The Crown (Netflix Season 4)

4-1/2 Kernels

It took me two days to get through season four of The Crown. The first three episodes gave me an emotional overload, and I had to step away from it for a good four hours before watching more later in the evening. Let me just say that the season was surprisingly different than I anticipated but did bring me to tears on many occasions, especially when it came to Diana. Emma Corrin did a wonderful job in portraying the late Princess, reminding us why she was the people’s Princess despite being unloved by her Prince.

I had thought that season four would contain more of Charles and Diana, but it was interspersed with others such as Margaret Thatcher’s eleven years in office, and continuing struggles of the royal family on many levels with all of the Queen’s children being introduced. If anything is to be taken away from this season is that poor Diana married into Queen’s kingdom of dysfunctional individuals, without a soul really caring for her at all.

You will spend a few good hours watching Gillian Anderson’s brilliant portrayal of the Iron Lady and her political policies that didn’t always sit well with the Queen. Charles Dance will have a short window of opportunity before his ill-fated trip as Lord Mountbatten. Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret will continue to struggle with her physical and mental health in the shadow of her sister. Erin Doherty plays the very monotone and unhappy Princess Anne, only one of four miserable children all bemoaning their existence of being an unhappy royal child. Emerald Fennel plays Camilla, who by the end of the season you want to slap. Josh O’Connor, whose hands are perpetually in his suitcoat pockets, plays the unhappy Prince of Wales. He is both childish and cruel to Diana on so many levels that you pray it really didn’t happen that way. It’s not a pretty picture.

The Queen is the Queen, and Oliva Colman is perfect being the monarch who cannot show emotion. She is unable to return a simple hug to poor Diana so much in need of acceptance and love. In one episode she is concerned about how her children have turned out and their lives as adults. Nevertheless, she continues to demand duty to the crown, especially where whining Charles is concerned about his marriage to Diana.

Prince Philip is well portrayed by Tobias Menzies, who comes across more of a father figure this season. In a family who doesn’t give much attention to Diana, he becomes her approver early on and adviser at the end, clearly making her understand where her place is when it comes to the royal scheme of life – that everyone’s existence revolves around one person – the Queen.

As stated, I wanted more about Charles and Diana, but what is portrayed is so emotional that we’ve been spared additional heartbreak. Supposedly in real life he only saw her thirteen times before they wed. Diana was approved because of her title to be his wife, but he never loved her. He longs for Camilla, married to another man, with an obsession that is unexplainable. You’ll see very little about the birth of William and Harry, although there are a few scenes with the young children with her individually or when Charles and Diana show up as a couple separately to cheer them on, and then leave in separate cars afterwards to go their own ways.

Season four is heartbreaking, astonishing, disturbing, and above all well acted. The ending will leave you feeling like the look on Diana’s face during the last scene – brokenhearted and trapped in a family of dysfunctional royals.

Season five will bring us all new actors as the years go by and the royal family ages. Unfortunately, it’s another year’s wait to watch the family saga continue.

Emily in Paris (Netflix 2020)

4 Parisian Stars

Emily in Paris is a delightful series on Netflix consisting of ten episodes in the first season. I’ve never really cared to visit Paris, since it’s always my English roots calling my DNA. Nevertheless, Emily in Paris makes the city delightfully intriguing, romantic, and beautiful. Unfortunately, from what I read online, the French are not too happy with how they are being stereotyped in this less than acceptable portrayal of their culture. Even the English newspapers are calling it “excruciating” (read more here and read more here) and filled with clichés.

Since I cannot speak French, except to count to six, and barely can recognize a few printed words, I’m happy to say there are captions for us who didn’t pay attention in our French high school class. There are only a few occasions, since the series in in English.

The story revolves around Emily, a young and ambitious cute young lady from Chicago who goes to France for her job to give an advertising agency an American perspective. She is very in tune with social media, and arrives with ideas of how to bring their customers into a world they really don’t care about being part of. After all, the company represents brands of class for the rich, and what do they care about social media? Everyone in the office oozes sophistication, while Emily’s wardrobe is far too wild to be taken seriously.

Emily is immediately enthralled with Paris but also a bit confused as to the language, people, and culture. French people are mean. Everyone seems to exploit women in advertising, and sex is on their mind twenty-four/seven. Men have mistresses, and the language of love is far different than what she is used to from the United States. Nevertheless, the food is yummy, the male population flirtatious and good looking, and the city beautiful. She opens an Instagram account naming it “Emily in Paris” and posts pictures of her adventures, eventually becoming an influencer in her own right using her social media followers.

Of course, there is romance, a few sexual encounters (with not too much skin but a lot of moaning and humping), a definite lack of morality with all the players, wrapped up in a cute and delightful storyline that kept me binging six episodes before I finished off the last four the second day.

I am sorry that the series has offended the French on more than one level, but I’ll admit I’m one of those ignorant “hick” Americans who do not know very much about France or its culture, except the revolution, Marie Antoinette losing her head, and Napoleon causing problems for the English. If the city is really as beautiful and delightful as portrayed, I might visit some day.

If you’re looking for a young-at-heart series, no drama (except when the French insist that American romance happily ever after endings are for the birds and it’s not life), you may like this series. I’m looking forward to a second season and Emily’s adventures and love life coming to fruition.

I almost feel as if I need to apologize to any French people reading this review for my ignorance of your culture and my liking of this series. It’s nothing personal. If it makes you feel any better, I wrote my first book set in France in 1870. Of course, that hasn’t received very good reviews either having been trolled relentlessly because of the subject matter. I did, however, find researching the era fascinating.

Au revoir. 

Away (Netflix 2020)

2 Kernels

There is much buzz about the Internet and multiple reviews on this new show. People are hankering to lift off from the planet earth and watch an inspiring Sci-Fi series to get their mind off of earthly riots and pandemic. Well, as most reviews you will read, this new series isn’t going to lift you off very far. Instead, it’s going to keep you grounded in earthly soap opera antics and introduce you to a dysfunctional spaceship crew that can’t quite get it together until the end.

I will be frank with you. I watched the first three episodes and then skipped to the last episode, leaving behind a few unseen. The short synopsis of the the ones I missed filled in the blanks enough for me to try and reach a climatic ending of a Mars walk.

I have no complaint with Hilary Swank. She is a fine actress who has her share of awards. As she plays, Emma, the commander of the mission, her story is more grounded in earthly problems with her husband having a stroke and leaving behind her teenage daughter for three years while she sets off to Mars and the unknown. In space, she can’t quite get the support of the crew she is supposed to lead.

The rest of the crew, who are all from different countries, can’t seem to get it together as a team. There is backbiting, complaining, no trust in their commander, and the same old crap we deal with on earth is flown off toward Mars.

The spaceship has more problems than a car with 100,000 miles on it, creating small crises along the way that need fixing or else the mission is doomed. For some reason, you don’t quite feel that being doomed is all that bad, when five people can’t work together for a common goal.

Then there are the technical problems that some people are ranting about in reviews. Frankly, I was quite surprised, too, that talking on a cell phone from a spaceship far beyond the moon was possible. The reception is better than what we get on earth.

If you are looking for a cool science fiction series, you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for the same old earth-antics, coworker angst, and family problems played out in outer space, this one is for you. The only good scenes were when they landed on Mars after the eight-month voyage (and yes, they make it), taking another giant leap for mankind but not for television.

Finally! Season 4 – The Crown

Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher) and Emma Corrin (Lady Diana Spencer) join Olivia Colman. November 15th!!

Virgin River (Netflix Series 2019)

3.5 Kernels

Well, from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., I binged a new series on Netflix – Virgin River. Was it a waste of time or could have I been more productive finishing my laundry and vacuuming instead?  As guilty as I felt about sitting on my rear for so many hours in one day, with occasional bathroom, kitchen breaks, and a short one-hour nap, the show obviously kept my interest.

Virgin River is a romantic series, which Netflix has already commissioned a second season due to be released June 2020. Therefore, don’t throw your hands up in the air when you reach the last episode of season one, because more is coming your way.  The show is “loosely” based on a series of books written by author Robyn Carr, another lucky author (unlike myself) whose books are being brought to life on television.

The series is about Melinda Rose, a talented nurse played by Alexandra Breckenridge, who brings strength to the leading female character. Melinda has a terribly sad past and has experienced horrible heartache, all of which she is hoping to forget by taking a job in northern California. The fictional town of Virgin River is apparently two hours from Eureka, on the California coast. However, the show was filmed in British Columbia, and the scenery is far more mountainous than the actual location depicted. There are also shots of Eureka, but they are far from what Eureka looks like. After living there for eighteen months, I can tell you much about the place.  Nevertheless, setting aside the rather unrealistic locations, it’s worth tuning into.

During the series, there are multiple flashbacks to Melinda’s life, which are slowly revealed in each episode as to the reason she has left Los Angeles in an attempt to forget the painful memories of the location. It takes time to peel back the reason behind her hurt and pain. When she arrives in Virgin River, she meets an eclectic group of individuals. First, there is the seventy-plus year-old-doctor that she is supposed to support as a nurse. She quickly learns he doesn’t want her there and is being forced to take on extra help in his sole practice as the only physician in Virgin River. Then there is the mayor of the town, who pretty much tricked her into coming, who is a character in herself. As small towns go, she’s just part of a larger group of women who knows everybody’s business and can’t seem to stay out of anything in anybody’s life. Like a dog with a bone, you’ll soon find out that she is not the most likable individual.

The slow-burning romantic interest comes in the way of Martin Henderson, playing Jack Sheridan, the owner of the town bar. He has his own past of being a vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. He hires other vets to work for him at the bar and is intent on helping those who can’t get back into the swing of things after coming out of service, all to ease his own guilt of what happened in Iraq.  He immediately feels a spark of attraction to Melinda and quickly offers to help her get settled into Virgin River. However, he has his own surprise twist waiting in the wings. Melinda is extremely secretive with him about her past, and he doesn’t understand what she has been through into much later in the episodes.

There are other sub-plots through the series and characters to keep your interest from illegal pot growers in the mountains to a woman on the run from the law with her young son. These offshoots are merely fillers in the larger picture of Melinda and Jack’s journey to wholeness. Though some of the episodes have places to yawn, overall I found Virgin River to be entertaining and will tune to the second season.

As far as the heat level, think Hallmark clean. Very little swearing. No glaring sex scenes – just kisses. I found that interesting because a few of the book reviews complain about sexually explicit scenes or too much sex. Apparently, the screenplay writer decided otherwise. Fine with me.