As I write, today is predicted to be the last day of Indian Summer in New England, which means the real fall is right around the corner. Cooler temps and more indoor time offer a welcome excuse to binge on the new season’s video and TV series along with enticing reads.
To send off the 2016 fall watching-reading season, I’ve complied a list of a few of my favorites. They have the added bonus of strong female protagonists distracting you from this infuriating Presidential election (!)
For starters, last month’s debut of Season Three of Transparent was just wonderful. It remains my favorite comedic series.
To recap, Transparent is the funny-poignant story of the Pfefferman’s, a wealthy LA Jewish family, whose 70-year-old husband/father came out as transgendered in Season One. After struggling with her identify in the first two seasons, Maura (played by the amazing Jeffrey Tambor) has found a new level of comfort as a woman. Additionally Maura’s three adult children and ex-wife also find themselves more settled with Maura’s trans lifestyle.
In Season Three, the series feminist writer, Jill Solloway, gives the Pfefferman’s more depth. By the end of the season each character is wiser, more vulnerable, and suddenly single, but not truly along because their crazy loving family is there for them. I loved the finale’s wacky, impromptu Seder aboard a cruise ship.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by several Australian series on Acorn TV. My favorite is Janet King, with its newly arrived Season Two.
Janet, played by the brilliant Marta Dusseldorp is a senior crown prosecutor assigned unpopular cases that create enemies for her. In a nice change of pace Janet is in a lesbian marriage with two twin toddlers. Season One ends with a cliffhanger, prompting a great plot twist for Season Two.
If you want more of Marta Dusseldorp, she also plays the lead in the Australian series, A Place to Call Home, an addictive period melodrama set in 1950’s Sydney.
Among the new HBO series with female leads, I found Divorce with Sarah Jessica Parker, a bust.
It’s gotten a lot of hype for its true-to life-plot written by Sharon Horgan, who wrote and starred in the very funny Amazon series, Catastrophe. It’s hard to believe that the same woman wrote both scripts. Aside from the big lumbering family dog, I found every character in Divorce irritating. Not a stellar recommendation . .
HBO redeems itself with the charming, funny new series, Insecure, starring the Black actress, Issa Rae, creator of the web series Awkward Black Girl.
The writing is funny, crisp and original; the friendship between Issa and her best friend, Molly played by Yvonne Orji is utterly believable. They speak frankly of their uninspiring romantic connections, get mad at one another and make up over junk food. I give Insecure a big thumbs up and can’t wait to see more of it.
When you take to heart the advice not to turn on your iPad or laptop before bed, and reach for a good read, try the new bestseller, Today Will be Different, by Maria Semple.
The protagonist is Eleanor, a privileged dysfunctional wife and mother living in Seattle. Eleanor’s self-centered behavior would be appalling if she weren’t so witty and full of hilarious sarcasm. This is a book you won’t be able to put down and a great antidote for a depressed mood.
I’m making headway with the new book, The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson. Having lived in London decades ago I’ve always been intrigued with how the Brits nourish eccentrics.
Of course, if you’re born with a silver spoon, it’s much easier to flout convention. Nevertheless the Mitford siblings had more than their fair share of imagination, courage and bold spirits. Thompson offers engrossing stories of how each sister left her mark, detailing how Nancy became a famous writer; how Unity got involved with Hitler, and how Jessica evolved into a revolutionary.
Because I fall into the camp of reading several books at once, I’m also re-reading Doris Grumbach’s memoir The Pleasure of Their Company, which she wrote as she approached her 80th birthday, reflecting on the wise and wonderful acquaintances in her life, which included May Sarton and Bertrand Russell. What a well-loved life! Now that Grumbach is 98, I’m longing for another memoir!
What are your favorite video series and reads?