Two new volumes supply insight into the Dickens phenomenon, suggesting that the novelist’s domestic and personal foibles were the flip side of his artistic prowess.
Adapted by Tom Stoppard and directed by Susanna White, the HBO mini-series Parade’s End teems with figures who are peevish, deluded, insincere, pompous, and self-serving, making for a vibe that is more bracing and unsettling than that of Downton Abbey.
Ken Burns's 'The Dust Bowl'
Irish novelist Kevin Barry provides a story of gang warfare and ruthless hoodlums vying for power and love, infusing it with jazzy lyricism. But it’s the alluringly seamy geography you’ll remember.
“Taut” is not an adjective one usually associates with Dickens. His vibrant, oddball characters tend to stretch and embellish his narratives, rather than merely serve them; sometimes the characters seem to have generated themselves by sheer force of personality. Dickens might be the antidote to our Twitter-infected age.
Given this show's suspenseful premise and a talent list, Luck should be a sure thing. But the series appears to have fallen captive to the racing milieu, reveling so exhaustively in the arcana of stable routines, sweepstakes procedures, and betting lingo that story itself becomes an also-ran.
‘Journey of the Universe’ on PBS
It might seem odd to apply the term “understated” to a documentary that features gritty combat footage. But a quiet, poignant restraint is a key note of Hidden Battles, a graceful study of how the act of killing affects soldiers’ mental health.
An Interview with Ken Burns
Celebrated director Ken Burns and his partner, Lynn Novick, have crafted a brisk and absorbing film that brims with insights, not only into the broader cultural and economic forces that turned the United States—in theory—dry for thirteen years, but also into the episode’s long-term legacy.
If you took the DNA of Broadcast News and The Thirty-Nine Steps, added a pinch of Mad Men, and mixed it all together in an art deco cocktail shaker, you might get a refreshment very like The Hour, making its U.S. premiere on BBC America on August 17.
PBS's 'The Calling'
A review of PBS's 'God in America'
Dante’s Inferno stands on its head in the mildly amusing, candy-colored series Neighbors from Hell, the first original primetime animated entertainment from the cable channel TBS.
HBO looks at New Orleans in 'Treme'
Is Tom Stoppard’s latest epic play the masterpiece it’s cracked up to be?
Kyra Sedgwick channels Helen Mirren in TNT’s "The Closer."
A footnote to those year-in-review roundups from 2005: Let’s hand a laurel to Brooks Brothers, the upscale clothier, for its contribution to political satire. I’m talking about those natty suits and ties worn (according to program credits) by Stephen Colbert in the inspired Comedy Central satire The Colbert Report, which began airing last October.
In an era that has made a catchphrase of the term “family values,” it’s no surprise that a few new TV hits capitalize shamelessly on the theme of kinship. ABC’s schmaltzy woman-president drama Commander in Chief may have practically nothing in common with Fox’s thriller Prison Break, or UPN’s hilarious sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, but all three shows give new meaning to the maxim that home is where the heart is.
Utter the words “theatrical” and “trial” these days, and four-fifths of the populace will think of Michael Jackson. But a world away from that media circus, an off-Broadway theater has been giving the concept of courtroom theater a far different and more high-minded spin. Within the space of a week, in February, New York’s Public Theater opened The Controversy of Valladolid, by Jean-Claude Carrière, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by Stephen Adly Guirgis-two noteworthy dramas that use the scenario of a tribunal to probe the mysteries of creation and salvation.
Is ABC’s Lost a vision of Purgatory? That has been a topic of passionate discussion on Internet bulletin boards relating to the new hit drama, currently airing Wednesday evenings. To be sure, it’s not the only theory that obsessed viewers have advanced about the series, a tantalizing portrait of survivors coping with life on a mysterious island after their plane has crashed. The characters-who include an ethereal-looking female bank robber; a former Iraqi soldier; a sulky African-American child who may have telekinetic abilities; and a paraplegic who has just miraculously regained the use of his legs-may be stuck in a time warp, some fans argue. Or they may just be dead. Or perhaps there’s a rational explanation for the freakish goings on in this isolated tropical spot, which is apparently the home to rampaging polar bears and to an even more lethal monster, whose nature has not yet been revealed.
If you could set a play inside George Stephanopoulos’s mind, and send in a German John Le Carre to do a little reupholstering, you might end up with a script like Michael Frayn’s Democracy, one of the most highly praised plays to hit Broadway this season. A provocative and witty account of the spy scandal that felled the government of West German chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s, Democracy scored a slew of British awards when it opened in London in 2003, and American theater mavens waited with bated breath to see if it would repeat the stateside success of Frayn’s scientific puzzler Copenhagen, which won the Tony for best play in 2000.
"Musicals blow the dust off the soul,” Mel Brooks remarks in the first moments of Broadway: The American Musical, tossing out an exuberant metaphor well suited to this terrific PBS documentary, which blasts the dust off priceless show-biz anecdotes and bits of historical footage chronicling the quintessential American art form. Celia Wren reviews.
"Sometimes too much just isn’t enough. That was the only conclusion to draw from some of the wild flights of fancy that skidded to a landing on Broadway this spring." From Stoppard to Bollywood, stage critic Celia Wren rounds up the latest on the Great White Way.