The Guardian (Television 2001-2004)

4 Kernels

Complicated Character Extraordinaire
The Guardian (TV)
Stars:  Simon Baker, Alan Rosenberg, Dabney Coleman,
Wendy Moniz
Nick Fallin.  Could there possibly be a more complicated character than this dude?  Psychologists must have loved watching this creation on television with his multifaceted personality.  He can be a tongue-tied child at one moment and a savvy attorney the next as he argues your case in front of the judge. He’s intelligent, closed off, and barely communicates. To top it off, he’s a former drug addict going through a very reluctant rehabilitation.

The story begins when Nick, who was arrested for misdemeanor drug possession, is sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service.  He’s the rich kid, who had everything.  His father is the big-shot attorney in Philadelphia who owns his own firm. He sent Nick off to boarding school at the age of 12 when his mother died.  His father is no better in expressing an ounce of honest emotion than Nicholas. The man can barely lift his head for two seconds to give his son eye contact, or if he does, he’s pushing his bare palms over his nearly bald head.  

Even though Nick Fallin is a complicated mess that sometimes you want to shake by the shoulders and bring out of his shell, you sort of feel bad for the guy. I’ve had this overwhelming motherly urge to give him a hug and tell him it will be okay.  Simon Baker plays his role very well.  His facial expressions, his eye movements, the way he shrugs his shoulders, uses body language, or lifts the corner of his mouth up in his usual non-verbal responses tells you exactly what he’s going through. When he smiles, it flashes for a brief moment and then gets reigned back lest you think Nick could really be happy.  At times you think you have him figured out and then reacts differently and frustrates the hell out of you. On top of his inability to communicate and express his feelings, he is emotionally cut off from others. His greatest flaw is his denial that he doesn’t have a problem, which he clearly does.

His community service begins working with child legal services in representing children in court.  At first his arrogant pride puts him far above that kind of work. He’s awkward to the point he’s clearly challenged in dealing with emotional situations, especially those of kids. As the show progresses and the children make a difference in his life, you slowly learn that Nick Fallin is nothing more than a soft-hearted teddy bear deep down inside, with a rock-hard shell.  He just can’t show it unless wild horses drag it out of him, or a particular woman.

As the season progresses, the child community service loses its funding and becomes legal aid for adults.  Once again, he’s challenged because he has to deal with adults as well as children. He falls for a woman in the office, but can’t bring himself to tell her he cares until its too late.  His relationship with his father is tested to the core, and he once again dabbles in drugs for a short time to numb the pain he cannot express.  

All in all, after watching the first season, I’m going to tune in the others.  It’s a great show.  Actually, a bit educational as well, especially learning what the legal guardian does for a child in court.  As far as Simon Baker, he’s nice to look at.  In some of the shots, he looks very young.  He’s supposed to be 32 in the series, but he reminds me at times of a 23 year old.  It’s interesting to see how he’s matured in his current work in The Mentalist.

The other characters, as usual, have their own lives that suck you in, gut none are really as interesting as Nicholas.  It’s worth the watch.  Of course, it only took me 12 years to finally get around to it, but what the heck.  Better late than never.

UPDATE:  I’m nearly done with Season 3.  I’m going to miss this series.  The best episode – when Nick and Lulu fight and then he finally…yes, finally, grabs her in the heat of passion and kisses Lulu after they both yell at each other, “screw you!”  Priceless.

LAST UPDATE:   The series finale was a huge disappointment to me.  The writers could have done a wonderful job ending the series with a decent closure. Instead they focused upon a sub-plot regarding capital punishment that took up too much time from the lives of Nick, Lulu, his father, and Alvin.  

I wanted to kill the writers of the show.  Okay, I get that all things come to an end, but not giving Nick and Lulu a happily ever-after relationship really disappointed the hell out of me. You are led to believe their relationship is healed, and suddenly Lulu turns cold toward him when he’s finally come to a place of responsibility and healing. 

Nick has bent over backwards to heal their relationship, care for their baby, purchase her a house, set up a trust fund, and go to counseling.  Everything she asked for, he did.  The woman had too much control over his life and heart and gave him nothing in return but pain and rejection. I wanted to slap Lulu in the hospital bed for not loving Nick, when it’s clear that all the viewers fall in love with his repentant character.  I’m not sure if the writers knew that the season was not being renewed or not when it was written, but if they did….badly done…badly done.  I got the impression they really didn’t care to end it on a high note.

To The Ends of the Earth (BBC Television Series 2005)

3 Kernels

BBC Television Series
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, Others

Let me preface this review by saying I had a keen interest in watching this film. One of my English ancestors (2nd great uncle) left northern England and sailed to Australia in the early 1800’s to make a new life for his family. Through ancestry research, I’ve found new relatives in Australia and New Zealand who are decedents and pictures of the graves of the brave family travelers. So, of course, I had a great interest in what it would be like on a ship sailing to the ends of the earth from top to bottom.

After seeing such stars as Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, in the series, I had hoped to be in for a treat about life on a ship, the English separation of class, and the various interactions of the voyagers seeking out a new life elsewhere. Frankly, as the story unfolded with each of its main themes for the three episodes, I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be in the substance of the series. Nevertheless, life on the ship was an eye-opening experience from Edmund Talbot’s first response upon entering the lower deck, “What is that smell?”

I can only imagine what it was like for passengers throwing up from the tossing and turning, riveted with fear of the possibility of meeting a French war ship during the voyage, or stormy weather that takes water onto the ship and threatens the old converted battleship from sinking to the depths of the ocean. My ancestors were not aristocrats, so as tiny as the little private cabins some were given, I have no doubt they were in the dark holes of the ship shoved in like rats for most of the voyage. Frankly, we think some have it hard on cruise ships that have problems today. Let’s face it, we have no idea of the life of the poor and what they endured while those with titles received the small benefits of status.

Benedict was quite good, I thought, as he acted his voyage of travel and character realization. The long trip and Talbot’s actions to various situations serve to open his eyes to some questionable traits that cause him shame. The film is tag lined, after all, as “An epic journey of self discovery.”

Jared Harris, who I recently saw hang himself in Mad Men, was alive and well as the captain of the ship. He played a great seasoned sailor, as well as those who portrayed the crew. The other characters from a vicar to various individuals have their own side stories, personalities, and quirks.

Unfortunately, for me, I did not think it was a five-star wonder, but more of an eye opening voyage to what individuals endured traveling the stormy seas from the ends of the earth to get to a new world. For me a meaningful story leaves a lasting impression, and the only thing I felt impressed with was life on the ship and not the interactions and occurrences in the lives of the characters themselves.

There are instances of immorality that may shock some, but it’s no different than portrayed in movies of the 21st century. It’s probably surprising because audiences may not wish to believe people were as indecent in that time period. Human nature is human nature regardless of the era.

On top of the rest, I wondered how they filmed the scenes from watching the travelers tilt from one side to the other, while being jarred around on several occasions, or what ship they used for the movie. If it had been me, I would have been barfing with the rest of them. Perhaps the camera men were heaving over the side as well if they were on the open sea.

Now you know the scoop, so if the experience of traveling abroad in such a fashion interests you, it’s worth the watch. It’s currently on Netflix.

Mad Men (TV AMC 2007 – Present)

madmen 5 Kernels
 Nostalgia at Its Best
July 19, 2007 – Present
AMC Television

Stars:  Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, and many others

Since I’ve exhausted many of the British television shows on Netflix, Mad Men caught my eye as soon as I read that it was set in the 1960’s.  Ah, the 1960’s. I was 10 in 1960; graduated from high school in 1968.  Watching this television show brings back not only my childhood, but my teenage years as well.  Everything from Selectric typewriters, to switchboards, phones with blinking buttons, eating raw hamburger, and living with parents that smoked and drank as a normal part of life.

Set in New York City in the heyday of advertising agencies in Manhattan, it’s an eclectic weave of husbands, housewives, mistresses, secretaries, office politics, and account executives.  It reminds me of those days when anything went.  Men made sexual innuendos to the female office staff, booze was in the offices, and everyone smoked like a chimney. My first time someone flirted with me at my second job in 1969, the bank manager came up and told me I had “great legs.”  Then in 1972 my boss had me stay late one night and came up behind me and grabbed my breasts.  Wow, I could have sued had that happened today.

On top of the outlandish days of sexual harassment in the office, it’s mixed with the occurrence of segregation where Negros couldn’t ride in the elevators with the working staff unless given permission.  Everyone in the company was white – no mixing of the races like our modern offices today.  Jewish people were treated like aliens that couldn’t be understood.  Everyone drank and smoked.  I can remember my first boss in 1968 having a bottle of booze stashed in his desk drawer.  Most of the day he smelled of alcohol.

Then there were the women who stayed home – the housewives.  Always with their hair in place, their bouncy little dresses, their kids clean, their houses spotless, and dinner waiting on the table when their husbands came home.  They knew their place, and they kept their place whether they were miserable or happy. It was their way of life, along with eating prime rib and butter for dinner.  The men, of course, lived doubled lives of carousing with other women and having mistresses on the side in or out of the office setting. Married women, who met a divorced woman with two children living alone, was an unthinkable state of affairs.

The characters are wonderful, with their own back story of how their childhood and family has molded them into the adults they have become.  Each have their own personal struggles, whether it be with self-worth, a family they wish to forget, a wife with whom they are estranged, an overbearing mother who filled their daughters with expectations, or a father who doesn’t support their son’s career choice.  The stories are rich in their own right and filled with everybody’s pursuit of happiness in the 60’s, in one way or the other. Rather than worrying about their smoking, drinking, or butter on their plates, the Communists are the threats, as well as the thought of having a Catholic president.

I can’t tell you how utterly entertaining this show is, at least for me.  If you didn’t grow up in that era, you’ll probably find it very strange.  If you did, it will be like walking down memory lane, remembering your childhood, and no doubt your parents.  I can still see my mother who wore a dress every day, had dinner on the table, who hadn’t worked out of the home since World War II.  Yes, we have evolved in many ways.  Discrimination and sexism in the office is a thing of the past.  Feminism has taken the women out of the homes and made them executives along side men.  However, a part of me misses the simplicity of those days when life had different complications than we face today.

One of my favorites are the girls in the office and how they share the gossip.  A particular scene that had me rolling on the floor happened to be when one lady pulled from her purse the novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the women started talking about it.  Of course, it’s strictly taboo to read such a book that uses the words no lady would utter and contain such graphic sexual scenes in a book!  One woman asks if she can borrow it to read, and the advice was priceless.  “Don’t read it on the train.  It will attract all the wrong elements.”  What a hoot!  Reminded me of today and women reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public.  Things never really change in some aspects.  We just color it in a different light.

Anyway, highly recommend the show.  After finishing five seasons on Netflix, I’d like to slap Don Draper in his unzipped pants.  Nevertheless, I love the characters.

Flashpoint (Canadian TV 2008-2012)

4 Kernels

Television 2008-2012

 Stars:  Enrico Colantoni, David Paetkau, Hugh Dillon, Sergio Di Zio, Michael Cram, Mark Taylor and Ruth Marshall. Amy Jo Johnson

I’ve been through quite a few series on Netflix, which I watch more than current television.  Probably it’s because I’m not bombarded with commercials and can get through an hour-long show in 40 minutes.   I had seen reruns of Flashpoint a few times, but never got into the series.  Once again, after the fact, I’m tuning in and enjoying the show.

Let me preface this article by saying that personally, I am not a stranger to law enforcement.  My first marriage happened to be with a Detroit Police Officer, and my last boyfriend happened to be a County Coroner in California who wore full uniform and carried a gun. I’m acquainted with weapons, uniforms, badges, and the difficulty of loving someone on the force and how that can effect a man who risks his life everyday to keep you safe. I’ve even spent hours ironing those damn police shirts, too!

Flashpoint, for me, resurrects some of those memories, but frankly I think I’m just drawn to men in uniforms, bald or not.  Enrico Colantoni, who plays Sgt. Parker looks very much like my Coroner friend, who broke my heart I might add, as well as my first husband.  Quite strange.  :slaps self back to reality:

Anyway, on with the show.  I’m giving this tune-in a four-star rating, because I find it enjoyable, enjoy the characters, and am enthralled with the suspense. Canadians do a good job, as well, with television drama. I’ll add to those four stars that I have skipped over some episodes because of the content, such as an abduction of a child, the rough and tough drug lords, and the mean and lean boys on the streets. I gravitate more to the stories, which frankly are so true to heart, of men and women who come to that “flashpoint,” if you will, where they lose it due to their own stress and heartaches in life.  The breaking point comes when injustice has occurred, their lives have been tragically altered by another crime, or their love for a family member drives them to desperation.  They all tug at your heart.  Of course, the stories we don’t like to hear, are the psychopaths, who like recently, have gone over the edge and selfishly killed the innocent young.  The reality of those situations is heartache enough, and I don’t need to watch it played out on screen.

The team, is a mixture of personalities.  They all have private sub-plots of their lives integrated into the show, whether it’s their family, love life, or past heartaches.  However, they are a team when it comes to work.  In spite of their existence off the job,  they are a cohesive force to be dealt with when entering into a situation that calls for police intervention.  They are trained to talk-down rationally the individual who has gone over the edge, rather than saying “Scorpio” and killing them because there is no alternative to the situation or another life is in immediate danger.  However, there are times the word is uttered and one of the team takes them down.  It’s not a moment they enjoy, which I think adds to the heartfelt theme of the show.

The show is set in Toronto and all of the actors are Canadian, except for Amy Jo Johnson.  They play their parts well, their skills on the set are pretty awesome, and the guys look great in uniforms. What can I say?  I’m a sucker.

All of the seasons are great, however, the last one was probably the most moving of all.  Frankly, I cried at the last episode.  It was hard saying goodbye to Team One.  I felt “neutralized” after it ended, if you get my drift.

If you’re looking for a police show, this is pretty good one that you might enjoy.  Now that it’s ended, I’ll be back to surfing Netflix for another program to get sucked into.  That’s my life on my green recliner with my Sony television and Comcast cable when I should be working on my next novel!

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