Tag Archives: TV

Time Travel, History and Romance

outlanderdvdWhen a good friend of mine found out that I was a fan of Game of Thrones, she turned me on to Outlander after it had aired last year. Although comparisons have been drawn to Game of Thrones, these two series are not entirely similar (admittedly, both of the book series were difficult to market, were “word of mouth” books and took a good while before being translated to screen). But Game of Thrones is epic high fantasy that takes place in a world nothing like our own and is dependent on magic, dragons and family sagas. Whereas Outlander takes place in a historically accurate Scotland and is more historical fiction/romance with a twinge of science fiction thrown in the beginning.

Our story opens with the heroine Claire Randall, a former British Army nurse seeking to reconnect with her husband Frank after a WWII-induced separation. Their story begins on their second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, where Frank indulges his passion in genealogy (which you can do with the Library’s resources), while Claire focuses her energy on botany. After witnessing a pagan ritual at an ancient stone circle with her husband, Claire ventures out alone to gather some specimens. She’s drawn to a standing stone and, as far as her husband in 1945 is concerned, vanishes without a trace. This serves as the jumping-off point for her adventure as she struggles to grasp what’s going on around her, when she is and where she is.

Though she quickly realizes she’s still in Scotland, she can’t quite figure out how she landed on a cinema set for a costume drama. However, she soon gathers this is no set when she notices that the actors are firing live ammunition. Through a stroke of bad luck, she runs into Captain “Black Jack” Randall and is almost raped, but is saved by Dougal McKenzie’s band of Scots and taken hostage. It is at this point that she discovers she has fallen through time to 18th century war-torn Scotland, where being an Englishwoman isn’t always a great thing to be. Her captors lead her to Castle Leoch, the heart of the McKenzie Clan. She is suspected of being a Sassenach spy and tasked with the unpaid job of healer, while they try to figure her out. If you expected a damsel-in-distress story, this isn’t it. Claire is a capable, clever (and thanks to her husband Frank, knows her history), complicated, independent and stubborn modern-day woman (for 1945 at least).

outlanderDevoted fans of the Outlander series who have been waiting (… and waiting … and waiting) for these novels to be successfully translated to the small screen, have had their patience rewarded tenfold with the Starz series. There is demonstrated effort to keep the series as faithful to the books as possible.  Created by Battlestar Galactica show runner Ronald D. Moore, this series enlisted author Diana Gabaldon as a consultant, thereby assuaging any anxieties that Gabaldon’s loyal fanbase may have had. If nothing else, watch for the great scenery, fantastic costumes and dedication to historical accuracy. Mr. Moore has an amazing team of costume designers, set decorators, writers, weapons and riding experts and Scottish Gaelic language coaches for the actors that would rival Game of Thrones any day (well, except for the dragons …).

If a bit of adventure, time-travel, history and romance are your thing, by all means check out the DVD sets (volume 1 and 2) today. In the meantime, take some time out to brush up on your history of the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you want to take it to a whole new level (and please do!), you can also learn a bit of Scottish Gaelic using the library’s resources. Season 2 of Outlander begins in April on Starz.




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A Shameless Plug About Shameless

shameless-us-5358c4707987aWhile my regular TV shows are still on hiatus, I thought that I would get into some TV shows that are on my long to-watch list. One of those is Showtime’s Shameless. The show stars William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher, the patriarch, so to speak, of the Gallagher family. Frank spends a lot of his time at the bar so he doesn’t take care of his six children.

The real leader of the family is Fiona Gallagher; she’s the oldest of the children. She’s the mom & dad to the rest of the kids. There’s Phillip (Lip), Ian, Debi, Carl and Liam. This family is no Brady Bunch. Each family member has their own quirks. I’m only halfway done with season one, but I love this show. My favorite characters are Veronica, Fiona’s friend and next door neighbor, Fiona, Lip, Debi, and Ian. This family has a lot of issues, but there’s a lot of love and they are willing to help each other whenever and however they can.

We have seasons one, two, three, four, and five available in our catalog. Season six starts Sunday, January 10th at 9 pm on Showtime. If you have Hulu, you can add Showtime to your plan and watch all of the seasons on there as well. Happy watching!



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The Puzzle that is Jane The Virgin

Jane The Virgin -- Image Number: JAV02_KeyArt.jpg -- Pictured: Gina Rodriguez as Jane -- Photo: Nino Munoz/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

I’m declaring October TV month in the Eleventh Stack world because I’m here yet again to talk television! This time the show is Jane The Virgin. It stars Gina Rodriguez, who won a Golden Globe this year for her role as Jane. After hearing a lot of good things about this show, I decided to check it out for myself.

The story starts with Jane going to an appointment with her gynecologist. Jane is scheduled for a routine pap smear but that’s not what happens. Her gynecologist, Luisa, is having a rough day after finding her wife in bed with her assistant, so needless to say her mind is elsewhere. In the next room is Luisa’s sister-in-law, Petra, who is there to be artificially inseminated with her husband Rafael’s sample. Jane ended up being artificially inseminated with Rafael’s sample. What makes the story even crazier is that as we all know from title of the show Jane is a virgin. Jane, her mother, and grandmother initially didn’t take the news well. Another person who didn’t take this news well was Jane’s boyfriend, Michael.

Things get even messier because Jane knows Rafael from her past. They had met five years ago when Jane was working at a country club. They had a great conversation and even kissed, but then Rafael never called her after that. So Jane doesn’t have the best opinion of him at first and neither does her mother.

Speaking of Jane’s mother, Xiomara, she’s been holding a secret about the real identity of Jane’s father. She told Jane that he was in the military, but the truth is he’s Rogelio de la Vega, the star of Jane’s favorite telenovella. Jane’s mother dated him back in high school & initially he didn’t want the baby which is why Xiomara never revealed his true identity.

There are a lot of other crazy things that occur, but I won’t spoil the whole show. What I like about this show is that even though the show is centered on Jane, there’s a whole bunch of little stories going on that still connect back to Jane. I haven’t finished season one yet, but I’m still recommending it because it’s a good show. Season one is available in our catalog.

Meanwhile season 2 airs Monday nights at 9 on The CW.



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Reaching for Emotional Comfort Food

Season 2 contains my favorite episode, "The Alien in the Spaceship."

Season 2 contains my favorite episode, “The Alien in the Spaceship.”

I like to think that everyone has something—a book, a movie, a TV show, a radio drama—that they turn to when life isn’t going so super awesome, or even when they’re just tired or a little stressed.

My favorite emotional comfort food is the television show Bones, which is now in its tenth season. I’m glad there are new episodes to look forward to, but I’m equally happy watching previous seasons. Over. And over. And over (much to my husband’s consternation).

The reason for this obsession is simple: Bones features confident, intelligent women using their brains to fight bad guys.

This isn’t one of those police procedurals in which there’s a token lady or two (often a tomboy cop). From the second season on, fully half of the starring cast is composed of brilliant lady scientists, and two of them are people of color. Frequent guest stars include more awesome ladies, as well as more people of color.

The basic premise isn’t all that different from other science-based procedurals like CSI or NCIS: A team of scientists examines the evidence using advanced knowledge and technology, and the cops use their guts to hypothesize and suss out motives.

The evidence, however, consists primarily of human skeletons. Dr. Temperance Brennan, nicknamed Bones, is a forensic anthropologist who can reconstruct a person’s life and how they were murdered from the impressions and marks left on the bones.

The murders Bones and her partner FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth solve are fascinating, but the dialogue between the two of them is stimulating as well. Brennan relies on hard science to inform her worldview, and has a tendency to reduce everything from body functions to human emotions to scientific facts. Booth believes in god and his instincts, and their differences come out in frequent discussions about culture, love, children, work, and religion.

Bones isn’t perfect—in later seasons there’s a tendency to reduce female happiness to getting pregnant—but compared to most other shows, it holds up pretty well against my stringent feminist criteria.

The next new episode won’t air until March, so you have plenty of time to watch the previous nine seasons.



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Watching More Books

A while back, I featured some books that would making their way to the small screen with adaptations (That was in August? Holy smokes!). Well, now that the networks are announcing their choices for the next TV season, it’s clear that more folks jumping on board the comic book party train for their source material.  Let’s check out a few of the books that I can’t wait to watch in a few months.

Thanks to the fantastic Arrow series on right now (Scott was not wrong about that show), we’ll get to see The Flash this fall. Arrow has done some legwork in building this spin-off in the past few months, with characters popping up and even setting the stage for Barry Allen’s transformation from skinny nerd to The Fastest Man Alive. I really hope these series work together in the BuffyAngel mold, in that they support two strong, separate plots, but allow for movement between shows in a seamless way.

I’m beside myself over Gotham. I love the idea of a show living in the world of Batman, but focusing on the people around Bruce Wayne in the years leading up to him putting on the cape and cowl. This hasn’t been explored much in the comics, but I think Gotham Central might be the closest match, in that it revolves around the work Jim Gordon and other members of the Gotham PD are doing to solve crimes in their city.

I knew Rob Thomas (this one, not that one) was working on a new show and there would be zombies, but I had no idea that it was based on a comic series. iZombie follows a young woman who happens to be a zombie – as she consumes new brains, the memories of the dead person take over and she works to fulfill their last request. The show is moving away from the graveyard of the comics to a coroner’s office for a more defined detective story angle. Slightly gory Veronica Mars? Sign me up.

Are there any comics/graphic novels that you’d love to see turned into a TV show?

– Jess, who is still holding out hope for a Y: The Last Man series


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Still Wintering In

At the end of January I got sick. It was a weird perfect storm of running afoul of some mushrooms in a batch of veggie dumplings, mixed with some flu symptoms. I used to LOVE mushrooms, but a couple of years ago they started making me really sick when I ate them. I’ve since stayed away, but I hoovered down a batch of veggie dumplings containing mushrooms and got very ill (I’ll spare you the gory details). At the same time I got hit with a flu-like strain that was going around. I was out of work for a week. I’ve never been out of commission for a whole week as an adult. It was an odd experience.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

I don’t like being too sick to read, but my condition lent itself to such a situation. So, while being ill, I watched TV. A LOT of TV. I no longer have a cable package that has lots of channels. In an attempt to save some money we went down to the most basic package that we could. I get about 7 channels, the PBS stations, and about 10 home shopping channels (I personally think that is a very weird set up, but so be it). At any rate, while I was sick I ended up watching a lot of Law & Order. And, again, I mean A LOT. It’s on often…and when I say “often” I mean 4-or-5-episodes-a-day “often.” And I’m not talking about any of the spin-offs, the Criminal Intent, or the Special Victims Unit, or the Trial by Jury, or the Los Angeles, or the UK… just regular old Law & Order. This show, for those of you not in the know (which was me up until I got sick), is a series that spans a 20 year block of time. It’s kind of amazing to me that this show was off my radar for the entire time that it was broadcast…but I don’t think I ever watched a single episode. What might be more remarkable is that this show was on from 1990 until 2010.

Image from Wikipedia

Law & Order Season 1 cast. Image from Wikipedia

Because of my recent immersion into the world of Law & Order I decided to, with the help of my friendly neighborhood library, watch the series from the beginning. I have no idea how far I’ll get before I decide to throw in the towel, but I’m into season 4, and I’m still engaged. The somewhat cynical side of me wants to say that Law & Order is the “poor man’s version of The Wire” (My love for The Wire deserves a whole post, so I won’t get into it here). Suffice it to say, for a network TV show that tries to wrap things up in an hour, Law & Order still surprises me in that it allows some open endings and some character developments that I didn’t expect. I have no idea if that quality will remain through the whole series, but as far as the first four seasons are concerned, I’m a fan.

Season six cast. Image from Wikipedia.

Season six cast. Image from Wikipedia.

Oh, and for the signature “chonk CHONK” sound that accompanies many of the scene breaks in the show, I found the following information on the Law & Order Wikipedia page: “The tone moves the viewer from scene to scene, jumping forward in time with all the importance and immediacy of a judge’s gavel – which is exactly what [music director] Post was aiming for when he created it. “The Clang” is an amalgamation of nearly a dozen sounds, including an actual gavel, a jail door slamming, and five hundred Japanese monks walking across a hardwood floor.”

Season 19 cast. Image from Wikipedia.

A fuzzy Season 19 cast. Image from Wikipedia.

I have NO idea if any of that is accurate, but it sort of blew me away!

-Eric (who is currently binge-watching Law & Order with the cats)


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Fairytales and Footnotes

I get caught up in kids books like some people get caught up in Facebook posts. I get angry and flustered, I sympathize and obsess. It can be intense and I should probably see someone about this issue.  Right now I am stuck on The Sisters’ Grimm. Two bookcoveryoung, seemingly orphaned sisters are sent to live with a supposedly dead grandmother they have never met in a town in upstate New York populated by fairy tale characters. If that run-on sentence didn’t pique your interest in these books, I don’t know what would.

Written for elementary school readers, the books cover the basics: introducing new words, handling sibling squabbles, crushes and rivalries. But like the actual Grimm tales they also help readers navigate some of the darker themes we find in humanity; jealousy, feelings of not belonging, fear and even death.

These books got me wondering about the resurgence we have seen of fairytales in general and the Grimm legacy specifically1. I may or may not have spent an entire two days glued to the tv watching the first season of Grimm, tossing cereal and hot dogs at my starving family. I am patiently waiting (my family not so much) for the library to send me my hold on season two, but now I wanted to know about the actual men.

bookcoverSome of the biographies and histories I found were a little dated but gave a good understanding of the history of the Grimms, but my favorite has to be Clever  Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. Our own cultural understanding of Jacob and Wilhelm, as Clever Maids author Valerie Paradiz points out, is displayed in movies like Ever After and The Brothers Grimm. Two adventurous men roaming the countryside in order to collect folk tales from peasants and commoners.

Turns out, not so much2. Most of the brothers’ tales were supplied to them by the friends of their sister and several other women in their own circle of the educated middle class. Many were stories the women had heard as girls, lessons on how to be a good woman and respectful wives, told to them by their elders and household maids and the nannies who raised them3. During a time of war and French occupation the intellectual and learned men of Prussia and the German states were looking to idealize the history of the volk as a way to create a sense of unity.4 Many of these stories were collected and transcribed by Jacob and Wilhelm as a tribute to the sensible, pious, hard-working German way of life, regardless of where the stories actually came from. Clever Maids gives us insight to the collection of what we know as Grimm’s Fairytales through their origins and history as well as insight on to the very human trait of needing a shared history. So pick up some books about kid detectives, histories on folktales or a supernatural TV series this week, you might be surprised by what you find!


1. At this point I have a whole scatterbrained (My husband’s term for most of my ideas, and yes this is a parenthetical in a footnote, so what?) theory about how the political atmosphere in the collection of German states at the time mirrors our own political atmosphere, a society looking for something to pull us together, yearning for simpler times hoping to influence the future and politics with that national pride…look I said scatterbrained, okay! Why are you reading a footnote in a blog anyway?

2. Believe me this killed the Margaret Mead wanna-be in me. As a student of Anthropology there is nothing I wanted more than to cling to the romantic idea that Jacob and Wilhelm traveled through the black forest, pen and ink bottle in hand, to collect stories from withered widows smoking pipes outside little thatch roofed cottages.

3. Read Clever Maids. Seriously, you suddenly realize how the fairytales you thought you knew had different meaning in a different time and place.

4. I know, right? I would have never guessed that Napoleon had anything to do with Little Red Riding Hood.


October 22, 2013 · 8:12 am

Watching Books

source: National Archives and Records Administration via Wikipedia

It seems that TV writers are mining stories from books just as much as their film counterparts these days. Pick the right book – even better if it’s a series – and you have plenty of good material to last a few seasons. The titles featured here are either currently on a small screen (yes, I’m counting Netflix) or coming to one very soon.

Orange is the New Black is Piper Kerman’s memoir of the fifteen months she spent in a minimum security prison, after being indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking – events that happened nearly a decade before she pleaded guilty and self-surrendered. Kerman deftly explores the politics of women’s prison – everything from race and  dealing with manipulative guards to just handling the stress of your own situation in a bizarro version of a college dorm.

The White Queen is pulling from the Philippa Gregory title of the of the same name, while blending in The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter. The White Queen in question is Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner and the new wife of King Edward IV. The Red Queen is Margaret Beaufort, the ruthless mother of Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII. Anne Neville is The Kingmaker’s Daughter – child of Richard Neville, one of the most powerful men in England who isn’t royal. All three are fascinating women with a part to play in the War of the Roses, a time period ripe with enough plots and characters to make any soap opera jealous.

Stephen King‘s Under the Dome is a brick of a book, but don’t let its 1074 pages scare you. On one normal day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, a large dome seals off the town from the rest of the world – nothing in, nothing out. King, in his very King-way blends the horrors of human nature with the horrors of the unknown.

Death Comes to Pemberley – Mr. Darcy, detective? In this imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice, mystery icon P.D. James makes a major ‘go big or go home’ move and kills off George Wickham (She went big). In the six years since Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding, they’ve had two children, they spend quality time with their neighbors Jane and Bingley, and they’ve found a few promising suitors for Miss Georgiana Darcy. During arrivals for their annual autumn ball, the very disgraced Lydia arrives hysterical over her husband’s murder. A true whodunit for the Regency era.

A few others to check out: Dracula, The Leftovers, The Terror, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, plus Richard II, Henry IV parts one and two, and Henry V will combine for The Hollow Crown.

– Jess


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Why I Don’t (and Won’t) Own a TV

When people visit my home, the first thing they notice is that there is no television in the living room. Usually it’s a laid back “so where’s your television?” but more often than not it’s an incredulous exclamation, “you don’t have a television?!”


My tv-less living room

I used to, long, long ago, when I thought it was something everyone should own. Something to watch movies on from the library. And I’ve lived in four different houses that were cable-ready but never once called the cable company to set it up (too expensive). My uncle once complained to me about his cable bill; I told him, “so stop getting it.” He looked at me in disbelief and said, “you’re so funny!”

But when the government switched from analog to digital a few years ago and said that we’d have to purchase a converter (which may or may not work), I said forget it. I’m not doing it. So out went the television on the porch on Freecycle.

Truth is, I’ve never liked television. It’s noisy. It’s flashy. It’s too fast. It takes up space. It gets dusty. I want a calm, zen atmosphere in my home. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a home where the television was always on. Me? I preferred to be outside. Or reading. Or listening to music. Or writing. Or…you see how much time not watching tv frees up?

I once read a book called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander but, in my case, it was really preaching to the choir.

In fact, did you know that, in the UK you’re required to pay a television licence fee to watch television? Can you imagine the probable riotous uproar if such a thing were required here?!

So what do I watch movies on? My laptop, when I feel like it and that’s usually only in the coldest, darkest days of winter.

~Maria, who bought a house with both a built-in microwave oven & a dishwasher, but uses the microwave as a cupboard and stores pots and pans in the dishwasher.*

*Microwave ovens scare me and I do not own enough dishes to run a dishwasher.


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Watching the Detectives

(Ooh, he’s so cute)

I am a fan of TV shows about detectives. I watched Columbo, The Rockford Files, and Starsky and Hutch way back in the ’70s, and Law and Order, Special Victims Unit* now.  I’ve wondered what draws people to this type of entertainment. I think that it is because we want to believe that people are essentially good; that they are moral and law-abiding. We hope that most of us behave according to the golden rule. We all know that this is not always the case (sigh) so, when we read or watch a show about crime, we want a champion for good. We want justice and vengeance. We want someone to have our backs.

Here are a few of my recent favorites:

Dexter is a Showtime series based on the character created by Jeffry Lindsay. Dexter works in the forensics department of the Miami Metro Police Department by day, and is a serial killer of serial killers by night. Like Batman, he was “born in blood” – a traumatic event in early childhood made him who he is, and, like Batman again, he has a strict moral code. The events in the first season coincide with the events of Lindsay’s first book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but after that, the two story lines diverged. Here is a rare case where I like the TV show more than I like the books.  I have to admit that one of the reasons is the strong and charismatic performance of the star Michael C. Hall. John Lithgow is especially brilliant as the main bad guy in the fourth season. If you get really into it, you can read Dexter and philosophy : mind over spatter, a series of essays about the phenomenon that is Dexter.

The strength of a show is a function of a good storyline coupled with good acting. This show has both (IMHO). Luther is a BBC show created and written by Neil Cross, and is about the intuitive, intense, and sometimes violent detective, John Luther. This is a dark and modern spin on Sherlock Holmes himself. Idris Elba is outstanding as Luther, and won the 2012 Golden Globe award for best actor in a miniseries for this role.

A list like this is not complete without homage to the grandfather of all fictional detectives, Sherlock Holmes. The newest BBC sendup has deservingly won a bunch of awards. I really like the little overlay of text or images on the screen showing you what Holmes is thinking. Shockingly, I have never read the original volumes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is on my summer reading list!


*One of the stars of this show, Mariska Hargitay, is a personal hero of mine. Her role as a detective on SVU led her to founding The Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to “heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.”


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