TV Time: Survivor, Season 44

Another season of Survivor has come and gone — and color me surprised, but this was a good one! While I felt fairly unenthused during the early episodes, by the back half of the season, I was all in.

Mainly, I think this is due to particularly good casting this time around. While the players eliminated in the first half have already completely been erased from my memory, the players who made the merge and beyond were, for the most part, interesting, entertaining, and full of surprises.

For the most part… there were still a few in there who made zero impression, but overall — great job, casting team!

Cast from SURVIVOR Season 44. — Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Survivor has been around a LONG time by now, and while the show continues to add new twists, some basics remain. There are challenges, there are alliances, there are players making overly orgasmic sounds when Jeff mentions food…

Fortunately, some of the most annoying gimmicks from past seasons were not included this time around — fire tokens, redemption island, the prisoner’s dilemma option. One fun new element this season was the appearance of locked bird cages with advantages inside — seeing the players frantically try to find keys, figure out their options, and either conceal or reveal their advantages was goofy and silly entertainment.

By the end, there was a core trio who worked their way from underdog status, outnumbered by members of other tribes, to running the game, and I loved them. Carolyn, Carson, and Yam Yam were delightful — solid alliance, really interesting and quirky people, and great game play.

Unfortunately, Carson lost the fire challenge, making him the final jury member rather than earning a seat in the final three. I would have loved to see these three (#TikaStrong #ThreeStooges) battling it out at final tribal, but sadly that was not to be. Instead, a player who I never particularly noticed, Heidi, ended up at the final, and the win went to Yam Yam.

I was mostly okay with the end results. I was a Carolyn fan all the way, and can’t believe she didn’t get a single vote. I liked Yam Yam, and had he not been up against Carolyn, I would have been excited for his win. I can’t quite figure out what the the jury was thinking, except maybe they didn’t see the amount of strategy Carolyn was applying day by day. The TV edit made it clear that behind her outbursts and kookiness, Carolyn was super smart and was on top of every element of the game, but who knows? Maybe the jury just didn’t get that from the tribal council sessions.

My main complaint about the current Survivor format remains the fire challenge — once it’s down to four players, the person who wins the final immunity challenge picks one person to make it to the final three, and the remaining two have to compete to see who makes fire faster. And that’s just a dumb way to have people get to the end.

In this season, Heidi won the last immunity challenge, and made the decision to give up immunity and build fire against Carson, giving Carolyn and Yam Yam seats in the final three. Heidi did this, apparently, to build her Survivor “resume” and show the jury what a great competitor she was. A couple of problems with this: She played a really lackluster game throughout — I never particularly paid attention to her, or noticed anything special about her strategy. She also chose Carson to go up against in fire building, and it was clear that all four of the remaining players knew he was weakest at fire.

So yes, you could call it a risk to give up immunity and do the fire challenge, except I’m sure she realized that Carson wouldn’t have much of a chance. If you want to really go big, battle Carolyn or Yam Yam!

As expected, Heidi won the fire challenge, and then was declared to have set a record for making the fastest fire in Survivor history. But… who cares? She kept bragging about it at the final tribal, but how does that matter? It’s one fire. What about the rest of the season?

Fortunately, the jury ultimately wasn’t impressed enough to vote for her (except for Danny, who was her closest ally all along), and the win went to Yam Yam. He’s terrific, and like I said, I’d be happy for him in any other season.

The winner of Survivor 44

Funny, all of my real life friends who watch Survivor were Team Carolyn all the way to the end, and we all were shocked at the outcome. I hope they bring her and Carson back for future seasons. Justice for Carolyn!

See the bottom of this post for more Carolyn love and some great news!

Re Carson, I loved his enthusiasm, his nerdy dedication to the game, and how much he blossomed playing the show. This is the engineering student who 3D-printed past Survivor puzzles at home prior to playing, so he killed it every single time he had a puzzle to do. Good for Carson — he was smart to give himself every possible advantage — but I hope Survivor now retires all past puzzles and starts fresh!

My #1 plea to Survivor production: Get rid of the fire challenge! It’s been done to death at this point, and is such an unsatisfactory way to determine who gets to the final. I’ve talked about this before, so I’ll just copy and paste my earlier thoughts on this here:

There’s got to be a way that’s better than a fire-making challenge for determining the final three. Maybe when it’s down to four, you have one person win immunity, then let the remaining three battle it out for the next two spots? Otherwise, the one who wins that particular immunity challenge gets an outsized amount of power.

I hate seeing weak players at final tribal, with great players voted out (or eliminated by fire) in the 4th or 5th position. I get it — you want to win, so you try to make sure you’re sitting next to someone you can beat. But wouldn’t it be cool to have three amazing players at the end, each with a really strong argument to pitch to the jury?

The fire challenge has to go. The tribes make fire at camp every single day. So making one fire on one day, faster than your competitor, doesn’t make you more deserving of the Survivor prize. It just means you got lucky that particular day.

If I wanted to dwell on a #2 complaint (which has nothing to do with gameplay), I’d say ditch the immediate reading of votes and the afterparty. Granted, it must suck to be a player and have to wait a year for the reunion show and reading of the votes, as they used to handle this pre-pandemic. Still, how can the finalists — especially the two who didn’t end up winning — get into the mood of the party when they literally JUST found out they lost, and they’re still sitting there unwashed and tired after 26 days? Let them at least take showers and put on clean clothes first!


All in all, a fun season to watch. Jeff Probst’s hosting remains terrific — I love his play-by-play narration of the challenges and the way he handles tribal council. The emergencies early on added some drama, and overall strong casting made this group really entertaining to watch week after week.

I still intend (at some point) to go back and watch one or two earlier seasons that I missed. Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to whatever fresh twists show up in season 45 this fall!

And now, back to the person I truly thought deserved to win this season…

Here’s a quick scene that shows just a little of Carolyn’s personality and quirkiness:

On the #JusticeforCarolyn front, it was welcome news to hear she’d received the Sia Award! (Sia is a huge Survivor fan, and awards money to her favorite player each season). This time around, Sia gave three awards — the biggie went to Carolyn ($100,000), with two smaller awards to Carson and Lauren ($15,000 each). Great choices, no question. Here’s Carolyn’s reaction to the news, being (as always) very Carolyn about the whole thing:

And here’s an entire piece on the glory of Carolyn:

Wrapping it all up:

Despite some unevenness early on, this ended up being one of the best Survivor seasons in recent years. As I mentioned, many of the folks voted off in early episodes are completely gone from my memory, but the second half of the season more than made up for an earlier duds.

The next season airs in September. As always, I feel pretty skeptical when I watch the trailer for the upcoming season — these always feel kind of samey. But, after the fun of season 44, I’m willing to remain open-minded and hope the casting pays off once again.

TV Time: Daisy Jones & The Six (Prime Video)

Whew. I made it! The final two episodes of the 10-episode mini-series Daisy Jones & The Six dropped this week, and I blasted through them. And overall, despite some misgivings, I have to say that this is a series well worth watching.

I read the book by Taylor Jenkins Reid years ago when it was released, and absolutely loved it. (See for yourself, here). So I was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous to hear that it would be adapted as a TV series. Excited, because I loved the story. And obviously, nervous — what if they ruined it???

Now that Daisy Jones & The Six — the series — is a reality, I can safely say that it works… mostly. The show captures the rise and fall of this (fictional) legendary 1970s rock band — a band that called it quits right at the pinnacle of their success.

Talking just about the show for a moment, the series has documentary-style interviews framing the main action. Right from the start, we learn that Daisy Jones & The Six (the band) played a stunning concert in Chicago in 1977, then never performed together again. What happened, and why, is the driving question of the series.

Various band members and associates are interviewed in the late 90s, looking back on their memories, but these brief clips are used to bookend the main action, where we actually see the events unfold in the 60s and 70s.

As the series opens, Billy and Graham Dunne are high school students living in the Pittsburgh area, playing rock and roll in their garage with a few friends, and ultimately deciding to try to make it as the Dunne Brothers band. After playing weddings and local gigs, they hit the road in pursuit of the music world’s promised land, LA, along with older brother Billy’s new girlfriend, Camilla.

Success is slow to arrive, but Billy, as lead singer, displays rock star charisma early on, and they play more and more gigs, although still not quite breaking through to the stratosphere of rock success. Once they land a record deal, they change their name to The Six, and launch their first tour — with success, but with a devastating effect on Billy and Camilla’s personal lives.

Meanwhile, we also meet Daisy, the ignored daughter of a wealthy, narcissistic LA couple. Left to her own devices, Daisy finds solace in music, and by her early teens, is hanging out by the stage doors of clubs and bars, making her way into the sex, drugs, and rock and roll scene at much too young an age.

Eventually, Daisy and The Six are brought together by their mutual producer, and magic happens, although not without resentment and complications. From there, it’s inevitable that Daisy and The Six will join forces, and it becomes clear that Billy and Daisy have a chemistry between them that goes way beyond the music they create.

Okay, enough synopsis…

The series really captures the vibe of the 70s music scene. Supposedly inspired by the music as well as the behind-the-scenes drama of Fleetwood Mac, Daisy Jones & The Six rocket to stardom, but with huge emotional cost. There’s all the pills, speed, and coke you’d expect, and the drama between the band members stays at a high pitch throughout.

I was skeptical at first about the musical aspect of the show. It’s a show about rockstars, but those rockstars are played by actors, not musicians. And yet, what they achieve is really impressive. There’s no air guitar or lip syncing here — every bit of music is performed by the cast, and they do it convincingly. Not every number is a huge hit, and the comparison to Fleetwood Mac means they have a very high bar to meet — and the show doesn’t always succeed in showing why these songs, this album, this band became so huge.

As a whole, the show gets better and better from episode to episode. Maybe I just became more invested, but it also felt like the cast start to really inhabit their characters more and more as the story progressed.

As for the cast, the age factor is problematic in the early episodes. We meet Billy and his friends as teens, played by a younger set of actors, but the main cast takes over when the characters should still be in their early 20s, and that was hard to swallow. Billy is played by Sam Claflin, who’s definitely talented and brings Billy’s inner demons and outer showman to life so well — but the actor is in his mid-30s, and just looks out of place as a younger Billy. I tried to ignore it, but it was uncomfortable — it works much better in later episodes, when the band has more years of hard living under their belts.

Riley Keough is terrific as Daisy, although again, much better in the later episodes. With the Daisy character, she doesn’t come across as quite as much of a hot mess as she’s supposed to be in the first third or so of the series. It’s only later, as she becomes more and more of a disaster, that she becomes truly fascinating.



In terms of comparisons to the book, I don’t think the series stands up quite as well in a direct comparison. I can’t judge how well it works for people who haven’t read the book. For me, I decided to do a re-read before the show aired, which was quite probably a mistake. With the story so fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help comparing each major beat of the series to how it was presented in the book, and that got in the way of my being able to just watch and enjoy it for what it is.

The most glaring change is the presentation of the Billy/Daisy/Camilla dynamic, which in the series, is a pretty clear love triangle. Billy loves his wife and the stability she represents, but Daisy is his creative soulmate, and possibly more. Billy and Daisy connect through music and have a chemistry that they both deny in different ways. In the book, nothing actually happens between Billy and Daisy, and ultimately, Camilla steps in to send Daisy away, basically doing her a kindness by telling her not to keep hurting herself through loving Billy, when Billy would never, ever leave his family for her. In the series, however, Camilla is hurt and angry, the confrontations are between Camilla and Billy, and Billy comes much closer to destroying his marriage and giving in to both his addictions and his need for Daisy. (It’s a good story, but was hard for me to watch because I kept thinking about how the book depicted the crisis).

(Camilla’s behavior in general is very different in the series from how I perceived it in the book. And we might argue that she’s too good to be true in the book, but I was disturbed by some of her actions and choices in the show, which from my perspective seem out of character.)

There are plenty of other differences, but mostly in smaller pieces of the puzzle. At the start, I was disappointed that the lyrics to the songs had changed — the book includes lyrics to all the songs written by Billy and Daisy. Still, in terms of the series, I had to admire the creativity. Obviously, the book provided lyrics without music, so the series producers brought in teams of singers and songwriters to create the music, and gave these creators the freedom to write new versions of the songs that worked for them, while keeping the underlying themes and messages.


The music is actually quite a lot of fun, once I eased up on the comparisons and let myself enjoy it. I think it’s somewhat hilarious that the album Aurora by Daisy Jones & The Six is a real thing that exists… and no, I haven’t purchased it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not tempted!

A little clip for your viewing/listening pleasure:

Now that I’ve reached the end, I can’t quite get the story or the songs out of my mind. I’m very tempted to start all over again from the beginning — with a second viewing, I think I’ll be able to focus much more on what’s on the screen in front of me without the mental distractions of comparisons to the book.

So, bottom line — do I recommend the TV version of Daisy Jones & The Six? Yes, most definitely. It’s a bit uneven, not necessarily successful in every single episode, but overall, it delivers that rock story and emotional messiness that the trailer promises, and the talented cast really sells it all.

Have you watched Daisy Jones & The Six? If so, what did you think?

TV Time: Virgin River season 4. So pretty. So slooooow.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

As I said when I wrote up my post about season 3 of Virgin River

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

Back we go to the fictional town of Virgin River, California, a gorgeous place somewhere in Humboldt County, with beautiful rivers, mountains, and forests, quirky townspeople, amazing baked goods, and a teensy little problem with drug runners.

But romance! Especially romance!

Four seasons in, I can’t deny that I’m invested and care about these characters’ lives… and at the same time, absolutely nothing happens on this show!! Or so it seems most of the time.

Season four has 12 episodes, each about 45 minutes, so that’s plenty of opportunity to move the plot forward in a meaningful way, right?

Well, let’s take a look at the timespan of the show, shall we? Season 1 (which initially aired in 2019) included the announcement of an unplanned pregnancy at the end of the season. So here in season 4, the babies should be in preschool, right?

Nope. The pregnant character from season 1 is STILL pregnant, and according to a comment in the final episode of season 4, she’s 5 months pregnant at this point. FIVE MONTHS.

In terms of season 4 itself, as far as I could tell, it all takes place within no more than 4 weeks. So, those babies from season 1 will be born… I don’t know, season 7 or 8, maybe?

The bummer about this timespan weirdness is that all of season 4 takes place over no more than a month (possibly two), and guess what? It’s apparently not sweater season! (For context, one of my absolutely ridiculous obsessions with earlier seasons is drooling over main character Mel’s amazingly big and cozy sweaters… but this time around, they were sadly missing.)

Onward to talking about season 4. 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 4 continues shortly after the end of season 3, in terms of story chronology. Season 3 ended with Jack trying to propose to Mel, who interrupts so she can inform him that she’s pregnant, and he might not be the father. This would have been much more shocking if we viewers didn’t already know that she’d gone to a fertility clinic in LA while she and Jack were on a brief break and had her and her late husband’s embryos transferred. (Don’t get me started — the process is so ridiculous and unrealistic, but that’s a season 3 issue).

Jack, of course, is supportive, loves Mel no matter what, and insists that this baby will be their baby, no matter who the biological father actually is. But, he doesn’t want to do a paternity test — he’s afraid that a definitive answer might affect how he feels about the baby, so he’d rather not know.

In case you’re keeping score, that makes Jack the expectant father of three babies!

Meanwhile, he continues to struggle with PTSD from his Marine days, and seems be in denial about a drinking problem too. Also lingering is the question of who shot him (at the end of season 2) — his former Marine buddy is in prison for attempted murder, but Brady has been shown to have a heart of gold (thanks to his relationship with Jack’s sister), so we know it wasn’t him!!

What else? Other plot points this season include:

  • A kidnapped child
  • Ongoing drug business
  • Recovery from a traumatic brain injury
  • A surprise grandchild showing up in town
  • A new doctor at the clinic
  • Mel’s sister getting married to a guy she’s known for one month
  • A local teen leaving his girlfriend behind to join the Marines
  • Aikido lessons for Preacher (and a new love interest)
  • There’s a Renaissance Faire!!

And on and on. There are dramatic reveals set up as cliffhangers at the end of various episodes (OMG, the pilot of the small plane is having a heart attack mid-flight!) which get resolved neatly and easily as soon as the next episode starts (the pilot is fine, Jack landed the plane, everybody is good!).

There are weird developments –a young couple eating at Jack’s bar mention how excited they are about a glamping getaway in an Airstream, and within minutes, Jack has decided that his new side business will be… buying Airstreams to set up a glamping business! Way to jump in with zero research, Jack.

There’s a hugely over-the-top baby shower (for Charmaine, mother of Jack’s unborn twins — due sometime in 2026, perhaps?) that looks like the most painful and boring event of all times. Maybe it’s supposed to look like how rich people would throw a baby shower, but to me, it looked like a super awkward business event that’s trying to be fun. Give me baby Pictionary and silly games with balls of yarn in someone’s living room any day!

Shows with small town settings like this seem to be required to include (a) nosy residents who love to gossip (b) a sewing or knitting circle and (c) a festival or fair of some kind. Check, check, and check! The Renaissance Faire is very fun to watch while also being totally goofy. Of course, everyone has amazing costumes! They even get the new town doc to dance around the maypole, and naturally, Jack gets to play a knight in a mock sword fight. It’s awesome.

To be fair, a few plot points do get somewhat straightened out by the end of the season. Again, SPOILER ALERT, because this gives away some big reveals:

  • The kidnapped child is saved!
  • The kidnapper is also Jack’s shooter, and it looks like he’s finally been caught!
  • And….
  • … the biggest reveal…
  • Jack is NOT actually the father of Charmaine’s babies! Dun dun dun….

My biggest complaint about the show overall is that I absolutely hate the drug smuggling plotline, but it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. And now there’s a new crime boss in town with a surprising connection to one of the local families. You know this can’t be good. I really, really, really can’t stand any aspect of this storyline, which seems completely unnecessary to an otherwise nice show about people in a small town — but I understand that this plot is from the books, so I guess we’re stuck with the awful drug running stuff for a while longer.

Why do I keep watching this show, when clearly I have issues with it?

Because it still has enough good stuff, like…

  • You guessed it, the amazing scenery! I want to LIVE in this town, wander through the woods, and sit and gaze at the rivers.
  • We get to watch Tim Matheson! He remains a delight as Doc Mullins, and I love every moment he’s on screen.
  • Mel… well, I’m on the fence. I’ve loved her up to now, and I do love seeing her in action as a highly skilled, highly compassionate medical professional. Unfortunately, she spends a lot of this season moping and being sad — often with good reason, but it’s just not very much fun.
  • Bree, introduced last season, gets more screen time, and I enjoy her a lot too. Yay for another strong woman in town!

So, for now, I’m sticking with it! But if those babies don’t start getting born in season 5, I may finally reach my breaking point.

What about you? Who’s still watching Virgin River? What do you think of season 4?

And still the lingering question — should I give the books a try?

TV Time: Bridgerton – season 2

All hail the arrival of the glorious 2nd season of Bridgerton! It feels like we’ve waited a long, long time for this… and not necessarily patiently.

The season dropped on Friday, and by Monday, I was done — which is actually taking it slowly for such a bingeable show.

First, the trailer, for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet:

Season two of Bridgerton more or less follows the plot of the 2nd book in Julia Quinn’s romance novel series, The Viscount Who Loved Me. My review of the book is here.

Each of the Bridgerton books follows the romantic escapades of one of the Bridgerton family’s eight siblings. Will the Netflix version follow this formula? Who knows! But here’s hoping…

Book #2 and season #2 both shift the story’s focus to Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest son and current Viscount, who bears an unhealthy weight of responsiblity on his shoulders. Inheriting the viscount title at a young age after the sudden death of their father, Anthony views himself as responsible for the well-being of his mother, his brothers and sisters, their future prospects, the family fortune, and the family reputation. It’s a lot.

As season 2 opens, Anthony has decided it’s time to put aside his more decadent existence (after a torrid affair with an opera singer in season 1, among other examples of rakish behavior) and find himself a wife. He does not want a love match, though. Instead, he wants a wife who’ll be a perfect partner in society, preserving the family honor, and bearing the next generation of little Bridgerton babies.

Who better to be Anthony’s wife than the season’s diamond — the debutante named by the queen as the most exquisite and incomparable?

This season’s diamond is Miss Edwina Sharma, a perfectly poised young woman with great beauty and all the manners and skills deemed most desirable in a society girl. There’s just one hiccup — Edwina’s older sister Kate is determined to see Edwina married well, and she’s taken an instant disliking to our dear Anthony.

But what is dislike but insanely hot chemistry in disguise?

Season 2 of Bridgerton has far fewer sex scenes that season 1, but instead, features much more of a slow burn. That Anthony and Kate are end game is obvious… but it’s delicious to see the build-up of their sexual tension and their enemies-to-lovers dynamic.

There’s a lot to love about season 2… but also a few things I could have done without. In no particular order, my highs and lows:

SPOILERS AHOY! I’m going to get into more specific plot points, so look away if you haven’t watched yet!!



Okay, here we go:

  • The key downer for me this season is turning Kate-Anthony-Edwina into a love triangle. In the book, Anthony is courting Edwina, who recognizes that Anthony would make a fine catch… but she doesn’t actually have feelings for him. So when their match comes to an end, Edwina isn’t hurt, isn’t betrayed, and finds a guy who’s actually a much better fit for her interests and personality.
  • Here in the show, Edwina does fall for Anthony, and things progress all the way to their wedding before she realizes that Anthony and Kate have feelings for each other.
  • WHY? Why did we need a love triangle? Why turn this into betrayal between sisters? Kate should have been honest with Edwina sooner, and yes, there are reasons for how things played out… but no. This wasn’t necessary. Two very nice young women who love each other ended up making each other miserable and nearly ruin their beautiful connection. Of course, there’s a happy ending, but it sucks having to get there.
  • Back to the book, Anthony and Kate are caught in a compromising position and are therefore forced to marry in order to save everyone’s reputation, and I guess it makes sense that they changed this (for fear of it being too similar to the Simon/Daphne plot from season 1), but I thought it would have been fun to see it play out.
  • But oh, the scene where I thought that would happen! There’s a bee involved, and if you never thought a bee sting scene could be sexy, well, you clearly haven’t watched Bridgerton! The sparks are jumping off the screen!
  • I just didn’t love Eloise this season, as much as I wanted to. Her storyline is all over the place, she doesn’t seem to know what she wants, and she’s not a very good friend. Her awkward shtick is getting old, and she’s all talk, no action when it comes to being a rebel.
  • GILES ALERT! If you’re a Buffy fan, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him moment that will make you happy.
  • I love, love, love how matter of fact this show is about the fact that Bridgerton takes place in a world where diversity is just normal and how things are. It’s glorious.
  • And I love that the Sharma family is from India, and their heritage gets woven into the story in little ways, like words and scents and beauty routines and the pre-wedding haldi ceremony.

(Regarding the haldi, see this article. And this one too on Indian representation.)

  • Classical versions of pop music are back! This season’s music included string arrangements of You Oughta Know and Wrecking Ball (listen on Spotify), plus more fabulous choices.
  • The youngest Bridgertons, Hyacinth and Gregory, get a little more airtime and are quite adorable, although once again sister Francesca is mostly MIA. (Apparently, the actress had a scheduling conflict while filming another Netflix series.) And while it’s nice to see Daphne again, she just pops in from time to time to give Anthony advice about love and marriage and show off her new baby. That’s fine… although it does reinforce the tired old idea that a romance plot ends with a wedding, and everything after that is mere epilogue.
  • Polly Walker is spectacular as the awful Mrs. Featherington, who behaves as badly as you’d expect but then earns a mite of redemption by the end.
  • Penelope is fabulous, and I’m mad at anyone who hurts her feelings. Looking at you, Colin and Eloise!
  • The plotline with the Queen… well, it’s not in the books at all, but mostly works in the show, although her obsession with the Bridgerton wedding doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m willing to just chalk it up to plot necessities and move on.
  • Loved the backstory and flashbacks related to the death of Daddy Bridgerton and how it affected both Anthony and Violet. Really heartwrenching scenes and terrific acting on both their parts.
  • And did I mention the chemistry between Anthony and Kate? Yes??? Well, I’ll mention it again. They are VERY good together.

There’s more, but I’ll stop before I start raving about pall-mall and Anthony falling in the lake and the cute corgi.

You know you wanted to see a lake picture!

All in all, this was a really fun, enjoyable season… and I’m sure I’ll be back for a second look! And while we know there are more seasons to come, it’s not clear yet whether the show will follow the book progression… but if it does, Benedict and Colin will be getting a lot more screen time!

Lead love interests for season 3 (L) and 4 (R), perhaps?

Also, three cheers for the queen, who’ll be getting a spin-off/prequel series of her own!

Of course, there are a ton of lingering questions at the end of Bridgerton’s 2nd season. Will Eloise break from societal expectations altogether and pursue a life of political thought and independence? Will the show broaden its romantic horizons and embrace a love story that at least considers the possibility of a more fluid sexuality?

And very importantly — where can I get a darling little top hat like Kate’s? (And where might one wear such an amazing hat in the 21st century?)

Have you watched season 2 yet? Did it live up to your expectations?

TV Time: Yellowstone

I know I’m late to the party, but my newest TV obsession is Yellowstone. The show is currently airing its 4th season, and over the last couple of weeks, I’ve binged it all from the beginning. Now I’m completely caught up, and ready for new episodes — four left this season!

(Note: Some spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum and not reveal any of the big shockers.)

In brief, Yellowstone is the story of the Dutton family and their ranch. Founded over a hundred years earlier, the Yellowstone Dutton ranch is the largest ranch in Montana, and patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is the largest private land owner in the state. As such, there’s a constant state of low- to high-level war going on, as greedy corporate interlopers as well as the neighboring Native American reservation are constantly seeking ways to take land from the Duttons.

The Dutton family includes John’s adult children, all of whom have been groomed to take on key roles in protecting and preserving the land. John’s father’s dying instructions to his son consisted of one specific order: Never give up the land. Not one inch.

John Dutton is a hard man who wields tremendous power in the state, although that power may be waning as outside interests work against him. John has a hand in state and local government, intimidates anyone who opposed him, hand-picks his choice for roles like state Attorney General, and dictates his wishes to the local sheriff’s office.

In season 1, John’s opponents were chiefly two: Dan Jenkins, a California transplant with dreams of creating a vacation paradise adjacent to the ranch, and Chief Rainwater, the new chief of the reservation, whose mission is to take back the land stolen from his people a century earlier.

As the series progresses, the battles and the opponents shift constantly, as uneasy alliances are formed when new threats pop up.

The really and truly engrossing thing about this show is the family itself. The adult Dutton children are all, to one extent or another, a mess. Their mother died about 20 years earlier, leaving a huge hole in their lives as well as a whole host of psychological damage. John, for one, never got over losing the love of his life, and has been emotionally unavailable to his children for most of their lives, while maintaining huge expectations for them in terms of family loyalty and expectations.

Son Jamie is the family lawyer, dressed in suits while the rest of the family wears jeans, cowboy hats, and boots. Rather than working the ranch, he represents the family business and political interests, and will destroy anyone in the courtroom who opposed the Duttons. Jamie is also an emotional mess, desperately needing his father’s love and approval but never quite getting it.

The youngest of the family is Kayce, a former Navy SEAL who fled the ranch to make his own way, but is brought back (reluctantly) into the family after events in the pilot episode. Kayce is a trained killer with a strong moral compass. When we first meet him, he’s living in a trailer on the reservation with his Native American wife Monica and their son Tate, happily scraping by training horses, but he and his family are soon drawn back into the Dutton world, where he starts to take up the mantle of Dutton heir.

My favorite is Beth, the only daughter of the family. Age-wise, she’s between Jamie and Kayce. When first introduced, I had a major attack of eye-rolling. Look, here’s another caricature of a tough business woman, hard-edged and hard-drinking with a foul mouth, someone who chews up and spits out business men for breakfast. In early episodes, we see Beth bathe naked in a horse trough on the ranch and run at a pack of wolves, howling. Ummm, why?

Well, my skepticism about Beth has turned to absolute love. As the show progresses, we learn more about the events from her youth that made her who she is, and finally (in season 3) get an explanation for her seemingly out-of-proportion hatred for her brother Jamie. Beth also is key to the most moving and touching love story of the show, and my love for this couple knows no bounds.

Meanwhile, Kevin Costner as John Dutton is absolutely magnetic. He’s taciturn and hard, but loves his family and still mourns his late wife. He’s also a tough, unyielding rancher, loves being out on his horses, can get down and dirty whenever needed, and is a man who is mostly universally feared. I especially love his relationships with Beth and with his grandson, where we see a more vulnerable and kinder side, but truly, any time he’s on screen is special.

Now, there are some elements to this show that confuse me by being contradictory or not well explained. We hear all along that John’s wife’s death changed him and practically destroyed the family — but we never actually see much to back that up. There are a few flashbacks, but none really demonstrate that the family was warm and loving beforehand — in fact, a key moment with Beth shows Evelyn as cruel and demanding in her interaction with her daughter.

The first episode thrusts viewers straight into the action, with the interloping developer and the reservation both battling the Duttons on different fronts. I could have used a bit more context and backstory — there are elements I didn’t piece together until several more episodes went by. The biggest head-scratcher early on is that (major spoiler) eldest son Lee (whom I didn’t mention earlier, and here’s why) is killed by the end of the episode. Lee was the presumptive heir to the ranch, and his death leaves the ranch succession in turmoil… except kind of not? After his death and funeral, almost no one even mentions Lee again. We barely got to know him, and for most episodes, it’s easy to forget that he even existed.

The show can’t seem to decide if John is a criminal mastermind (like a western Godfather) or an anti-hero, or just a straight up hero trying to preserve a purer way of life in the face of corporate greed and ruthlessness. We know John is ruthless and dangerous, but he’s often just so damned lovable in so many scenes, and as I said, Kevin Costner turns this character into someone iconic, even when his actions are morally questionable.

Beyond the Duttons, we also spend time in the bunkhouse with the wranglers, the rowdy cowboys who work the ranch. They’ve a mixed bunch — some veterans, some new to the ranch, and one who’s so green that he’s never even been on a horse before. The group is entertaining, but also provide yet another road to understanding ranch life in general, and more specifically, what it takes to be a true member of the Dutton world. (Hint: it’s not pretty.)

I’ve described this show to a friend as a western Sons of Anarchy, which is a little off-the-mark, but not by much. It’s less murdery than Sons, and the business of the Dutton ranch isn’t a criminal enterprise — but there’s still plenty of murder, and lots of crime as a side-effect of what it takes to keep the ranch and the family in power. The show, via the Duttons, embraces old-school Western justice, which isn’t kosher from a law enforcement perpsective, but as the show continually points out, Montana isn’t like any place else.

Side note: In terms of a Sons of Anarchy connection (besides substituting horses for motorcycles), creator and writer Taylor Sheridan was an actor on SOA, playing Sheriff David Hale for several seasons. Here in Yellowstone, he occasionally shows up as superstar horse trainer Travis, always entertaining.

Where the show sits now, past the halfway point of season 4, the Duttons face continuing threats from outside forces, as well as the continuation of their internal battles and struggles. I continue to adore certain characters and despise others, and no matter how crazy the events of any given episode, I can’t bring myself to look away.

And the absolutely gorgeous scenery doesn’t hurt in the slightest!

So, anyone else watching Yellowstone? If so, who’s your favorite character, and what are your predictions for the rest of season 4?

There’s a ton of Yellowstone-related material over on YouTube, but here’s a final clip for this post — on turning the show’s actors into cowboys…

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: Love, Victor

Is it wrong for a grown-ass woman to be completely in love with a teen TV series? If so… well, guilty as charged. I binge-watched this adorable, addictive series over the past week, and become instantly obsessed.

Love, Victor is a Hulu original series that starts out as a spin-off of the 2018 movie Love, Simon (which is an adaptation of the 2015 young adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli). Got all that? Love, Victor has just aired its 2nd season, and if anything, it’s even better than the first.

Each of the two seasons includes ten 30-minute episodes — perfect for nonstop bingeing!

The storyline centers on lead character Victor Salazar, a 15-year-old whose family has moved from Texas to Atlanta after a messy situation (not immediately explained) involving his parents. Victor, along with his two siblings, has to start over, and for Victor, it’s a chance to redefine himself and figure out who he wants to be.

He’s heard great things about Creekwood High, especially when it comes to Simon Spier, a former student who was cheered on by the entire student body when he had the ultimate romantic moment kissing the boy of his dreams on a ferris wheel. (See Love, Simon or read the book if you want to know more!) For Victor, he’s inspired by the idea of Simon, but also annoyed that Simon’s situation seemed to be so easy while for Victor it’s complicated as hell.

For starters, Victor is the son of conservative Catholic Latinx parents who are fine with tolerating nontraditional approaches to life, so long as they’re not in their own family. Victor is also trying to understand his own sexuality, definitely attracted to boys but not quite ready to come out or declare himself gay.

When Mia Brooks, a totally sweet and cute popular girl, takes an interest in Victor, he allows himself to fall into a relationship with her. He likes her and thinks she’s great, and quickly learns that being Mia’s boyfriend gives him instant acceptance at Creekwood. (Being a top basketball player doesn’t hurt either). He even likes kissing her… although when she’s ready for more and he’s absolutely not, he has to face some hard facts — like he’s just not attracted to girls.

Meanwhile, Victor develops an immediate and intense crush on Benji, an out and proud gay boy who attends his high school (and who I think looks distractingly like Rob Pattinson/Edward Cullen). Victor works with Benji at the local coffee shop, where they become good friends, although Victor doesn’t dare admit to his growing more-than-friendly feelings.

Season 1 ends with Victor and Benji embarking on a new chapter and with Victor coming out to his parents. And it’s awesome! And even more awesome that I watched the season when the 2nd season had already dropped, so I could continue straight on through.

Season 2 picks up right where season 1 ends, with Victor coming out to his parents, who are not able to put aside their own biases in order to give him the support he needs. While dealing with his parents’ reactions (especially his mother’s), Victor and Benji are moving forward with their relationship, navigating being out as a couple at school and what that might mean for them.

Victor faces hostility and intolerance from some of his basketball teammates, which becomes one of the season’s overarching storylines. The show also shows Victor and his best friend Felix’s parallel journeys into first love, first relationships, and losing their virginity. I really appreciated the honesty and anxiety depicted about becoming sexually active, feeling really nervous about it, and figuring out whether they’re ready.

Victor and Benji are lovely together, although over the season, certain differences between them build up obstacles that neither had foreseen while in the rosy days of first love. And as the season winds to a close, a love triangle comes into play and the series has the inconsiderate audacity to end on a cliffhanger!

I’m totally Team Benji, by the way, and if you want to know why, you might want to check out this adorable clip:

And just another little taste of sweetness:

I don’t want to give the wrong impression, that this show is just sweetness and light and sweet kissy moments. The characters all face challenges and emotional ups and downs, both the teens and the adults. In season 2, there are many heavier moments, including Felix’s struggle to support his bipolar mother, a Muslim boy’s desire to live his truth but fearing his parents’ reactions, and issues of trust and secrets that affect several of the couples in the series. Additionally, Victor’s parents’ storyline in season 2 is especially strong, as they deal with both the strains in their marriage and their different reactions to Victor’s coming out.

The acting is strong all around in both seasons. Season 2 features some great cameos, and the main cast is terrific all the way through.

I can’t recommend Love, Victor highly enough! I’m thrilled that Hulu has confirmed renewal for a 3rd season already, although I’m frantic over that cliffhanger ending and the fact that it’ll probably be a year before season 3 airs. That’s a long time to be in suspense!

But seriously, check out this sensitive, sweet, funny show. It may be a teen TV series, but adults will love it too.

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.


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:

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: Masking up on TV — too much, or not enough?

Here we are, a year into our masked-up lives, and while vaccines provide a glimmer of hope, it’s still way too soon to start stashing away our supplies of snazzy custom masks.

Side question: How many pretty/fun masks do you own? I’ve been pretty restrained, I think, and yet I somehow find myself with a drawer full of colorful fabric masks. They’re cute!

I’ve been having some mixed feelings lately about seeing TV shows featuring mask-wearing in their current season’s episodes. On the one hand, if the show is supposed to be set in our current day and age, they can’t come off as realistic if the characters aren’t quarantining, observing social distancing, and wearing masks.

On the other hand… well, there are two main negatives that have been coming up for me:

1 – I watch TV for escapism and entertainment. I see enough masks and hear enough COVID-COVID-COVID nonstop in my real life. Do I need to see it on my sitcoms too?

2 – For the shows that choose to go there, they’d better be doing it right. And that just doesn’t seem to be the case across the board, especially when it appears that masks might be inconvenient for storylines.

A couple of examples of mask usage, one mostly good but not perfect, and one just baffling:

On This Is Us, the show has mostly been very good about showing the characters in the modern-day storylines following social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. Whether on a movie set or in a hospital giving birth, they’ve been pretty consistent about having masks in place where appropriate — but they still make some iffy choices, such as having a teen daughter’s boyfriend come to dinner without explaining whether he and his family are in their bubble. And if they are, that’s a pretty big bubble, considering that another daughter is planning to go over to a friend’s house too.

I give This Is Us pretty high scores on the realism of their COVID world, showing Zoom interviews and FaceTime hospital visits, but just wish they would get a little tighter. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way.

Then there’s Black-ish, which seems to have lost interest in COVID after a brief couple of episodes where they focused on it. People come and go from the family’s house, without masks. The main character goes to work and interacts with colleagues, without masks. There was an episode with a backyard wedding that had some people wearing masks, but then other people showed up after traveling and were not wearing masks.

If they want to pretend to live in a COVID-free world, that’s fine — but going partway and then ignoring it doesn’t make any sense.

At the other end of the mask-wearing on TV spectrum is the (always phenomenal) Queen Sugar. The currently airing 5th season is set squarely in the real world, moving through the early months of the pandemic (so far — we’re on the 5th episode, set in May 2020) with a very specific focus on what the show’s community would have experienced at that particular time. So far in the season, we’ve seen the characters go from the early days of learning about some distant virus to vague worries to quarantine and isolation, with the first death of a supporting character as well.

The characters on Queen Sugar experience all the shocks of the pandemic, from job loss to economic downturns to the isolation of Zoom school to the grief of losing a loved one, and it all feels hyper-real and powerful, especially knowing that the characters don’t yet know what’s still to come in that awful year. The characters responsibly wear masks, and even for gatherings such as a wedding, they maintain social distancing, stay outdoors, separate by family units, and — again — stay masked up.

Queen Sugar — in a promo pic for an upcoming episode, the main character is wearing her mask, but I’m worried about the guy she’s standing next to. Why can’t guys keep their masks over their noses? For what it’s worth, I don’t think this is the show not doing what it should — it’s (sadly) accurately showing how sloppy some people can be!

Another shot of the Queen Sugar wedding, mostly just because it makes me so happy, but also because this shot again shows how thoughtfully the show is approaching the characters’ lives and their commitment to being safe. I love how they throw a beautiful wedding with only a few people present, all except the bride and groom masked, and keep the people present outdoors and at a safe distance. Well done!

As a viewer, I do get frustrated sometimes watching characters interact and show emotion from behind a mask, especially if the dialogue isn’t super clear — but if the show is asking us to believe that the events they’re showing are contemporary to our time, then they need to do this piece right. Queen Sugar is spot on.

At the same time, I’m fine with shows being only vaguely “now-ish” and not showing masks and social distancing — but I feel like they should either do it or don’t, nothing in the middle. Either go full-on COVID aware and be responsible, or have the show set in a pandemic-free bubble, but don’t give mixed messages about whether the characters are being safe. Frankly, it sends a terrible message to kind-of show appropriate pandemic behavior but then be inconsistent — are they saying this behavior is okay?

What are your thoughts about masks on TV shows? Do you appreciate the realism, wish they did it better, or feel like you’d rather just watch TV and pretend none of this real-world mess exists?