For the past few weeks and the next few, I’m recovering from surgery, so I haven’t been going out. But we live in a new golden age of television and a number of very kind publicists (thanks Sasha Berman and 360 Communications) have shared streaming links allowing me to screen films at home, for which I am extremely grateful (see last week’s reviews).
I’ve read five books in the past two weeks alone, all novels. But I’ve also availed myself of modern technology, mirroring TV shows and movies from my iPad onto my TV screen by way of Amazon Prime originals, and via Apple TV for Netflix offerings.
Here’s what I’m in love with: “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Transparent,” the newest season of “Bosch” and “Red Oaks” (on Amazon) and “Bloodline” and “Rectify” (on Netflix).
“Mozart in the Jungle:” last season’s finale was possibly one of the most beautiful and unusual episodes of television I’ve ever seen. It was filmed live, documentary style at Riker’s Island Prison, as it advanced the story of the fictional New York Symphony, incorporating a real concert performance and reactions from prisoners.
The fictional orchestra is composed of actual musicians as well as actors who play characters in and around the orchestra. The series, inspired by a memoir of the same name by a oboist (Blair Tindall) who played professionally with the New York Philharmonic and Broadway orchestras, follows greenhorn oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) as she makes her way through New York’s artistic jungle. Rodrigo de Souza (Gael Garcia Bernal) is the eccentric South American conductor (shades of Gustavo Dudamel?) who has taken over for the older and retired Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell), who’s trying to realize his dream as a composer.
Bernadette Peters plays Gloria, the company president who tries to accommodate the quirks of the musicians while keeping the symphony on track as fundraiser in chief (and sleeping with Thomas). It’s a wonderful, engaging series, full of characters you want to know, and storylines that highlight life in a creatively combative world. I’m thrilled that there’s a new season and pray it continues indefinitely.
“Transparent” is the award-winning series that caught the world’s attention as the first transgender comedy/drama, and it lives up to the hype. It’s about family dynamics as much as it is about the idea of a father (Jeffrey Tambor) finally realizing the urge he’s had all his life to be a woman. It’s a Jewish family, and flashbacks to the Holocaust and life in an Orthodox family in America address the story line about gender identity and sexuality that confront this family’s lineage, although the action takes place in contemporary time.
“Bosch:” Based on the character created by best-selling mystery writer Michael Connelly, Titus Welliver is perfectly cast as Harry Bosch, a conflicted detective who tries to root out corruption but doesn’t always play by the rules himself. And Los Angeles also becomes a character in the drama.
Season 1 has Bosch standing trial for the killing of a serial murder suspect, even as he’s trying to close a cold case that haunts him. He faces department politics and his own moral code. In Season 2 he’s back after a leave of absence only to confront a trail of corruption that uncovers the dark side of the LAPD, and threatens his own pursuit of truth.
“Red Oaks” cracks me up. It’s about a smart kid from the lower income side of the tracks, who’s in college and supporting himself over the summer by working at the local country club as an assistant tennis pro. It’s set in the 80s, and all the attendant music, drug, and big hair jokes you can imagine are present.
David (Craig Roberts) learns quickly how to work the power brokers and befriends endearing Wheeler (Oliver Cooper), the chunky valet, who’s in love with an unattainable girl; Paul Reiser plays Doug Getty, the slick, rich and scheming club president, whose difficult and intriguing daughter David is rapidly falling for. It’s a real charmer, this series.
Now to Netflix: “Bloodline” was highly praised in its first season and I understand why now. It’s the story the Rayburn family who run a hotel in the Florida Keys and their dark secrets, resulting in the return of their bad sheep son. In the course of trying to get his revenge, he stops at nothing to bring the family down.
Great acting by Ben Mendelsohn (as Danny) and Kyle Chandler (John) bring this dark and haunting series to life. John’s a local detective and Danny’s always doing something this side of the law. Danny was terribly wronged as a child by his now-dead father, who blamed him for the drowning of his favorite daughter.
Secrets are gradually revealed; shocking turns of event take place, and a cast featuring the likes of Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini and Norbert Leo Butz keep you coming back for more. I’ve just started Season 2, and there’s still a Season 3 to enjoy, thank goodness.
Lastly, I find “Rectify” to be a really powerful drama. Daniel Holden (a truly haunting Aden Young) was convicted for raping and strangling his teenaged girlfriend. Kept for many years in isolation, when he is released after DNA evidence apparently clears him, he’s trying to live his life out of the limelight (impossible at first) and cope with the mental damage done to him by being in solitary for so long.
I am gripped by this drama and this actor, and now in later seasons, watching as he struggles to navigate life on the outside. Do not miss this series. It’s an emotional gut wrencher.
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.