Review: Season 1 of The Paradise

Season one of the BBC period drama The Paradise is available now on Netflix and DVD or from Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes. Season 2 has shown on BBC One, but it isn’t available in the U.S. yet at any of the sources I mentioned.

The series is about the people who work in the first department store in England, The Paradise, and others who are connected to the store as friends, customers or family. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, with all the British class issues of the time at front and center, The Paradise teems with interesting characters and events.

Carrying us into the story is Denise (Joanna Vanderham from What Maisie Knew). She is hired as a shopgirl at The Paradise.

Joanna Vanderham as Denise
Joanna Vanderham as Denise

Denise is a brilliant salesperson and quickly becomes an asset to The Paradise and a threat to her her colleagues and her immediate supervisor, Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire). Denise is smarter about sales and business than anyone in the store, including the owner, and quickly realizes that she wants to BE the owner. She has a gift for describing fabrics and colors in the most sensuous terms that make customers almost fall over themselves to buy.

Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey
Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey

Unmarried and an early example of what would now be called a career woman, Miss Audrey has been at The Paradise for many years. This is the show Sarah Lancashire left to play Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax. While I’ll miss her when season 2 finally makes it across the pond, I applaud her wisdom is seeing the opportunity and star potential of Last Tango in Halifax over this interesting but typical costume drama. Miss Audrey is well played and pivotal to Denise’s career, but not the best thing about The Paradise. Caroline Elliot is definitely the best thing about Last Tango in Halifax.

Emun Elliott as Mr. Moray
Emun Elliott as Mr. Moray

The owner and mastermind behind the concept of retail department store selling in England is the boss, Mr. Moray (Emun Elliott). Mr. Moray is charming and handsome and persuasive where business is concerned. He’s in mourning for his first wife while half-heartedly courting Katherine and falling in love with Denise. It might be more accurate to say he’s courting Katherine’s father who has the money to be a business investor in the store, while paying attention to Katherine in the process.

Elaine Cassidy as Katherine
Elaine Cassidy as Katherine

Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) is in love with Moray and rejects other more suitable men in favor of this fellow who really doesn’t care for her at all. She may grow a bit bitter about her situation in season 2.

Swirling around this key cast of characters are workers at The Paradise, members of the British upper class who revolve around Katherine’s family, and some family and friends of the characters. One in particular who is important is Edmund, (Peter Wight) who is both Denise’s uncle and a former suitor of Miss Audrey’s. Edmund runs a failing shop directly across the street from The Paradise. By the end of season 1, Denise is using her business smarts to help bring his business back.

Here’s an official trailer.

This is a fan trailer. It’s good, but the ‘viewer discretion advised’ line is kinda silly.

You can read more at the BBC One site for The Paradise. I recommend the show wholeheartedly if you have access to it on any of the streaming services I mentioned.

From Twitter Friends

I asked if any of my Twitter followers had comments about the show, and NptexasNancy responded with a comment about the shortcuts used at the end of season 1:


All photos ©BBC One

Advertisements

Review: Orphan Black “Mingling Its Own Nature With It”

This episode of Orphan Black, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” starts with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Kira (Skyler Wexler), and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) sleeping in the woods in the stolen truck. We see Sarah struggle to find safety for Kira, Allison crack under pressure, Cosima do an autopsy on a new clone, and Helena get married. What an episode!

Whose woods these are I think I know.
Whose woods these are I think I know.

The clones each conducted their own lives without mixing together much in this episode, so I’ll summarize the stories clone by clone.

Sarah

Sarah, Kira, and Felix make the mistake of stealing food from a convenience store in order to feed Kira. This puts a local cop and Rachel’s henchman Daniel (Matthew Bennett) on their trail. Sarah leads Felix to a house in the woods, seemingly empty, where they break in to spend the night. The homeowner shows up and turns out to be Cal (Michiel Huisman), who knows Sarah. Kira, in her prescient way, pegs him immediately with an, “Are you my dad?”

Yes, he is Kira’s dad, and even though Sarah stole $10,000 and his car the last time she was there, Cal lets them stay.

Sarah tries to explain to Kira why she was gone so much, and Kira talks about Mrs. S protecting them and comments that she likes Cal’s beard. Women from Nashville and every other show Michiel Huisman is on fall for his unkempt, bearded look – now even Kira likes it – I guess I should give up wishing he’d get a shave and a haircut.

Felix sees what’s going on and decides there is no place for him there. He leaves to be with Allison at her theater performance.

When the local cop shows up, Sarah is ready to take Kira and go.

Can't you stop running for a minute?
Can’t you stop running for a minute?

Cal says, “Can’t you stop running for a minute?” and the look on Sarah’s face tells a story of wanting to do just that. They end up in bed together. (She must like the beard, too.) Their idyllic morning after is interrupted by the arrival of Daniel who tries to grab Kira, shoots the local cop, and leaves with Sarah driving the car at gunpoint. Kira is with Cal. Daniel making off with Sarah comes at the very end of the episode. The big cliffhanger is that they are t-boned on the road – a hit to the passenger side where Daniel sits – and we don’t know what happens to either of them.

Allison

Allison snipes at Donnie (Kristian Bruun) now that she knows he’s her monitor. The guy will never get any again, I can promise you that. She’s drinking and popping pills. She calls Cosima, but Cosima cannot do much to help her because of her own drama.

Detective Angie Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) simply won’t drop the case, as her partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) keeps telling her to. Angie stalks Allison, trying to befriend her and get information from her. Allison thinks she’s another monitor. Angie admits to being a cop and Allison and tells her to get lost. Detective Deangelis is going to prove to be a wild card in this story, I predict, because she’s relentless in her quest to find out more about Sarah and her former cop friend Beth, and because she’s the mama succubus – oh, wait, wrong show for a succubus.

By the night of the community theater performance of “Blood Ties,” Allison’s spaced out on pills and booze. She can’t remember her lines or sing in tune. (Tatiana Maslany is a pretty good singer if the few notes of real singing we hear are any indication.) Allison falls off the stage at Donnie’s feet and gets taken to the hospital.

Cosima and Jennifer

Cosima follows Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) into Dr. Leekie’s office, where she does a killer imitation of Matt Frewer’s Dr. Leekie by threatening to put an electric eel in a tank so Dr. Leekie will come along and say, “Great Scott! I’ve created life.” A hilarious moment in a very serious episode. The fact that Tatiana Maslany can do a perfect imitation of Matt Frewer reveals something about why she is so masterful at creating so many different women in Orphan Black.

Delphine has other things on her mind. She brought Cosima there to show her videos of another clone, Jennifer Fitzsimmons, teacher and swim coach at Sheldon High, who made a video diary of her illness after polyps were found on her lungs. Delphine says Jennifer was the first clone to show symptoms. When Cosima asks how Jennifer is, Delphine says she died 3 days ago. Cosima is the only clone who knows about Jennifer at this point (unless Rachel does). Cosima watches every video, horrified, seeing Jennifer slowly die of exactly what she herself has.

Delphine and Cosima do an autopsy on Jennifer’s body to try to understand more about the auto-immune disease that apparently killed her. Cosima is partly terrified of cutting into a woman with her face, and partly clear about needing to understand the biology of what’s going on in the clone’s bodies.

Helena

Helena is still in bad shape, but recovered enough to sit up in bed and talk to Gracie Johanssen (Zoé De Grand Maison), Henrik’s (Peter Outerbridge) daughter. Gracie is not with her dad’s program to fertilize and breed Helena. She’s another wild card who may gum up the works later on. Her dad thinks he has Gracie under his control, but he may be in for a surprise.

The ties that bind
The ties that bind

Henrik has Helena dressed in a white wedding dress, even though she lays in bed stupified by drugs, and marries her in a strange ceremony involving tying their hands together with ribbons while talking about God’s will. Then Henrik carries his bride off to begin his fertilization program. Helena is too drugged to fight back. If she ever gets clear headed, Henrik better watch out. At this point, we have no idea what Henrik has in mind as a fertilization technique. We did see him artificially inseminate a cow in the last episode.

The title is another quote from Francis Bacon:

“The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it”

 Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)

All photos by Steve Wilkie via IMDB

Happy Valley: New Series from Sally Wainwright features Sarah Lancashire

This tweet from Holdsworth House (the hotel in Last Tango in Halifax) caught my eye.

The link led to to an article about a new 6 part series from writer Sally Wainwright featuring Sarah Lancashire as a Yorkshire police officer, Happy Valley.

Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire together again! Some days, I long to be a Brit where BBC One is available to me, because nothing I could ask for in terms of storytelling sounds better than this.

PBS better grab this one and bring it to American audiences! (ADDENDUM 8/20/2014: Netflix acquired Happy Valley and series 1 is currently available for streaming from that source.)

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood
Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

Here’s how the story begins. Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is a cop. She’s raising her grandson because her daughter committed suicide shortly after the boy’s birth. The child was the result of a rape. The man Catherine is sure is the rapist has just been released from jail. He is Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton).

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce
James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce

A disgruntled accountant named Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton) has arranged for some drug dealers, Tommy Lee Royce among them, to kidnap his boss’s daughter. Catherine works the case.

In describing the story, Sarah Lancashire said,

. . . the story isn’t really about Catherine’s job as a police officer but Catherine trying to find a way to come to peace with herself.

Euros Lyn, who directed episodes of Last Tango in Halifax directs several episodes, and Sally Wainwright takes a turn as a director in one episode. The series started on BBC One on April 29, 2014. If it does come to PBS in the U.S. I’m sure it will be months, but I’m certainly hoping it will make it.

You can learn more and read several interviews at the Happy Valley site from the BBC.

All images @BBC or @Red Production Company

Watch This: The Fosters Summer Premier Preview

The Fosters starts up for the summer on June 16. There will be new babies, new drama, new hair. Here’s a teaser for the premier episode.

I love that sigh Teri Polo makes over Mariana’s hair – it is the perfect mom of a teen sigh.

Review: Orphan Black, Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion

Episode 2 of season 2 of Orphan Black, “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion,” launches a brand new day, to quote the new character Henrik. New plot lines, new characters, and new developments everywhere you look. I’m going to mention a few key points.

Mrs. S definitely knows how to use that gun
Mrs. S definitely knows how to use a gun

One of the more interesting developments in this episode is the expansion of Mrs. S’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) character. I’ve been eager to learn more about the mysterious Mrs. S, partly because Maria Doyle Kennedy is such a strong actor with a very strong persona and we haven’t seen behind the curtain on her very much. In this episode, we learn she can be a stone-cold killer and that she will do just about anything to protect Kira (Skyler Wexler). It’s also looking a bit like Mrs. S. might be Sarah’s monitor and that she has known about Sarah since her birth.

Skyler Wexler is a terrific choice as Sarah’s daughter. Physically she and Tatiana Maslany look enough alike to be convincing as mother and daughter. Skyler Wexler is as precocious as an actor as Kira is as a character. There’s something special about Kira, we don’t know what yet, but she has an unusual ability to see things and understand things.

The religious group called Prolethians seem in on the clone secret as well. Peter Outerbridge joins the cast as Henrik Johanssen, the leader of the Prolethians. Religious leadership aside, he’s also a stone-cold killer. Helena is snatched from her hospital bed and taken to the farm where the group lives. As she’s recovering from her wounds, we learn that the reason she survived the gunshot is that she is a mirror – all her organs are on the reverse side from that of her twin Sarah. Helena’s heart is on her right side, not her left.

Cosima joins Dyad where she gets her own lab. As she’s setting it up, she meets the clone Rachel for the first time. Rachel wants her to figure out why Sarah is different from the rest of the clones – meaning why Sarah can have children. Rachel seemed surprised to learn that Cosima is a lesbian. Her reaction to catching Cosima and Delphine in a kiss felt a bit off to me. She should have known already because she knows that Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) is Cosima’s monitor and how Delphine managed to get close to Cosima. This is one of the first off moments I’ve noticed in the writing of this series, unless it’s foreshadowing something about the clones that Rachel knows but none of the rest of us know.

Donnie, you shouldn't let your wife near your phone
Donnie, you shouldn’t let your wife near your phone

Allison finds out at Aynsley’s (Natalie Lisinska) funeral that her husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun) has been her monitor all along because she reads his text messages. This means she let Aynsley die a gruesome death by garbage disposal for no reason. Neither of these pieces of information are sitting well with Allison who is popping pills and downing drinks in a paroxysm of guilt. Methinks Donnie better be careful, too – like maybe he shouldn’t wear a scarf in the kitchen.

We learn about a program called Project Leda in this episode, which may be where all the clones originated. Sarah knows about it and apparently so does Mrs. S.

With Project Leda, the Prolethians, and the neolutionists from the Dyad Institute, we have three potential sources of danger for the clones. Are they all bad guys?

Let's get out of town
Let’s get out of town

Much of the episode is about Sarah’s search for Kira. By the end of the episode, Sarah manages to get Kira back, collect Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and make ready to run.

An interesting side note on the title of this episode. According to Entertainment Weekly, the title is a quote from Francis Bacon’s book The New Organon: Or, True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature. The book, written in 1620, is an early reflection on nature, science and religion.

Cosmos: Pickerings Computers from “Sisters of the Sun”

The “Sisters of the Sun” episode of Cosmos featured stories about female scientists who helped us understand the composition and classification of stars.

Here’s a snippet to whet your interest.

The two women scientists are Cecilia Payne and Annie Jump Cannon. They are given voice in the full section of the episode by Kirsten Dunst and Marlee Matlin.

According to Wikipedia,

Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin was a British-American astronomer and astrophysicist who, in 1925, proposed in her Ph.D. thesis an explanation for the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium.

. . .

Annie Jump Cannon was an American astronomer whose cataloging work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s delivery is so nonjudgemental on this series, but those raised eyebrows when he says, “Wonder why,” do speak loudly.

In case you have not been watching this marvelous series, you can see past episodes on cosmosontv.com.

The Brain Dump: Random Short Thoughts

A brain dump is one of those things I do when I have just a thought to share on something. It’s a random mess.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is so genial and agreeable on Cosmos. He states the science in the friendliest possible way. But, underneath his low-key style is the knowledge that he’s showing all the misguided fools who don’t believe in science the truth. It’s very effective.

The Bletchley Circle
The Bletchley Circle image © World Productions 2013

The Bletchley Circle from PBS is brilliant. I wish there were more than 4 episodes to a season. It captures the time and place with perfect clarity and the women are smart and courageous.

Divergent was good. Not as good as The Hunger Games, but good enough to create a new young female heroine and to guarantee that the next movie in the series will be well attended. Going out to see it was my birthday present to myself, and it was the perfect gift. It felt too long, but that was mostly because there were at least 30 minutes of previews of coming attractions before the film started. THAT was definitely too much.

20 Feet From Stardom is an absolute delight! Wonderful music, fascinating women with so much talent and who are so under appreciated. You must watch it.

Pink: The Truth About Love Tour – Live from Melbourne. Spectacular film! I’m glad I wasn’t there with all the yelling and screaming. I completely enjoyed seeeing it on film, however. A concert for elders via the TV! What a performance and what brilliant stunts and athletic feats. And, hey, I’d just watched 20 Feet From Stardom so I gotta tell you that I looked up Pink’s backup singers and learned their names.

Last night’s live concert in Nashville from the cast of Nashville was fabulous. Missed Connie Britton, but it was great to see these actors just sing. So much musical talent.

It’s my week for music, because I also watched The Punk Singer, a film about Kathleen Hanna. I’d heard of her but didn’t know much more than that she was associated with a women’s movement and made music. The film was my education into both Kathleen Hanna and the Riot Grrl movement. An inspiring woman and a great leader. I wish her well and hope her health continues to improve.

 

Joss Whedon Announces Direct Distribution to Viewers of In Your Eyes

Joss Whedon announced that the film In Your Eyes will be available to everyone worldwide for $5 via Vimeo. No waiting, no big bucks at the multiplex. Just watch the film whenever you want. When you rent the film, you get to use it for 72 hours.

The times, they are a changin’.

This is the announcement.

Watch the preview for the film.

See also: Vimeo Tries Out a New Video On Demand Idea.

Review: Orphan Black: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed

Season 2 of Orphan Black begins with “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.” It’s a rip-roaring beginning to the new season. Every moment of the opening show was exciting, dangerous, tense, high-stakes, fast paced drama.

Watch a preview of the first episode.

I’m not going to recap the episode, just offer a few remarks. Spoilers ahead.

Tatiana Maslany has honed her performance to a more focused and nuanced rendition of each of her characters. Each of them is a distinct and unique woman.  She’s sharpened them and made them more themselves. Tatiana Maslany is amazing as these clones, simply amazing.

Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany
Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany

The monitors for the clones, particularly Cosima’s monitor Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) and Sarah’s former monitor Paul (Dylan Bruce) are walking double edged swords. Both seem to be cooperating with the enemy while trying to help their clones.

And who is the enemy? Is it Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) and his bioengineering firm? Or is it the clone Rachel Duncan – who gives orders to Dr. Leeki and everyone else? Or is it the religious group of Prolethians behind Helena who may be the ones who stole young Kira (Skyler Wexler) away?

And speaking of Helena, she makes a dramatic entrance in the last few seconds of the episode, trailing blood as she walks into a hospital and announces that her sister shot her. I’m really glad Helena is still around; she is fascinating and feral and vulnerable and terrifying.

Other interesting points in this episode include Sarah giving a measure of trust to Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard), who is trying to help and protect her – maybe. Her decision to be honest with him will have future consequences. Felix (Jordan Gavaris) is still Sarah’s mainstay, even when he’s high and dressed in nothing but chaps. Alison is doing community theater and we see her in a song and dance routine. We don’t see anything of Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) in this episode. Too bad, because she adds a degree of mystery to the plot. Making up for the missing Mrs. S, we do get a lot of Detective Angela Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) as compensation.

A powerful start for season 2. Every moment is electric.

Alison and Her Musical Muse

Enjoy this photo from Orphan Black, which refers to Alison’s community theater performance as well as to Felix’s 4 AM visit to Allison’s place in search of a gun for Sarah.

Polyamory and Lost Girl

Did you watch Half Pint: Emerald City Comic Con 2014 Report at Drinks at the Dal? In this interview, Zoie Palmer and Kris Holden-Ried from Lost Girl were on stage for about an hour answering questions. In response to one of the questions, Kris Holden-Ried commented that he liked the idea of polyamory for the characters.

The Wikipedia definition of polyamory is, “Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.”

The current state of polyamory on Lost Girl

Knowledge and consent are keywords in that definition as it relates to Lost Girl. From the first episode, Bo (Anna Silk) has had more than one intimate relationship, but it wasn’t always with the consent of everyone involved. For Lauren’s sake, Bo tried monogamy. When Bo couldn’t make it work, and Lauren couldn’t keep up the pace Bo needed, Lauren was forced to grant grudging consent to Bo having sex with others. At that time, Lauren put the caveat of “no wolf” on her consent.

Even that didn’t work. Lauren broke it off with Bo. Since then there has been some kissing and potential reunion between the two, but no actual sex. Lauren announces frequently that she loves Bo, even though they haven’t been a couple for a while. There’s was also some kissing with Tamsin (Rachel Skarsten) but no actual sex. Meanwhile, Bo and Dyson have been going at it, as well as Bo and Rainer.

Early on, Dyson struggled with the idea of sharing/servicing Bo, but recently Dyson has been happy to be used by Bo for sex for any reason at all. And he doesn’t seem to mind the idea of Lauren doing the same thing.

Bo told Lauren and Dyson that she loves them both and cannot decide between them. Dyson has indicated an interest in Lauren – saying he would have trouble deciding, too – but Lauren is very clear about only being interested in Bo.

Polyamory in season 5

My prediction for season 5 is that Bo and Lauren will have some sex scenes again. Sex with Dyson will continue in season 5 as well.

But will there be a threesome with Bo, Lauren and Dyson? A lot of people are talking about this. When people mention polyamory and Lost Girl, they actually mean they want to see this threesome. If a cast member like Kris Holden-Ried mentions it at a comic con, you know there’s been discussion about it among the Lost Girl cast and creators.

Here’s what I’d like to see. I’d like for Bo to keep her relationships with Lauren and Dyson separate. She loves them both, she should be free to love them both in her unique succubus style. That’s okay. But individually.

Dyson and Lauren are emotionally important to her, they are not just sex partners. They bring different things to her, she gives different things to them. She should have them both, but not at the same time. This fits her personality and it would work better for Lauren as well. Dyson might be interested in a threesome, but I don’t think it would be good for Lauren. However, I think both Lauren and Dyson are at the point where consent for Bo to have them both makes sense to them, too. They are willing.

Okay, so back to the idea of threesomes or group sex. Not polyamorous relationships, but group sex.

We’ve seen Bo involved in threesomes – one with Ryan and the blonde hostess from the restaurant and one with a couple Bo picked up at the Dal. But we’ve never seen Bo in scenes of group sex where key cast members like Lauren or Dyson are involved.

I just said I don’t think there should be any of Bo, Lauren and Dyson together. But if we’re talking about principal cast members, I think Bo, Dyson and Tamsin would work. Tamsin and Dyson have been together recently, even as Tamsin was looking for excuses to plant big lip locks on Bo. These three might be okay together, and it could be made to serve the story.

I’m less sure about combinations like Bo, Lauren, and Tamsin, or even Bo, Lauren and Evony. Those groupings could get messy. The emotional ramifications might be a problem. The main drawback is how it might work for Lauren. A huge question for sexual combinations like these is how would it serve the the story and bring us closer to getting some of the answers we’re looking for in season 5.

I’m not against the idea of more group sex. It’s in keeping with who Bo is. In terms of what it might do to the story, I think putting Bo in situations where there is group sex should involve random characters in for just an episode or two. Leave the love, commitment, and emotion for Lauren and Dyson, bring on outsiders just for sex.

With Hale gone, I think there may be a new male regular added to the cast. If this happens, it could change everything.

Does it serve the story?

All that opinion about polyamory being spoken, do we really need further proof that this is what Bo is, what she needs? Don’t we already know? Does further evidence serve the story? We still have lingering questions from season 4 about Kenzi, about Bo’s father, about Bo as a the potential queen of the Fae. To me, the main question regarding Bo’s sex life is will it be Lauren, Dyson, or both?

What’s your opinion on polyamory in Lost Girl?