Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005)

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 The Bankrupt Estate

Stars:  Alastair Mackenzie, Richard Briers, Susan Hampshire
Type:  TV Series – BBC Scotland

I’ve been streaming Monarch of the Glen for a few weeks now and have made my way through Season 4. There are a few more ahead of me, but I’ve peeked online and read what is to come. No surprises await me.

When Season 1 began, I was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of all the players with great interest. Archie, the reluctant Laird, played by cutie Alastair Mackenzie, is a keen personality drawn home to Glenbogle and a position he doesn’t care to hold. The family estate is bankrupt, his father is in denial of the problems, and his mother schemes to keep Archie there. Archie, however, is determined to make it a short visit and hopes to return to his overbearing girlfriend and entrepreneurship as a restaurant owner in London. The family estate contain painful memories of a brother who drowned in the loch.

As the story ensues, he is sucked back into the world of his childhood. His dead ancestors, along with his parents, are determined to make him face up to his responsibilities as the Laird of Glenbogle. Events lead to just that – he abandons his life in London and roots himself back into his heritage. His family and the staff are an eclectic mixture of personalities, as well as family friends and potential loves. Of some interest, one friend of the family and neighbor is played by Julian Fellowes, who later went on to write Downton Abbey.  The first three seasons I thoroughly enjoyed, but as the seasons continued on, I found myself losing interest.

Archie’s first love interest, Katrina, made a great angst-filled love story of two personalities clashing together, who were both too proud to admit their feelings. When they finally do, the actress who plays the part leaves the show, and we are left with Archie once again seeking to adjust.

Lexie, the cook and housemaid, has her eyes on Archie; but, of course, the class separation looms before her as an obstacle. Golly and Duncan are great side characters and employees of the estate.  Hector, Archie’s father, and Molly his mother, are wonderful characters in their own right. The story focuses upon their intent to get the estate out of debt before the bank forecloses and forces them to sell. As they struggle to get out of debt, life goes on with its ups and down, along with humorous and lighthearted episodes that continue to entertain. There are a few characters I grew to dislike, however, especially from the bank!

Unfortunately, I found the series losing steam toward the end. Huge changes in casting and story line occurred, and the blending of the characters you’ve come to love, suddenly unravel. People leave the show, replacements come in, and things change. I think, too, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed over Archie’s choice of a love interest in Lexie at first. For so long there was no spark between the two, and then suddenly he confesses he’s loved her all along. The emotionless expression on his face gave me the impression he was settling rather than being head-over-heels in love, which is the story I would have preferred to see. I see in the episodes ahead, a little more emotion between the two, though.

In any event, it’s a good and entertaining watch. The Scottish history and heritage is fascinating. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and makes me want to visit Scotland the next time I cross the pond. It was filmed on location in Scotland around Badenoch and Strathspey and at the Ardverikie House, on the far shore of Loch Laggan.

One other comment, if you’re not used to heavy Scottish brogue, the dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand.

The Forsyte Saga (2002-03)

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(2002-03) – Television Series – ITV
 Damian Lewis Actor

Since I’m in the midst of writing my own English saga of sorts, I usually get sucked into these DVD sets for hours on end drowning myself in period English dramas. The Forsyte Saga makes it to the top of my list as an enjoyable treat of English life.

I’m often fascinated over how the rich lived in the Victorian age. My English family made bricks, while families like these lived lives of luxury filled with all sorts of soap opera antics.

The Forsyte Saga is a television adaptation of John Galsworthy three novels, which apparently has been filmed in other adaptations throughout the years. This particular version was done by Granada Television for the ITV network, however, some complained it took too many liberties from the original work.  It was later shown on Masterpiece Theater.

Nevertheless, stories like these are up my alley, even if I haven’t read the original. I will confess at the ending of the entire saga, I felt upset and left hanging, so I downloaded the original work on Kindle to see if it really did end that way.  And yes, to my chagrin, it did.  Frankly, it would be a hell of a story to pick up and write a sequel . . . hum.

Soames, played by Damien Lewis (who by the way just won an Emmy for his portrayal in Homeland in 2012) is the central character of the story and family.  My heart went out to the proper, stout Englishman who adored a woman, wanted to be loved in return, and desired children. His passion, of course, borders on obsession, but you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, who never found a woman to love him in life. Yes, he was a rich snob, but even snobs need love once in a while.

As far as Irene, Soames first wife and obsession, I felt absolutely no sympathy for that woman whatsoever. Perhaps my heart was a cold as the one she portrayed with little remorse over the hurt she caused others in her life. She was an interesting character who grated upon me throughout the series, which good characters are supposed to do!

As far as the remaining hours, they were an interesting treat of English life and the gorgeous dresses and costumes, dysfunctional family members, scandals, and the rest of the lot that makes up a soap opera atmosphere. No matter what English movie I watch, the birds are always chirping in the background as if life just goes merrily along.

The only problem I did have with the saga itself, were the abrupt jumps in time period, i.e. from five years, six years, and twelve, with not one gray hair eventually making it to anyone’s head! They all seemed to be ageless. A little more realism in that arena would have been better. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable series for you English loving blokes.

White Collar (TV Show USA Network)

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I will admit that often I ignore some of the shows that Netflix recommends to me.  Probably for the past six months or more, I’ve consistently passed over White Collar after reading the synopsis.  It just didn’t interest me. I’m not a crime buff.

Okay, I know this is going to sound really lame, but after reading Fifty Shades of Grey and women thinking that Matt Bomer would make the perfect Christian Grey, I decided to see what all the hullabaloo was about over this good looking guy (who is gay, by the way.)  As a result, I started watching White Collar.

Instantly, I got sucked into a show that I thought I would never be interested in.  Matt Bomer plays the con-man Neal Caffrey, who cuts a deal with the FBI to shorten his prison time if they allow him to work as a consultant with the guy who put him behind bars in the first place.  Peter Burke, played by Tim DeKay, is the agent that decides to give Neal a chance.  Of course, he’s on a tight leash with a tracking device around his ankle that only gives him a two-mile radius in New York City when he’s by himself.

What can I say about this show? For someone who is NOT into crime shows, White Collar is probably the best show I’ve seen in a long time. It’s my type.  Why? The violence is very tame, there’s no cursing, the sexual situations are tempting, but there’s no graphic sex, the suspense is a killer at the end of every episode, and the characters are people that you fall in love with and become emotionally involved in their lives. Besides all of the above, the relationship between Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey is a joy to watch.  You get so attached to them both, that you sit there and worry about each of them every episode.

Frankly, after watching this show, I think I missed my calling as a writer for a  TV show. Bravo to those that pen this fantastic series. Every episode, of course, focuses upon another white collar crime and bad guy that needs catching. However, every episode is rich with undertones of the secondary story of Neal’s loves, life, secrets, and struggle to go straight. Peter’s underlying motivation is to see Neal, who he has become friends with, turn away and leave the life of crime. The questions looms, once a con man, always a con man? You should tune in to find out.

Seasons one through three are currently on Netflix.  I quickly devoured each episode.  Season four is for purchase on Amazon, which I’m watching now.  Only two left to go and then I’ll be in the desert with no Neal Caffrey, Mozzie (his side kick), Peter’s wife, and the rest of the cast.  Love them all!  White Collar was picked up for Season 5, but alas, I don’t have USA Network.  I may have to remedy that situation come January.

Anyway, as usual, I’m probably the last to stumble across this treasure of a television program.  If you are a late comer, like me, take note. You won’t be sorry.

 

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (Movie 1987)

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Stars: Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins

Based on a book published in 1955 by Brian Moore, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is a classic in its own right. I watched this buried goodie on Netflix, but I’m not sure it’s still streaming. It’s on Amazon Instant Video for $3.99 and VHS at the whopping price of $79.95! It’s not available on DVD. If you like the brilliance of Maggie Smith and know the pain of being a spinster or even single, this movie is a heart-felt tearjerker. I definitely went through a few Kleenex on this one and ran for more food afterward.First off let me preface this review by saying that Maggie Smith’s performance in this movie was Oscar worthy. Maggie Smith did win the BAFTA Award for Best Actress at least. We all love Maggie for her role in Downton Abbey, but the beauty of this movie is that she is the headline star and the story revolves around Judith Hearne. Maggie does so well portraying the character that you’re frankly mesmerized by her performance as a much younger actress.

Judith is a middle-aged spinster. The setting is Dublin, Ireland. She teaches piano, and she occasionally goes on drinking binges when life becomes too hard to handle. (It’s not much different than our single binges of overeating and other destructive tendencies we partake in to kill emotional pain of loneliness.) Judith moves into another boarding house in search of a new beginning. She brings her suitcase, her framed picture of Jesus for the wall, and promises God things will be better.

Life in the boarding house is not exactly what I’d term the best place to make a new beginning. Its boarders are an eclectic mixture of nutcases from the owner to the residents. It’s here that Maggie meets the brother of the owner, who happens to be an American, played by Bob Hoskins.

James Madden, Judith’s new potential interest, isn’t the man of character that she thinks him to be. They start to spend time together, and Judith begins to falsely believe that he’s interested in her as a potential wife, when in reality all he wants is her money, of which she has very little. The realization that he’s really not interested, sends Judith spiraling downward into depression and gin bottles.

Poor Judith is a woman ridiculed and alone. She compensates for her less than happy life by telling little white lies to make her life sound better. When she finally breaks, a scene ensues where she goes to church and loses it completely. It’s the most powerful cry of the human soul I’ve seen in quite some time, as the good and faithful Catholic Judith runs to the altar, rips back curtain of the Tabernacle, and screams at God, “Are you really in there? Did you hear me?”

I think this movie moved me on a personal level because of my own life of being alone for 13 years and unanswered prayers for a mate. The climatic scene in the church is so well played by Maggie Smith and so heart wrenching, it’s hard to put into words. In any event, the movie is well worth the wonderful performance. It’s an oldie, but goodie, that deserves to be resurrected.

Memorable Lines: (Judith)”Mr. Madden, I usually go the 11 o’clock mass on Sunday. Do you have a usual time?” (Madden) “Time doesn’t matter, you just gotta get through it.”

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