Dickinson (Apple TV 2019)

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I once saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Emily Dickinson wrote some of the most beautiful poetry in the world, and then went stark raving mad.”  Perhaps not totally true, but she did end up a recluse in life.

Now comes Apple TV to give us their rendition of Emily’s life, and I think I went stark raving mad at the end of it. Words like these in other mainstream reviews pretty much sum it up – “confused, disrespectful mess,” “warped,” “flawed,” “wild,” “weird,” and “absurd.” Well, you get the drift. I guess you can add my thoughts about that series as disturbingly odd. It’s the type of show that requires the viewer to have a particular taste to enjoy, once you get over the initial shock.

Frankly, I love period dramas and had high hopes on this particular one until about thirty minutes into the first episode. Apple TV really stretches the historical barriers to this story about Emily, who loves to write poetry. She comes from a traditional family with a mother who is desperate to marry her off and teach her to be a homemaker and an over-the-top puritanical father who wants Emily to act as young ladies should. They are an affluent family, and Emily has one brother and sister. She loves to write, but her father forbids her and often flies into a rage when her poems get published in the local news.

Emily, portrayed in this story, is a thinker, dreamer, and often hallucinates various scenes in her life. The most frequent is her oddity in knowing death as a person, who she sees with ghostly horses, pulling the carriage. Her appearance changes with bright red lipstick and a red dress, and she gets in the carriage and talks to him about her problems. It’s an odd relationship, that puts the macabre slant on the story. Most of Emily’s poems focus on death.

Emily is also a lesbian and is in love with her best friend Sue, who eventually marries her brother. Sue swings both ways, and the relationship is a focal point of the story.  The lives of her parents and siblings are also the center stage, as well as her circle of friends.

You will discover the young crowd in Victorian clothing are really the millennials of today.  Their language is modern and not Victorian in style. The series is focused on the younger viewers, attempting in my opinion to make a Victorian story relevant to the twenty-first-century youth. Naturally, as a baby boomer, I thought the series too quirky and weird for my taste. It also screams of modern pop and rock music as the score, that is so loud you have to down the volume when it starts blaring. I’m sure there are some who like these oddball renditions of history that attempt to reach the younger crowd.

On a positive note, I will say some of the dialogue spoken in this story, which is set pre-Civil War, is applicable for today. The young girls who cannot cast a vote are politically smart on the issues of the day. Discussions about slavery, political parties, and the state of the nation sound eerily like 2020.  The same issues remain.

Emily Dickinson’s life is interesting, and if you wish to know more about her take a Wikipedia trip to read about her life and writing. Her story is fascinating, but the execution in this particular series is just not my cup of tea. That is not to say, that it isn’t for many other viewers. Whatever floats your remote is fine with me.

Apparently, there will be a season two, which I probably will ignore. I’ll close with a few words from Emily.

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

To read the entire poem, visit the Poetry Foundation.


Defending Jacob (Apple TV 2020)

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Well, it was a boring Sunday/Monday scenario, and I binge-watched another series, Defending Jacob, which is an Apple TV production.  Let me just say that I’m impressed by the quality of these series.

This one is based on a book written by William Landlay, but takes the liberty of changing the ending. I’m definitely not going to tell you the change, and if you just can’t wait, you’ll have to Google it yourself.  However, I suggest if you do, wait until you’ve watched the entire series. Each episode runs an hour long.

Based on the story of a family living in a small town in Massachusetts, it revolves around the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy. Meet the family in the center of this tale, which is the son, Jacob, played by Jaeden Martell, his father the Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber, played by Chris Evans, and the mother, Laurie, played by Michelle Dockery (who ditches her English accent for an American part). They are the perfect family until suddenly evidence points to Jacob being the murderer of a classmate by the name of Ben.

If you think by the title that this is an eight-part courtroom drama, you can put away that assumption. Although you will be part of the courtroom for two different proceedings, the story is mainly focused on the family dynamics of two parents whose son is accused of murder. The trial itself is only two episodes, but the episodes are not entirely in the courtroom.

So the crux of the story revolves around the unconditional love question. Do you believe Jacob when he says he didn’t do it or do you stand by him in the belief you know your son would never do anything like murder a human being? This is the conundrum that Andy and Laurie find themselves in as they vacillate back and forth from did he or didn’t he.  Being the great drama that it is, it does a fine job of throwing your own assumptions back and forth and never gives you a clear-cut answer to that pointed question.

Other characters are (1) the grieving parents of the dead boy, (2) Cherry Jones who plays the defense attorney, (3) Pablo Schreiber who plays the prosecuting attorney (who by the way is annoying as hell); and Betty Gabriel, a police detective. The only dynamic that I didn’t quite understand was this hatred by Neal, the prosecuting attorney against his coworker Andy, who taught him the ropes. Not sure if that was a plot hole why he hated Andy so much or if I missed it during a bathroom break.

I have to say that it’s a five-star show, keeping audiences engaged. Acting is top-notch and frankly makes you wonder how you, as a parent, could survive such an ordeal yourself. As far as the fourteen-year-old son, who is the focus of the story, the young Jaeden Martell does an excellent job of jerking your chain by not quite giving you a hint either way.

It makes me admit that this show is as good as it gets with drama and mystery, nearly giving my beloved Brits a run for their money. It’s high octane acting by all, well played, throughout, and filled with a few twists and turns. You’ll just have to make your own decision in the end – did he or didn’t he do it?

Also, after reading the ending of the book versus the movie, I probably would have gone for the book ending instead. Nevertheless, you know those writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood have to give things their own twist.

The Morning Show (Apple TV) 2019

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Well, I finally gave in and subscribed to Apple TV.  No, I don’t have an Apple computer or television that can run Apple TV. I have a workaround with my Chromebook Acer streaming Apple TV and then hooking up an HDMI cord to my Sony Television (that cannot get Apple TV) and mirroring my computer to my TV.  It’s a complicated workaround, but it streams shows otherwise I would not be able to (i.e. Prime TV which hates my Sony Google television). I subscribed to Apple TV so I could see the new Greyhound WW2 movie being released exclusively on Apple TV on July 11. If Apple TV continues to produce good television, I may keep the subscription far beyond.

In the meantime, I tuned into The Morning Show, starring  Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, among others. Each episode runs for approximately an hour and there are ten in the series. I binged all ten in two days, which speaks for itself. The story revolves around a fictional network and a morning show that has broadcasted with the same two hosts for fifteen years – Mitch Kessler, played by Carell, and Alex Levy, played by Jennifer Aniston. The show opens with Mitch Kessler being fired for sexual misconduct. The story is spawned midway through the “me too” movement where heads at corporations were rolling left and right in the USA. However, this fictional tale is much more than sex in the office, it’s a conglomeration of a variety of personalities who work on the show all vying to keep their jobs or move up the corporate ladder.

Alex Levy is a narcissistic co-host who goes to extremes to keep her job on the show after Mitch’s dismissal. She possesses a loud, self-serving, rude, in-your-face personality that is offputting, but eventually finds redemption in the end. Already the executives want to push her out, but she is savvy enough to save her career during a wild announcement.  I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this series, giving it five stars. The acting was great, the episodes engaging, and the outcome of seasons end an explosion of emotion.

Bradley Jackson, played by Reese Witherspoon, is a nobody from a small station who gains the attention of The Morning Show by going off on a tirade doing an interview. Seen as fresh blood that can infuse the show with spirit, executives move behind the scenes to have her fill Mitch’s place. However, Alex, already threatened to lose her job wants a say in who will fill the empty chair. Eventually, Bradley becomes her cohost, and feathers everywhere get ruffled.

Meantime, Mitch is attempting to play his cards to save his ass from being a predator of women, when really he’s a rogue who smooths talks women into bed at the workplace. He has left behind a list of used women, but can’t seem to admit he’s part of the problem. Everyone’s relationship was consensual, and in his mind, he’s just a sacrificial lamb for the network.

The only caveat I have about the show is the F-bomb is continually thrown around, but there are no gratuitous sex scenes to worry about.  Only one scene where Mitch seduces a young employee is played out but it’s not overly skin revealing.

I enjoyed the series and highly recommend it. Apparently, there will be a season two.