Mozart in the Jungle: Season 3

As you may recall, Mozart in the Jungle concluded its second season, back in January of this year, or December 31st, 2015 if you binged, with a bitter battle between the artistes and the orchestra’s management and board of directors. It was more than just a loud and ugly argument about wages.

Control of the orchestra as well as control of the board were at stake.

In any event, while many of you were about to take a summer vacation, assured that your jobs would still be there on your return to the workplace, the members of the (fictional) New York Symphony Orchestra had no such certainties.

So, after some contretemps between Rodrigo de Souza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the board’s version of Darth Vader, who went by the name of Edward Biben, who suggested that in exchange for Rodrigo’s resignation as Conductor, he would push through all of the orchestra’s demands. But the plan fell through, as a majority of the board, under Gloria’s lead, chose to reject the orchestra’s demands, which of course nullified Rodrigo’s resignation.

So there was a lockout, and finding themselves unable to enter their home venue, the orchestra traveled the few short blocks from Lafayette Street over to Washington Square Park. There they gave an impromptu and free concert.

After which they scattered in multiple directions, unsure of their fates. As viewers, we would all have to wait for Season 3 to find the answers to the question of the orchestra’s survival as well as many others.

Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle launched on December 9th with all 10 episodes available for bingeing or watching at a more leisurely pace. As the first episode began we find ourselves watching Rodrigo, the orchestra’s conductor, riding a bicycle down the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy.

Technically, one may not ride a bike on water, but what we really got was Rodrigo on a bike attached to some pontoons. So Rodrigo was in Venice Italy, Hailey was on tour with the Andrew Walsh Ensemble.

Rodrigo, when not conversing with a young Mozart, was introduced to and began working with a reclusive opera diva called Alessandra (played by Monica Bellucci). And so it begins.

Season Three will take us from a lockout to a lockup. Said another way, we will travel from Venice, Italy all the way to the New York Department of Corrections facility located on Rikers Island in New York.

My thinking was that this season, while quite entertaining, was more than a bit scattershot – or as I like to say – all over the place. That doesn’t detract from the excellent music, acting, and location shooting. Those were the strong pluses.

But on the debit side of this series ledger, too much time was given over to scenes that really held no interest for us. Thomas  Pembridge (played by the always excellent Malcolm McDowell) who once was the erstwhile conductor of the New York Symphony, became the ‘old’ conductor of said symphony, or said another way Musical Director Emeritus, when Gloria (Bernadette Peters) brought in Rodrigo.

Somewhere in the middle of the above, while Thomas’s angst may have softened – indeed he was now seeing Gloria as his paramour – did we really need to have Gloria and Thomas motor out to Long Island to visit Gloria parents in the 8th episode which was called Circles Within Circles. In the same vein, Episode 7 was called Not Titled Yet, and it was a literal documentary about the Symphony’s concert on Rikers Island.

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Good Girls Revolt – New Series Streaming on Amazon

It is late December, 1969. We are in the Editorial Department of a fictional national news magazine called News of the Week. The news coming across the teletype machines is reporting the outbreak of violence at a free concert held at Altamont, CA. Four people would die and scores were injured. We may not have realized it at the time, but the 1960’s were not going out on a high note.

So begins the Amazon Original Series called Good Girls Revolt. Actually, the opening credits feature video and still images of New York in the late 1960’s. The Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter was the accompanying music.

Managing Editor Wick McFadden (Jim Belushi plays Wick) has just called the entire editorial staff into the room. He proceeds to read the lead paragraph of what was to be a cover story.

McFadden: This piece hit the bull’s-eye.
Researcher Nora Ephron steps forward: That was me…he did do a court story. I rewrote it.
McFadden: Girls do not do rewrites
Ephron: Why not?
McFadden: That’s simply how we do things here. We have rules, protocol…
Ephron: Those rules are dumb. If the copy is good, it’s good.
McFadden: Young lady. You might not want to make waves; lest we have doubts about our decision to hire you.
Ephron: But you just said my rewrite hit the bull’s-eye. That was your word..bull’s eye
McFadden noticing that every one in the room is listening intently…Why is is everyone standing around? Back to work. [Looking at Ephron] You too dear…

Ephron: This is ridiculous… I quit!

That was Grace Gummer as Nora Ephron. 

And in that minute and four-second clip from Episode One, we have the substance of Good Girls Revolt. This was the sixties and while there were women in the workplace, at this magazine, the women weren’t reporters or editors – they were called Researchers. They assembled files of information for the reporters. They fetched coffee, made copies, did the filing, wrote captions for the photos, and the all the rest of the grunt work that went into creating a published piece in News of the Week Magazine. But the reporters, they were the ones that got the by-lines, the fame, and of course, the higher pay.

If you think that News of the Week might be a thinly disguised company name for Newsweek Magazine; You’d be right. You see, this dramatic series is based on a real story. Some 46 female employees of the magazine filed a complaint in 1970 with the EEOC charging the management with systemic discrimination against them in the practices of hiring and promotions.

This series is based on a non-fiction book by Lynn Povich called The Good Girls Revolt. Povich herself was one of the women who was a party to this historic lawsuit.

The case was handled by Eleanor Hughes Norton, here played by Joy Bryant.  As stated above, the events of the series take place in December of 1969 through March 23rd of 1970.

It was on that day, that the formal complaint was filed with the EEOC, and a press conference was held at the ACLU headquarters in Manhattan.

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Goliath – New Series now Streaming on Amazon

I just finished the new legal thriller TV Series that is currently streaming on Amazon. It’s called Goliath and stars Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride, who once upon a time was a super successful lawyer for a multinational law firm that bore his name – Cooperman & McBride.

For reasons that are not immediately made clear to us, Billy is no longer a partner in that firm. His wife, one of the top attorneys at Cooperman, has divorced him, and Billy currently lives and works out of the infamous and real Ocean Lodge,

a Santa Monica, CA hotel. He drives a beat-up Ford Mustang. He drinks more than he should. When he is not in his residence at the Ocean Lodge, Billy may meet with clients at the neighborhood dive bar –

Billy could usually be found on the last bar stool at the far end of the room

Billy could usually be found on the last bar stool at the far end of the room

called Chez Jay, which was just next door.

The series runs for 8 hour-long episodes and can be most easily described as: A disgraced lawyer, now an ambulance chaser, gets a case that could bring him redemption or at least revenge on the firm which expelled him.

Now this is not a new story. Heck, it is almost a staple in the film and TV industry. Goliath might be called L.A.Law Meets The Verdict. Or maybe we can call it Michael Clayton meets The Rainmaker.

Yes, as viewers we love the underdog attorney, the alcoholic attorney, or the attorney who no one thinks can win the case, which involves taking on a behemoth of a corporation, or an insurance company, or even another law firm.

Yeah, I cheered when Tom Cruise as Lt. Daniel Kaffee took down the US Marine Corps, represented by Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessup and Kiefer Sutherland as Lt. Jonathan Kendrick in A Few Good Men. I fist pumped when the inexperienced lawyer Rudy Baylor played by Matt Damon, won a huge case against a huge insurance company and their attorney Leo Drummond played by Jon Voight. That film was called The Rainmaker.

Or The Verdict. Paul Newman played an alcoholic attorney called Frank Galvin who took on a case about a comatose patient. His opponents – a major Boston hospital, the Catholic Archdiocese, and attorney Ed Concannon, played by James Mason, who was usually referred to, in the film, as The Prince of Fucking Darkness.

Goliath is a series that fits right in with those films. Billy Bob Thornton’s Billy McBride is your basic brilliant lawyer who has had many major reversals recently; so much so that you might tend to believe that he’s going to be chewed up and spit out by opposing counsel.

So who is he going up against: a huge corporation, Borns Tech,  that has major contracts with the US Department of Defense to develop, build, and deliver weapons. And that firm is represented by Cooperman & McBride, which is, of course, Billy’s old firm.

While the foundation of the story is a familiar one, and the title suggests a win for Billy McBride – I mean the biblical Goliath was downed by David armed with just a sling-shot, this is not a series that you should by-pass.

In fact, the series first aired on Friday the 14th, and I finished it on the night of the 16th. Okay, I didn’t binge-watch the series from start to finish, but I did managed to watch 8 episodes in 48 hours.So let’s get into it.

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One Mississippi

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In my younger days, when things like a Thanksgiving morning touch football game became an obligatory neighborhood event, the terms One Mississippi, Two Mississippi were words that actually may have been spoken by me or my teammates. In this particular version of backyard football, the team defending had to give the quarterback five seconds to figure out what to do before we could come streaming across the line of scrimmage to achieve either a sack via a two-hand touch, or hurry the QB into throwing an errant pass. Hence, the stating of one Mississippi was the equivalent of one second passing, and we had to voice the count out loud.

That was then.

Today, meaning this month, Amazon rolled out a new series on September 9th called One Mississippi. Lest you get the wrong idea, this brand new mini-series (only six episodes of a half hour each), has nothing whatsoever to do with football.

The series stars Tig Notaro who is nothing  if not multi-talented. She’s managed bands, booked bands, played music and talked as a radio DJ. She’s also done notable work as a stand-up comic. She is penning a memoir for a Harper Collins imprint. She been a subject of a documentary called Tig which screened at Sundance. And she’s come to the attention of Louis CK who is an Executive Producer for this TV series.

Those are items which re usually found on a resumé.

What you normally don’t see on a resumé is the fact that Tig had breast cancer resulting in a double mastectomy with no follow-up reconstructive surgery. She’s also had a serious intestinal disorder which might have killed her.

As the series begins, Tig has flown in from L.A. The family was gathering because Tig and her brother, plus their step-father, have agreed and decided to pull the plug on her mother who is hooked-up to life-support mechanisms. She had sustained a severe head-injury in a fall and was now in a full vegetative state.

So Tig has flown into New Orleans and was in a car driving to her home town. She’s actually from Pass Christian, Mississippi, but in the show, the setting is the fictional Bay Saint Lucille. Either way, they are  about 70 miles east of New Orleans and are considered small Gulf towns on the Mississippi coast.

Now Amazon has described One Mississippi as a dark comedy. Here is the blurb for Episode One (the pilot):

Tig Notaro, an LA-based radio host, returns to her hometown of Bay St. Lucille, Mississippi, to be at the bedside of her ailing mother, Caroline. Suffering from her own recent health problems, Tig attempts to reconnect with her brother, Remy, and stepfather, Bill, both of whom lack the emotional tools to deal with family trauma.

And the blurb from the 2nd Episode called Effects:

Struggling to accept her mother’s death, Tig can’t let go of Caroline’s possessions.  Unable to leave home, Tig tries to maintain control of her radio show from Mississippi. Seeing that Tig is unable to accept the fragility of life, most pressingly her own, Bill pushes Tig to investigate a disturbing, yet oddly hilarious medical procedure.

A flashback to when the Mom was at Tig's bedside prior to her mastectomy.

A flashback to when the Mom was at Tig’s bedside prior to her mastectomy.

Notice that the series is called a dark comedy and oddly hilarious. Here’s my take – I’d call the series a drama with often unexpected diverting comedy scenes, but there’s not nearly enough of these to merit calling the series a comedy, dark or otherwise. Second, I didn’t find the show even remotely hilarious.

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Fleabag

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You wouldn’t think that an actress, who not only wrote a play, then adapted it into a TV series, all while starring as the lead character, would not only title the play/series Fleabag, but would also give the lead character that name too. You wouldn’t think it would happen.

Only if your name is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, that’s exactly what you did. This six part series called [ta-daa] Fleabag (a half-hour  a pop for each of the episodes) opened (began streaming) on Friday the 16th as an Amazon Original Series. Well, you’ll have to forgive Amazon for their marketing strategies as this series has already aired in the UK on BBC 3. But if you are an Amazon Prime member you can watch all six episodes at no additional cost.

So what’s it all about Alfie is probably not the question forming on your lips, but that was no accident. One of the keys to this funny series is that Fleabag has a decided penchant for breaking the 4th wall and talking directly to we viewers about the imminent and ongoing situation she’s in. Michael Caine did this in 1966 in the hit film Alfie.

Then we enjoyed it in the 1990 British TV series House of Cards with Ian Richardson playing the ambitious and corrupt Francis Urquhart.

In 2004 Alfie was remade with Jude Law playing Alfie. The story was re-positioned to be a New York story instead of London.

The British H of C was remade into a US TV series called House of Cards. Netflix began streaming the series in February of 2013. The fifth season will be available on February 24th, 2017. Kevin Spacey plays Francis Underwood, a poor guy from the back woods of South Carolina who was as corrupt as Mr. Urquhart, who eventually became the British PM. Underwood’s reach would eventually take him into the US Congress, and then ultimately, straight into the White House as President.

While Fleabag may be as morally corrupt as any of the gentlemen we just named, she was far less ambitious. When we first meet her she’s prepping for a 2:00 AM Tuesday Night pop-in.

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Bosch Season Two – An Amazon Original Series

The second season of the Amazon Prime Original Series Bosch premiered on March 11th. Titus Welliver is back as the laconic LAPD Homicide Detective Harry Bosch. Also returning as part of a stellar cast are Lance Reddick (The Wire) as Deputy Police Chief Irvin Irving, Amy Aquino as Bosch’s direct supervisor Command Detective Lt.Grace Billets, and Jamie Hector (also from The Wire) as Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar.

They work out of the Hollywood Division and the direction likes lots of airborne cameras so we always are aware of the huge size and sprawl of LA as seen from a helicopter. Now airborne cameras are nothing new to TV or even police shows – just think of True Detective’s second season.

But Bosch is nothing like the detectives we watched in True Detective. As the second season begins we witness a murder or execution (gangland style) high up on Mulholland Drive. We then cut to Bosch shaving off his beard that he grew while he was under a six-month suspension that he got after tossing a supervisor through a plate-glass panel at HQ at the end of the 1st season. He’s about to return to work.

Harry does return to work, and as we watch and admire his intensity, we also have to live with his dry humor when we get to see it as he’s mostly humorless. But this makes for a strong detective. Yes, he’s often grumpy – but that’s the result of his drive to solve the cases.

 

The case that Bosch and Edgar caught was the Mulholland Drive murder. The vic was a porn producer who apparently did quite well as he lived in a posh gated community high up in the Hollywood Hills.

This porn producer, named Tony Allen, was connected to the Armenian mobster Joey Marks, and Allen’s trophy wife Veronica is played by Jeri Ryan who long ago starred in the Star Trek: Voyager series.

But Bosch is more than just one case at a time, so there’s a whole lot more. Watching this second season requires that you keep track of a number of story threads, and they take their time in tying them all together.

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Mozart in the Jungle – 2nd Season

Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Mozart, Sibelius, and Schubert don’t get a lot of airtime at my place. It’s not that I don’t care for them, rather that I haven’t the time, which really means I’d rather watch something than listen to something. But if music from these gentlemen and others of that ilk can be compressed into smaller sized samples…

Let me explain –

On February 6th of 2014, Amazon released the pilot for an original TV series. It was called Mozart in the Jungle,

and it was an adaption from Blair Tindall‘s book – Mozart in the Jungle; Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music. I reviewed the pilot here, and then the long wait began. Amazon had left it to its viewers to vote on which of six pilots would be made into a series.

So on Dec 23rd, 2014, Amazon rolled out the rest of the series 1st season. I reviewed the second episode called Fifth Chair here, and settled in to watch the remaining episodes. But somewhere around Episode 4 (You Have Insulted Tchaikovsky) or Episode 5 (I’m With the Maestro), I felt the show had left the rails, venturing into territories that neither interested me, nor seemed a part of the story that I had begun some time before. So I abandoned the series.

Now, in the present, with some time on my hands, along with the knowledge that Amazon had rolled out Season 2 of Mozart in the Jungle for release on December 30th, less than a week ago, I jumped back in and finished Season 1, and dove in to binge-watch Season 2.

My original complaint still registered, even after completing Season One. With 10 half-hour shows, it isn’t that much of an investment in terms of time to watch the show and a full season of the series.. Especially since it is not on broadcast TV, you can choose the time when you want to sit down to view the show. What you get is a mix of comedy and drama, seasoned with sex, classical music, and an occasional foray into drugs, and what I expected was a linear story, that had plot lines that you could follow along with.

But the reality is that the term ‘linear’ only fits some of the time. Which is to say, that when the show isn’t following a dramatic linear plot line, it often strays into  a version of the Seinfeld model.  Notice I said ‘version’.

I’m not talking about the Seinfeldian quirky and silly characters behaving badly or foolishly. Rather, I’m saying that what appear to be normal folks are suddenly participating in a zany or screwball comedy only without punch lines. There is a sense of disconnect from one episode to the next – as if to say that the show often heads off on a what appears to be a tangent which appears to be kind of remote. Only it isn’t.

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Transparent: Season 2 – Episodes 1 & 2

Jill Soloway’s Transparent series, airing on Amazon, walked off with five Emmy’s back on September 20th. Two months and 20 plus days later, on December 11th – Amazon rolled out the second season. All the episodes are available now and you can space them out, or binge watch all 10 of the half hour shows in one afternoon if you like.

I watched the first two episodes tonight. The titles are Kina Hora and Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump which won’t make a lot of sense to many or even most of you, at least until you’ve seen both episodes. But to help, I’ll offer a bit of a leg-up for you.

Kina Hora is a version of a Yiddish expression, and it is often used in a variety of circumstances – but the long and the short of it is this.

No evil-eye! May the evil-eye look elsewhere.

In practice, it is said by a well-wisher as praise to ward off the evil eye. It compares to Knock on wood.

So that’s the title of the first episode which opens at the wedding of Sarah Pfefferman, played by Amy Landecker and Tammy Cashman played by Melora Hardin. This wedding required everyone to be dressed in white, and every member of the wedding party and every guest was.  Soloway opens with a four-minute shot of the wedding party attempting to pose for a group picture. Every one is not completely happy, as some unexpected family members are present, and there’s bad blood in the air,  plus the photographer is a putz. So while some photos are taken – the upshot is when this happens:

Mort/Maura Pfefferman (to the photographer): Do you want my chin up or down? Photographer Reggie: I think chin up for you, sir. Mort/Maura: Did he just call me ‘sir’? Shelly Pfefferman: Yes he did. Mort/Maura: That’s it. We’re done. (As in we’re out of here).

And with his former wife Shelly in tow, Mort/Maura storms off.

We are now just 4 minutes into Season Two and things are not only off to a rocky start, but they’re going to go downhill from here.  And it won’t matter how many Kina Horas have been said.

Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump is a sexual activity reference. Not one that any of us have heard before, and I won’t describe it in detail. What I will say, is that back in the Seinfeld days, a certain sexual act was called The Move. Jerry: Did you close with the swirl? Hope that helps.

Okay in this episode we have another party/gathering, and as the wedding party in the previous episode crashed and burned, this party, held by Josh Pfefferman (played by Jay Duplass) is for music industry folks. Josh is launching his latest musical find – a band consisting of three women. But besides the music industry types, all the Pfeffermans are there.  Some secrets are revealed, and some hard feelings are exposed with all the rawness and pain that such things can create.

But the party doesn’t totally crash and burn until Tammy arrives. And shortly thereafter, people, being smart when they should be smart, have determined that now would be a good time to leave, as an emotional downpour has certainly dampened the festivities, so all are heading home. Maura tells Ali to tell Sarah to make sure Shelly gets home safe as he/she has a stop to make.

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