As those of us who fall into the Judeo-Christian demographic celebrate our spring holidays by eating far too much chocolate, the television networks continue to bombard us with new shows to watch. Again, very few series premiered; for the balance of March, it was mostly movies, documentaries and specials. For clarity, I have listed them in the order they originally aired. As a reminder, red means stop, blue (yellow being too difficult to read in my world) means proceed with caution, green means go.
American Winter (HBO)
A documentary, filmed two years ago, about a group of families in Portland who have been directly affected by the economic downturn. Incredibly moving and sobering, it puts a human face on the consequences of decisions being made thousands of miles away. I was only able to watch pieces, but I will watch the DVD when it is released.
Bates Motel (A&E)
Josie reviewed the pilot that garnered quite a few comments. I wasn’t a huge fan and I will not keep watching, but this is definitely one you need to decide on for yourself.
Gizmodo: The Gadget Testers (BBC America)
A hugely popular site on the internet is now broadcasting some of the tests they put the gadgets through. During the pilot, they tested vacuum cleaners in a chicken coop that, I must admit, made me laugh. I won’t keep watching this as I am not a gadget person; but, if you are, give this one a shot. It is, everything else aside, amusing.
Top of the Lake (Sundance)
Not being a huge fan of Jane Campion’s, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this one, but it received amazing reviews from nearly all the reviewers I trust. For good reason; this miniseries is astonishing. Filmed in arguably the most beautiful spot in the world, the story is claustrophobic and scary which is an interesting contrast to watch. It took a little while for it to get going, but the characters are all such varying shades of gray that I was hooked by the end of the first hour. Don’t miss this one.
How We Invented The World (Discovery)
A four part documentary series about, you guessed it, great inventions. The episode I saw was about the creation of the cell phone. It is entertaining, but doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. One tech blogger goes on about how phone cameras have killed the point-and-shoot camera industry. No kidding. I recommend it because it is fun, not because it is educational.
Exactly what you would expect, except that the C-List celebrities are diving, not dancing. Fun in an “I will watch this while I am cooking dinner” kind of way.
IHeartRadio Album Release Party with Justin Timberlake (The CW)
The host was the newly single Ryan Seacrest surrounded by screaming women. In the first minute of the show, Ryan managed to make it clear that IHeartRadio and Target were the sponsors of this event and that if you enjoyed the music you were going to hear, it was only available from Target. The first song was garbage. I bailed.
Urban Tarzan (Spike)
Two guys named who call themselves Urban Tarzan and Caveman (you can’t make this stuff up) rescue wild animals from New York City. Watch if you are interested in chimps drunk on cough syrup and alligators loose in a swimming pool. Otherwise, do what I did and turn this off.
KKK: Beneath the Hood (Discovery)
A chilling account of the history of this organization and how it exists today. It made me angry and sad to watch. To give credit, the filmmakers tried very hard to present a balanced picture and to not pass judgment. Forgive me for doing so on their behalf. It’s worth a watch just to remind yourself that, finally, we still have a way to go in the way some of us see others of us.
Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story (Lifetime)
If you follow legal news, you may have read about this movie. Christopher Porco was granted an injunction to bar the showing of the film at the beginning of the week. Two days before Lifetime planned to air the film, the injunction was overruled by the New York appellate court and Lifetime aired the film as scheduled. While this was all very exciting and the case itself was fascinating, this movie is about what you expect. Instead of watching this, go online and read about it.
Chupacabra vs. The Alamo (Syfy)
Yes, Eric Estrada is on a motorcycle again. Other than the memories that may invoke for you, doesn’t this title just sum up everything you need to know? Genuinely a complete waste of time.
Married to Medicine (Bravo)
Women who spend their lives moaning about the fact that they never see their husbands as they gleefully spend the money a medical profession brings in. Please do not give this show even thirty seconds of your time.
Phil Spector (HBO)
Another HBO film in which the best of the best have come together. Starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren; written and directed by David Mamet; produced by Barry Levinson. I was only able to watch small clips, but it looks like it is worth a watch. The case itself was another fascinating legal case, so this DVD has been added to my queue.
For those of you who have not been to Sunday school for a while, Barabbas is the man who was spared crucifixion instead of Christ. Very little is said about him in the Bible, so the producers were pretty much able to do whatever they wanted with this character. What they did was make him a Christian and fight the Romans -- just in time for Easter. I was only able to see pieces of this, but it was all I needed to see. Overdone.
Prospectors (Weather Channel)
Reminded me of January’s Ghost Mine, except that instead of mining for gold, our team is prospecting for gems. Like every other reality series of this nature (pun intended). There are better gems across the dial.
Fall to Grace (HBO)
What everyone remembers about Jim McGreevey is that he lost the New Jersey governor’s mansion because he came out as a gay man. In fact, he lost the job because he was accused of sexual harassment by one man and, it was discovered, his had installed his current lover in a very cushy six-figure-salary job. All of this, by the way, while he was married to a woman. What irked me about this documentary was just that. The filmmaker, Andrea Pelosi (yes, she’s the daughter) never asks the tough questions. She just let McGreevey go on and on about how he has changed, how he has found God and how much good he is doing in the world. Good on him, but I would have preferred a stronger account of how he got there.
Secret Life of Money (Discovery)
An hour long documentary that asks the question ‘what is money?’ It tries to get into some very esoteric thoughts, such as why does a dollar bill have the value it does? The problem is that it just keeps asking the question and, finally, fails to deliver any sort of answers. I got bored with it.
Orphan Black (BBC America)
I wanted to love this as the premise sounded amazing. A young woman witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her. She takes over the young woman’s life and things get complicated quickly. Too complicated for a pilot. There were a lot of characters, few who were sympathetic, and plot lines that I had to watch more than once because I couldn’t figure out how the heroine had come to the conclusions she did. I may watch another episode; I may not. Not one I am impatient to see more of.
Ben Hur (Ovation)
It takes a certain amount of daring to remake such a classic. This four hour miniseries is full of actors well represented on this site. Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries), Emily Van Camp (Revenge), Kristin Kreuk (Smallville), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Alex Kingston (Arrow) are just a few. I was only able to watch bits of this, but wasn’t inspired to watch more. Like I said, the movie and its chariot race are a classic. Stick with the original.
Mr. Selfridge (PBS)
The origin story of the quintessential London department store. I watched the first hour and it didn’t impress me. The story takes too long to get going and Jeremy Piven, who plays Selfridge, was jarring as the manic, overly optimistic man trying to get his empire off the ground. Another one I haven’t decided if I will continue with, but probably not.