Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
The holiday movie season is in full swing, but when the weather outside is frightful, you just might want to stay cozy and warm at home watching something on TV. And, let’s face it, these days there is so much to watch on TV, not only on the networks and cable, but also on the streaming services, that there’s something for everyone. And being able to binge watch means you don’t have to wait to find out how the story ends. So grab your remote and tune in to one of these.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Rachel Brosnahan shines in this Amazon Studios series as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a Jewish housewife who tries to help her businessman husband, Joel, who dreams of becoming a comedian. Midge bribes the owner of the Gaslight, a seedy comedy club in lower Manhattan, with her brisket, landing Joel (Michael Zegen), better spots in the club’s nightly lineup. But when Joel bombs one night, he tells Midge that he’s having an affair with his secretary. Midge gets drunk, returns to the Gaslight and knocks the audience dead with her hysterically funny (and racy) perfiormance. Seems she’s the real comic in the family. The cast, which includes Tony Shaloub as her brilliant but controlling father, and Marin Hinkle as her neurotic mother, is terrific. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been nominated for two Golden Globes, for Best Television Musical or Comedy and for Brosnahan as Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy.
This BBC Scottish crime drama is so atompsheric that you will want to book a trip to the island immediately. Largely based on the novels by Ann Cleeves, the series, which can be streamed on Netflix, stars Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez. A standout is Alison O’Donnell who plays Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh. Also on the force is Detective Constable Sandy Wilson played by Steven Robertson. For a small area, Shetland has more than its share of crimes and the suspects usually include longtime (and certainly memorable) residents, most well known by the police. Both Henshall and the series have won BAFTA Awards. Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) appears in season three as someone who could help Perez solve a crime. And there’s a relationship triangle: Perez shares custody of his stepdaughter, Cassie, with her biological father, Duncan Hunter (Mark Bonnar). Cassie’s mother died while married to Perez. While the Scottish accents are delightful, you will want to turn on the caption function so you don’t miss any clues.
Martin Ellingham, a brilliant and famous vascular surgeon, develops haemophobia (fear of blood), forcing him to leave London and open a general practice in Portwenn, a fictional village in Cornwall. (The series, available for streaming on Netflix, is so popular that the area where the show is filmed has become a tourist destination.) Despite his blood phobia, Martin is a gifted doctor, able to diagnose even the most arcance illnesses he comes across. What he possesses in smarts, however, he lacks in social skills, regularly insulting his patients and locals with his outspoken and rude comments. Yet schoolteacher Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz), falls in love with him and their on-again, off-again romance makes for many humorous episodes. Portwenn has more than its share of unusual characters who come up with their share of illnesses needing the doctor’s help. Performances are top notch. A U.S. verison of the show is reportedly in development.
This Is Us
Although this show currently airs on NBC, you can watch the first season on Netflix. It’s no secret that the networks have had a hard time coming up with solid hits, but This Is Us is certainly one that has been a critical success. The show centers on the Pearson family – father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and their three children. The series jumps back and forth between the past and present time. In present time, the three Pearson children are: Kevin (Justin Hartley), an actor who rose to fame as the lead in a TV sitcom called The Manny, which he now regrets; Kate (Chrissy Metz), battling weight issues and trying to mend her relationship with her mother; and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a Harvard graduate and successful businessman. Rebecca was pregnant with triplets, but lost one of the babies. Randall had been left by his birthfather at a fire station and ended up in the nursery alongside the two surviving Pearson babies. Jack came up with the idea to adopt the African American baby, and after some initial doubt, Rebecca agreed. The show deals with a variety of social issues without ever becoming clichéd. And jumping between the past and the present fills in the blanks about how the family relationships evolved. A great show to watch with older children.
The Good Doctor
ABC finally has a hit. The Good Doctor stars Freddie Highmore as Shaun Murphy, a young surgical resident who is autistic wtih savant syndrome. While his autism means his bedside manner isn’t always the best, his abilities soon make him a valued member of the staff at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Richard Schiff plays Aaron Glassman, the hospital president, who rescued Shaun from an abusive childhood and saw to his education. While he’s confident of Shaun’s skills, he worries that his protege is unhappy and needs help navigating the other aspects of his life. Shaun, however, resists his intervention, creating tension between the two. The show is based on an award-winning series from South Korea that was discovered by the actor Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-O), and first shopped to CBS before landing at ABC. Highmore has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Hayes Morrison is the daughter of a former president whose mother is now running for the U.S. Senate. All similarities with Chelsea Clinton, however, end there. Hayes, who graduated first in her class from Harvard Law School, has spent the last few years trying her best to embarrass her family, particularly her mother. When she’s picked up for cocaine possession, District Attorney Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) makes her a deal: put that brilliant legal mind to use heading up New York City’s Conviction Integrity Unit or go to prison. After musing that she wouldn’t mind exploring orange is the new black, Hayes agrees.
Hayley Atwell, a British-American actress, last played Peggy Carter in ABC’s Agent Carter. But she’s more than a Marvel superhero with impressive film and stage credentials both in the U.S. and in Britain. ABC’s new drama makes good use of her talent giving her a complex character for her to sink her teeth into.
CIU is not an innocence project. The team is given just five days to reinvestigate a case, the outcome not always a get out of jail free card for the prisoner. Hayes arrives to find that a staff is already in place, including Sam Spencer (Shawn Ashmore) who thought he would be in charge. Other CIU members include: Tess Larson (Emily Kinney), a recent law school graduate; Maxine Bohen (Merrin Dungey), a former police detective now working as an investigator; and Frankie Cruz (Manny Montana), a former convict who knows his way around the prison system.
Hayes is not out to win anyone over, especially her mother. I assume that over time we’ll learn more about this acrimonious mother-daughter relationship, but we had a peek in Episode 2 when Hayes learns that her mother has been spying on her for the district attorney. It seems with the Morrisons, politics has always come before family. Since her mother is in the middle of a campaign, Hayes is often pressured into attending political events by her brother, Jackson (Daniel Franzese), who is their mother’s campaign manager. Jackson is the well-adjusted child, getting along with both his mother and sister, trying in his own way to keep the family together.
While Hayes resents being blackmailed into taking the job, her legal instincts quickly take over. In Episode 1, the case involves a young African American who was convicted of killing his girlfriend. The next episode focuses on the Prospect Park Three, a trio of young men who were jailed for raping and brutally beating a young woman. What the team essentially must do is scrutinize each crime, going back to the beginning to see what was missed, who might have messed up. When the second case involves one originally prosecuted by the district attorney, the pressure is on.
Conviction has all the necessary ingredients for a hit series: a plot involving law and order; the feel good element for freeing the innocent; behind the scenes intrigue (will a determined reporter discover how Hayes really got the job?); politics among a high profile family; and a very talented cast. The big unknown involves the writing, continuing to set up cases that are interesting and plausible. Happy endings may not always be possible.
Wendy Walker spent 32 years at CNN, 18 of those as the senior executive producer for Larry King Live. Criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, worked with Walker serving as a consultant. The two are now executive producers of the new ABC drama, Notorious, a behind the scenes look at what goes into producing a cable news show.
For news junkies who miss HBO’s The Newsroom, Notorious, might help curb those cravings. The ego-driven personalities on and off the set yield soap-opera worthy story lines. (Just consider the recent developments at Fox News.) Piper Perabo plays Julia George, a “powerhouse” who produces the Megan Kelly-like talk show, Louise Herrick Live. Daniel Sunjata plays Jake Gregorian, a high-profile defense attorney who often winds up in a chair being grilled by Herrick. Yet what viewers see is only part of the story. George and Gregorian are very much a team, massaging and managing the news for both their benefits. When one of Gregorian’s clients is found at a murder scene, his hands covered in blood, the duo will find events spiraling out of control. Can they trust each other? Stay tuned.
Notorious benefits from a strong cast. Perabo doesn’t rely on the athletic moves she displayed as CIA agent Annie Walker in USA’s Covert Affairs. George’s power comes from the information that she possesses. (When she discovers her boyfriend, an ambitious judge, has been visiting prostitutes, she doesn’t just break up with him. She puts him on notice that she’ll hold onto that nugget until she finds a good time to use it, a time bomb if there ever was one.)
Daniel Sunjata and J. August Richards (Photo credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
Sunjata has an impressive resume that includes major roles on FX’s Rescue Me and USA’s Graceland. As Gregorian, heexudes the confidence and arrogance befitting an attorney who boasts a star-stunned list of clients. Gregorian and George are both used to being in control. There’s a sexual tension in their relationship which, we assume, will also be part and parcel of the show’s theme.
Kate Jennings Grant (Herrick), who has a long list of TV and film credits, recently won rave reviews for her performance in the Broadway revival of Noises Off. On set, Herrick is all business, asking the hard questions, never letting a guest off the hook. Off set, she’s often found in her dressing room canoodling with her latest boy toy. Jennings Grant manages both sides of her character with ease. She’s a delight to watch.
Kate Jennings Grant (Photo credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
The supporting cast is also strong. J. August Richards plays Bradley, Gregorian’s brother and law partner, who takes the lead in the pilot’s subplot, a blackmail scheme against one of the firm’s clients. Jake may be the face of Gregorian & Gregorian, but Bradley is the one who keeps the wheels turning. Sepideh Moafi is Julia’s assistant, Megan Byrd, who also watches out for her boss’s welfare. Ryan Guzman plays fresh-faced Ryan Mills, an intern who got the job because his father is head of the network, but is eager to prove himself and impress Julia. His first move involves tricking Jake’s associate, Ella Benjamin (Aimeé Teegarden). She’s initially angry, but who can resist that fresh face?
Notorious follows the trend of many shows these days where an entire season is devoted to solving one crime. (TNT’s Murder in the First has done that for three seasons.) Anthology shows demand commitment on the part of the viewer. But once that viewer is hooked, the ratings follow. All things considered, Notorious has cast out a strong line.
Notorious premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, September 22, 2016, on ABC.
Top: Piper Perabo and Sepideh Moafi, Credit: ABC/Eli Joshua Ade
In Fox’s hit drama, 24, Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer was credited with saving the lives of more than one American president. In Designated Survivor, premiering at 10 p.m. Wednesday, September 21, on ABC, Sutherland will now occupy the Oval Office himself after a horrific attack lays waste to the U.S. Capitol, leaving his character, Tom Kirkman, the last cabinet official standing. For those who have missed Sutherland’s kiss-ass performance as Bauer (and waited in vain for a follow up film), Designated Survivor should have a built in audience of fans.
Sutherland’s Kirkman is an academic who has never held elective office. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he is 12th in line for the presidency, an order of succession that makes it virtually impossible that he would ever be sworn in to the top job. The afternoon before the State of the Union Address, Kirkland and his chief of staff, Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci), fail to convince the White House Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), that housing initiatives for low income areas be added to the president’s speech. But there’s more bad news. Shore tells Kirkland that he will be asked to resign from the cabinet the following day. In return, the president will appoint Kirkland an ambassador to a United Nations outpost in Montreal.
Natascha McElhone and Kiefer Sutherland (Photo credit: ABC/Ian Watson)
Because he’s on his way out, Kirkland is tapped to be the “designated survivor,” the cabinet official chosen for security reasons not to attend the State of the Union address. Kirkland and his wife, Alex (Natascha McElhone) sit in a nondescript conference room, miles away from the Capitol, munching popcorn and watching the president’s speech when the screen goes blank. The unimaginable has happened. A bomb has decimated the Capitol building, killing not only the president, the vice president, and the entire cabinet, but all of Congress, and we assume, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court as well. In short order, Kirkland and his wife are whisked away to the White House by Secret Service Agent Mike Ritter (La Monica Garrett). As a stunned staff looks on, Kirkland is sworn in as president.
There’s no time to grieve or brush up on foreign policy. Kirkland must quickly step in to reassure a nation and its allies, as well as head off any aggressive moves by America’s enemies. Still in sweats, Kirkland is confronted by a roomful of officials who want to counter a move by Iran with military might. How Kirkland handles this first showdown previews how he will approach the job.
McKenna Grace and Tanner Buchanan (Photo credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)
Kirkland’s family also must adjust. Alex seems stunned when the president’s speechwriter, Seth Wright (Kal Penn) reminds her that she’s now the First Lady. The couple’s young daughter Penny (McKenna Grace) is terrified to find herself in a new bedroom at the White House. Their teenage son Leo (Tanner Buchanan), is tracked down partying in a club, initially thinking he’s being arrested for selling drugs, unaware that his life is about to change.
Maggie Q (Photo credit: ABC/Ian Watson)
FBI agents Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) and Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) lead the FBI team searching through the rubble left on the Hill. No group claims responsibility for the bombing which has Hannah worried. It may mean that the attacks are just beginning. (Although it’s hard to imagine what could be worse than wiping out the entire U.S. government.) If succeeding episodes continue to develop the characters and the storyline promised by the pilot, ABC may have a hit on its hands.
Familial relationships always come with challenges. The bonds developed with family members are undeniably complicated and no where is this subject better explored than in the new ABC physiological drama, The Family. When eight year-old Adam Warren goes missing from a park filled with locals, the remaining family members – a mom, dad, and two older siblings – are thrown into a new normal filled with grief, doubt, and uncertainty as police question their recollections, motives and whereabouts.
In the very first hour (the show premiered on March 6), the missing Adam (Liam James) miraculously reappears and lands back home with his family ten years after being declared dead. The acceptance is swift and suspicion only creeps in when Danny (Zach Gilford), the oldest Warren child and a raging alcoholic, questions Adam’s true identity. The family matriarch Claire (Joan Allen), now deeply entrenched in politics as the mayor of a fictional town in Maine, refuses to allow anyone in her family to bring Adam’s identity into question. In a momentary Keyser Söze twist, Danny discovers that only through the prominent display of photographs on the family mantle is Adam able to demonstrate knowledge of his past with the Warrens. The episode fades in and out from ten years ago to present time reflecting each family member’s memory of the past and feelings about Adam’s return. Which character’s recollections are to be believed? Before we can decide, another dramatic event adds further intrigue.
Hank (Andrew McCarthy), a neighbor who once lived across the street was tried and convicted for Adam’s murder and was given a life sentence. Adam’s homecoming brings this would be killer back to the house where his ordeal began. Frame by frame, details unfold of how each family member contributed to the events that led to the outcome that became the Warren family truth; the alleged death of the youngest Warren. Questionable parenting, sibling carelessness, youthful naiveté are all factors leading us down the crooked path of discovering different versions of reality. In a calculated move, Claire quickly announces her candidacy for Governor, to the surprise of her family and the heavy hearts of Maine constituents still reeling from Adam’s return. Meanwhile Claire’s husband, Adam’s father, John (Rupert Graves) is having an affair with Police Sgt. Nina Meyer (Margot Bingham), who was instrumental in putting Hank behind bars. How will this fractured family deal with further scrutiny as Claire fights not only for a new political office but to mend the broken bonds within her home?
The series boasts an impressive cast. Allen is fresh off her lauded performance opposite Oscar-winner Brie Larson in Room, while Graves is known for his role as DI Lestrade in BBC’s Sherlock. Alison Pill, who plays Adam’s religious-obsessed sister, Willa, most recently starred in HBO’s The Newsroom. And Andrew McCarthy has a long list of credits to his resume, making him instantly recognizable to his fans.
The series got off too a slow start, playing opposite presidential debates. ABC hopes that viewers will now tune in and get caught up as Adam’s story slowly unfolds. How did he disappear and how has he spent the last ten years? And is he truly Adam Warren or a doppelgänger who has taken his place? If he’s an imposter, then who is taunting the Warrens and why?