It took me a little while to get into my first season of Cracker Mysteries but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Robbie Coltrane is simply perfect as the highly-flawed psychologist, Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald. I mean, he’s smart and good at “seeing” into people’s minds and souls to help solve cases, but this guy really has a messed up life. He drinks too much, he gambles uncontrollably and his marriage is usually on the rocks (because of the gambling and drinking). But, somehow, someone that is that messed up can really pull it together when it comes to solving crimes. And he not only is able to help the police find the right man or woman, but he also helps the criminals themselves by being able to help them work out their demons. After all, Fitz knows a lot about inner demons…he has more than his fair share himself.

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Edina and Patsy, the two main characters of Ab Fab are two of the funniest, rudest, crudest, most vulgar ladies ever to hit the TV screen. And, I love every second of it. Somehow, they both convey a sweet, sensitive side…mostly because of their tight, though highly dysfunctional, friendship. They are former Hippies who never really “out grew” the 1960s…they still think they are flower children, yet somehow they woke up in 40-50-year-old bodies (in Patsy’s case, we don’t know how old she REALLY is). Ab Fab is a British institution. It has been trying to become an American one as well, almost since it started in 1992, but it has never gotten off the ground. And if you don’t mind my two cents on why… The British, though considered stuffy and aloof (wrongly, most times), have a sense of humor (or humour) that is unexcelled in its weirdness, raunchiness and general chaotic cleverness. When The Office show appeared here, I was nervous, because the British counterpart that was such a success was nasty…really, really nasty. It made me feel uncomfortable with its unabashed humor. But, the American version has changed into a lighter comic romp…more of a skit show than a dark, devilish one. Changing Ab Fab under those same guidelines would ruin it. No question about it. You soften the characters, take the edge away, not to mention the chain smoking, drinking and harsh dialogue, and what do you have left…Roseanne? Or some similar lame sitcom that has nothing to do with the British show? Americans are not ready for Edina and Patsy. We would want to tone it down…people would not allow the smoking…and the sex talk, well “let’s put it on cable.” Even on cable, shows with certain edges have hard times finding their audience. Basically, what you and I will have to keep doing is watch the DVDs or find it on BBC America. Trust me, it’s worth all of that work.

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One of Paul Newman’s strongest performances is given here…in his fourth decade of film acting. Some actors start to rest on their laurels toward the end of their careers. Not Mr. Newman. Sidney Lumet’s movie features one of the strongest, fiercest performances ever put on screen, nevertheless one of Newman’s strongest. Starting out at the beginning of the film, Newman’s character is an alcoholic mess…rarely sober and never thinking about the law or his clients. He sees any new case as a way to buy more liquor…and even when the case of the century comes to him, he almost blows it. Crusty and unkempt, Newman is spot-on here as the attorney who has one last chance to save himself and his client. Can he do it? I would tell you, but I am insistent that people see this film that I wouldn’t dare.

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Next time you over-do the wine during a dinner party, you might want to watch this one to remind you of how alcohol destroys people. This film is one of the few that really captures what it is like to be an alcoholic. Unlike others, such as The Days of Wine and Roses and When a Man Loves a Woman which mostly deal with the FAMILY’S struggle, The Lost Weekend is about THE INDIVIDUAL’S struggle with drink. Ray Milland stars as a writer who has taken his “social” drinking habit way too far. When he meets a girl, he tries to hide it from her at first, but that doesn’t last too long. The drinking begins to affect every aspect of his life, his personality and even his mental state. Directed by Billy Wilder, who is most know for his darkish comedies, Wilder takes this very serious subject matter and gives it a life of its own…mostly due to Milland’s powerful performance.

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Can Cary Grant be a murderer? That is the question director Alfred Hitchcock attempts to answer in this film. Grant plays wandering playboy Johnny Aysgarth who catches the eye of rich, dull Lena, played in her Oscar-winning role by Joan Fontaine. The question that continually plagues the audience, and eventually Lena, is why did Johnny pick her. One of the more obvious reasons is her money, something which becomes almost a given after Johnny pawns some wedding gifts to gamble. The major flaw in this film is the end, but that is not the fault of Hitchcock nor the actors. Hitchcock wanted to remain faithful to the book this story is based on (Before the Fact by Francis Iles) and keep the dark ending, but his producers had trouble dealing with Cary Grant as a murderer. Even with that disappointing final scene, this is still a taut, tense thriller that will keep the audience guessing.

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