TV Time: Hit & Run (Netflix)

My new TV obsession this week is Hit & Run, the American-Israeli production now streaming on Netflix. (One season so far, dropped earlier in August – 9 episodes total)

Set in Tel Aviv and New York, Hit & Run‘s main character is Segev Azulai (played by the intense Lior Raz). Segev seems to be a straightforward family man. He lives on a moshav (collective farm) with his second wife Danielle and his pre-teen daughter Ella. Segev is devoted to them, and spends his days as a jovial tour guide for visiting Americans.

Danielle is a dancer with the renowned Batsheva Dance Company, but as the story opens, she’s about to fly to New York for an audition with another company. She and her driver stop for coffee on the way to the airport, and as she’s crossing the street, she’s the victim of a hit and run. She dies soon after, leaving Segev bereft and deeply in mourning.

Segev’s mourning takes a turn when his home is broken into and he’s assaulted by the intruder (whom he kills in the struggle), but by the time the police arrive at his home, the body of the intruder is gone. This kicks off Segev’s suspicion that there’s more to the story. Why is he suddenly a target? How can he keep his daughter safe?

Assisted by his cousin Tali, a detective who happens to be six-months pregnant, Segev starts to look for answers. Secrets of his own past emerge — he has a shady history from years back, when he worked as a mercenary in Mexico and was responsible for a former friend being sentenced to prison. Could Danielle’s death have been planned as revenge on Segev?

I will not give any spoilers, but let’s just say that this is only the beginning of the twists and turns and absolutely shocking revelations that come up in every episode of Hit & Run. Just when we think we know what’s going on, some bonkers new secret completely blows all previous theories out of the water.

The action moves between Tel Aviv and New York, and is focused on the grittier sides of both. As you can see from the trailer (below), there are plenty of scenes of violence — hand-to-hand, gun violence, car chases, etc — which is usually so not my thing, but the suspense here was just so fantastic that I couldn’t look away.

The acting is terrific. Lior Raz is all quiet menace and grief and aching emotional wounds. Moran Rosenblatt as Tali is tough and lovely — you haven’t lived until you see a pregnant bad-ass woman chasing down bad guys. Sanaa Lathan is also great as Naomi Hicks, an American journalist whose past friendship with Segev leads her beyond mere investigation and into personal involvement and risk.

Each of the nine episodes is packed with great acting, hefty action sequences, and twisty plot developments that always contain surprises that pivot the story in yet further new directions.

For anyone who has spent time in Israel, and especially for anyone who speaks Hebrew, the series is very fun to watch. I was on the edge of my seat during one particular car chase early on, when suddenly the cars were speeding down the Tel Aviv road my family uses to get to the beach during every visit! As for the language, the dialogue throughout shifts between Hebrew and English depending on where the scene takes place and which characters are involved. The subtitles are fine, and it’s easy to keep up — but if you speak Hebrew, hearing the slang and the conversational interchanges is especially entertaining.

One interesting thing about the subtitles, as explained by a producer:

It was U.S. Netflix, but we shot half of it in New York and half of it in Israel. All of the scripts were written in English and then the parts that were in Hebrew were translated at a certain point. We got Netflix approval, or their promise, early on that when it came time for subtitles we would go back to the original English scripts, even if it was translated differently in Hebrew, so that we could keep the integrity of the story. It took them a little while to get used to the idea of showrunners. But eventually, they came to respect that.

The full article this came from is really interesting, but it’s full of spoilers, so proceed with caution.

As of now, season 2 has not been officially announced by Netflix, but given that season 1 ends with a cliffhanger, I think it’s safe to assume that the show producers are counting on getting a second season. And given how much buzz this show is generating, as well as its trending status on Netflix, I’m feeling really hopeful!

I mean, they can’t just leave me hanging like that forever, can they?

Hit & Run won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — it definitely doesn’t fall into my usual go-to categories of being upbeat or light or sweet. I’m glad I ventured outside of my comfort zone for this one. If you can tolerate blood and violence, the ups and downs and twists of the story, not to mention the fascinating characters, make this a show that’s well worth checking out.

TV Time: Virgin River season 3. So watchable. So annoying.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or, in the case of season 3 of Virgin River, newly released on Netflix, nothing really changes, and everything pretty much stays the same.

This show. Geez. I love watching it, but it’s also so ridiculous and laughable… and endearing AF.

So, season 3.

Note: SPOILER ALERT!! I’m going to be discussing plot points from the season, so if you haven’t watched, you may want to look away!!

Season 3 picks up soon after the cliffhanger ending of season 2. Season 2 ended with Jack lying bleeding on the floor of his bar, shot by an unknown assailant and on the verge of death. (Except he’s the main love interest and that makes him bullet-proof).

As season 3 opens, Jack is alive! He’s recovering from his bullet wound, but has no memory of who shot him. Signs point to someone connected with the illegal drug trade that once thrived in the woods near Virgin River, but there’s no proof, and the drug business is (thankfully) mostly gone from this season, after being raided and driven out.

Can I get a Hallelujah?? I hated everything about the drug-running subplots of the previous two seasons. Let’s just focus on small-town adorableness, with its quirky personalities and town gossip, and leave drug kingpins to other, darker shows.

OK, back to season 3. Some new characters are introduced, including Jack’s sister Brie, who gets involved with a bad boy and seems to like riding on the back of his motorcycle and other risky behavior. There’s also a notable supporting character missing — Hope, Doc’s sometimes-estranged wife, is out of town for the entire season, making a couple of brief appearances during Zoom calls (apparently because of COVID restrictions affecting the actress’s ability to participate in filming).

There are continuing stories about the son of a woman on the run being sheltered by her friend, teen romance, Doc’s own health issue, and a tearjerker about a local woman diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Meanwhile, Jack’s ex is STILL pregnant and being obnoxious, and in our main storyline, Jack and Mel are in love, but face ups and downs.

So….

Let me once again break it down into highs and lows.

The good stuff:

  • Once again, the scenery is AMAZING. I’d watch a travel documentary just showing aerial views of the woods, the rivers, and the mountains. Except Virgin River is a fictional location (supposedly in Northern California, but filmed in British Columbia). I want to go there! I want my own cabin on the river!!
  • The characters themselves are great, especially Mel. She’s a strong, professional woman with endless wells of compassion, a good friend, a devoted sister. I love her to bits and pieces.
  • As I said in my post about the first two seasons, any excuse to watch Tim Matheson in action is a gift. He’s just lovely as Doc, gruff and grumbly, but with a heart of gold and a gentle side too. This season, he gets to be particularly vulnerable as he’s put through an emotional wringer, and every time he tears up, my heart melts.
  • Small town cuteness!! There’s a lumberjack festival, for Pete’s sake!! Everyone wears flannel, there’s log rolling and a chainsaw competition, and it’s just so corny yet also adorable in all its weirdness.
  • And one more time… it’s just so pretty! Like this moment, for example:
VIRGIN RIVER (L to R) ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE and MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN in episode 304 of VIRGIN RIVER Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Which totally gives me this vibe:

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Time moves SO slowly. As I wrote in my post about the first two seasons: A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5? I guess I was being prophetic: As of the end of season 3, that same character is MAYBE in her second trimester. So expecting her to give birth in season 4 is maybe even a bit optimistic!
  • Except in one instance, time moves too quickly. A character reveals early in the season that she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, is opting for palliative care, and wants to live out her remaining days at home with her family and friends. And within a couple more episodes, she’s dead. No wasting away, no depressing episodes showing her weakening and getting sicker. Just boom — she goes to take a nap after a great day with friends, and then she’s dead. So weird.
  • Nothing really changes. Ever. We start the season not knowing who shot Jack. We end the season not knowing who shot Jack. Characters have ups and downs, but the plot is SO static so much of the time.
  • We end with Mel telling Jack that she’s pregnant, and that the baby might not be his. Well, we know why that is… but it’s utterly ridiculous. While visiting her sister in LA for a few days, Mel is reminded by her sister that she still has some embryos left from her fertility process with her late husband. Despondent over her break-up (very temporary) with Jack, Mel goes to the fertility doctor’s office. Well, apparently, she walked in and got impregnated, just like that. And that made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they’d fall out of my head. This is a woman with a history of fertility issues, who’s gone through multiple rounds of IVF. She was only in LA for a few days, as far as we could tell. If she was going to move forward with having embryos implanted, she should have been on hormones, at the very least. This is not a single trip to the doctor’s office situation!!
  • Jack’s ex is expecting twins (sometime in 2025, I guess), and apparently she’s engaged to some rich guy she’s just met, and everyone talks as if Jack would have no parental rights at all… and I just don’t understand. There’s DNA testing in the 21st century, people! Why does his lawyer act as though he has no chance of being the babies’ legal father unless Charmaine allows his name to be put on the birth certificate?
  • Inconsisent supporting characters — there are certain characters whose depiction seems to change depending on what scene they’re in, and I wish the show would just make up its mind! Connie is often shown as an interfering gossip, but then she’ll turn around and offer protection to someone with a secret and acts like other people’s most trusted friend. Which is she? Same with Muriel, who in previous seasons was set up to date Doc as a decoy by Hope (never mind, it’s complicated). Muriel is sort of depicted as someone who might not be trustworthy around other people’s husbands (ugh, I hate that judge-y kind of vibe), but she’s actually completely lovely. Muriel in season 3 is vivacious, supportive, and tons of fun… so why do I feel like the show wants us to be suspicious of her when it comes to Doc?
  • Lack of diversity. There is exactly one Black named/featured character on the show. I was shocked when a Black family was seen walking by at the lumberjack games. Wait, there are families of color living in Virgin River? The show needs to open its doors a little wider, is all I’m saying.

Despite my grumbling, I freely admit that I’m hooked on the show. I just wish more would happen in a season. How long is the wait until season 4? Arrrrrggh.

And one final thing: I still haven’t read the books. Should I???

TV Time: Last Tango in Halifax

If you’re looking for feel-good viewing with quirky, (mostly) lovable characters, I don’t think you can go wrong with Last Tango in Halifax.

Now streaming on Netflix, this BBC production originally aired starting in 2012, continuing over five seasons (on and off) through 2020. Altogether, there are 24 episodes (which Netflix presents as 4 seasons, but it’s all the same show.)

Here’s the trailer for season 1:

The basic plot: Alan and Celia, widowed and in their mid-70s, reconnect on Facebook after their respective grandchildren set them up with social media accounts. Meeting again after last seeing each other in their teens, they each confess that they were in love with the other way back when, but were separated by occurrences outside their control. Now reunited, they shock their families by announcing on the day the meet that they plan to get married!

Their backgrounds are starkly different: Alan lives on his daughter Gillian’s sheep farm with her and her teen-aged son, and Celia lives in the guest apartment of her daughter Caroline’s big, posh house.

Gillian is a crass, outspoken, hardworking farmer who likes casual sex without strings, even though her flings tend to catch up with her. She’s still haunted by her abusive husband’s death 10 years earlier, which is not made easier by her former brother-in-law’s constant suspicions.

Caroline is the head of a well-to-do private school. She is very refined and upscale, although her personal life is messy too — her husband John left her for another woman, then tries to come back once discovering the other woman is an alcoholic. I’m not sure why the expression “sad sack” entered my mind (it’s not a term I remember ever using!), but it suits John to a T — he’s such a loser that he’s utterly pathetic, and yet he just sticks around constantly.

Celia and Alan have their differences too, on very different sides of the political spectrum and with very different ideas when it comes to acceptance and judgment and their children’s lives. Still, there’s no denying their instant connection, and their giddy stages of early love are quite lovely to behold.

As the show moves forward, the circles expand and overlap. Gillian and Caroline, against all odds and despite major blow-ups, become close friends. Alan and Celia’s relationship experiences ups and downs. The grandkids grow up and have their own lives, Caroline finds new love, and the plot weaves in and out between all the characters, showing the glorious mess of having a large, unconventional family.

I went into Last Tango in Halifax expecting something light and silly — and while there are plenty of light, silly moments, there’s also real depth, sorrow, and drama here too. The cast is superb (I mean, really, Derek Jacobi!!!), and I got completely caught up in the characters’ lives. And even though my opinions of them changed over the course of the episodes (I started out thinking Caroline was snooty and awful, yet by the end, I think she was my favorite character — and Celia just made me bonkers so often with her intolerance, yet still charmed me whenever she’d giggle at Alan), I was invested in all of them and basically loved them all.

I’m so glad I made the time for this excellent show! Please check it out — you’ll be glad you did!

Note: The video below is a lovely look at the cast and character dynamics, but it does contain some plot spoilers, so proceed at your own risk!

TV Time: Binge-watching/hate-watching Ginny & Georgia

I just finished the 10-episode first season of Ginny & Georgia on Netflix… and I have thoughts. And even feelings.

First up, let’s be clear: The blurbs (and even the show itself) keep comparing this show to Gilmore Girls. But friends, I’m here to tell you: This ain’t no Gilmore Girls.

I mean, okay. Mother and daughter? Check. Mother who had daughter as a teen? Check. Sweetness, sassiness, cleverness? Uncheck. Don’t watch Ginny & Georgia expecting the mother/daughter as best friends trope, or the sweet quirky small-town vibe trope. Yes, it’s a small town. But no, there’s no particular sweetness. And this mother and daughter are far from best friends.

Here’s the trailer:

Georgia is first introduced as a free-spirit, whisking her children off on a new adventure and starting a new life in a small town in Massachusetts. Ginny, age 15, is the same age Georgia was when she had her. Georgia positions this move as a fresh start, a chance to finally settle down, stop forcing her kids to start over again and again, and have a real, normal life.

There are problems, of course. We quickly learn that Georgia can afford her nice new suburban house because she’s recently widowed. Her wealthy late husband’s ex is contesting the will, so Georgia’s new fortune is tenuous at best. Ginny and her younger brother Austin have never lived in one place long enough to make friends, but Georgia swears that this time, life will be different.

As they settle in, the family becomes close to the family across the street, a very decent couple and their 15-year-old twins. Ginny becomes best friends with the girl, Max, and has an on-again, off-again flirtation/hook-up/maybe more with the boy, Marcus.

Meanwhile, Georgia goes full Southern belle on the town, with a big Julia Roberts-esque smile and a huge Southern accent, and charms her way into a job in the (very hot and single) mayor’s office.

With me so far?

So why did I end up hate-watching this show?

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I admit, there are elements of this show I really got caught up in:

  • The teen drama is actually pretty good. Ginny’s friend circle is fun and interesting, and while some of the girls’ issues are only addressed on a surface level, there are enough distinct personalities to make them a great group to get to know. I just wish the show’s focus was more on them and less on the adults (more on this in a moment), so it could go deeper into their stories.
  • Ginny is biracial in a mostly white town, and I felt that this component of her story was well portrayed. From her issues of not quite fitting in anywhere, to dealing with a racist teacher who doesn’t even seem to know he’s racist (he voted for Obama! twice!), I couldn’t help but admire Ginny’s courage in taking a stand, yet also feel sorry for her struggles to understand herself in the context of her friends and her new town.
  • Max is a sweet, outrageous character, and the actress who portrays her did a great job showing Max’s vulnerable side even while she’s totally out there and hilarious.
  • Jennifer Robertson, so great as Jocelyn Schitt on Schitt’s Creek, appears in Ginny & Georgia as Max and Marcus’s mother Ellen, who becomes close to Georgia. She’s just as wonderful as you’d expect, and it made me so happy to see her in this show.
  • Overall, the young cast playing the teens is very good, and I’m especially impressed by Antonia Gentry, who plays Ginny so well and with such emotional range.

The things I couldn’t stand, found irritating, or that just plain sucked:

  • Georgia. She’s just an awful person. I think we’re meant to admire her spirit, but she’s a terrible mom who continually puts her children at risk. Plus, she has a very dark past that maybe is meant to show her tenaciousness and ability to survive, but really just shows that she’s amoral and dangerous.

Getting really spoiler-y here…

  • Scott Porter, so charming in Hart of Dixie, plays the mayor in Ginny & Georgia, and it’s like the show couldn’t decide what kind of character he was playing. For most of the episodes, he comes across as super sweet, somewhat innocent, very wowed by Georgia and kind and loving toward her children… until near the end, when he makes a speech to Georgia about how they’re both motivated by seeking power, and it just doesn’t jibe with anything we’ve seen of him so far. He hadn’t once been portrayed as power-hungry, and now that’s all he cares about?
  • Georgia’s criminal past isn’t charming or endearing. It’s impossible to root for her, so why does the show want us to?
  • At age 15, Georgia and Zion (Ginny’s father) are living with Zion’s parents, who propose becoming legal guardians to Ginny. And really, that makes total sense — but instead, Georgia takes off in the middle of the night with Ginny. And again, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the show wanted us to see this as a brave move. Because it was irresponsible and crazy and put both of them at risk, when it would have been the best thing for all concerned for the adults in this situation to take responsibility for Ginny and provide the security and stability needed for her upbringing.
  • I haven’t even touched on how awful Georgia is when it comes to the younger child Austin, whose father is in prison for embezzlement (and we have to wonder, did Georgia frame him?). She allows Austin to live in a fantasy world in which his father is a wizard imprisoned at Azkhaban, and then wonders why he gets bullied all the time — but then we he gets pushed too far and stabs a kid (!!!), doesn’t even get him therapy.
  • Ginny is approached by the seemingly only other Black girl at school, but basically brushes her off until she needs her. Why not allow her to explore finding a place with the small Black community? We’re supposed to empathize with Ginny’s struggles to figure out her identity and where she fits in, but her callousness and unfriendliness toward Bracia seem so unnecessary.
  • One more time, because I just can’t say it enough: Georgia is awful. It’s a bad sign when one-half of your title characters are simply impossible to feel positively toward. While we may want Ginny and Austin to finally get a “normal”, stable life, I couldn’t help feeling that they’d be much better off without Georgia at all. Go live with Zion! Have a responsible, non-criminal parent! Ugh.

Whew. Ranting over.

Despite how much I disliked certain characters and plotlines, I did binge my way through this show this past week, and couldn’t look away.

It hasn’t been announced yet whether there will be a season 2, but given how season 1 ends, it certainly would appear that Netflix is planning on it. Also, the show has done really well for Netflix, so I can’t imagine they won’t continue.

Will I be back for season 2?

Ummm… probably? I do want to see what happens to Ginny next. But, is that enough of a reason to tolerate sitting through more of Georgia’s awfulness? TBD.

Has anyone else watched Ginny & Georgia yet? Please let me know what you think!

TV Time: Virgin River is so dumb. So why can’t I stop watching?

Season two of the Netflix series Virgin River (adapted from the book series by Robyn Carr) just dropped last week, and as of this writing, I have 2 of the 10 episodes yet to watch (and I will definitely finish them tonight).

Friends, this show is dumb. But it’s also incredibly watchable.

The basics: 30-something Mel Monroe is an accomplished nurse practitioner-midwife from LA who moves to Virgin River, a small rural town in Northern California, to accept a one-year position in a medical clinic.

Mel’s husband died in a car accident the year before, and she’s been consumed by her grief ever since. She’s hoping that a complete change will help her heal and move forward with her life.

What she doesn’t know is that the doctor whose practice she’s joining doesn’t want her — he’s been pressured into accepting her by the town busybody, who is also the town mayor and his estranged wife.

Mel arrives to find that the home she’s been promised is a decaying old shack, and that she’s already managed to insult the doctor she’ll be working for. On the bright side is local restaurant/bar owner Jack, a sweet, sexy man with a deep soul, who has demons of his own — he’s haunted by his memories of his time as a Marine sergeant and the young soldier in his squad who didn’t make it back.

Naturally, Mel and Jack have instant chemistry, and it seems likely that their friendship will blossom into romance. Meanwhile, Jack has a casual girlfriend who’s much more invested in the relationship than he is; there’s a town full of quirky characters to meet; and there are some unsavory types adding an element of danger as well.

So why do I think it’s dumb? But why is it so watchable?

First, I’ll focus on the good:

  • The scenery is AMAZING. While the town of Virgin River is supposed to be located in Humboldt County, California, the series was shot in British Columbia, and it shows. The rivers and mountains and forests are absolutely breathtaking. I think at least half the reason I keep watching is for the pure delight of seeing the gorgeous setting.
  • Mel herself is a great character. She’s strong and accomplished, an expert in her field, and full of compassion for her patients (even when they treat her like dirt). Over the course of the first season, we see flashbacks that establish the deep loss she experienced — scenes from her marriage to Mark, the tragic loss of their stillborn baby and subsequent struggle with infertility, and the accident that took Mark’s life. Actress Alexandra Breckenridge does a terrific job of portraying Mel’s straightforward approach to life.
  • Side note: This is shallow, but I love Mel’s wardrobe! I want to live insider her big, fluffy, cozy sweaters.
  • Tim Matheson as Doc Mullens. If you like Tim Matheson in Hart of Dixie, you’ll like him in Virgin River — he’s basically playing the same character! He’s always a delight to watch, and seems to have cornered the market on grumpy older doctors who don’t want to change.
  • Small town wholesomeness — any TV show set in a small town, whether it’s suburban Stars Hollow, Connecticut (like Gilmore Girls) or a southern town like Bluebell, Alabama (Hart of Dixie) or even a place riddled with supernatural beings like Mystic Falls, Virginia (Vampire Diaries) seems to thrive on showing town fairs, special traditions, barn dances, carnivals — you name it. Virgin River has its share of small town celebrations, just as you’d expect — even a super competitive egg relay race.

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Manly men acting manly. Jack is an ex-Marine, as are his best buddies, and they’re all very noble and manly and protectors of the women folk. It can feel like a recruiting ad at times.
  • There’s a drug trafficking subplot that seems SO unnecessary — an illegal pot grower in the woods with bad guy enforcers with big guns, injecting an element of danger (and giving Jack an adversary to face down.) Why does a small town drama need drug runners? Why?
  • Time moves slowly. A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5?
  • Town gossip. I know, small town drama and all, but the small town gossip element is just silly. The drama between Doc and his sometimes-wife Hope is annoying as hell. They decide to reconcile, but Hope pushes him to pretend date someone else to throw people off their tracks, which seems all kinds of silly and mean to the other woman (who’s perfectly lovely and actually seems like a better match for Doc than moody, demanding Hope, who has held a grudge over a repented-for infidelity for 20 years!)
  • Teen drama. Of course one of the older women from town has her trouble-child niece come to town, and of course the niece is a stereotypical bad girl who’s leading the sweet town boy astray.
  • Let’s see, what else? Well, every possible small town drama plot point we’ve seen before, including a baby on the doorstep, a domestic violence survivor hiding out under an assumed name, petty jealousies, a surprise pregnancy, PTSD, and more.

Still, as I said, it’s highly watchable even while having moments that are absolute clunkers. Mel is really a great character, and I feel invested in her, even if it’s just watching her go on her morning runs through the forest and across the suspension bridge. I really appreciate her vulnerability as a person, which never keeps her from being the consummate medical professional.

Maybe it’s not fair to call the show dumb. It has its entertaining, heart-warming moments, and it’s definitely drawn me in.

But, ugh! PLEASE dump the drug runners and all the stereotypical small town plots already.

So, in other words:

Me: Grumble, grumble, grumble, this show is dumb.

And also me: Bring on season 3!

Query for readers: Has anyone read the Virgin River books? Should I give them a try? Or will I be just as annoyed as I am by the show?