Joining the adorable Hallie at MoxieWife for a little Five Favorites this week. With the television seasons largely ending in the last few weeks, I wanted to share five of my favorite “don’t miss” shows. Actually, I’m going to do eight, but shhhh…don’t tell! (Some of my faves are not returning these are only ones renewed for another season.)
***Painfully Obvious Disclaimer***if you think television is a weapon of Satan or just don’t like it at all, don’t read any further. If you’ll never watch anything but Grey’s Anatomy, don’t read any further. If you are interested in some of the new shows, some of which you might have missed and are thinking of catching up on/trying out via Netflix or HuluPlus, please keep reading.
1. Call the Midwife, BBC One/PBS
Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of nurse/midwife Jennifer Worth’s time as a midwife in the Poplar section of East London, has become Sunday night appointment television. It just completed it’s 3rd season of the lives and times of an order of Anglican nuns who are midwives who work alongside young women who are “secular” midwives. The non-religious midwives all live alongside the nuns in the fictional Nonnatus House (renamed for the book and series) as they are single with the exception of one part-time married midwife who lives with her husband (a constable) and their infant son a short distance away. They are joined by a young vicar, a doctor and his wife and son (his wife was formerly a nun-midwife in the order) and newly adopted infant daughter, and a local handyman. The series does an excellent job at re-creating the East End of London in the late 1950s as well as showing the reality of the poverty there and the good work of the nurse-midwives who served that area and the nuns who worked with them. And don’t let the title fool you, as midwives, these women are also nurses and do serve quite often outside the capacity of mere midwives! Their lives and realities are complicated but beautifully told. Vanessa Redgrave narrates the series as the older version of Nurse Lee/Jennifer Worth.
2. Mr Selfridge, ITV/PBS
In the late 18th-early 20th centuries, one of the greatest American careers you don’t know about was blooming. Harry Gordon Selfridge rose to the top of Marshall Fields but could not accomplish in America what he dreamed to…open his own store. He looked overseas and found a gaping hole in the market in London which is where, on Oxford Street, he build London’s first department store, “Selfridge’s.” The real life store still operates in the same location today as Selfridge and Co. This undertold story is largely unknown in America because it happened in England and unknown in England because Harry was American. Starring Jeremy Piven as self-made man Harry Gordon Selfridge who moves his family overseas. The cast is outstanding and also features Frances O’Connor as Selfridge’s beloved, albeit long suffering, wife Rose and Amanda Abbington as Miss Mardle. Another brilliantly done period piece by the BBC recreates London at the turn of the century and dawn of World War I. It depicts the rise of department stores in London as well as scenes from Selfridge’s real life. It does not sugar coat his womanizing nor his longing to rise in British society which was well-locked into the nobility/commoner caste system. (FYI, much of what we consider normal today, Selfridge pioneered, he created the “bargain basement” concept, the countdown to Christmas and, of all things, women’s public restrooms–prior to his store, if you had to go, you had to go home.)
3. Sherlock, BBC One/PBS
I got onto this one way too late. I’m going to have to hurt the people who did not tie me down and make me watch this awesome show. It is cerebral in every good sense of the word and none of the bad. I’m not going to wax-poetic too much here because I know all the Downton crowd is already on board but wow. This is not your mama’s nor your grandma’s Sherlock. And it’s not that guy from Trainspotting and girl from Ally McBeal’s either. It is a re-imagined perfection.
4. Reign, The CW
What would happen if we looked in on Mary Stuart (aka Mary, Queen of Scots) just before she is sent away from the convent to French Court. Presumably to marry the Dauphin, Prince Francis (later King Francis II). Well, there is probably a lot more sex in this show than there was in real life, but the creators re-imagined her story into some delicious characters. They play fast and loose with a lot of the history, instead of being an impotent, sickly boy Francis is a charming, vibrant and fiercely loyal potential king. And he has a fictional older half-brother (who is the son of two real life characters King Henry II and his real life mistress Diane de Poitiers) who vies for his future wife’s attention. They wonderfully cast Megan Follows who I loved as Anne-with-an-e Shirley in Anne of Green Gables when I saw it on PBS as a child in the 80s, as Francis’ scheming mother and Henry’s queen, Catherine de Medici. With a host of brilliant supporting actors (such as Mary’s ladies in waiting, Nostradamus–the queen’s viseur, and relatives of Mary’s who come for visits, among others), the series keeps you on your toes. As Mary finds out, what may seem all but certain, can be pulled out from under you, especially as a Royal.
5. Parks and Rec, NBC
Okay, next season will be the last one, but I am glad to have one more season with Leslie Knope. Amy Poehler’s Knope has gone from being a vibrant parks employee, to a re-called city council woman and has now ended the season working for the National Parks Department and new mom of triplets. Poehler’s portrayal as the passionate to a fault about her home-town Knope is complimented by the enterprising but vain Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), the lovable but simple Andy (Chris Pratt), the libertarian who works for the government man’s man Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the sarcastic, witty and acts-like-she-doesn’t-care-but-really-does April (Aubrey Plaza), the no-nonsense, treat yo’self Donna (Retta), and of course her uptight accountant at heart husband Ben (Adam Scott). This season was the last for former regulars Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), and it will be interesting to see how Leslie presses on as a mother, now federal parks employee and without her best friend. Can’t wait to see on what irrascible positive note the show’s creators end it.
6. The Goldbergs, ABC
There was this show I watched growing up, maybe you’ve heard of it, it was called The Wonder Years. It dealt with show creator Kevin Arnold’s family and life growing up in the 70s. My parents were huge fans in part because they were close to the same age of the character and remembered many of the events depicted. Fast-forward to 2013 and a film-maker named Adam Goldberg (not to be confused with actor of the same name who was in Dazed and Confused and Saving Private Ryan) gets green-lighted to make a show based loosely on his family and his home-made VHS recordings from the 80s. Sing it with me people, “everybody have fun tonight!” The brilliantly cast show features George Seagal as “Pops” Adam’s grandfather, Jeff Garlin as “Murray” Adam’s father, and Wendi McLendon-Covey as “Bev” Adam’s mom. A fictional sister, “Erica,” was added to the family but Adam’s real life brother served as the model for his tv one “Barry.” I totally get why my parents liked The Wonder Years so much it brought them back the same way The Goldbergs brings me back. My friends and I have often said The Goldbergs is The Wonder Years for the 80s. The styles, the hair, the everything. And great story-telling to boot.
7. The Mindy Project, Fox
I admit, Kelly Kapoor was NOT the reason I tuned into The Office each week, but in its last season, when Mindy Kaling left the show to spin-off her own series, I was intrigued. Would she parlay Kelly into a doctor? No, she would make a show with a realistic female lead who is strong but not afraid to be vulnerable or even shallow and an amazing ensemble cast (and add Adam Pally to a cast in the second season that I thought couldn’t be improved upon, I was wrong, Pally was the ingredient I didn’t know was missing). The show would be well written (as Mindy is a great writer) and funny while also smart. Really smart. The show is a sort of love song to Mindy Kaling’s mother who has passed away. The character, Mindy Lahiri, is a gynecologist as the late Dr Kaling was. And for all Dr Lahiri’s shallowness about celebrities and romantic issues, she has a heart of gold which has been shown in scenes such as the one where she turned down an offer from a prestigious practice because they would not allow her to accept insurance meaning she would leave all her current patients stranded. There’s colorful characters, smart hijinks and yes, romance. What’s not to love?
8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox
I was seriously worried that even after this show won a Golden Globe for best comedy series in its first season and Andy Samberg won for his portrayal of Detective Jake Peralta the show would be cancelled. Because the tv execs hate me. But fear not, the Nine-Nine detectives and Peralta will return for a second season. I love this show because it riffs off the police serials of yore. There is drama but it is lightened by the comedy of brilliant but goofy Detective Peralta who is complimented by Detective Rosa Diaz, a sardonic cop with anger management issues; Detective Charles Boyle, a hapless foodie who seems to have just fallen into being a cop but who was awarded for saving Detective Diaz’s life; Detective Amy Santiago, an overachiever who wants nothing more than to make captain and is disgusted by Jake’s childish antics; Sargent Terry Jeffords, the squad leader/body builder whose love of his family caused him to have a breakdown that led to desk work. As Peralta’s foil is veteran Homicide: Life on the Street actor Andre Braugher as Captain Ray Holt. Not to play to a stereotype, Holt disagrees with Peralta’s lax view of his job but does not blow up at him just repeatedly, calmly re-directing him. The cast gels together the way few I have seen before do. Like The Mindy Project, the laughs are smart, even when they are slapstick. And underlying romantic tensions between Peralta and Santiago as well as Diaz and Boyle lend an interesting awkward chemistry to the mix.