The Forsyte Saga (2002-03)

4 Kernels

(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)

white-collar4 Kernels

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)

Lonely5 Kernels

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.”

Foyle’s War (2002 to Present)

5 Kernels
Stars: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell, and Julian Overden

 Type: ITV Series (22 episodes to date)

 You’ll discover a lot about who I am as a person as my reviews continue and what makes me tick. Foyle’s War, believe it or not, is a good example. I don’t always watch the “chick flick” fluff. There are times that I watch the nitty-gritty of life’s realities that are filled with struggle and often heartache.

I think my fascination with this series is due to my background. My father fought in World War II. He was in the Army Corps of Engineers, and though he was stationed in the Pacific, rather than in Europe, I know that World War II had a huge influence upon my parent’s life. My mother kissed her husband goodbye when she was pregnant with my brother, and four years later he returned, thankfully, alive. During those years, my mother worked in a radio factory, and life was tough for everyone. My parent’s generation were people that knew about sacrifice, unlike the younger generation of today, who have no idea about ration cards for food, gas masks, bombs falling upon their heads, blackouts, death, and destruction in their own backyard.

Foyle’s War is an interesting look into war in Britain from the very beginning to the end, and a few series beyond. It’s not only a murder mystery series, it’s a series about how the war affected everyone in England, from the civilian to the soldier, pilot, or sailor.

Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen) is the main focus. He’s a man of honor, moral absolutes, and integrity, who is faced with not only the war in Britain, but the war against criminals during a time of war. It’s true that hardship can bring out the best in the human race, but it can also bring out the despicable of the human race. Foyle, as you soon learn in the series, is sometimes faced with the question of whether to take the high road in prosecuting the criminal, or turning a blind eye for the sake of the war effort.

From the early onset of the series, the difficulties and heartaches of war are clearly focused upon and not glossed over. The episodes are wonderfully crafted, as well as the interwoven stories of a different kind of war — one of a personal nature where individuals kill a single human not for king and country, but for personal gain, greed, and hatred.

Foyle is the ultimate man with the stiff upper lip mentality. He says very little, you can be assured, unless it’s necessary to say. The remainder of the time he ponders, deducts, and keeps a tight lip on his own emotions, though his facial expressions and body language reveal his every thought. When it’s time to reveal the killer, he pulls no punches and spews out the facts and accusations with clarity and often laced with a tad of sarcasm.

The series also focuses upon his son Andrew (handsomely played by Julian Overden, who just released an album by the way); Samantha Weeks aka Sam, who is Foyle’s driver (played by the cute Honeysuckle Weeks); and his side-kick detective Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell). Of course, like any other series, there are side plots that involve everyone’s life.

I’m happy to see that Foyle’s War is scheduled to release three more episodes in 2013, which are after-the-war, of course. Foyle at the end of the last episode retires, but I think he has unfinished business to attend to in America.

Though this isn’t your typical female watch, if you like murder mysteries, this series could be for you. I know I absolutely loved it, and it convinces me once again that the British know how to do great television tastefully, even with difficult subjects.

Highly recommended and entertaining series. I so love British TV.

Favorite Line: (Season IV – “Invasion”) The US Army Captain says to Foyle (Paraphrased), “It’s you British that are always murdering each other.”

Greatest Disappointment: Andrew and Sam don’t get married. :sniff:

 

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