Thursday, May 19, 2022

A Mixed Bag of TV Series - Some Biopics, Some True Crime and a Documentary

[I review these TV series: "Julia," "The First Lady," "The Girl from Plainville," and "The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin."]

Julia (2022)

An absolutely delightful dramatized series about how Julia Child became the queen of French cooking in America.

Most people probably have some sense of who Julia Child was, that she wrote cookbooks and had one of the early TV cooking shows on PBS, but how many of you know her story and how she got there? This charming HBO Max biopic series wants to remedy that.
It begins in Norway where Julia’s husband, Paul (David Hyde Pierce), works as a diplomat for the U.S. State Department. But he has been called back to the U.S. and both Julia (Sarah Lancashire) and Paul think that it’s because the State Department wants to station them in Paris again, something both really want. Not to be. Paul is actually forced into retirement and Julia and Paul move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to start civilian life.
As a bit of a back story…Paris was the dream and they lived it. While in Paris, Julia discovered French cuisine and the French lifestyle. She attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later joined a cooking club where she met two women who were working on a French cookbook for Americans. They asked Julia to join them and the three collaborated on what would become the seminal cookbook on French cooking for the American market - “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
Now back in Cambridge, the tables have turned a bit on Julia’s and Paul’s marriage. They are loving and dedicated to one another, but remember, this was the mid-20th century. Women, no matter how accomplished, still put their husbands first, and Julia was no exception. Women got their way by making their husbands think everything was their idea. Julia’s book has been published and after a funny TV interview where, instead of talking about her book, she made an omelet, a producer at WGBH in Boston proposes a cooking show for her and “The French Chef” is born. Against all odds, the show takes off. And then the San Francisco public television station, KQED, is the first to pick it up and off she goes. Paul on the other hand must find something to do with himself now that he is no longer working. How does Julia follow her dream while keeping her husband happy?
In addition to Julia’s story, the series is also eye-opening in its depiction of the early days of public television (think PBS), where Julia’s show started. WGBH was the first public television station in Boston and the first non-commercial station in all of New England, and let’s just say it was a bit stuffy and pretentious, and the idea of a cooking show was shocking to what was mostly a male dominated educational station. And they didn’t really know how to showcase a cooking show either, not to mention that Julia was not your typical TV performer. She was a big woman with a very high-pitched voice and she was not young. But she had charm. She was scared to death but determined and this all makes for a completely delightful series about a lovely, fascinating woman and the very first cooking show on TV. I dare you to not full in love with her!
And lest you think this show is just for foodies or cooks, or women, it’s not. Created by Daniel Goldfarb, it’s cultural, historical, wise, heart-felt, well-written, funny and just damn enjoyable. And you men will enjoy it too. Hubby is totally hooked! Can I gush enough? No.

Sarah Lancaster plays Julia and is a fixture on British TV. You “Last Tango in Halifax” fans will recognize her as Caroline, though maybe you won’t, because she has been completely transformed into Julia Child, voice and all, and she is just wonderful and fascinating to watch as she brings Julia to life. David Hyde Pierce, who specializes in playing snobby, fussy but endearing men, and plays Paul, is reunited with Bebe Neuwirth, his co-star from their “Frasier” days, who plays Julia’s good friend, Avis.

Rosy the Reviewer says…this series is a confection, the best meal you will ever have. It’s bingeable, delicious and satisfying. You won’t be able to put down your fork, er, the remote! Bon Appetit!
(HBO Max)

The First Lady (2022)

Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt are in the spotlight in this new Showtime series, a dramatization of the personal lives of three First Ladies and their impact on American politics while in the White House.  Who were they really? 

Viola Davis (Michelle Obama), Michelle Pfeiffer (Betty Ford) and Gillian Anderson (Eleanor Roosevelt) wonderfully bring them to life in this revealing series, that is well worth your time.

Created by Aaron Cooley, the series covers many of the stories most of us already know about: Betty Ford’s health problems and alcoholism and the founding of The Betty Ford Center, Michelle Obama’s efforts to promote health care and Eleanor Roosevelt’s outspoken activism at a time when women were supposed to be domestic and support their husbands.  But the series also highlights what you might not know: Michelle Obama’s fears for the safety of her family (because of threats,  Barack Obama was assigned Secret Service protection nine months before the Democratic National Primary, something that had never been done before) and the racism she endured; Eleanor’s disappointment at not getting a cabinet position, her sexuality, her involvement in international affairs and her limitations as a mother; and Betty Ford’s activism on behalf of the ERA and other feminist issues.  And there is much more revealed as these three strong women participated in the history of the United States.

Viola Davis uses a pursed lips approach to portray Michelle Obama, that sort of works but then becomes annoying after awhile.  Michelle Pfeiffer has the Michigan accent down (and I should know. I grew up there)!  And Gillian Anderson has worked her whole acting career to live down her role as Special Agent Dana Scully in “The X Files” (she always seemed to have an uneasy relationship with that role), and now seems to specialize in character roles.  All three actresses are all wonderful but Pfeiffer especially stands out. She is just phenomenal in this role.  If you had thought she got by on her looks, think again. She is an actress at the top of her game.  So believable as Betty Ford and so poignant. Expect an Emmy nomination for her performance. But all three are great. Each of these actresses could have carried a series playing these roles all on their own.  Kiefer Sutherland plays FDR, Aaron Eckhart plays Gerald Ford and O-T Fagbenle plays Barack Obama, and they are all fine but can't really compete with these tour de force performances by their actress counterparts.

There is something to be said about “the power behind the throne,” though I am not a believer that women need to take a back seat to their husbands.  But the Presidency is an institution that is slow to change, so thanks to Showtime for putting the spotlight on these heroic women, who played huge, though often unsung, roles in American history. We need heroes these days.  And thank you to these wonderful actresses who portrayed their stories so believably.

Rosy the Reviewer says…the fascinating stories of real female influencers. (Showtime)

The Girl from Plainville (2022)

This dramatization is based on the true heart-breaking story of teens Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III and their ill-fated relationship.

Note: This story of teen suicide could be triggering for some.

Conrad Roy III (Colton Ryan), also known as Coco, killed himself by suffocating himself with carbon monoxide in his truck in a Kmart parking lot while Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning) was over an hour away from him and yet she was indicted for involuntary manslaughter. It became known as “The Texting-Suicide Case.” How can she be responsible for Conrad’s death?

I was drawn to this series because, as you know, I am fascinated by true crime, and I already knew about this case, an unusual and intriguing case if ever there was one, heavily reported on in the press. But the fact that I knew all about it was also the reason I was torn about whether or not to recommend it.
I asked myself, does everyone else already know all about this, too, how it happened, how it ended? Is there anything this series can tell us that we don’t already know?
But as I made my way through this series created by Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus, I realized there was quite a bit that I didn’t know, some very interesting nuances, and there was much more to it than was reported in the press. These kids weren’t just names in the news. They were real, this really happened, and this series does a good job of bringing them to life and providing some context to this very sad story. Even if you thought you knew all about this case, this story has not been told in its entirety. It's a story of teen-aged angst, families in crisis and nobody talking about any of it, and from an artistic standpoint, it’s also a very engrossing, well-done, well-acted series. Ryan and Fanning are particularly wonderful with Chloe Sevigny putting in an affecting performance as Conrad’s mother.
Here is the back story: Conrad met Michelle on vacation in Florida and yet it turned out they lived only an hour from each other in two different Massachusetts towns. When they returned home, they considered each other boyfriend and girlfriend, but they rarely saw each other. In fact, after Conrad’s death, no one in his family even knew anything about Michelle. The two conducted their relationship via text. Lots and lots and lots of texts, creating a false intimacy that ultimately lead to tragedy. And don’t worry that this series is all about reading texts. Even though Michelle and Conrad spent little face-to-face time together in real life, the writers have done a good job of integrating their texts into fantasy sequences.
Conrad was a very sensitive but troubled young man who had tried to kill himself before he met Michelle. Michelle was also troubled. She struggled with an eating disorder and with self-esteem. She desperately wanted to be liked, to have attention and for her life to be more like her favorite TV show, “Glee.” The fact that these two lonely, wounded kids would find each other and that it would end as it did is horrific and scary. You don’t want your troubled, suicidal son to meet a Michelle Carter.
When Conrad and Michelle first met, Michelle was supportive of Conrad and tried to help him with his suicidal thoughts, but the two fed off of each others’ neuroses and it all went very dark. Michelle needed purpose and her purpose turned out to become the grieving girlfriend. And all the while, neither of the parents on either side knew anything at all about what was going on with their kids. If you think that texting relationships are safe relationships, this series will disabuse you of that notion. The series is sensitive and respectful of this subject matter and begins and ends each episode with resources to help those struggling with these issues.
Rosy the Reviewer says…you true crime fans, this is for you, an intriguing, well-presented, though very disturbing case. And you fans of a really well done intriguing drama, this is for you too. But it's a cautionary tale for families and a reminder that teenagers can lead secret lives.

The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin (2021)

This documentary series details the story of Gwen Shamblin Lara and her fame as a diet guru and religious leader.

One of my ex-husbands (okay, yes, there was more than one) once said that if you wanted to be super rich, start a church and tie it somehow to losing weight.  Well, my ex should have followed his gut, er, hunch and jumped on that idea, because as this five-part documentary series, now streaming on HBO Max, shows, Gwen Shamblin had the same idea and beat him to it.

I love documentaries, and I have always been fascinated by cults.  I just can’t understand why my fellow humans give up their free will here on earth to follow another human who promises them they will get into heaven if they do what she says, or in this case, lose weight by praying to God.  I don’t get it but I eat this stuff up.  I want to understand it.

Gwen Shamblin was an unlikely prophet. But she wrote a book called “The Weigh Down Diet” where she called on people to bow down to Jesus instead of the refrigerator, and, believe it or not, for many it worked (I actually think it’s called not eating), and Gwen Shamblin became famous and very, very rich.  Add workshops and conferences where her disciples could hang out with her and voila.  A church is born – Remnant Fellowship.  And then let the mind control and indoctrination begin!

Even though Gwen was the head of the church, the doctrine was a conservative, male-dominated one.  Not only was everyone supposed to lose weight but the women were supposed to be submissive and the children highly disciplined – the usual fundamentalist doctrine that seems to give people comfort.  If you don’t have to think for yourself or make your own decisions, and you leave it all to God, everything will be okay, right?

Well, a fascinating element to this series is the fact that Gwen, her husband and five friends died in the crash of their private plane. How do you explain that?  Now that is not a spoiler, because the series begins with that event, though the first three episodes were filmed before that happened.  So what was originally meant to be a three-parter, turned into five, dealing with the aftermath of the plane crash and losing Gwen. 

Gwen was an unlikely leader of a church.  Her hair alone would make me ask myself, “Do I want to be led by this woman?”  Gwen’s hair seemed to get higher and higher as she gained more and more power.  Maybe she thought, the higher your hair, the closer you get to God? 

During the series, testimonials from ex-members abound and they express the low self esteem and guilt they experienced when they left the church.  Some even committed suicide.  But survivors say that sharing their stories helped them heal. There is also plenty of footage of Gwen doing her thing in front of her congregation and commentary from experts on cults who offer insights into this phenomenon.

Rosy the Reviewer says…a fascinating story and here is my insight. Beware of the promise of a quick fix, especially weight loss plans that say God wants you to be thin.  I think he doesn’t give a...well, you know. (HBO Max)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)


Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Mixed Bag of Movies - an Animated Feature, a Drama, and a Rom-Com - all with Latin Flair!

[I review the movies "Encanto," "Parallel Mothers" and "Marry Me."]

Encanto (2021)

Everyone in her family has magical powers except Mirabel (voice of Stephanie Beatriz)!

During an armed conflict, Alma and Pedro Madrigal had to flee their village in Colombia with their triplets, Julieta, Pepa and Bruno. Pedro is killed but Alma, left to raise three children alone, manifests a magic candle that protects her and her children and it creates a magical house - the Casita - a house that responds to the family's moods and needs and it is located in a magical, protected place called Encanto.

The candle is still providing protection 50 years later and the house is a miracle house, now in a village where the candle grants magical gifts to every Madrigal child when he or she turns five, gifts like shape shifting, controlling the weather, lifting heavy objects and healing with food. These magical gifts are meant to serve the villagers.  But young 15-year-old Mirabel, Julieta's daughter, had received no gift and appears to be a disappointment to her grandmother, Alma (voice of Maria Cecilia Botero). But Mirabel is a good girl who still wants to make her family proud.

One evening, when 5-year-old Antonio is given the ability to communicate with animals, Mirabel sees the Casita cracking and the candle flickering and an unknown darkness threatening the village, but no one believes her. Then the magical gifts of the other family members start to weaken but stern matriarch Alma will have none of it.  She blames the messenger - Mirabel - for causing the family's problems, saying she is jealous that everyone has a magical power but her and likens her to her Uncle Bruno who was banished from the family for seeing into the future (I guess he also told the family things they didn't want to know)! 

But Mirabel is undaunted.  She knows something is wrong and resolves to save the miracle. She goes to her Uncle Bruno's room, a forbidden tower in the Casita, where Mirabel discovers that Bruno (voice of John Leguizamo) had never left.  She begs him to help, and reluctantly, he does as Mirabel tries to fix various family issues and restore the family's powers.

Animation today sure isn't what it was when I was young.

 But, okay, I'm old.  I actually saw "Peter Pan," "Lady and the Tramp" and "Sleeping Beauty" in their first runs in the theatre, and I can't watch Dumbo visiting his mother in prison without crying my eyes out. That tells you how old I am (Note: I didn't see "Dumbo" in its first run.  I'm not THAT old)! And when I say that animation isn't what it used to be, I am not complaining about today's animation per se.  It's just that it's so different. It's more three-dimensional which is a good thing, but what's with those eyes?  Why do all of the modern day animated kids have those gigantic eyes? Actually, the adult characters have them too! Kind of gives me the creeps.

Written and directed by Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush and Byron Howard, kids will probably enjoy this, but as an adult watching this, I don't know.  I was kind of bored. It felt very basic and slapstick, and it didn't really go anywhere. It's the usual Disney formula - a girl who doesn't quite fit in but who is good and brave, a mission, a silly animal sidekick, sibling rivalry, a surprise villain who is not really a villain, and family rifts healed - but nothing much really happened. Maybe this film needed a real villain so there would have been more conflict. However, the film is beautiful to look at paying tribute to Colombian culture and its diversity, and the Lin-Manual Miranda musical numbers were fun and lively, though, apart from "We Don't Talk About Bruno," not particularly memorable. 

And speaking of the musical numbers, isn't it funny that musical comedies have gone the way of the dinosaurs? They just can't seem to draw an audience anymore.  Movies like "Singin' in the Rain" or "Grease" are few and far between.  Maybe that abysmal version of "Cats" put the nails in the coffin for musicals.  But yet movies with animated characters singing and dancing still seem to draw an audience.  And they often generate big hit songs.  All of our kids can probably sing all of the words of "Let it go" from "Frozen" and from this film "We Don't Talk About Bruno" has taken the world by storm. And in fact, this film is going on tour as a sing-along event (Note: the DVD also has a sing-along feature so you can sing along with the movie at home too)!  So go figure.  I guess we like musical comedies if the characters are animated.

Despite my complaints, the intent of this film is good. It has a good message for kids, and it's a feel good film. Who doesn't love an intrepid young girl saving the day? Who doesn't want to hear that they don't need to change, that they are enough just as they are? Who doesn't want to believe in the importance of family?  

Rosy the Reviewer says...not my favorite Disney film but then, like I said, I'm old. I'm still crying over "Dumbo."  See it for yourself and you decide. (Available on DVD, Disney+ and for rent on most streaming platforms)

Parallel Mothers (2021)

Writer/director Almodovar combines motherhood and political history in this story of two women who give birth on the same day and end up with an unlikely bond.

Pedro Almodovar is one of the all-time great writer/directors. I remember the first time I discovered him.  It was “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and I was enamored by his vibrancy – the originality, the colors and his amazing ability to highlight women.  And that was followed by the controversial “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down,” starring a young Antonio BanderasI was hooked.  I have not missed a new Almodovar film ever since. 

So here is his latest.

Penelope Cruz, Almodovar’s muse (it’s their eighth film together), stars as Janis, a successful fashion photographer in Madrid, who connects with Arturo (Israel Elejalde), a forensic anthropologist, who she meets so that he can exhume the graves of her grandfather and other townspeople who were killed and buried by Franco’s goons after the Spanish Civil War.  The two also connect in another way…um…and she gets pregnant. But he is a married man and doesn’t want the baby.  She is single and time is running out for her, so they separate and she has the baby.

In the hospital, Janis meets Ana (Milena Smit), a young woman who is also giving birth.  Her story is different.  She is also unmarried, but very young, living with her mother, and she doesn’t know who the father is.  The two women give birth on the same day and forge a bond that becomes very entangled in the present and, ultimately, with the past.

It is clear that Almodovar loves women, and they are often the centerpieces of his films.  And motherhood and friendship are the themes, this time with political overtones as it becomes clear how mothers have, over the years, suffered through so much political upheaval, and how they have had to be strong, raising children alone and helping each other.  Considering what is going on in the world now, how more relevant can he get?

Penelope Cruz received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, and it was well-deserved.  Though this is not a big, flashy, histrionic performance, she has the ability to be real, to exude poignancy, vulnerability and warmth. Almodovar clearly loves women and Cruz is his perfect muse.  His use of juicy close-ups (that’s what my Dad used to call those up close and personal close-ups of actresses so common in the films of the 30’s and 40’s) says it all and it’s all done with respect and love.

Rosy the Reviewer says…whether it’s comedy or drama, with Almodovar, expect a good story, vibrant colors, beautiful cinematography and twists and turns. Tie me up, tie me down, you will not keep me from Almodovar’s films. I look forward to each and every one. They are all gems. (In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD and for rent on Amazon, Apple+ and Vudu) 

Marry Me (2022)

When singer Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) discovers her singer boyfriend has cheated on her right before they are to be married on stage in front of an audience, Kat impulsively points to a stranger in the audience and marries him!

I have to admit up front that I am a huge Jennifer Lopez fan. I know she is not the best actress in the world nor the best singer, and though she is certainly beautiful, she is not the most beautiful. But there is a certain warmth about her. I want to be her bestie. So because of that, I tend to give her a pass on most things, especially rom-coms, no matter how absurd.
And speaking of rom-coms. I love romantic comedies. Where have they gone? They used to be a constant in our lives and now it’s all superheroes and horror. Romantic comedies seem to get a bad rap by movie snobs, er, in some circles. They are dismissed as silly and unimportant, but since when is love and humor silly and unimportant? And sometimes we just don’t want to have to think too much. We want to chuckle as we watch people fall in love and then cry tears of joy during the credits.
So needless to say, I looked forward to this latest romantic comedy from Jennifer Lopez.

Here she plays Kat Valdez, a singer who has had a huge hit with her singing partner, Bastian (Maluma). The hit song is called “Marry Me” and the two just happen to be in love. They decide to promote the song and themselves by actually getting married on stage during their concert and the wedding is minutes away when Kat discovers that Bastian has been cheating on her. So when she gets on stage, she starts talking to the audience to explain what happened and notices a man in the audience holding a sign that says “Marry me.” So far, so good.

But here is the absurd part. In a moment of grief and then impulse, she points to a stranger in the audience whho is holding a "Marry Me" sign and says “Yes!”
The man is Charlie (Owen Wilson), a math teacher, who just happens to be at the concert with his colleague and his daughter and he just happens to be holding the sign. His daughter made him do it. And, then more of the absurd part, when Kat points at him and says "Yes," he just happens to go up on stage and marries Kat (he doesn’t want to make things worse for her). However, here is a more realistic angle. The two make a deal that she will contribute to his school if he goes along with the marriage for a few months.

And then lots of rom and lots of com and more absurdity ensues. Remember I said I love Jennifer no matter what, right?

Now I know that seems like an unbelievable plot, but c’mon, this is rom-com. You have to suspend disbelief for most of them anyway, but now that we have that TV phenomenon called “Married at First Sight,” maybe this premise isn’t too unbelievable after all. I mean, there are actually some people from that show who are not only still married, but they have kids!
Comedian Sarah Silverman plays the school guidance counselor, which is absurd and funny all by itself, but in its defense, the film written by John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill and directed by Kat Coiro, pays homage to teachers; there is a nod to feminism; and the film comments on celebrity, single parenting, marriage and friendship. And there are lots and lots of performances from J-Lo singing some good songs, one of which – “On My Way” - is likely to get an Oscar nomination for Best Song at the next Academy Awards.
Rosy the Reviewer says…is it so cute you want to pinch someone’s cheek? Yes. Is it silly at times? Yep. Must you suspend disbelief? Duh. But in this time of so much bad news, sometimes you just need something silly and cute and you want to believe. I know I did.
(On DVD, streaming on Peacock Premium and for rent on most platforms)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Monday, May 9, 2022

If You Love All Things British - TV, that is

[I review the British TV series "Before We Die," "Ridley Road," "Anatomy of a Scandal" and "A Very British Scandal"]

Before We Die (2021)

A police detective is put in a bad situation when she discovers her son is working as a police informant.

Based on a Swedish series, the story moves from Stockholm to Bristol, England and follows police detective Hannah Laing (Lesley Sharp) who is being leaned on to retire.  She is estranged from her son, Christian (Patrick Gibson), because a couple of years earlier she had him arrested for drug dealing and he ended up in prison.  Duh.  And she wonders why her son is mad at her.  This is an example of more than one bad decision Hannah makes in this series.

Anyway, when the series begins, Hannah is having an affair with Sean (Bill Ward), a married colleague, who had been on Christian's side while he was in prison. When Christian gets out of prison, he starts working as a dishwasher at a Croatian restaurant owned by the Mimica family, a job he was able to get because he shared a cell with Stefan Vargic (Petar Cvirn), whose girlfriend Bianca Mimica (Issy Knopfler) is a member of the Mimica family. But Christian's connection to Stefan becomes precarious when he is attracted to Bianca and she him. 

And then things get really precarious when Christian notices what appears to be criminal activity taking place at the restaurant. He alerts Sean, who, in turn, recruits Christian to continue working there but undercover as an informant for him. It doesn't hurt that Christian understands Croatian (Hannah's ex and Christian's father was Croatian). Then, Sean disappears after telling Hannah he was going to meet an informant and the next time we see him, he is being tortured by some guys with eastern European accents. Not good. And the torture stuff is also not good.

Hannah teams up with Billy Murdoch (Vincent Regan), a former soldier and expert on Eastern European drug gangs (how convenient) to investigate Sean's disappearance.  Billy suspects the Mimica family of running a drugs racket, so Hannah tries to get closer to her son to find out what the heck is going on, and in so doing, gets herself deeply involved in this whole mess and, like I said, makes bad decision after bad decision.

Meanwhile, Christian gains the respect of the family and gets deeper and deeper into the drug smuggling ring. He also gets deeper and deeper into a relationship with Bianca, because dare I say, Christian is a very handsome young man, which doesn't make Stefan very happy and things go from bad to worse, as these sorts of mystery series have a habit of doing. 

I'm not sure if it's the writing or the acting, but there are some major "huh?" and overdramatic moments, and Sharp's Hannah can be very frustrating, and did I say she makes some bad and cringy decisions?  I think I threw my shoe at the screen at least once.  And for the life of me, I could not figure out what the title of this series means, which still bugs me.

But did I mention that young Christian is hot and totally my type?  Oops, scratch that.

Rosy the Reviewer says... but, hey, this is a British mystery series. Even when the Brits don't quite hit the mark, their shows are still better than most of their American counterparts and, though frustrating at times, this one is compelling.
(PBS Masterpiece Channel, Amazon Prime and Apple+)

Ridley Road (2021)

A young Jewish girl from Manchester moves to London and finds herself involved with an anti-Semitic fascist group.

During the 60’s, many of us Baby Boomers longed to go to “Swingin’ London,” visit Carnaby Street and hang out with the Beatles.  I know I did. But what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t all groovy.  In fact, there was some evil taking place – the rise of neo-Nazi fascism.

This four-part series from Masterpiece Theatre (PBS) tells the story of Vivien Epstein (Agnes O'Casey), a young Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, who follows Jack, her unsuitable ex-boyfriend to London, despite the fact her parents have arranged a marriage for her with someone who is suitable.  When she arrives in London, she discovers that Jack has gone underground with the anti-fascist 62 Group, run by her uncle, Soly (Eddie Marsan), and infiltrated the anti-Semitic National Socialist Movement. When Jack mysteriously disappears, Vivien changes her name to Jane Carpenter, dyes her hair platinum blonde and also goes undercover, catching the eye of the leader, Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear). It’s all about Vivian’s double life the cat and mouse game that plays out as she tries to find Jack.

Created by Sarah Solemani and based on Jo Bloom’s novel and real events (Colin Jordan was a real life bad guy and there really was a battle between the 62 Group and his National Socialist Movement), we see how the neo-Nazis were able to plant the seed in working class communities that Jewish people were responsible for what was wrong in their world. Sadly, there is still that sort of attitude circulating today in the 21st century, making this a timely reminder of how easily Fascism can creep into the world. 

Agnes O’Casey, who plays Vivian/Jane is a compelling young actress with the most expressive eyes. This is her first starring role and I expect not her last. She is on her way!

If you enjoy British dramas and can get over the idea that a young hairdresser from Manchester can convincingly infiltrate a neo-Nazi group, you will enjoy this.  I was hooked from the first episode. 

Rosy the Reviewer says…a high-class melodrama, the kind of series we have come to expect from the Brits, though it stretches credibility at times. However, it's a satisfying series about good vs evil.  And did I say it was timely? The film ends with this epilogue or post-script -

"And the fight against fascism continues..." (Masterpiece Theatre - PBS)

Anatomy of a Scandal (2022)

A British politician is on his way up when he is accused of rape.

James Whitehouse is a British Tory MP who is accused of rape by one of his younger associates, one he had been carrying on an affair with. Sound familiar? It’s a sensitive subject (quite a few descriptions of sexual violence), so prepare yourselves.

Rupert Friend and Sienna Miller play James and Sophie Whitehouse, who both met at Oxford, married, and now are living happily with their two beautiful children. His political career is thriving and it doesn’t hurt that he is a close friend of the Prime Minister. You see, James and the Prime Minister were also at Oxford together and members of the Libertine Society. With a name like that, you can guess what those boys were up to.

James and Sophie both reek of privilege and life is good until James is accused of rape by a young woman from his office, a young woman he had been having an affair with for five months. Now he must not only deal with the rape charge, but he has to deal with his marriage to Sophie, who had no idea her perfect marriage was no longer perfect.
James is arrested and put on trial and it’s all very much “he said, she said,” as these cases often are, but the prosecutor, Kate Woodcroft (wonderfully played by Michelle Dockery – you know, Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey?”) is determined to nail this guy. Needless to say, she disapproves of James, and no one scowls disapprovingly quite like Michelle. She did that a lot in “Downton Abbey,” and she does it a lot in this series as well.
Once James is arrested, there are the expected courtroom scenes, but then there is a huge twist in episode four that I didn’t see coming. How unlike me. But I loved it. And turns out the scandal isn’t just the rape case against James. There is so much more. The story goes back and forth in time from the college years to the present as the past comes back to haunt all of the main characters.
Rosy the Reviewer says...other than some questionable camera choices, the story is riveting, the acting is wonderful, the ending is satisfying and it’s all over in six episodes. What more could you ask for in a series? (This is Season One in what will be a Netflix anthology series involving various scandals).

Divorces can't get much nastier than this one.
Claire Foy stars as Margaret Whigham Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, and it’s all about her very famous marriage and divorce from Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. Fans of “The Crown” will recognize Claire as the young Queen Elizabeth I in the early seasons of that series. However, clutch your pearls, because, in this, Claire has been transformed into a much less sympathetic character.
It’s the 1960’s and Margaret Whigham is a rich and glamorous debutante with a bad reputation. She meets Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll (Paul Bettany), who is one of those aristocrats with a title and a big pile of a castle that needs fixing up but no money to do it. Oh, and he’s already married with two sons. But Margaret is used to getting what she wants and she wants Ian’s title and that castle, and he wants her money, so wife #1 is out the door. Not exactly the best start for a successful marriage.
Margaret goes about using her money to fund the castle’s restoration and pretty much pays for everything. Oh, and did I mention that Ian isn't very nice? In fact, he is a mean drunk and a drug addict.
However, I am not excusing Margaret. She isn't very nice either. She is a schemer and does some abhorrent things, but she didn't deserve what she got. Let me just say, that when she ran out of money restoring that money pit of a castle, things fell apart. Ian filed for divorce for adultery (he accused her of having sex with just about everybody), she counter sued and an ugly court case full of slut shaming ensued.
Created by Sarah Phelps, this is a fascinating true story with wonderful performances about a time when women, even rich ones, had few rights.
Moral of the story? Ladies, don’t marry a bastard, even if he is a Duke.
This is Season Two of yet another anthology series that dramatizes true British scandals, each series standing alone. After you watch this one, you might want to go back and see Season One which was called “A Very English Scandal” and starred Hugh Grant. That's what I'm going to do.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like true Brit, this is for you and it's a mere three episodes- you can binge it in a weekend whilst enjoying your tea and crumpets (or whatever). That’s what I did. Well, not crumpets. And not tea! (Amazon Prime)

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