I wouldn’t exactly say my marriage is in a rut but I have my interests (can you guess?) and Mr. Doodles and Jots has his music and then pile on kids and jobs and what is left for each other? Neither one of us is exceptionally needy and our marriage is fine but you could definitely say we have been in need of an easy way to connect.
Enter the TV mini-series!
This year we started watching television mini series. After they kids go to sleep, or even before (if it is the weekend and we are at the good parts) we watch a little (or a lot) here and there, until we finish and then we pick another. Television mini-series are usually about very popular subjects, times, books, and are very engrossing because of their length and detail. You usually learn something and decades of choices are available to you commercial free and free-free at the library! You also won’t have to wait, I can almost garentee no one else is requesting Shogun from your local library right now! The summer is a perfect time to get started on your “mini-series marriage” since all the good, I mean the small handful of good shows, are on hiatus. The only hurdle I can really see is baseball, sigh… Watching mini-series together has been so easy and fun and really has actually brought us a little closer with a shared interest.
Even if only part of what I shared can you relate to or is of interest to you, I suggest you check into and check out some mini-series this summer!
Here’s what we have watched so far…
From the moment the young Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is stolen from his life and ancestral home in 18th-century Africa and brought under inhumane conditions to be auctioned as a slave in America, a line is begun that leads from this most shameful chapter in U.S. history to the 20th-century author Alex Haley, a Kinte descendant. The late Haley’s acclaimed book Roots was adapted into this six-volume television miniseries, which was a widely watched phenomenon in 1977. The programs cover several generations in the antebellum South and end with the story of “Chicken” George, a freed slave played by Ben Vereen whose family feels the agony of entrenched racism and learns to fight it. Between the lives of Kunta and George, we meet a number of memorable characters, black and white, and learn much about the emotional and physical torments of slavery, from beatings and rapes to the forced separation of spouses and families. Nothing like this had ever confronted so many mainstream Americans when the series was originally broadcast, and the extent to which the country was nudged a degree or two toward enlightenment was instantly obvious. Roots still has that ability to open one’s eyes, and engage an audience in a sweeping, memorable drama at the same time. –Tom Keogh
What better way to escape from the onslaught of so-called reality television than to sail away with Richard Chamberlain to “the Japans” for a little samurai action and some discreet “pillowing”? From the golden age of the miniseries comes this television benchmark, the 10-hour, Golden Globe-winning saga based on James Clavell’s bestselling epic. In his award-winning performance, Chamberlain stars as John Blackthorne, the 17th-century English navigator on a Dutch trading ship. A storm runs the ship aground off the coast of Japan, a “torn and cruelly divided country” locked in a power struggle between Toranaga (the venerable Toshiro Mifune) and Ishido, two warlords who would be Shogun. Blackthorne gets over his initial culture shock (“I piss on you and your country,” he defiantly proclaims to his samurai captors, which to his humiliation turns out to be an unfortunate choice of words) to become a trusted ally of Toranaga and the lover of the beautiful interpreter Lady Mariko (Yoko Shimada). Their forbidden, ill-fated romance–and Blackthorne’s total assimilation into Japanese culture–is set against political intrigue as Toranaga prepares for the inevitable showdown with Ishido, and Blackthorne’s growing influence threatens the local Jesuits who had built up a lucrative trade monopoly. Shogun was a production blessed with good karma, and it remains an awesome achievement from a bygone era when the miniseries was king. –Donald Liebenson
“The City” in question is San Francisco, and the tales are novelist Armistead Maupin’s, his romantic, affectionate, and spirited homage to the glory days of his hometown. Maupin’s idea of SF’s glory days isn’t the drug-filled Summer of Love (1967), but rather the drug-filled lust-in of the late ’70s. Replacing acid with coke and ludes, psychedelia for disco, this six-hour miniseries (which caused controversy for its open drug use, nudity, and direct depiction of homosexuality upon its initial airing on PBS) follows the romantic struggles and identity crises of a colorful cast of characters. The action–as addictive as the drugs the characters ingest–is seen mostly from the innocent point of view of Mary Ann, the city’s newest culture-shocked resident–so its presentation is rather decadent and hedonistic. Because the story originally ran as a daily serial in the San Francisco Chronicle before being compiled into a novel, its serialized structure suffers from typical soap-opera mawkishness and the need to shock with ridiculous revelations. Thankfully, this degeneration mostly occurs during the final two hours, allowing you to just enjoy the personalities and hilarious and often-touching interactions of the richly drawn characters before they’re manipulated by plot devices. The performances are all outstanding, especially Chloe Webb’s spacey ex-hippie Mona, Marcus D’Amico’s romantically doomed Michael, and Olympia Dukakis’s Anna Madrigal, the enigmatic mother hen/landlady of many of the film’s central characters. –Dave McCoy
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Do you have a favorite that you would recommend? Please share!