TV Series

Jun 3, 2020

I watched the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery when it premiered and...it just didn't feel like Star Trek to me. The Klingons looked like orcs from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. The overall feel was too flashy while also being too cynical--and my favorite Star Trek series is Deep Space Nine, which is overall the darkest series in the franchise. Then the rest of the series was locked behind the paywall of the CBS All Access channel and I didn't want to pay to watch a series that turned me off with its first episode, so I gave up on it. (Picture me stomping off in a huff and

The Good Karma Hospital

By Amanda Redman
4
Rated by Helen H.
May 8, 2020

Are you growing frustrated hearing about films and series you simply must watch, only to find they are on yet another streaming platform that will come with yet another monthly fee? Me too. That’s why I finally decided to give Acorn TV: the Best British TV and Film, a try. It’s free with your Johnson County Library card!

In The Good Karma Hospital, young Dr. Ruby Walker, flees a failed relationship at home in London, thinking she is signing on at a swanky hospital in India. When she arrives, the hospital is not quite what she had envisioned. She stays on, learning how to work with limited

Outlander, Season 1, Volume 2

By Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
5
Rated by Becky C.
Dec 2, 2019

When my friends started raving about the TV series, Outlander, I was more, meh. It sounds a bit outlandish, frankly. A twenty-something combat nurse from England finishes her tour of duty in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. On vacation in the Scottish Highlands with a husband she barely knows, after having been separated for five years during the war, she gets sucked back in time to the 18th century. Great. Another military conflict. Only this time, being English, she's on the side of the occupier in occupied lands. She eventually falls in love with a hunky (and educated, and

Jul 31, 2019

If you don't know the basics of the British television series Doctor Who, here we go: a mysterious, eccentric, very long-lived, alien scientist known only as "the Doctor" travels through time and space in a ship that looks like a 1960s British police call box on the outside and is much, much bigger and more futuristic on the inside. The Doctor is accompanied by human traveling companions, fighting against tyranny, bigotry, and destruction in the past, present, and future, all across the universe. The show originally ran from 1963-1989 and was revived in 2005, continuing on today. It's my all

Feb 7, 2019

The Terror is a fictionalized account of the real historical event known as Franklin's Lost Expedition. The expedition, a crew of 129 men split between two British Royal Navy ships, set out in 1845 to discover a new route through the Arctic for trade between England and China - a route deemed the "Northwest Passage." Over a year after the expedition initially set sail, both ships (HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) became trapped in thick ice off the northern coast of Canada. The crew, utterly isolated and unprepared, were left to fend off the unrelenting cold of the Arctic with few provisions and

Oct 11, 2018

I am sometimes late to the party. I saw The Good Place getting rave reviews pretty much as soon as it started, but it wasn't until it was more than halfway through season two that I began watching season one. I should have realized that because it was created by Michael Shur, who co-created two of my favorite shows (Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), I would adore it. And I do. By the time I got to the amazing plot twist of the season finale (which I will not spoil for you, because I don't want to go to the Bad Place), I was desperate to watch season two--which had just finished

Aug 20, 2018

Unforgotten opens with a series of scenes depicting perfectly ordinary people going about their lives and interacting with other perfectly ordinary people. At the same time, a body is discovered in the basement of a building that's over a century old, and DCI Cassie Stuart and her partner DI Sunny Khan must figure out not only what happened to the deceased, but when, in the long history of that building, he died. This mystery series is smart, engaging, thoughtful, and empathetic, and the story's interplay between ordinary people and the crime that's almost certainly been committed by one of

The Night Of (DVD)

By Price, Richard
5
Rated by Edward R.
Oct 25, 2017

I was swept away by this miniseries. Not fully knowing what to expect, the first episode traps you in an engaging story of anxiety and murder. The set-up feels like the first half of The Stranger by Albert Camus. Every detail, small or otherwise, will be taken into account in later episodes that depict the trial of one of the protagonists.

The show is spearheaded by John Turturro who plays criminal court attorney John Stone. Stone can be described as an "ambulance chaser" but clearly has a soft spot for people in general and his family specifically. His struggles with eczema mirror the

This Is Us (DVD)

By Dan Fogelman
4
Rated by Edward R.
Sep 27, 2017

This Is Us is a dangerously addictive show about a family over multiple generations and the extreme challenges they face. The pilot episode hooks you into a compelling drama by intertwining the lives of all the characters in a unique way. The story continues with complexities that match real life and yet what we see seems more surreal than reality.

This show is emotional. Not the setup/payoff kind of emotion but rather suffocating you with emotions until they find the right string to pull that will choke you up. This approach works in two ways: it pulled me in and then pushed me out. The

Jul 31, 2017

Line of Duty is a British cop show that follows the internal affairs unit as they attempt to flush out corruption in their own ranks. In the first series, Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott is transferred to the anti-corruption squad after he refuses to participate in the cover-up of a botched counter-terrorism raid. In his new position, he finds himself charged with looking into the possibly-shady activities of Detective Chief Inspector Gates, who has come to the attention of the anti-corruption unit because of his team's unusually high solve rate for their cases. Gates' unique success has

Leverage, Seasons 1-5

By Timothy Hutton
5
Rated by Josh N.
May 17, 2017

"Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys."

I love a good caper, a story involving a heist or con (or both), with crazy plot twists and scenes that mess with your perceptions and expectations. With the TV series Leverage, there are five seasons, 77 episodes, of great capers. And I love every minute of it. The show has former-insurance fraud investigator Nate Ford (played by Academy Award-winner Timothy Hutton) team up with four of the best criminals in the world: grifter Sophie Deveraux (Gina Bellman); hitter Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane); hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge); and the

Sleepy Hollow (DVD)

By Twentieth Century-Fox Television, Inc
4
Rated by Diane H.
May 10, 2017

Sleepy Hollow, the television series, takes an old story and gives it a new twist, blending the original Revolutionary War element with the modern world. 

Ichabod Crane, a British-turned-American-patriot soldier, is a captain in George Washington’s army. According to Crane, Washington was fighting more than a physical war; he was also fighting a supernatural one. Crane is a soldier in both wars. During the course of one skirmish, he battles with a deadly, seemingly unkillable horseman, resulting in Crane’s death and the horseman’s decapitation.

Through his wife’s witchcraft, Crane is set

Dracula, Season 1

By Universal Studios Home Entertainment
3
Rated by Josh N.
Oct 19, 2016

The DVD says Dracula, Season 1. There is no season two. The series ran on NBC in the 2013-2014 season and didn't get renewed. Which is a shame because although it's hilariously campy (in a brooding, gothic way) and takes extreme liberties with the source material, it's also a tremendous amount of fun for fans of melodrama, stylish visuals, steamy sex scenes, and Grand Guignol violence.

The craziness starts with the premise: Transylvanian Count Dracula is in London posing as an American inventor/entrepreneur, Alexander Grayson (and played by Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers--like I said

11.22.63 (DVD)

By James Franco
4
Rated by Jed D.
Sep 12, 2016

Quite possibly the best Stephen King mini-series adaptation so far, 11.22.63 finds English teacher Jake Epping traveling back in time though a portal in his local diner to September 9, 1958. His plan is to thwart the assassination of John F. Kennedy in five years, living off of bets he places using sporting events he already knows the outcome of. While waiting for that fateful day in Dallas, Jake ends up becoming a teacher again using false credentials, falling in love with school librarian Sadie, and investigating any potential clue to Lee Harvey Oswald's involvement. Time has other ideas for

Aug 31, 2016

This isn’t Hogwarts or Narnia, exactly. It’s more like a dark reflection of those popular magical fantasy novels. In the first season of The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, Quentin Coldwater discovers magic is not only real, but potentially fatal. While studying at Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy, Quentin and his classmates are attacked by a magical being that is linked to their favorite childhood fantasy series about the land of Fillory that the author never completed. 

Can they use magic to enter this other world and finish the story? The real

Aug 2, 2016

This is the story of a complicated woman entangled in the lives of a powerful family. Sarah survived World War II in Europe and she’s working her way home to Australia as a nurse onboard an ocean liner. One of her patients is Mrs. Bligh, the commanding matriarch of a wealthy Australian family.  Sarah charms her patient’s son and grandchildren, but when she stumbles on a buried family secret Mrs. Bligh is determined to get rid of her.  Instead of quietly getting out of the way, Sarah just gets on with her life, accepting a position as a nurse in a small town near the Bligh family estate. Mrs

White Collar

By 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
4
Rated by Diane H.
Jun 30, 2016

I recently started watching the television show White Collar. As with most shows that I stick with, it’s the characters and how they interact that keep me interested.

Neal Caffrey is a thief and con man who is nearing the end of his prison sentence. When he escapes, it’s up to FBI agent Peter Burke to recapture him. Burke offers Caffrey a deal--help the FBI apprehend some of the more difficult-to-catch criminals in exchange for conditional freedom. Despite the limitations--he’s wearing a tracking device and can only be on his own within a two mile radius--it still beats being in a jail cell

Jan 10, 2016

There are some downsides to HBO’s Enlightened. It is painfully sincere. It riffs on commercialized, New Age-y self-help. It satirizes corporate America in a way that makes you wonder if it is really satire after all. But I find myself recommending the show anyway.

I haven’t really seen anything like it. I cringed a lot. I felt uncomfortable. But I didn’t stop watching. There’s a tension in the show, which totters between rage and earnestness. These extremes are broadcasted on the face of the protagonist, Amy, played by Laura Dern. Everyone is a bit of a caricature, which is the show’s main

The Honorable Woman

By Hugo Blick
4
Rated by Katie S.
Dec 10, 2015

Change is a difficult process for anyone, but imagine if you were trying to change your father's munition company, which historically provided bombs for Israel against Palestine, to a firm focused on assisting with stability in the Middle East. Impossible, right? Nessa and Ephra Stein are attempting to do just that in this intense mini-series that follows their lives after a Palestinian businessman, whom they have selected to win a major project with their company, commits suicide. Nothing is as it seems--including, most importantly, everyone's relationships with each other. Secrets are

Extant, The First Season

By Steven Spielberg
4
Rated by Megan C.
Nov 23, 2015

It’s been a month since I watched the first season of Extant, but it’s still with me. It’s that quiet place I go to when I’m zoning out. The set design offers a vision of a gentler, more organic future, where technology is less obtrusively integrated into our daily lives than perhaps it is now. It’s the silent actor that sets a tone of calm, but there are tensions, to be sure.  The introduction of a life-like android prototype into the functions of everyday life invites antagonism from many fronts, including a militant anti-technology group.

Space exploration has been privatized, but are

The Midnight Special (DVD)

By StarVista Entertainment
4
Rated by LeeAnn B.
Nov 9, 2015

If you remember (or have heard anyone talk about) LPs, 8-tracks, bell bottoms and the time when disc jockey Wolfman Jack ruled the FM radio waves; watch this to relive it or to see what it was like.  The 6-disc set compiles some of the best performances from the NBC Friday night variety show.  The program premiered in 1972 and was regularly broadcast from 1973 through 1981; it was a time before MTV and music videos brought rock music stars regularly into our homes.  Be sure to catch Episode 81 hosted by 1950s icon, Little Richard who introduces a younger but largely unchanged Steven Tyler and

Manhattan (DVD)

By Schlamme, Thomas
4
Rated by Katie S.
Nov 3, 2015

It's the 1940s and the world is at war. People are dying everyday in a land far, far away. And a group of scientists have military orders to figure out a way to stop the violence, end the war, and bring American soldiers back safely. That is the world of the Manhattan project. Physicists, members of the military and their families move to Los Alamos, New Mexico, expecting an exciting new life only to find themselves confined to a small, unknown town unable to reach anyone in the outside world. Dr. Frank Winters leads a small group of misfits working on the implosion theory while Dr. Charlie

Steven Universe (DVD)

By Rebecca Sugar
5
Rated by Rachel C.
Aug 19, 2015

Steven Universe is everything I never knew I wanted in a show.

I was initially put off by the animation.  The character designs just struck me as weird and more than a little doofy.  Still, I'd heard a lot of good things about it, and I figured it couldn't hurt to try—each episode is only about eleven minutes, after all.  Plus, it's created by Rebecca Sugar, best known for her work on Adventure Time.

I was instantly captivated.  The titular character is extremely doofy in the most charming ways imaginable.  Steven is the kindest, most loving and generous soul you could imagine, while

Aug 16, 2015

While you’re waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife, I recommend watching this 2011 drama series based on the early life of famous British veterinarian and author, James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small). The three episodes focus on the young Herriot and his relationships with his classmates at the Glasgow Veterinary College in 1933. The story line includes the rise of the fascist movement in pre- WW II Great Britain and treatment of women in the profession, while painting a true picture of Scottish life in the economically depressed early 1930’s. The series was

The Returned (DVD)

By Fabrice Gobert
4
Rated by Heather B.
Jul 13, 2015

One day, fifteen year old teenager Camille walks back up the winding mountain road and into her house, shocking her family. What seems like it should be a completely mundane act most patently is not; Camille died in a bus accident four years earlier. Camille has no memory of that event and no apparent understanding that she has died. As far as she knows, it's the day of the bus accident. But her family, while still grieving, has moved on. Her parents have split up, and most strikingly, her twin sister Léna is now several years older than Camille. The family member's responses to her return

Feb 20, 2015

Stunning! This series offers a sweeping panorama of the African continent. However, the stories presented here are often intimate, following individual animals through both ordinary and special events in their lives. Many of the animal behaviors this series captures are firsts in wildlife filmmaking. Even the series narrator, David Attenborough, who boasts a lifetime of wildlife observation, is surprised by these unexpected dramas.

The cinematography is top-notch, and I really enjoyed following the cameramen and women behind the scenes to see how they labored to catch some of their amazing

Dec 3, 2014

My original reaction to this series was acerbic (see below). But now that I have watched all 4 seasons of The Tudors, I believe it’s worth sticking it out. It grows on you. The characters grow deeper and more complex. I actually learned a lot about the period, especially what turns out to be the very significant religious clashes of the time. The series does well in showing how each queen made her mark in history. So despite my original review, I’ve decided it’s worth some eye rolling to see the history of King Henry VII’s reign come alive.

Original Review:

Although I’m a fan of many of

Cowboy Bebop Remix

By Shinichiro Watanabe
5
Rated by Rachel C.
Oct 28, 2014

Originally airing in 1998-1999, Cowboy Bebop is widely regarded as an essential part of anime canon, with very good reason.  The story of a group of down-on-their-luck bounty hunters in a gritty version of the future is a mixture of hilarity and tragedy, and worth a watch from almost anyone.

The show begins with Spike Spiegel and his partner, both bounty hunters—dubbed cowboys—on their spaceship, the Bebop (hence the title of the show), in their perpetual search for a new bounty to collect to keep their ship running and food on the table.  Spike prophetically declares that he hates working