Showing posts with label It's a Sin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label It's a Sin. Show all posts

Saturday, July 17, 2021

What I Watched (and Liked) While on My 2021 Summer Stay-cation: TV Series - Part 1

[I review "Hacks," "Starstruck," "It's a Sin," "Mare of Easttown," "The Serpent" and "The Drowning."]

No way was I getting on a plane to go for a summer vacation, so, instead, some really good TV series have kept me company. So many good shows and too little time, so I thought I had better get this blog post out before I start watching the rest of the summer shows I have in my queue.

I had put out teasers for these shows on my Rosy the Reviewer Facebook page but these are expanded reviews and now you have a handy list of must-sees, all in one place!

Let me know what you think!


What happens when an aging Las Vegas comedienne whose career needs a boost meets a young, entitled and disaffected writer from L.A who currently doesn't have a career? Well, a LOT as it happens!

This is Jean Smart's year. First she was awesome in HBO's "Mare of Easttown (see review below) playing Kate Winslett's mother, and now this, a complete departure from "Mare," this time playing an aging Las Vegas comedienne whose career is in trouble and who hires a young, kind of pain-in-the-ass writer who is having a problem making it in Hollywood and needs a life boost.

Smart plays Deborah Vance, a legendary comedy diva who has had a long and regular residence at the fictional Palmetto Hotel in Las Vegas. Vance has been around a block or two when it comes to making a career for herself and she is one tough cookie but smart enough to know that her material might need some refreshing so she can appeal to a younger audience. It doesn't help that her boss at the Palmetto hotel has told her she will be losing her weekend gigs and when he threatens that her tenure at the hotel might be over completely, Vance hires Ava, a young politically correct bisexual feminist writer in search of a gig.

It's not by coincidence that Vance ends up with Ava. Ava made one of those "cancel culture tweets" and now her career is at a standstill. Jimmy, her agent, finds her this gig (it just so happens he also works with Deborah) and, even though we have an oil and water coupling, he puts it together. Deborah is tough as nails but the old school type, meaning she also has heart. Ava is a bi-sexual feminist who has nothing but contempt for Las Vegas and a woman like Vance, but she wants to make this work. Deborah doesn't get Ava and Ava doesn't get Deborah. We all kind of know how this will turn out but the journey is a fun one.

Ava is played by Hannah Einbinder, the youngest daughter of Laraine Newman, an early cast member of SNL. She holds her own with Smart, though her character is less charismatic. Actually her character is annoying. There is also great supporting cast - Christopher McDonald as Deborah's boss, Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Deborah's manager, Kaitlin Olson as Deborah's nutty daughter, Paul W. Downs as Jimmy, and Megan Stalter as Jimmy's hilariously and unapologetically incompetent secretary (her Dad owns the agency).

Created by Downs, Lucia Aniello, and Jen Statsky, this wonderful series grabbed me from the first episode. It's a funny look at the generation gap with smart writing and, better yet, Jean Smart! We like our women of a certain age getting their due! Smart has come a long way since her stint on "Designing Women." She is A-MAZING!
Rosy the Reviewer says... Smart and the series have been nominated for an Emmy as well as Einbinder and Clemons-Hopkins along with several production nominations, all well-deserved as this series is destined to be remembered as one of the best of the season!
(Now streaming on HBO Max)

A young millennial living in London "accidentally" sleeps with a film star. Let this charming rom-com begin!
Rose Matafeo plays Jessie, a young New Zealander living in London who just happens to have a one-night stand with Tom (Nikesh Patel, one of the stars of the 2015 mini-series "Indian Summers"), who just happens to be a famous film star. They meet in a bar, get a bit drunk together and end up in bed. But Jessie doesn't expect this to be anything. She has no illusions about herself and a relationship with a film star going anywhere. Jessie shares a flat with a roommate in East London and works two dead-end jobs (movie theatre concession and nanny). She is a kind of goofy but charismatic young woman and not your typical ingenue in a romantic comedy. She is always finding herself in decidedly unromantic situations, hence the comedy. Tom is not your typical movie star, either. He is actually a nice guy. You will like him! And Jessie and Tom share some witty and funny banter. That's what makes this so much fun. None of it is typical rom-com. Yes, it's a girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy again, yada yada yada kind of story, and at times improbable, but it is original and lots of fun.

Written by Alice Snedden and Matafeo, who started in stand-up and was a TV presenter, writer and actress in New Zealand, this series is reminiscent of another British series, "Catastrophe." Both are irreverent, unexpected and funny with stars you can relate to, so if you were a fan of that you might enjoy this too.
Rosy the Reviewer says...comedian Rose Matafeo is a real girl. I like that and I like her. And I liked this. Just six short episodes so very bingeable. And there is a second season in the works. Can't wait!
(Now streaming on HBO Max)

Five friends living in London deal with a pandemic that appears suddenly. Except this doesn't take place in 2020 and it isn't Covid. This is the 1980's and it's AIDS.

There was a pandemic that appeared suddenly. It was a natural virus probably from animals. There was no cure and millions of people died from it and its related illnesses. All kinds of conspiracy theories and misinformation swirled around it. Sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about the coronavirus. I’m talking about AIDS. Remember AIDS? How quickly we forget when something else comes along.
This five-part HBO Max series follows five friends in London whose lives are affected by a repressive environment toward gays made more turbulent by the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Richie (Olly Alexander) and Roscoe (Omari Douglas) have left their homophobic families to make something of themselves in London. They join up with Jill (Lydia West), Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells) and form a sort of family, and we follow them over a ten year period, from 1981-1991 as they navigate their new lives in the shadow of this mysterious illness that is starting to take hold. It’s a coming-of-age story but also the story of what it was like to be gay in a repressive environment that was seemingly trying to kill them, literally and figuratively. And watching this series, you don’t want that to happen because the performances are wonderful and you care about these kids.
There is a personal side of this for me. Growing up in the Midwest, my best childhood friend was gay, though we never thought of those things in the 50’s, and he died of AIDS much later after I had moved away and we had lost touch. His mother, who still lived in my hometown, took care of him in his last days and was shunned because everyone was so afraid of the disease, not to mention contemptuous of gay people. My mother was a staunch conservative, but I remember her standing up for my friend’s mother. Didn’t matter what or why, he was her son. I was proud of my mother for that.
Rosy the Reviewer says…from “Queer as Folk” creator, Russell T. Davies, it’s gritty and raw, but it’s also thought-provoking and poignant, a story about that other disease, one that is still with us but that we seem to have forgotten. And a reminder that fear and misinformation helped the spread of AIDS just as fear and misinformation has helped to spread the coronavirus.
(Now streaming on HBO Max)

A detective in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a murder while dealing with her own turmoil.

Kate Winslet stars as Mare Sheehan, a troubled sergeant detective in a small Pennsylvania town, who lives with her mother, Helen (Jean Smart) and young grandson, Drew (Izzy King). Mare is haunted by a cold case of a missing young girl. She lost some credibility with the community by not solving that case and it was particularly close to home. Mare grew up in Easttown and went to high school with the missing girl's mother and every time Mare sees her she is reminded that she didn't solve that case. Now she has another case to solve, the recent murder of a teen mom and the community is reeling and looking to her to get this done.

But Mare has her own problems. She is also haunted by the suicide of her son and a custody battle with her drug-addicted daughter-in-law who wants her son back. Mare's mother is not particularly supportive; Mare's daughter (Angourie Rice) is keeping her sexuality a secret; and Mare's ex-husband is getting remarried. Things aren't going so great for Mare and the weight of the world is written all over her. But a handsome writer comes to town (Guy Pearse) to give Mare a chance at romance and a young county detective (Evan Peters) also shows up to help, though Mare is not particularly pleased about an outsider coming in.
Created by Brad Ingelsby, this is not just a crime drama but a character study as well, and a look at how a crime can affect an entire small town. This is not a pretty New England town. This is a town rife with poverty and drug addiction. What sets this HBO crime drama apart from other crime dramas is how gritty and real it is. You are drawn into this town and into its inhabitants.

Though there are some very interesting and well-drawn characters with stories to tell inhabiting Easttown, this is Winslet's showcase. And Winslet displays her ability to inhabit a character right down to a perfect Pennsylvania accent. This is Winslet as you have never seen her. And when you compare Smart's performance here with her performance in "Hacks (see review above)," you will realize what an effortless and effective actress she is as well.

As I predicted, this series has many Emmy nominations: Best Limited Series; Lead Actress nomination in a Limited Series for Winslet; a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Smart and varied production nominations.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Winslet as you have never seen her. Many well-deserved Emmy nominations for this gritty and real detective drama. (HBO)

The real-life story of Charles Sobhraj, a murderer and thief, who preyed on young hippies as they wandered cluelessly around Asia in the 1970's.

Who knew backpacking around Asia in the 1970’s could get you killed? Well, it could if you happened to meet up with Charles aka Alain (Tahar Rahim) and his sidekick Marie-Andree aka “Monique (Jenna Coleman),” both adept at taking on various personas, charming young hippies and then poisoning them and stealing their passports and money. He didn't do it for the thrill. He did it to maintain his lifestyle. However, you can tell he looks down on his victims and that somehow they deserve to die.

When Charles first meets Marie-Andree, she is a lonely insecure woman but he is able to make her feel special. She needs him and will do anything to keep him. They form a gruesome twosome as they make their way around Asia looking for easy marks.
Because two of the missing are young Dutch backpackers, Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), is drawn into the search to nab these two, despite inexperience, little help from authorities, and lots of red tape and he eventually finds himself dangerously embroiled in their tangled web. It’s a dramatized true story that unfolds in this eight-part Netflix series that is INTENSE, but hugely engrossing and entertaining, in a gruesome sort of way.

Tahar Rahim is a perfect serpent as Charles, a man who can slither into the lives of his unsuspecting victims and just as easily slither out of getting prison time and you “Victoria” fans may recognize Jenna Coleman in a very, very different kind of role as Monique but she makes it work. I didn't even recognize her at first. And Billy Howle as Knippenberg is also memorable, especially since he is the only likable character in this.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like true crime, this is as good as it gets.
(Now streaming on Netflix)

Even though Jodie (Jill Halfpenny) lost her son in a drowning accident eight years ago, when she sees a young boy she is convinced he is her son.

If you like your British mysteries twisty and turny, you will like this one (but aren’t all British mysteries twisty and turny)?
I have this theory about British mysteries and crime dramas. Watch the first episode and then fast forward to the last one when everything is solved and you will realize you didn’t miss much in-between because in between it’s all red herrings and coincidences.
This one, created by Francesca Brill and Luke Watson, is also like that but it’s only four episodes so you can do it!
Jodie’s four-year-old son, Tom, went missing eight years ago at the beach. He was assumed drowned but no body was ever found. Jodie has never gotten over his death. So eight years later when Jodie sees Daniel (Cody Molko), a kid who looks like her son right down to the scar on his face, she is certain it’s her son. Is he? Well, nobody believes her. Not her ex-husband or the police. Nobody. But she forges ahead anyway, getting a job at Daniel's school and insinuating herself into his life, much to the suspicion of Daniel's father, Mark (Rupert Penry-Jones), who himself acts suspiciously, adding to the possibility that Daniel is the missing Tom.

Is Daniel young Tom come to life nine years later? Therein lies the drama in British crime dramas. Like I said, they have to fill in those in-between episodes but it's compelling and an easy-to-binge sesh since there are only four episodes.
Rosy the Reviewer says…It’s a nice linear story (aren’t you sick of the ones that go back and forth without any context?) that is easy to follow though I have to say the ending is a huge stretch. But you will enjoy the journey.
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime via Acorn)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon for My Summer Stay-cation Part 2 where I will review more great series!

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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)!