through without bombarding me with advertisements.  The only thing that is redeeming Hulu in my eyes is the vast amount of British television and movies waiting for me to devour.

Okay, now that I am done bitching…  I stumbled across Hunderby as my first watch.  Good gracious in heaven above — what an irreverent dark comedy that only British humor could devise. You’ll either be appalled or will laugh your head off.  I sat midground, hence the three kernels. The show does have it’s redeeming qualities (or maybe not).  This type of humor, however, has never been my cup of tea. Nevertheless, it is clever but a morally shocking comedic story of 1830 England and one very strange group of people.

The story begins with a shipwreck and a woman who washes up on shore by the name of Helene.  However, that’s not really her name because she’s a stowaway running from her past.  Immediately, after being revived by the doctor while others took her for dead, she is courted by Edmund, a brimstone preaching vicar who is a crude man.  When Helene marries him and comes to live in his rather large house, things turn even darker and creepier than Jane Eyre and the mad wife locked away.  Frankly, there is a madwoman, but she’s wandering around as the as the housekeeper named Dorothy.

Helene quickly becomes disillusioned with her new life and falls for the advances of the doctor who saved her life. They begin this rather entertaining affair, copulating at every turn.  In the meantime, her vicar husband is finding that he has a sexual propensity toward men and, in particular, one of his servants.  All the while in the background, the crazy housekeeper is out to discredit Helene any way that she can because she’s in love with Edmund.

The series is dark. The humor is crude.  And the ending a hoot.  If you like the kind of twisted dark humor that will give you a laugh and the willies at the same time, Hunderby (along with its commercials on Hulu) is the one for you!