Title: Tales of the City
Release Dates: 1993
Number of Episodes: 6
After watching the new Tales of the City miniseries on Netflix, I saw that this original miniseries is also on Netflix and had to rewatch. As good as the new series is, this original is really a masterpiece of television. There’s a lot about it I love – the dialogue, the pacing, the way San Francisco is incorporated as a character, the camerawork (I especially enjoy how many scenes are shot through windows), and the music, both the period-specific pop tunes and the original score for the series. The new series, and well, a lot of television misses these deft touches.
I also like how it slowly reveals that in a city where no one seems to have any secrets that everyone has deep secrets indeed. I like how well they handled a romance between an older couple – Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) and Edgar Halcyon (Donald Moffat) – something you rarely see depicted on film. Marcus D’Amico is really the most heartwarming perfomer as Michael Tolliver, and I really loved his strong friendship with Mona Ramsey (Chloe Webb). That Michael in the new series doesn’t share any memories of Mona and even changes the story of how he met Mrs. Madrigal is all the more disappointing.
Even though I haven’t watched this in at least 20 years, I was surprised how well I remembered so many scenes. The big exception is that I forgot the whole thing about D’orothea (Cynda Williams) pretending to be Black and Mona trying to appeal to her with sould food, which is one of the big misteps of this whole series and worth forgetting about. Otherwise this is a terrific show and if you have Netflix give yourself a treat and watch it.
Title: The Race Underground
Release Date: 31 January 2017
Director: Michael Rossi
The American Experience documentary adapts a portion of the book by Doug Most relating to Boston’s effort to create America’s first subway. As a Boston partisan myself, why not leave out the portion of the book about New York City, even if they built a far more extensive subway system very swiftly after Boston’s first tunnel opened? Kidding aside, it is a dramatic figure focusing on key figures such as Frank J. Sprague, who invented the electric trolley car, and Henry Melville Whitney, who consolidated the trolley lines into the West End Street Railway Company and persuaded city officials to approve the first tunnel. There are challenges along the way including negative popular opinion, graves of Revolutionary War era soldiers, and an explosion, but the subway is completed and convinces the doubters. The documentary is well-illustrated with photographs and vintage film, and is a delight to watch.
Title: BoJack Horseman
Release Dates: 2016
Number of Episodes: 12
Summary/Review: This is the third series of the animated Netflix show that is laugh out loud funny, acerbically satirical, emotionally raw, and thoroughly depressing. Two plots are intertwined through the series: BoJack making the circuit of appearances in hopes of getting an Oscar nomination for the biopic of Secretariat and flashbacks to 2007 when BoJack helped create a tv show that flopped (kind of eerie how the show makes 2007 feel like a long time ago!). Both plots deal with BoJack’s inability to feel happiness, his capacity for self-sabotage, and his unreliability to friends and colleagues. Looking back on the season it seems so glum, it’s hard to remember that there was a lot to laugh about, but BoJack Horseman is all about using humor to peel back the most painful wounds. The highpoint of the season is episode 4, “Fish Out of Water,” where BoJack goes to a film festival in a community under the sea and thus there’s almost no dialogue in the entire episode as the undersea world is brought to life with fantastic visuals, sound effects, and music. It’s a tour-de-force in what is a really well-done season of television.
Title: BoJack Horseman
Release Dates: 2015
Number of Episodes: 12
The first season focused on BoJack & Diane writing his memoirs, but the second series is more scattered in focus ranging from BoJack starring in a Secretariat biopic, Mr. Peanutbutter’s new game show (created by J.D. Salinger!), Todd getting involved in an improv comedy cult, and even an entire episode built around jokes about auto-erotic asphyxiation (disturbing, but surprisingly funny and touching too). Over the course of the season both BoJack and Diane go in a downward spiral. On the upside, Princess Carolyn and Mr. Peanutbutter get a lot of great character development. The best episodes are “After the Party” showing the stories of three couples after a disastrous party and “Hank After Dark” a takedown of the culture that protects celebrities from allegations of sexual assault (featuring a thinly-disguised Bill Cosby character). The show gets darker and more serious while still being incredibly funny. I eagerly look forward to season 3.