“RAKE” – A WITTY, SNARKY SERIES

The Australian show “Rake first showed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC1 in 2010. The fourth series started on ABC TV in May 2016. Richard Roxburgh stars in it as a “rake” — Cleaver Greene, a brilliant Sydney barrister typically defending a guilty client.

For Americans, the show is available (all four current seasons) on both Netflix and AcornTV. 

Rake is described as “self-destructive,” but that doesn’t quite explain it. Rake — Cleaver Greene — takes self-destruction to new levels. He is smart, snarky, witty … and a total, social jerk. Everybody loves and hates him at the same time. He is awful so much of the time that not only does he get blamed for what he does, he gets blamed for everything that anyone does.

Richard Roxburgh is the co-creator and star of the show. The character is his, though I don’t think it’s “him” in a real-life way.  Regardless, he’s very hands-on in the series.

Roxburgh is no slouch in the directing/writing/producing categories, His character — Cleaver Greene — changes and grows which is a rare feature on any television series. He is, in the beginning, a complete asshole. A gambler. A drug addict. An alcoholic. Beaten up by thugs more or less daily for not paying the vig on his loans. He has no home or office and works out of whoever’s office is currently not in use. What they call in Australia “a floater.”

As the series progresses, he starts to sort out his life. Although everyone continues blaming him for everything, it becomes obvious his “friends and family” are sufficiently screwed up to not need additional help from good old Cleave. Still, it’s convenient to keep blaming him because that’s easier than blaming themselves … and Cleaver is so used to being blamed, he accepts it. Until he doesn’t.

The show has been ending every year for two years, but popular demand keeps it coming back. Netflix and Acorn both have all four years of the show and a fifth is  (so they say) in production.

We’ve never seen a show quite like this. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s absolutely not an American  series. It reminds me that however bizarre we think our country is, other countries are — in their own way — equally bizarre, though they have better health care.

This may not be the show for everyone. The language is raw and there’s a lot of sex and drugs. It is a messy show with messy people whose lives are over the top.

Just when you think you can’t stand to see Cleaver screw up his life any more, he fixes something. Does something beautiful for a friend. He’s the most selfish guy in the world … except … he isn’t. Not really. Not when all is said and done.

It’s kind of brilliant, actually.

SUPERHEROES AND SPACESHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m usually not a big fan of space or superhero shows, but I really like the “Star Trek”ish television show “The Orville” and the movie “Wonder Woman”.

I think the reason I like these two particular representatives of their genres is because they focus on the human (or not quite human) relationships. The shows are not primarily about the pyrotechnics, battle scenes, superpowers or twenty-third century technology, although those are elements of both shows. In these tow stories, the characters and their interactions don’t get lost in — or play second fiddle to — special effects.

In the first part of “Wonder Woman”, I became absorbed in Diana’s early life on a mystical island of Amazon women. Then I enjoyed watching her adjust to life in the early 1900’s of WWI. I also loved the way her romance with Steve evolved. The movie is, at heart, a beautiful love story.

I’m a big fan of WWI and WWII movies. The major plot line here revolves around a ratty band of anti-heroes — plus Wonder Woman. They are trying to destroy the Germans’ new, extra lethal nerve gas before it can be used on the Allies. You could also almost call the movie a WWI drama with superheroes.

Talking about “Wonder Woman”, I have to mention the star, Gal Gadot. In addition to being breathtakingly gorgeous, she exudes intelligence, strength and compassion. She embodies the quintessential modern female superhero.

If you have any reservations about watching something like “Wonder Woman”, I recommend it as more than just a typical comic book based movie.

“The Orville” has a “Star Trek” vibe. But again, it is much more than your average space travel adventure. Members of the crew have quirky and interesting personalities and there are many fun and intriguing relationships on the ship. For example, the Captain and the First Mate are ex spouses who haven’t fully worked through their issues. Seth McFarlane is a write, producer and plays the Captain. He is fantastic, as usual.

There’s lots of humor and lightness in the show as well as charming banter between the exes. In addition, there are serious and topical issues that are brought up and discussed in most episodes. There was one that dealt with the conundrum of whether or not to change the sex of a female baby who would face serious discrimination and banishment on an all male planet.

The plots are good and I find it an engaging and entertaining hour of television. I have ADD and often can’t sit through a one hour show. So that says a lot for me!

Over the years, I’ve become an expert at glazing over during most of the comic or space ship based shows I watch with my husband. These are two that actually got my attention and kept me engaged.

Kudos to the makers of “Wonder Woman” and “the Orville”.

THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF THE SHORT WESTERN – RICH PASCHALL

My Top Ten Half Hour Westerns, By Rich Paschall

Previously on Top Ten Lists, the half-hour dramas were pursued and captured by our list makers after a mighty struggle with the internet.  The hero of our saga had to hunt down the short dramas of yesteryear because the present day folks had completely abandoned the idea of getting to the point quickly.  These stories were rounded up one by one and displayed in Too Much Drama, an episode from a couple of weeks ago.  Now the tale of the half-hour drama resumes with the Western division.  Our hero will ride off into the sunset looking for horse dramas that actually had a plot and moved right along.  Saddle up and follow us down the trail.

In the early days of television, the western was a staple of programming.  Many shows were radio broadcasts that became a television series.  With an abundance of radio scripts that could be filmed, it was a natural progression of the media.  While you may remember the famous one-hour westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, they were preceded by a short western with a somewhat simple plot where the bad guy was always caught.  “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver!” The half hour western rides again!

Johnny Crawford as Mark McCain

10.  Rifleman starring Chuck Connors.  Lucas McCain brings law and order to North Fork with a modified rifle.  Johnny Crawford played his son and by the end of the series in 1963 he was a true teenage heart-throb.  This added to my interest, I suppose.

09. Trackdown starring Robert Culp.  The series attempted to tone down the violence prevalent in other westerns.  Steve McQueen appeared as Josh Randall in the series and Wanted Dead or Alive became a spin-off in 1958.

08.  Cisco Kid starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.  It was the story of an American hero, the Cisco Kid, and his slow-witted sidekick, Poncho.  Renaldo was arrested in 1934 for illegal entry into the US (before DACA) and ultimately pardoned by the President.  Carrillo was of Spanish descent.  

07.  Wanted Dead or Alive starring Steve McQueen.   McQueen plays bounty hunter Josh Randall for three seasons.  His character didn’t seem to be in it for the money, however, as he gave much of the earnings away.  It could be said this series launched a huge movie career for McQueen.

06.  The Roy Rogers Show starring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  The show started in 1951 and ran for 100 episodes over the next six years.  It was heavily marketed to children with a glut of Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys” toys.  Dale Evans penned the popular closing song, Happy Trails.

05.  Zorro starring Guy Williams.  “Zorro, the fox so cunning and free,” ran for just 78 episodes, but seemed to us like it was on forever due to syndication.  It also had 4 one hour shows on the Walt Disney series.

04.  The Lone Ranger starring Clayton Moore and John Hart.  Although everyone thinks of Moore as the Lone Ranger, Hart covered the role for 52 episodes from 1952 to 1954.  The series overall output was 221 episodes and reruns featuring Hart were shelved for decades after Moore returned following a contract dispute (or creative differences, depending on where you hear it).  Like other short-form Westerns of the era,  the program was heavily merchandised to children.

03.  The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O’Brien. The highly fictionalized version of the real-life western legend ran for 229 episodes over 6 seasons, yes they made a lot of episodes for a season in those years.  O’Brien held a slight resemblance to Earp which allegedly was an influence in the casting.  The series started in Kansas but naturally ended in Tombstone, Arizona years later.

02.  Bat Masterson starring Gene Barry.   This TV series is another highly fictionalized version of a legendary figure.  The real Masterson may have worn a derby hat in the Wild West days as Barry did in the series, but he may not have been as likely to deal with you by knocking you on the head with his cane rather than using his gun.  In any case, the series was very entertaining and Gene Barry was much better dressed than Masterson in any of the surviving photos.  An interesting side note is that the real-life Earp and Masterson were deputies together in Dodge City and met again later in Tombstone.

01.  Have Gun, Will Travel starring Richard Boone.  Although Paladin might prefer to avoid fighting and bloodshed, he would not hesitate to shoot you if necessary.  The San Francisco based hired gun had a strong sense of justice in 225 episodes.  As a kid, I had a holster and plastic gun like the one in the opening sequence as well as the business cards announcing “Have Gun – Will Travel.”  At that young age, however, I didn’t travel very far.

Do you have favorite half hour dramas?  Add them to the comments below.  For any opening hit the title above, or watch all the openings on the Playlist here.

Related:  Too Much Drama

“RAKE” – STARRING RICHARD ROXBURGH. BRILLIANTLY AUSTRALIAN

Rake is an Australian television program, produced by Essential Media and Entertainment. It first showed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC1 in 2010. The fourth series started on ABC TV in May 2016. It stars Richard Roxburgh as rake Cleaver Greene, brilliant Sydney barrister typically defending a guilty client.

For Americans, the show is available (all four current seasons) on both Netflix and AcornTV. 

Rake is described as “self-destructive,” but that doesn’t entirely explain it. Rake — Cleaver Greene — takes self-destruction to new levels. He is smart, snarky, witty … and he is a total, social jerk. Everybody loves and hates him at the same time. He is awful so much of the time that not only does he get blamed for what he does, he gets blamed for everything that anyone does.

Richard Roxburgh is the co-creator and star of the show. The character is his, though I don’t think it’s “him” in a real-life way.  Regardless, he’s hands-on in the series.

Roxburgh is no slouch in the directing/writing/producing categories, His character — Cleaver Greene — changes and grows which is a rare feature on any television series. He is, in the beginning, a complete asshole. A gambler. A drug addict. An alcoholic. Beaten up by thugs more or less daily for not paying the vig on his loans. He has no home or office and works out of whoever’s office is currently not in use. What they call in Australia “a floater.”

As the series progresses, he starts to sort out his life. Although everyone continues blaming him for everything, it becomes obvious his “friends and family” are sufficiently screwed up to not need additional help from good old Cleave. Still, it’s convenient to keep blaming him because that’s easier than blaming themselves … and Cleaver is so used to being blamed, he accepts it. Until he doesn’t.

The show has been ending every year for two years, but popular demand keeps it coming back. Netflix and Acorn both have all four years of the show and a fifth is in production.

We’ve never seen a show quite like this. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s absolutely not an American  series. If it reminds me of any show made in this country, it might be “House of Cards,” but it’s more comedy and less lethal. It reminds me that however bizarre we think our country is, other countries are — in their own way — equally bizarre. Even though they have much better health care.

This may not be the show for everyone. The language is raw, to say the least. There’s a lot of sex and drugs. It is a messy show with messy people whose lives are way over the top.

Just when you think you can’t stand to see Cleaver screw up his life any more, he fixes something. Does something beautiful for a friend. He’s the most selfish guy in the world … except … he isn’t. Not really. Not when all is said and done.

It’s kind of brilliant, actually.

NOW BACK TO OUR SHOW, ALREADY IN PROGRESS …

With all of the crises in the world, national, and local, I’ve failed in pursuing due diligence to that most important of all issues, “Why are the screwing with all my superheroes?” Don’t I suffer enough from politicians? Do my beloved series and characters also have to give me grief?

We just watched an episode of Supergirl and I am upset.

I’ve always been a DC fan. Back when we were kids, when comic books cost a dime and everybody read them, the world was divided into two teams. You were either Team Marvel or Team DC. Nary would the twain meet. Well, sometimes, but you didn’t admit it to anyone.

Photo: Deb Stone - Probably a super hero. Because she isn't wearing eyeglasses. So able to leap tall buildings and bend steel with steel with her bare hands!
Photo: Deb Stone – Probably a super hero. Because she isn’t wearing eyeglasses and is thus able to leap tall buildings with a single bound and bend steel with steel with her bare hands!

Marvel characters suffered. They had angst. In fact, it was from reading comic books that I learned the word ‘angst.’ All Marvel heroes wanted to do was help. Buy nobody appreciated them. They were haunted. Hunted. Disrespected. As often as not, hated. Marvel heroes had special super suits to disguise them. These costumes covered everything except their eyes.  Considering that they were usually being hunted by every law enforcement agency in the world, full disguise was a good move.

Just a blogger. Can't fly or outrace a train.
Just a blogger. Can’t fly or out race a train.

DC supers, on the other hand were real heroes. They had power. They were bulletproof, faster than … well … a Flash of light. They could fly backwards around the earth to make time travel backwards. None of them had personal angst because they had no personal lives to angst about. They were their personae, even when they were in disguise. And their disguises were … well … on the light side of disguises,  typically consisting of eyeglasses. Just eyeglasses.

Eyeglasses? = Not a hero.

No eyeglasses? = Can leap tall buildings at a single bound. 

I have tried this with Garry and he swears he can’t recognize me without my glasses. Sometimes, I think he isn’t telling the whole truth.

Superman-ClarkKent-Bizarro

Lately, the DC character seem to be competing with Marvel in the “misunderstood, woe is me” department. It pisses me off. If you can’t trust comic book superheroes to stay in character, what is this world coming to? We can’t trust the government, the polls, or political parties. We can’t trust media, the cops — or even the robbers.

Everyone is lying to everybody about absolutely everything … but … through it all as my worst fears have been confirmed by real events and my cynicism has deepened to misanthropy, I thought at least my DC superheroes would stay pure of heart and free from angst.

Not to be, oh woe is me.

When did Jimmy Olsen become a superhero? Now he is The Guardian? Really? He only became The Guardian in this week’s episode, but by the next episode (according to the coming attractions) the gubmint will be hunting him as a renegade. That’s SO not DC. That’s just wrong.

It’s … Marvel!

BINGE WATCHING “OUTLANDER” by ELLIN CURLEY

I am currently binge-watching a show called “Outlander” on Starz. I’m late to the game on this one.  It is in its second season and has legions of loyal fans.

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It takes place in the lush and magnificent Highlands of Scotland and the time period switches back and forth between 1945 and 1745. I am a huge time travel fan so this is a big draw for me. However the butterfly effect is totally ignored. No attention is paid to the fact that the main character would be changing the timeline right and left as she went through each day two hundred years in the past. This is not an intellectual or theoretical endeavor.

The story centers on a married, British WWII nurse who is sucked back in time to 1745 Scotland. She ends up married to and madly in love with (in that order), a young Scottish gentleman who has a price on his head by the British occupiers.

horseback

For me, the key to “Outlander’s” success is that it focuses narrowly on these two main characters – the nurse, Claire and her 1745 husband, Jamie. The subsidiary characters have few plot lines of their own. They are almost exclusively seen with and in relation to Claire and Jamie, which intensifies the viewers’ connection with them. They are both richly complex and appealing characters, played by extraordinarily talented and attractive actors. They are riveting to watch and their fascinating relationship changes and deepens as time goes by.

sexy cover

The show highlights period costumes and period customs. There is also plenty of romance, nudity and beautiful sex scenes. The writing is fantastic although the heavy dialects often make it hard to understand all of the dialogue. The balance is spot on between high drama and intimate moments; between politics (at all levels) and personal relationships; and between heavy, dark plot lines (including lots of sword fights) and humor and humanity.

On top of everything else, the theme song is permanently stuck in my head as well as my husband’s. The melody is a lyrical old Celtic tune and the lyrics used here are based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. The song permeates the lush background music and adds atmosphere throughout the series.

I’m usually circumspect about what I recommend to other people on TV, especially when it requires an investment of 16 hours, just for the first season! However, the variety of people who have extolled this show to me makes me confident that it will appeal to a wide range of blog readers as well.

claireJamie

If you’ve already seen it, tell me what YOU think of it. If you watch it in the future, you’re in for a real treat.