Television

My Five Favorite Adapted-for-TV Series on DVD

1. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY: John Le Carre novel; 6 hour-long installments. Unforgettable performance by Alec Guinness as George Smiley, the crafty, patient, polite, relentless spymaster who digs out the Russian mole embedded in the British secret service. When you …Read More

My Five Favorite Original TV Series on DVD

1. THE WIRE: (my all-time favorite.) 5 seasons; created by David Simon. Like a great Dickens novel, “The Wire” portrays the social, political and economic life of a city with large vision, precise observation, and a moral viewpoint. Baltimore and …Read More

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Attention, blue grass fans! Steve Martin brought his banjo, an engaging bluegrass band and his song-writing partner singer Edie Brickell to PBS in a taped concert. This was another in PBS’s wonderful “Great Performances” series and will be repeated periodically, …Read More

Breaking Bad

Just plain awesome. Hated to see it end. Though often hard to watch (it’s not for you if you have a deep aversion to television violence), the five-season transformation of Bryan Cranston’s mousy chemistry teacher character is sheer genius, practically …Read More

House of Cards, Season 2

OK, I couldn’t parcel it out, as Kevin Spacey had suggested on several talk shows this week. I went through all 13 new episodes on Netflix this week, and am glad I did. It’s easier to keep all the subplots …Read More

Borgen

I have become hooked on this Danish television series that I’m watching on DVDs. Borgen means castle, and refers to the seat of government. The series features a prime minister and her difficulties in leading a multi-party coalition and trying …Read More

Sherlock

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not invent Sherlock Holmes. Edgar Allan Poe created the archetype of the unofficial consulting detective imbued with keen powers of observation and reasoning, a host of arcane knowledge, and an acerbic personality. The character was …Read More

Downton Abbey

Season Four of Downton Abbey is making me anxious. Formerly, completely tasteful and balanced, each character and situation seemed to be a perfect jewel in a wonderful setting. Season Four reveals a glimpse of contemporary melodrama. The question is not …Read More

Six by Sondheim

I was thrilled by “Six by Sondheim” on HBO. Just loved it. I watched it with my granddaughter who was also fascinated, although lacking the exposure to Sondheim that I have enjoyed; Sondheim transcends generations. Through six songs chosen to …Read More

The Sound of Music

Who do you know who made their plans around watching the live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” last Thursday? Or talked to you about it? Serious question, and please send in your answers. In 1957, when CBS made its …Read More

Seduced and Abandoned

Alec Baldwin and James Toback (the director/screenwriter) star in a fascinating documentary on HBO of the sometimes hilarious and often frustrating travails associated with attempts to finance their proposed feature film at the Cannes Film Festival. The contemplated story is …Read More

Family Tree

Quirky. Eccentric. And funny. This new half-hour series from HBO (10:30pm EDT Sundays) is a Christopher Guest creation. Remember him? One of the funniest people in entertainment. His film oeuvre includes such mock documentaries as “This is Spinal Tap,” “Waiting …Read More

Phil Spector

Sunday night I watched the pyrotechnical Al Pacino play Phil Spector, and the inestimable Helen Mirren play his lawyer in an HBO drama written and directed by David Mamet.  Pacino was a great wig-wearing, swearing, shouting Spector. In the background one …Read More

Parade’s End

The fact that I haven’t read one word of Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy “Parade’s End”  disqualifies me from writing an informed critique of the HBO mini-series, but it does not prevent me from reading one. May I suggest to the readers of the …Read More

Carousel

Our magnificent evening with “Carousel,” as staged by the New York Philharmonic, reminded us of who the real star of Carousel is: It’s the music. Carousel was named the best musical of the 20th century by Time magazine, and we would have to …Read More

Girls

I’m a huge fan of Lena Dunham and have been since her days at Triple Canopy magazine and “Tiny Furniture.” “Girls” is quite extraordinary. I do not know just how well it portrays the current late-twenties generation. These girls, daughters …Read More

Academy Awards Telecast: Seth MacFarlane Bombs at the Oscars

There’s an old Show Business story about an aging vaudeville comic who is about to meet his Maker. His friends and family come to his deathbed to say their goodbyes. One of his former partners, dismayed at seeing his friend’s …Read More

Academy Awards Telecast

Since this is the first year Biff and I have had the luxury and time to see all the nominated movies, we were much engaged in the Academy Awards broadcast.  In New Orleans, our venue choices ranged from a boho …Read More

Parade’s End

The HBO adaptation of the rather complex Ford Maddox Ford work by Tom Stoppard must have seemed an almost insurmountable task. Based on the part of the first episode I suffered through it did in fact prove to be insurmountable. …Read More

House of Cards (U.K.)

Like Howard Morgan, we’ve just watched (all 13 episodes, in our case) and enjoyed the 2012 Kevin Spacey version that was produced by Netflix. Soon as we finished, we decided to rewatch the 1990 BBC “House of Cards Trilogy.” Our …Read More

House of Cards (U.S.)

“House of Cards” is reason enough to get Netflix if you don’t already have it.  In the same way “The Sopranos” brought millions of subscribers to HBO, this is bringing them to Netflix (streaming). All 13 episodes are put up …Read More

Justified

If you’re a fan of Elmore Leonard’s writing — and who isn’t? —  you’ll love “Justified.” We’re absolutely hooked. This television series is being shown now in its fourth year on FX channel, but we’ve just wolfed down the first …Read More

Downton Abbey Spoofs

Season 3 begins this Sunday, January 6, on PBS. But today, at the click of a mouse, you can watch two priceless Britsh parodies of the series. Caution: It’s hard to watch episodes of the real Downton Abbey with a …Read More

The Iranian Americans

An Iranian couple we know who live here in New York recently underwrote a PBS film about the history, current attitudes and lives of Iranian/Americans who emigrated to the United States after the “revolution.” There are several religions represented in this film, …Read More

Dexter

I recently bonded with a complete stranger at a (real) dinner party when we discovered that we were both Dexter fanatics. This is the long-running miniseries on Showtime about a serial killer of serial killers. I know: sounds crazy and …Read More

The Hour

This is the second season of “The Hour” on BBC America.  I find it pretentious a lot of the time (more so this year than last), but I like it anyway!  There are some very good characters and good acting (Dominic …Read More

HOMELAND

What in the world has happened to “Homeland”? Last season, I could not wait for each episode, which were taut, well-written, beautifully acted, and more or less plausible.  This season, the plot lines have run off the rails — and the actors, as good as …Read More

HOMELAND

Also from Saturday Night Live, clicking here on this parody will change the way you look at future Homeland episodes. (The video is below the still photo on the website.) –-bobbie baron

HOMELAND

Okay, I’m probably the last in the VDL group to give in and watch Claire Danes as the bipolar CIA agent and Irish/English actor Damian Lewis as the Marine former-POW match wits and wills. But last week I downloaded the …Read More

The American Masters Series

On PBS. One of the best things on television — two hours on an influential artist, actor or writer, with generous snippets from their work.  The latest edition, on the choreographer and dancer Jerome Robbins, is thrilling. Musical theatre (West …Read More