HBO’s Olive Kitteridge: Some Thoughts Now That I’ve Watched the Show

On Sunday night I skipped watching Madam Secretary at 8:30 PM, and passed up watching Homeland at 9:00 PM . Instead I tuned in Olive Kitteridge on HBO. As I had learned, the show is set in a place called Crosby, Maine. Apparently, this New England locale is the perfect setting for Olive Kitteridge.

She’s not about to warm your heart or anyone else’s either.

Before I get to some particulars, let me state that the original source material, Elizabeth Strout’s book, Olive Kitteridge, is not structured in the normal way a novel is. There are 13 loosely connected short stories – all about the folks in Crosby, Maine, with Olive Kitteridge at the center of the book if not at the center of each of the stories.

For the mini-series, a two night, four-hour production, they’ve chosen to follow a similar pattern with Olive as the main character in all four of the episodes. I’d like to describe the show as Life in the Slow Lane, which is kind of a wordplay on the Eagles song Life In the Fast Lane, but you might think that description to be a bit too glib. Set down home, in a small coastal town in Maine, basically we are spending four hours with Olive Kitteridge. She’s taciturn, she’s stoic, she’s disapproves of almost anything that appears before her – except maybe her loyal dog Clancy. To continue with another musical connector, Olive is a woman who definitely would not be singing another Joe Walsh/Eagles tune – the one called Life’s Been Good.

Olive is the daughter of a depressed mother and a father who killed himself with his own gun. But Olive believes that depression is a sign of intelligence. As in you have to be fairly smart to know that your life isn’t all that it could or should be. She doesn’t wear her depression like a merit badge, but she doesn’t hesitate to bring it up at dinner with her husband Henry, and son Christopher.

Christopher: What’s depression?
Olive: It’s bad wiring. Makes your nose rot. Runs in our family
Henry: Your mother is not depressed.
Olive: Yes I am. Happy to have it. Goes with being smart.
Christopher: Is that why you’re so mean all the time?
Olive: [nodding with a sense of utter conviction] Absolutely…

Continue reading

Olive Kitteridge: HBO Miniseries Premiering Tonight November 2nd

I’m waiting for the dog to die, so I can shoot myself…

That’s Olive Kitteridge, the name of the lead character as well as the title of the new HBO Miniseries which begins tonight (November 2nd) with two one hour episodes, then concludes tomorrow night (November 3rd) with two more.

This mini-series is directed by Lisa Cholodenko and written by Jane Anderson who adapted the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name penned by Elizabeth Strout.

The series stars Frances McDormand as the titular Olive Kitteridge, Richard Jenkins as her pharmacist husband, with John Gallagher Jr as the son, and with Zoe Kazan, Peter Mullan, and Bill Murray in supporting roles.

It is a generational story about Olive Kitteridge and family set in a place called Crosby, Maine. The Opening episode might have been called Welcome to Crosby; the actual title was The Pharmacy. McDormand embodies Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher, a practically full-time curmudgeon, a mother, a wife, and she’s even called a witch.

One might say that she’s depressed and angry all of the time. But Olive views depression as a sign of intelligence. She’s been called a school teacher that you hated when you were a student, but have come to view fondly after a suitable number of years has passed by.

Continue reading