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CULTURE ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT 2021 From The Archives MUSIC 2021 TV 2021 Uncategorized

New PBS Special Looks Back on Career of Brazilian Legend Sergio Mendes (Q&A)

An influential music figure gets his due this month on PBS, which airs the special Sergio Mendes & Friends: A Celebration, chronicling the life of the Brazilian music pioneer, throughout June. Featuring the documentary Sergio Mendes: In The Key Of Joy by director John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs John Lennon), the presentation features commentary from Herb Alpert, Common, Quincy Jones, John Legend, will.i.am (who produced his comeback into the pop world called Timeless) and more.

Mendes, who was born in Niterói, Brazil in 1941, found his rhythm on the keys and in the New York music scene, first as a signee with his music trio to Capitol Records, and later Brasil 66 signed with A&M, where he re-defined the ‘60s Bossa Nova sound and popularized smooth jazz with a pop sensibility. Releasing 35 albums and scoring multiple hits like “Mas Que Nada,” “The Look of Love,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Night and Day,” and later, the soulful ballad “Never Gonna Let You Go,” Mendes has earned three Grammies and received an Oscar nod for his music in the animated film Rio.

His work has been used in countless films, adverts, and TV programs;  so much so that even younger music fans who might not know the artist by name usually have recognition of his work, both with his groups and as a solo artist and composer. His take on Brazilian music has become a global and cultural game-changer that continues to inspire and resonate to this day. With the PBS special debuting this weekend, we spoke to the legend via Zoom from his home in Woodland Hills, California.

LINA LECARO: The movie is wonderful. How did it all come about?

SERGIO MENDES: Thank you. Yes, John Scheinfeld did a tremendous job. He’s a wonderful director and producer, and it was great working with him. The record company had this idea of doing a documentary about my life and they asked me what I thought. I thought that was great so they sent me a copy of the documentary that John did on Coltrane, and also Harry Nilsson, and I loved them. I said I want to meet him. So he came to the house, we met and I said let’s do it. Let’s go.

He’s a great storyteller, and clearly very musical. I think that you probably have to really have a strong appreciation for the music to tell this kind of story in the right way.

I met with him a couple of times here at the house and he lives here in LA, which makes life easier. I really enjoyed meeting him and we spoke a lot about my career, my music, my life… I didn’t see anything until the end. Not the interviews or anything, and so it was for me, a very emotional experience when I saw the final cut. He got some incredible archives from shows I’d done years and years ago. I think it’s very well put together.

The archival stuff was so fun. Really captured that time. Were there things that you forgot about, or that made an impression on you to see again?

Once I saw it I remembered most of the things, but I had forgotten a few, so it was great to see that great footage again. And also, you know, going back to where I grew up in Brazil. The apartment building where I used to live….all that was very, very moving for me.

So looking back at your career, the film shows both your influence and your resiliency in tough times. It really showed the ups and downs. That early live gig Brasil 66 had and how you got fired because the crowds didn’t quite get it. And yet, you went on to be so popular afterward. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Yeah, of course that was a downer. You know, I mean, somebody who hired you to play and then goes, here’s your money and thank you very much but we don’t want you. I said wow, this is the beginning of my career. The gig was in the Bahamas. But I told the members that we just have to rehearse and make this thing better and so we came back to the U.S. And right when we get back here, we start to rehearse, then A&M was interesred, so things started happening.

As they say, ‘when one door closes, another door opens.” Watching the story unfold, that gig in the Bahamas was surprising because you guys were already establishing your sound, and you sounded amazing. Why do you think it didn’t resonate at the time?

Well I think it was a combination of things. First of all, we hadn’t had the big hit yet. This is before “Mas Que Nada.” We didn’t have a record or something to promote and nobody knew about us. I mean after I recorded my first album, and had the big success with so many songs, then things were different.

Brasil 66

How did Albert and Jerry hear about you? Were you playing out live a lot?

I was here in the L.A. studio of a friend of mine on Melrose. And in those days record companies used to come to visit to see and to hear new bands. A few record companies came to see us there and among them was Herb and Jerry. It was a perfect fit. They were just starting and they had great energy and I liked them a lot. We became good friends for life. It was just like—as I use the word many times in the documentary— serendipity.

I think so. Another part of the documentary showing the band’s evolution and how things maybe happen for a reason, was when you lost your original singer Lani Hall . She fell in love with Herb and left the band. That must have been hard because you had such a great chemistry with her singing.

Absolutely, we’re still very dear friends dear by the way. I speak once or twice a week with Herb and Lani. But you know, again, like you said one door closes and the other one opens. That’s when I met my wife who became the singer of the band.

It became a love story for all of you. Sergio, what would you say looking back on your career and being a Latino in the US, about getting your music out there? Like what were some of the challenges that you faced? How did you overcome the cultural barriers and find success?

I think it comes down to the song at the end of the day. The power of the song, and the melody. We had a hit song in Portuguese, it was the first time ever that a song like that became a number one in the world, not only in the United States. I think a lot had to do with the arrangement and the uniqueness of the sound at the time.

It was very unique. Did you ever consider translating it or would that have been weird?

For that song, it would be such a corny thing. It wouldn’t work out. The song by the way is huge in Japan. The melody is really the catchy and people, they’ve taken it to the heart and they’ve embraced it. Some songs need English lyrics but not that one. Having English songs helped to make us even more international, though.

You are a role model for Latin people. How does that feel?

I never thought about it. I don’t know, am I?

You are! Your music brought a flavor of music to America that wasn’t there and it changed pop music. I think the documentary touches upon that and it’s huge. I think it will inspire musicians of all backgrounds because you always stayed true to who you are and you still made it within the industry.

Absolutely, yeah. I would say people should stay with your dream, embrace your dream and don’t stop. As I like to say, keep playing in the key of joy.    ❖

Sergio Mendes & Friends: A Celebration airs on PBS beginning Sat., June 5.

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives TV 2021 TV ARCHIVES

UNBINGED: Steampunks and Superheroes: Reviews of Joss Whedon’s ‘The Nevers,’ Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ and More

There’s a battle brewing, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV, and Primetime television. If you’re too weak to resist, UnBinged is here to help, sharing what to hate, what to love, and what to love to hate.

This week’s reviews: sci-fi adventure The Nevers, dystopian drama Shadow and Bone, and Disney+ Marvel hero hit The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

The Nevers (HBO Max)

Before one can begin to tackle the ass-kicking Victorian women who populate HBO Max’s The Nevers, it is important to address the issues involving its creator Joss Whedon.

Due to accusations by several actors who’ve worked with him, the writer/director who brought us both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers is problematic, to put it lightly, and his alleged actions will be an issue for many when it comes to projects bearing his name. Whedon left the show post-production but he did create it. Like a lot of entertainment out there, The Nevers is best enjoyed if one separates the artist from the art, so that is how it shall be reviewed here.

A Victorian sci-fi drama brimming with supernatural creatures, steampunk aesthetic, and badass femme fatales who can backflip in a corset, The Nevers is an interesting take on a well-worn subject. In lieu of Slayers or Dolls (remember Whedon’s short-lived Fox drama Dollhouse?), we are introduced to “the Touched”– people with extraordinary gifts ranging from extreme height to visions of the future. Society regards such individuals with either disdain or morbid curiosity, but their problems are only just beginning as they are also being hunted by a mysterious order.

The story’s central figure is Amalia True (Jenny Fraser), a prim and proper young widow on a mission to save “the Afflicted”– people with supernatural abilities. And much like Professor X, this belle in a bustle has a few afflictions of her own.

In this age of superheroes, The Nevers is nothing we haven’t seen before. X-Men, Buffy, Dollhouse, Harry Potter…all deal with aspects of everyday people with supernatural powers. However, its witty script helps elevate the material beyond the sci-fi tropes. The deadpan delivery and well-written words serve up laughs and a narrative that clicks.

A sci-fi fantasy with lofty expectations can fail to deliver the goods for a number of reasons and shabby world-building, over-complicated plot, or bad writing have taken down many a lavish production. Thanks to a whip-smart script, well-developed characters, and a talented cast bringing its material to life, The Nevers almost never feels played out, even if its creator might be.

Shadow and Bone (Netflix)

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone is yet another dystopian series in which the fate of all mankind is in the hands of a teen girl. And far as sci-fi fantasy and semi-apocalyptic young adult stories go, it hits all the right beats. There are magical orphans and an ancient prophecy regarding said orphans; CGI cryptids; evil elders and an assortment of British accents. Yes, Netflix’s latest adaptation has all of the end-of-the-world touches we have come to know and love. But is it good?  Yep. But you gotta give it a sec.

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy and The Six of Crows, the series follows the adventures of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a soldier turned soothsayer who discovers she is the Sun Summoner– a mythical being destined to save her world. But before she can flex her newfound talents, she must defend herself and her friends from those who wish to control her.

Heavily influenced by Russian history and gunslinger mythology, the Netflix series has a lot to unpack, and the first episode unloads a whole bunch of information on the viewer. It can be a little overwhelming. The audiences must learn the rules by which this universe operates, as well as its history and its unique languages. But once Alina finds her starshine, the story picks up, allowing the audience to get to know the characters and the exotic new world they occupy.

Shadow and Bone succeeds where so many fantasy adaptations fail if you stay with it and understand that it requires a bit of patience. It takes inventive writing and great acting to really bring a world to life, and this one evolves nicely if you make yourself at home for a while. Welcome to the Grishaverse. You are gonna like it here.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)

Hot on the heels of WandaVision, Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continued Marvel’s march into Phase Four, once again using its Avengers B-team to both focus on larger issues while setting up future films. If you still haven’t seen the Disney+ drama -which aired its season finale on April 23- it’s time to fly in.

Picking up where Avengers: Endgame left off, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) is dealing with a dilly of a dilemma as he ponders the options left to him after the former Captain America/Steve Rogers gives him his shield. But just like WandaVision wasn’t a show about a lie, a witch, and a wardrobe change, Winter Soldier isn’t a show about a shield, but rather what people believe it represents.

While the world attempts to recover from both the loss of two of its greatest heroes and the sudden return of half the population of Earth, both Sam and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) struggle to find their way in a Captain-less world. But the show digs much deeper than that. It is not just about rudderless heroes looking for a cause, but about the disenfranchised- be it a lost population, a reluctant superhero, a misguided teen with a taste for violence, or man-made champions made into monsters.

Winter Soldier has a job to do: it needs to expand previously unexplored characters while introducing new information that sets up the next phase of the Marvel universe. But within this chore, Winter Soldier makes itself relevant by asking difficult questions. Will the world accept a Black savior? What will happen to the previous saviors that were created to protect us? Who will protect us from them? While WandaVision was really about processing grief, Winter Soldier takes on bigger issues, such as systemic racism and a broken political power structure.

Within these serious themes, there is a message of hope and a surefire plan for box office domination. Short-sighted individuals might be rallying in protest on social media about where the show is leading, but their bellyaching should mean nothing in the larger scheme of things. Captain America is a hero of the people -all the people- and we’re excited to see how Marvel makes sure viewers get that if there’s another season.   ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT 2021 From The Archives TV 2021

Better Crimes and Punishments

The superb BBC miniseries The Serpent, which recently made its way to Netflix, reminded me that I’m pretty particular when it comes to TV shows about lawbreakers and the law enforcers pursuing them. For instance, The Serpent expertly dramatizes the horrific story of a real-life fiend — con artist and murderer Charles Sobhraj, chillingly embodied by Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian). With a female accomplice (Jenna Coleman of Victoria) under his spell, Sobhraj preyed on gullible Western hippie types seeking kicks with a side order of enlightenment in Asia during the 1970s. It’s an eight-part limited series based on true events, and even if you know the basic facts of Sobhraj’s villainy, it’s as incredibly tense and thrilling as any fictional thriller I’ve come across — and a heck of a lot better than many examples of the crime genre on television.

Though I love a mystery, I don’t much care for the standard-issue procedural dramas churned out and played on American network TV for decades. The Law & OrderCSI, and NCIS franchises and their ilk generally deliver a string of one-off crime-or-crisis-of-the-week affairs with barely perceptible character growth from season to season. The formulaic nature of these productions seems banal, even tedious to me, but the various shows, including the spin-offs, are popular enough to be renewed year after year. So I go elsewhere for my cops ’n’ criminals narrative fix.

My attitude toward the British and European variations on the format is markedly enthusiastic. I find myself eagerly seeking out and consuming those series, which can usually be accessed through streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, BritBox, Acorn, and MHz Choice. Upon reflection, the appeal is more in the long-form storytelling than in the exotic nature of the locales. Admittedly, a few select U.S. crime dramas have used the miniseries structure with satisfying results, such as the first True Detective series from HBO, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. I’m particularly fond of the Amazon Prime offering Bosch, featuring Titus Welliver as the resourceful title character, with extended plots based on Michael Connelly’s Bosch novels. Meanwhile, our friends overseas have been — pardon the expression — killing it with literally dozens of engrossing multiepisode explorations of humanity’s dark side that also examine those investigators who seek justice and risk their lives in search of the perps.

UNDER SCRUTINY OVERSEAS

Evidently, I prefer some nuance and complexity to my procedurals that a single hour-long one-and-done episode seldom can provide. I’ve previously raved in these pages about ITV’s Broadchurch (now on Netflix), which follows a mismatched pair of detectives, enacted in brilliant fashion by David Tennant and Olivia Colman, as they try to solve the murder of a young boy in an insular British seaside town and deal with the aftermath over the course of three seasons. And there are comparable and equally compelling foreign shows including The MissingThe Tunnel, a Franco-British effort based on the Scandinavian series The Bridge, which also spawned a decent American version; the interrogation-centered Criminal that looks at different crimes and suspects with separate English, French, German and Spanish takes on the concept; and Spiral (Engrenages), the durable, addictively soapy French policier.

One of my favorite episodic programs about crime and punishment has a rather unique structure. In each of its six seasons, Line of Duty, set in an unnamed British city, follows a police anti-corruption division — what’s commonly known as Internal Affairs in the United States — as they investigate a different person of interest within the department. Additionally, the division, Anti-Corruption Unit 12 or AC-12, is under scrutiny by administrators with possibly dubious agendas of their own in who-watches-the-watchmen fashion.

Vicky McClure and Kelly Macdonald in ‘Line of Duty’

The main recurring characters on the show are the mainstays of AC-12: Detective Inspector Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) whose refusal to cover up a deadly, mishandled raid on suspected terrorists results in reassignment to AC-12; Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), a veteran of undercover operations who is a divorced single mom; and their upright superior officer, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar). Their messy private lives and personal interactions are as much a part of the show as their challenging, often dangerous professional doings. But the series’ not-so-secret weapons are the high-profile guest stars cast as each season’s investigative target.

In Line of Duty’s first season, Lenny Harris (The Walking DeadFear the Walking Dead) plays a media darling supercop who may be up to some shady dealings. Keeley Hawes (The DurrellsBodyguard) is a detective inspector accused of conspiracy in Season 2. Daniel Mays (1917Good Omens) gets grilled in Season 3 as a sergeant involved in a problematic shooting incident. Season 4 centers on Thandiwe Newton (WestworldCrash) as a chief inspector accused of tampering with evidence. Stephen Graham (The IrishmanBoardwalk Empire) is an undercover cop whose allegiances are called into question during Season 5. The current season has Kelly Macdonald (Giri/HajiTrainspotting) as a detective superintendent whose suspicious behavior while overseeing a murder case gets the attention of AC-12.

BritBox was granted exclusive U.S. rights to Line of Duty’s sixth season, available for streaming there this month. All of the six serialized investigations offer bravura performances by the big-name guest actors and the regulars, amid compelling turns and twists. Each season is able to stand on its own, but there are some plot threads and character arcs that will pay off better down the road if Line of Duty is watched in order, starting with Episode 1. It would be positively criminal to do otherwise.   ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives TV 2021

Portals to Adventure in Time and Space

In times of strife, people thirst for escapism. That’s as good a reason as any to explain the current proliferation of science fiction and fantasy movies and television. One need only check the box-office receipts for the interlocked Marvel superhero movies, the Star Wars franchise, and the Harry Potter saga to understand the magnitude of their popularity. A widespread embrace of the speculative and the extraordinary is just as evident when it comes to serialized television, as networks, cable channels, and streaming services have stepped up their sci-fi and fantasy programming to meet the demand. As a result, some truly intriguing and addictive shows have found receptive audiences and, in a few cases, cult-like followings.

Loyal viewers can be so numerous and vocal that they’ll keep their favorites going on streaming platforms after broadcast and cable TV cancellation. So the dazzling and complex hard sci-fi saga The Expanse, dramatizing the possible geopolitical and societal repercussions of Earth’s future colonization of our solar system, moved from SyFy to a more receptive home at Amazon Prime, where it’s only gotten better. Meanwhile, Fox dumped Lucifer, the witty mix of police procedural, supernatural morality tale, and romantic comedy based on a DC/Vertigo comic. In short order, worldwide fan outcry convinced Netflix to pick up this romp about the dapper Devil himself — an expert on evil who is so smitten with an attractive homicide detective that he decides to work as her consultant.

A series like Snowpiercer might not have been made a decade ago. It’s a crafty TV adaptation of the dystopian Bong Joon-Ho movie regarding class struggle and bigotry during a new ice age when the last of humanity tries to survive on a massive train that perpetually moves through the frozen wastes. It’s already up to a second set of episodes on TNT and is worth watching from the very beginning.

Besides offering people portals away from the mundane, the sci-fi proliferation is being fueled in part by greater technical wizardry, affording productions the chance to create imaginative, palpably realistic-looking imagery, regardless of how amazing or otherworldly. And the writing, acting, and direction are often light years beyond the cheesy, B-movie Saturday matinee fodder that marked most onscreen sci-fi before Stanley Kubrick’s scientifically researched, visually splendid blockbuster 2001: A Space Odyssey brought art-house sensibilities to the genre and the groundbreaking debut Star Trek series imbued a space-faring TV adventure show with the utopian ideal of a united federation of planets.

Sir Patrick Stewart and Alison Pill in ‘Star Trek: Picard’

TREK ON

It’s only fair that Star Trek is a significant presence in the current sci-fi boom. Despite its 1966–69 three-season run spawning a mixed bag of movie spin-offs and a recent feature-film reboot, Star Trek became most notable for its television sequels — the venerated Star Trek: The Next Generation, the complex and sprawling Deep Space Nine, and the questing Voyager — as well as the less memorable attempt at a prequel, Enterprise, and an animated Star Trek series that aired for two seasons from 1973 to 1974.

The hiatus between the last episode of Enterprise in 2005 and the 2017 debut of Star Trek: Discovery seemingly created a demand. Discovery — a series set 10 years before the original Star Trek and centered on a morally conflicted female Starfleet officer — was relied upon to launch the CBS All Access streaming service and did such a good job of corralling subscriptions that it was followed by two more iterations so far.

The first was Picard, a miniseries catching up with Jean-Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart’s proud and able captain from The Next Generation, pulled out of retirement to address a crisis, accompanied by a handful of other well-loved characters from earlier Trek. The second was a genuinely funny, canon-wise animated series Lower Decks about a bunch of troublemaking but dedicated Starfleet ensigns. Next up will be the highly-anticipated Strange New Worlds with Anson Mount reprising his roundly embraced Discovery role as Christopher Pike, the captain of the Enterprise before William Shatner’s legendary James T. Kirk, and Ethan Peck as a young Mr. Spock. With CBS All Access having just been rebranded Paramount Plus, you can expect more Trek content, such as an announced vehicle for actress Michelle Yeoh about Starfleet black ops, along with the company’s massive feature-film library.

There’s no denying the allure of the Disney Plus Star Wars-adjacent TV program The Mandalorian, a spaghetti western in space that teamed the lone-samurai title character (Pedro Pascal) with the cuddly alien Grogu or, as he’s known to legions of viewers who buy merchandise adorned with his adorable image, Baby Yoda. Each episode is like a mini-blockbuster with outrageous stunts, epic battles, capers, and interplanetary intrigue that always seems to end too soon. The good news is that it will continue into a third season next year, and it will be preceded at the end of 2021 by another Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, with Temuera Morrison as bounty hunter Boba and Ming-Na Wen as his mercenary sidekick.

MERELY MARVELOUS 

As much excitement as The Mandalorian has generated, an equally resounding buzz surrounds Marvel Studios’ nine-episode WandaVision, a Disney Plus hit that’s directly connected to the extensive Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but stands on its own as a surreal amalgamation of American sitcom homage, angst-ridden superhero action, and mystery that launched a zillion online fan theories. WandaVision spotlights the star-crossed relationship between Eastern European refugee/telekinetic-turned-reality-manipulator Wanda Maximoff (a versatile Elizabeth Olsen, from whimsical to righteously furious) and the mega-powered android the Vision (a droll yet noble Paul Bettany), two misfit members of the superheroic Avengers. In the aftermath of the film Avengers: Endgame, the couple resurfaces in a suburban New Jersey town, living in what appears to be a vintage situation comedy. Things get a little twisted, as if David Lynch had directed “Pleasantville, MCU.” Then, they get full-on bonkers when “reality” intrudes and the Marvel saga moves thrillingly forward via the entangled fates of Wanda and Vision.

Next up this month from Marvel and Disney Plus: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, teaming two more Avengers in what appears to be a multichapter buddy picture starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. Loki, a show featuring the escapades of the Norse god of trickery (Tom Hiddleston) as he bounces through time and space, is also expected to cross-reference the MCU and impact the next slate of Marvel movies.

And there’s more superhero fare due, including the debut of the CW’s Superman & Lois, investigating the married life of the Man of Steel and his journalist wife as they raise two sons; third seasons of DC’s edgy Titans and off-the-wall Doom Patrol on HBO Max; and a second violent, darkly humorous season of The Boys on Amazon Prime. HBO’s The Nevers, introducing a group of Victorian women who gain astonishing powers from a cosmic anomaly, is on the way. Plus, more Stranger Things and The Handmaid’s Tale are imminent. All in all, the fictional future looks fantastic.   

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives TV 2021

Bridgerton, History Of Swear Words, Pretend It’s A City, 30 Coins: Binge Or Bag?

UNBINGED: TV REVIEWS

There’s a battle brewing, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV, and Primetime television. Every week there’s a new “must-see” program to consider giving time to. But what’s worth the buzz and binge, and what needs to be bagged? We’re here to help — sharing what to hate, what to love and what to love to hate. In pandemic times, we need it more than ever. This week, reviews of HBO’s macabre monster-piece 30 Coins and Netflix fare including the sexed-up Regency-era soap Bridgerton, Fran Leibowitz and Martin Scorsese’s gab-fest Pretend It’s a City, and the utterly shitty The History of Swear Words.

Bridgerton / Netflix

Bridgerton is Netflix’s latest sensation, and with good reason. The eight-episode series aims for something different, combining Regency-era drama, an inclusive cast, and explicit sex to create a world that’s both wanton and classic.

Based on the book series by Julie Quinn, and produced by Shonda Rhimes and showrunner Chris van Dusen, the show follows eight Bridgerton siblings and their widowed mother as they traipse their way through English high society. For the first season, the series focuses on young Daphne as she begins a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship with Simon, the Duke of Hastings.

Though Bridgerton is set in the early 1800s,  it’s very much a fantasy series. In this universe, King George III is married to a woman of color, and the show presents an integrated society in which people of all ethnicities have the ability to flourish … if born to the right family.

Some have taken issue with the show’s novel diversity, noting that Black characters are represented more negatively in the narrative, creating tension with the white characters. While the series does not elaborate on its decision to be inclusive, it is also not completely color blind, thus creating a slightly muddled message.

However, what Bridgerton lacks in a clear messaging it makes up for in hot, bodice-ripping, can’t-even-make-it-to-the-bedroom physical action. There are enough carnal relations and fancy fucking in this show to make George Wickham blush. For a series based on a YA book franchise, Bridgerton has enough steamy sex scenes to put any dime store housewife dirty book to shame.

So while Bridgerton is not entertainment of the highest order, it is indeed entertaining. The drama, the court intrigue, and the politics all act as a prelude to a raunchy good time. The elaborate costumes mixed with high drama and extremely graphic lovemaking make it fun viewing, but definitely not family viewing. For folks looking for a whimsical jaunt filled with Empire silhouettes and corset-laden coitus in a drawing room, Bridgerton is just the ticket.

Pretend it’s a City

Scribe and professional funny lady Fran Lebowitz has been a public figure since the ’70s, yet most folks under the age of 35 have no idea who she is. Her sardonic wit, acetic jabs, and unabashed take on life as a New Yorker has been a little lost due to the current tsunami of content that buries voices of a bygone era. But luckily for us, Martin Scorsese has come to the rescue.

Scorsese’s Pretend It’s A City is a seven-part docuseries that gives a platform to the modern-age Dorothy Parker in a bespoke blazer. And much like Parker had her confidants at the Algonquin Hotel in which to bounce ideas, Lebowitz has Scorsese’s camera.

New York is a consistently mutating entity, but Fran is a constant. In a city where landmarks come and go like a Guy Fieri themed-restaurant in Times Square, Fran is an enduring factor by which to measure change. Unapologetic and always incorrigible, Fran represents an era before cancel culture forced everyone to play nice. She rants, she raves, she smokes, she waxes poetic about the stupidity of politicians, and she lives her life not giving a fuck.

Had the limited series come out in any other time on any other platform, Pretend It’s A City would be a little-seen docuseries aimed at Lebowitz enthusiasts, lifelong New Yorkers, and people who either want to move to the East Coast or are in the process of moving.

This limited series might have been lost in the content abyss (especially for audiences who only know of the New York Dolls as an Urban Outfitters T-shirt option). But as it stands, people are consuming content like Augustus Gloop in a chocolate factory, thus giving youngins an opportunity to be indoctrinated into the church of Fran. They’re better for it.

 

30 Coins

HBO Europe’s 30 Coins is a new terrifying trip from horror helmer Álex de la Iglesia, whose stylized modern “monster-pieces” The Day of the Beast and The Last Circus helped set him apart from the moviemaking splat pack.

The series follows the paranormal occurrences in Pedraza, a small town in Spain plagued by frightful figures lurking behind every corner. Combating the gathering forces of evil are a former exorcist (Eduard Fernández), the town’s mayor (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), and the local vet (Megan Montaner). But the real mystery at the heart of the show involves a set of coins, the history of which is laid out in the opening montage that illustrates in grisly detail the death of Jesus Christ. But with all the puzzles put forth by the thriller, the biggest mystery of 30 Coins is why aren’t more people talking about this series?

For horror hounds, this series is a celebration of all that goes bump in the night. It’s a dense trip into the darker side of the Bible, dripping in enough gore to make any creep fan smile from ear to ear. Over the top and a bit outrageous at times with its creatures and carnage, the show is a fun ride for folks who enjoy their drama blood-soaked. Even the opening credits will even leave audiences agog with a graphic depiction of the crucifixion.

In addition to the graphic violence, the series is elevated by its performances, writing, and de la Iglesia’s unique style. And while the show is not without its faults (the CGI can get a little corny and the melodrama a little telenovela at times), it doesn’t diminish the series for fans looking for a blasphemous good time. 30 Coins is a crowd-pleaser for folks who take their faith from Fangoria rather than the Good Book.

 

HISTORY OF SWEAR WORDS

A fucking unnecessary docuseries that managed to pull all the fun out of saying the work “fuck.”  ❖