Okay, it’s not about the absolutely adorable actor Tim Daly, who plays Madame Secretary’s husband Henry McCord on the ABC drama that debuted this year. Nor the equally delightful Téa Leone, whose acting and low husky voice I’ve always enjoyed (uh, imagine Dr. Big hanging over my shoulder as I write, saying “Yeah, man!”). Nor is it the we’re-going-to-finish-this-story-in-forty-four-minutes attitude the drama takes, although I’m eternally grateful for shows whose story-lines are actually concluded in the one-hour time limit.
For me, it’s about the universal drama, angst, love, and politicking of family. Yes, family. CBS has taken the family to a level where there’s more pressure than a certain unnamed Asian dictator threatening free enterprise with a finger on the “send” button.
I like that Téa Leone, playing Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, is as calm and collected in her home life as she is in conducting the state business of the country. She’s a woman who knows how to mediate in both arenas. Seriously, don’t we all think that a cool and thoughtful attitude towards the affairs of international politics is as important a tool in the country and world as it is in the family?
We’re always hearing the phrase, “If women ruled the world … ” but I don’t think we believe it in our collective consciousness.
If women ruled the world, there’d be no more wars.
If women ruled the world, aggression and bullying would disappear.
If women ruled the world, they’d exchange recipes.
Oops, didn’t mean that, but I’m sure lots of folks do.
So what I really like about the show is that Elizabeth (Beth) has a normal home life, with a husband a lot like mine, to whom compromise and intelligent conversation are not dirty words. Where a man or woman isn’t afraid to say, “Oops, sorry, I was wrong” or “I didn’t mean that.” Where teenagers are brats sometimes and angels other times. Where even high-level political leaders struggle to solve the problems in their own homes while juggling terrorist attacks on the free world.
I know, I know, the television show is a fantasy. But I like my fantasy grounded in reality and knowing I’ll have a solution of some sort to very complicated issues – just like the issues in the home, country, and world.
Right now I’m binge-watching “Friends,” and enjoying how and why the show is so iconic and relevant. Except for those portable phones. They’re a hoot!
What about you, readers? Have you watched “Madame Secretary?” Do you like it? Do you enjoy your film and television realistic or doused with a hefty dose of make-believe? What’s your favorite binge-television watch? Or binge-book read?
I’m going to channel my grumpy hero Jonas Merrick here. Those of you who have read SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED will know that Jonas spent a lot of his childhood in Italy and tends to break into Italian at moments when he’s moved – as he is quite often when he’s pursuing Sidonie!
Jonas would know well the wonderful Italian saying of il dolce fa niente which basically means the lovely art of doing absolutely nothing.
By the way, here’s a health warning for people currently suffering the awful cold temperatures that are afflicting those in the Northern Hemisphere. This program is rated HW (hot weather). There will be pictures of people basking in sun and enjoying warm temperatures. But I warn you no champagne cocktails were harmed in the creation of this blog.
Huh? Who am I kidding?
Of course champagne cocktails were harmed in great numbers!
2013 was such a flat out year for me and I reached the end of it feeling utterly exhausted. I usually try to take the week between Christmas and New Year off. It’s the middle of the Australian summer, nothing is happening (my father always said not entirely as a joke that if anyone wanted to invade Australia, they’d get from Cape York to Tasmania without striking an ounce of opposition if they decided to come on 27th December). The world seems to be made up of steamy weather, afternoon snoozes and crickets scratching their lungs out. Perfect break weather.
In 2011 and 2012, sadly I got hit with book revisions right on top of Christmas so my hopes of a decent bit of time off went completely west. This year, thanks to a very speedy response from my editor, I managed to get the revisions for Cam’s story WHAT A DUKE DARES, in before Christmas.
So much downtime that I renamed my house Downtime Abbey!
So for one delicious week, I just pottered around doing what I felt like. Surprisingly, while I did a lot of reading, I didn’t get through nearly as much of the TBR pile as I thought I would. Instead I seemed to be hooked on watching hours and hours of quite uneducational TV (OK, a hint of education snuck in now and again, but it was very much under the cover of darkness!).
My parents had cable installed in the house before I moved up here and now I’m addicted to it. There’s something wonderfully comforting about watching LAW AND ORDER from back when Jerry Orbach was still investigating. Makes me feel immortal – clearly nobody ever dies in cable TV land. Apart from the victim in LAW AND ORDER, obviously! And even then, they have the comfort of knowing that the tecs of NYPD always get their man. At least on TV!
So I had a lovely time watching stuff on the Criminal Investigation Network. Strangely relaxing hearing about the pursuit of nasty people, no idea why. And a myriad of antique shows on Lifestyle. As some of you know, I’m addicted to people talking about secondhand stuff. Just give me ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FLOG IT!, ANTIQUES ROADTRIP, CASH IN THE ATTIC, ANTIQUES MASTER, you name it!
Now I think of it, there’s a kind of immortality in Great Aunty Edna’s dining table. It kind of goes on forever too!
And a few other shows I just love. One of my guilty pleasures is JUDGE JUDY. I tell myself it’s research for my books – after all, life’s rich tapestry is displayed with all its clashing colors on JJ.
If I’m not working – as you’ve probably gathered by now, I wasn’t – I’ll also watch THE PEOPLE’S COURT too. I’ve no idea why other people’s loans to their boyfriends and nasty fights with their housemates are so compelling. But somehow they are!
And joy of joys, the Lifestyle Network had new ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY episodes. I’m not sure if this BBC show is on in the States, but it features U.K. city dwellers who enlist the help of a presenter to help them find a wonderful place in the gorgeous British countryside.
The only real downside (rather than downtime!) of ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY is that it makes me desperate to own a thatched country cottage in Somerset. Sigh. But nonetheless, it’s perfect lunchtime viewing.
So now I’m back at work, in spite of the fact that the weather is still horrifically hot and the crickets are still carolling in the new year and most other people I know are also having a break. Started a new book on Monday. Wish me luck. And those hours of guilty pleasure TV are but a memory.
So what’s you must-watch TV show? Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to TV? Do you take the week between Christmas and New Year off? If so, what did you do this year?
And it bears saying again, may you all have a wonderful 2014!
Do you North American girls get much chance to see British TV?
Here in Australia, we get lots and lots of it. I’ve always loved it, partly because my parents were fans, and partly because I became addicted very early on to all those wonderful British costume dramas. The original UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, the Austen adaptations, ANNA KARENINA, TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS, Brontes galore, NORTH AND SOUTH. For a historical romance fan (and future writer), those shows were catnip to a cat!
We have a government funded public broadcaster, a little like your PBS network. No ads during the programs by legislation, although the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which is confusing for Americans used to your ABC!) puts on plenty of ads for its shows and its merchandise in between its programs. This has been the home of great British drama here.
And then my parents got cable/pay TV which included whole channels devoted to the BBC and its ilk. Not to mention numerous hours to fill with programs that the other channels, particularly our Lifestyle Channel, devote to men with cut-glass accents wandering around Devon or Somerset checking out country houses. Happy sigh!
Oh, man, this little Britophile was in heaven. It was BETTER than catnip!
One particular genre of British TV that I really enjoy is a nice cozy murder mystery. None of the shows I’m talking about today are big on blood and gore (although the Brits do dark crime really well). They all rely heavily on the charm of their actors and wonderful supporting casts who seem to be on a carousel. If you see one familiar face in a POIROT one week, you’ll see her again in MARPLE the following week. And these shows nearly always feature wonderful settings. As you know, I’m a sucker for an English country house. I don’t even think I care if the vicar or the lady of the manor get murdered in it. I’d take it anyway! Especially if it featured one of those terrifically handsome English actors (and he survived the murder and mayhem – that’s a condition of purchase!) like Richard Armitage or Rupert Penry-Jones.
A show that seems to have been running for a hundred years is MIDSOMER MURDERS, based on a series of books that I haven’t read by Caroline Graham. The setting for these seem to be somewhere in the Cotswolds (although I remember visiting Somerset in 2004 and going through a string of villages with Midsomer in the name) but it’s classic fantasy England. Stone thatched cottages and beautiful manor houses and bijoux villages and people with enough money to go riding, have rose gardens and murder their neighbors. The principal character is genial Tom Bellamy played by genial John Nettles. Over the years, he’s been assisted and hindered by a variety of sidekicks.
Then it came time for John Nettles to retire to be replaced by his genial cousin John Bellamy played by genial Neil Dudgeon. It’s all very…genial. But my goodness, it’s such relaxing television. People only get murdered in the best of taste! And the new Bellamy has given the series an injection of energy that it really needed. This is all round a fun show, although I think anyone would be crazy to move into the Midsomer area however pretty it is – the death rate is through the roof!
Another staple of television here is the Agatha Christie adaptations. This will really shock you, but I’ve only read two Agatha Christies. I keep meaning to read more, but the TV adaptations are so good, I really don’t feel I need to. Oh, dear, I’m going to reader hell for saying that!
David Suchet is a marvelous actor who has made Hercule Poirot his own. The walk, the fussy manner, the dandyism, the moustache, but above all the kindness and the intelligence in his beautiful dark eyes make this rather grotesque character come alive. He veers right to the edge of caricature but doesn’t topple over. Instead we get an eccentric genius with a warm heart and a razor-sharp brain.
I love the stories in the Poirot series. I love how the murders are generally based in such real emotion. Love twisted by fate. Jealousy. Revenge. You name it. I love the Art Deco world. I love all the supporting cast. These are really well done, so if you like an English mystery story and great acting, and they’re not on your TV station, grab them from your local DVD supplier. You won’t be sorry.
On a side note, it’s always been a regret of my life that I missed seeing David Suchet on stage back in the 1980s, well before his fame as Hercule P. He was Iago to Ben Kingsley’s Othello at a Royal Shakespeare Company production in London. I had tickets but ended up getting stuck in Ireland with a ferry strike. Still gnash my teeth over that. The reviews indicated that Suchet out-acted Kingsley ten to one!
To my taste, the adaptations of Christie’s other famous detective, the spinsterish but fiendishly clever Miss Marple, haven’t been quite so apt. At least the earlier series starring Geraldine McEwan. The producers seemed to want to ‘sex’ Miss Marple up which just didn’t work. Miss Marple with a married lover in World War I? Oh, please! She’d be too busy knitting for the troops!
The MARPLES are set in the 1950s too rather than the 20s and 30s like the POIROTS. It’s not quite as attractive a period, although the dresses are nice. Geraldine McEwan while obviously a very fine actress is a little too sharp and knowing. Without having read the books, but having seen the TV shows, I get the impression that one of Miss Marple’s strengths is that people often overlook or underestimate her and that’s when she gets her clues to whodunnit. I can’t imagine anyone overlooking Geraldine McEwan!
More recently, there’s been a casting change and Miss Marple is now played by wonderful Julia McKenzie who manages to make this amateur sleuth a compelling character without changing her from a self-effacing well-bred spinster.
For all my criticism of the MARPLES, they’re still great television (especially when you can catch Richard Armitage as a supporting character, be still my beating heart!). All three of these series, POIROT, MARPLE and MIDSOMER MURDERS are perfect Sunday night viewing and well worth checking out if you’ve never seen them. They’re gentle in their murderous way, beautifully acted and very beguiling.
Just as long as they don’t kill Richard!
So are you a fan of cozy murder mysteries, either in print or on film? Our wonderful Kate Carlisle writes some of the best so keep an eye out for her A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY in June. Are you a Christie fan? If you are, any suggestions for which books I should start with? I really should read them!
I love TV almost as much as I love books. I used to work in TV, so at one time, I could claim that watching TV was an essential part of my job. But now, even though it’s nothing but a time waster, I still love it. And I don’t just love the shows – I love the commercials. Especially the funny ones. I feel giddy, fan-girl admiration for ad copywriters who can pack several laugh-out-loud moments into one 30-second spot.
Hysterical! When they pan out to reveal the grandmotherly sample lady, I laugh every time. There’s another version of this commercial where the kid says, “She’s like, probably the most giving person I’ve ever met.” They’re all so deadpan, it cracks me up!
This makes me laugh on two levels… first, the men, who are willing to trade their dignity for a beer without a second thought. I’ve known guys like that. I might’ve even married one. Then, the women’s reactions are perfect. ‘Cause you know it’s true… we go through life rolling our eyes at men, speechlessly aghast at the things they do.
“I love you for who you are on the inside.” “I’m pure milk chocolate on the inside.” “And I love that about you.”
Snork!!!! Plus, the wise M&M has it right when she says, “Gosh, you’re handsome.” He was the best reason ever to watch DWTS! The laughs are mild, but they come with man candy – and actual candy.
Which of the three commercials did you like best? What are some of the other great ads that are making you laugh these days? (If you can find it on YouTube, post the link so we can all have a day of laughing together!)
Anna Campbell will appear on Channel Nine’s MORNINGS on Easter Monday (9th April) with number one NYT bestseller Stephanie Laurens. We’ll be talking about romance, of course! If you’re an Aussie, why not check us out.
Reality is taking over our television sets. Now, I don’t know about you but I get quite enough reality just living my life, thanks all the same. I don’t want to add more to it during my down time. If I had to choose between all Reality shows or Fiction shows, I’ll choose fiction every time.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy certain Reality programs. One of my favorite shows to watch is Top Chef (currently Top Chef All Stars) and Top Chef Masters (coming soon with a new host!) and back when Project Runway was on Bravo, my daughter and I caught every episode. I’ve also watched a few episodes of American Idol and Dancing With the Stars and enjoyed them both and I’ll admit I enjoy watching the weigh-in at the end of each episode of The Biggest Loser to see how far the contestants have come. And, of course, I love cooking shows which I’m going to say are reality TV although with no contests, name calling or drunken escapades 🙂
I prefer to be entertained by a great story told with excellent writing, superb characterization and unexpected plot twists and turns. I want to suspend my disbelief when watching Eureka, a fun, fabulous and witty program on the SyFy channel. I want to hang on the edge of my seat and try to figure out who-done-it in shows like Detroit 187 and The Closer. I want to laugh at the happenings going on during The Office.
For the most part, I want scripted TV. I want that fantasy.
However, I’m in the minority in my house as my daughters love their reality shows such as America’s Next Top Model, Jersey Shore and Daisy Of Love – just a few that have caught their attention.
What about you? Do you prefer Reality shows or scripted TV? What are some of your favorite shows on now?
We have a new arts channel on cable TV here (STVDIO) and I’m having a lovely time, especially on a Monday which is devoted to writers and writing.
My favorite show on this network over the last few weeks is The Book Show which is produced for the British cable outfit Sky TV. And my favorite part of The Book Show is the bit where they show a writer’s workspace. Anyway, here’s the website: http://thebookshow.skyarts.co.uk/
One of the things I love about The Book Show is that they don’t just go in for high-falutin’ literary types. Everybody gets a look-in. So far, among the interviewees, I’ve seen Sue Townsend and a couple of thriller writers, including Robert Harris, and Tracey Chevalier who I met at last year’s Brisbane Writers Festival (yeah, I know, that definitely counts as name dropping!) and Marian Keyes.
Marian Keyes by the way gave a really impassioned defense of women’s fiction. As she said, why do people feel they can make value judgments based on what women read? And what’s really sad, she said were the ‘collaborators’. Women who accept these value judgments at face value as if things that women like are automatically considered beneath serious consideration.
But that’s a rant for another time! I haven’t read MK but after seeing her interviewed, I’m interested! She definitely is one smart cookie.
What I want to talk about today is the regular segment about writers’ workspaces which I find absolutely fascinating.
We’ve had a couple of very elegant garrets high in the top of terrace houses. Fay Weldon’s fascinated me – it’s a very workaday office with steel shelving and a plywood desk at the university where she teaches. The one yesterday was a military historian called Richard Beevor who writes in a restored barn in the Cotswolds with views over the fields.
The one that really filled me envy – perhaps because like me she writes romantic fiction although in a very different style – was Jilly Cooper’s workspace. It was a converted 14th-century dovecote again in the Cotswolds. By the way, clearly when you’ve made it in Britain as a writer, you HAVE to move to the Cotswolds, snort!
This beautiful space in a stone building with views out across classic English rolling hills made my mouth water. Bookshelves everywhere. And cats. Jilly says she loves having the cats around when she’s writing – as she put it you spend so much time on your own when you’re a writer, it’s nice to have something alive in the vicinity. But something alive that lets you keep working!
Anyway, I took some photos of my current workspace only to discover that the new computer objected to linking with the camera. Sigh. As a result, I was stuck going through my old files.
These photos are slightly out of date – I’ve got another corkboard now in front of the desk, for example. And the garden, bless its cotton socks, is considerably more overgrown than it is in the picture.
But you get the idea – books, mess, postcards, computer, desk (which I love – my father rescued it from a Telstra disposal sale and did it up for me when I was in uni. I still can’t believe they threw out solid walnut in favor of chipboard back in the late 70s!). View of my garden outside. So what’s your workspace like? If it’s like Jilly Cooper’s, by the way, I may never speak to you again, snork! Do you have a favorite room in your house? Let’s talk about our habitat! And by the way, only the rooster gets to boast of his bad habitats! Groan!
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