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…