The overused word DYSFUNCTIONAL could have been coined about the Gregson family. The matriarch of this mess is Tara, who has several diverse and loony multiple personalities, including a teenage-like wild girl, a June Cleaver-esque housewife, and a MALE Vietnam Vet who smokes and drinks way too much. Her kids and husband are all very aware that this personality disorder is something their mother is afflicted with. Often, the personalities come out at the most inopportune times, causing havoc in the kids’ lives. Like I said, dysfunctional with a capital D! And, most times, I stay clear from families-in-crisis shows (like Married With Children, etc.) but this time, Tara and her antics make the show so appeal and fun. I also felt myself drawn to the kids’ plights and what their lives must be like with a mother like Tara . Their frequent frustration is believable and not overdone in anyway. But, I would have to say that Tara and her “alters” as she calls them is the reason to watch this one. Toni Collette has won raves and awards for her portrayal of Tara and I think she is key to the show’s appeal and quality. If Tara were not as believable as she is, the show would not hold together and the audience would lose interest fast. Collette’s strong acting and huge range allow this show to be a hit rather than a miss.

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Why, oh why, did I keep watching this? Maybe because I had no choice – it’s addicting…in a “bad girl” kind of way. What do I mean? Well, the main character, Jackie, is UNLIKEABLE in a rebellious, mean-spirited, devious sort of way. She is a compulsive liar when it suits her, is a drug addict, and almost has two complete different personalities…NURSE Jackie who is nice ONLY when she has to be and MOM/WIFE Jackie who is A LITTLE softer. And its hard to like either of the two Jackies. She has this close-to-idyllic family life…a loyal, hardworking husband and sweet kids…but she has a steady boyfriend and sex partner at the hospital where her NURSE alter-ego works. She pops pills on a regular basis…right before or after scolding others for even thinking of doing the same. She’s a warped, unholy mess of a woman, but somehow, she’s highly watchable. Maybe because you want to see her get caught (which she “kind-of” does at the end of season one (her hospital boyfriend (who did not even know she had kids must less was married) catches her with her husband). Maybe because the SOFT side she shows all too infrequently (a good mom, a compassionate (at times) nurse) is likeable and we cheer for GOOD Jackie to come out more often. All I know is that I really couldn’t stop watching. I think much of this has to do with Edie Falco, who, has in the past, taken unlikeable characters and made them tolerable. Even when Jackie is being bad, there always is a little humor behind her demeanor, which Falco allows the audience to glimpse. And, because of Falco, Jackie and all of her flaws becomes a watchable, interesting character that we need to keep tabs on. Considering how unlikeable Jackie is, that’s a very impressive mountain to climb.

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Adam is a strong film that is tough to watch. I continuously felt sorry for the main character, Adam, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. But, feeling sorry for Adam is part of the story…the script is written so that we do feel bad for him. The film opens with his father passing away and he now lives alone, which is new territory for Adam. Asperger’s, which is a form of autism, prevents him from living a so-called normal life…he has few, if any, friends and he lives his life through habits he knows. When he meets a new neighbor, Beth, his insulated world threatens to either unravel or expand to include her. A touching, sweet film, Adam is part love story and part drama, but no matter which part you prefer, you will admire the strong performances here by both Hugh Dancy, who plays Adam and Rose Byrne as Beth. Dancy’s Adam has more of an edge than other mentally challenged characters of late (Sean Penn in I Am Sam and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio). Adam is a hard person to get to know, be involved with, and especially to love and I feel Dancy conveys that difficulty to the audience through his stellar performance. Over-all, it is worth all of the uncomfortability for this one…it’s a great film.

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Watching Monk makes me feel less neurotic. I mean, who the heck can be more neurotic than this guy? I’m sure there are people out there but in my slightly-neurotic case, I’m sorry…detective Adrian Monk just makes me feel better about my little problems. Aside from that selfish reason, I like the show also because it’s funny and highly entertaining (at least to me). The cases are simple and often quite silly and far-fetched, but Monk’s character makes up for it by being one of the most complex and fascinating (some might call it annoying) characters on TV today. Monk is basically about a man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and he becomes so highly obsessive-compulsive that he can no longer be a police officer. So, he uses he super-detective powers to good use by consulting for the police. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories where Sherlock has his Watson, Monk has a sidekick in his assistant Natalie (Sharona was his assistant in the first two seasons). Sherlock also had a police inspector who was always calling him in for assistance, just like Monk’s Captain Stottlemeyer. All in all, Monk usually provides a solid hour of fun fair and escapism…and also makes you feel more secure about all of your minor foibles and quirks.

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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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When I first saw this one years ago, I thought it was too much of a farce…too over the top…too silly. But, re-watching it, I am able now to see it’s fine details as one of America’s great broad comedies. Cary Grant is at his wackiest here…as the nephew of two matronly ladies who have begun an unusual pastime…murdering lonely old men and having them buried in the basement. We’ve all seen (and loved) Grant do screwball…but this is pretty much as slapstick as comedy can get. He’s physical and very expressive…perfect for this role as the befuddled nephew of these two crazy killers. Directed by Frank Capra, I think one of the reasons this one took a while to sink in is because it’s almost TOO over the top. But, I guess as I’m getting older, I find the need for more and more comedy. And this one will sure satisfy that need!

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Junebug is a hard movie to say whether I liked it or I just felt so sorry for the characters I took pity on the film. The best way to describe it is the call it a slice of Southern small-town American living. It’s basically a story about George, who has moved to Chicago but, on a trip back home, reconnects with his Southern roots. Those roots might have been dormant when he fell in love with and married Madeleine, an uptight, highly educated art dealer, but once George gets back home, those dormant characteristics began to surface….from everything from afternoon naps to singing hymns at the local church’s pancake breakfast. The supporting characters are the ones, though, that made this movie special for me. Amy Adams plays Ashley, a pregnant young woman just starved (I mean REALLY STARVED) for affection and attention. She is desperate to like Madeleine, mostly because she has very little positive reinforcement in her life. Ashley’s husband and George’s brother, Johnny, is a gruff loner who shows more attention to his cars than he does to anyone in his family, especially his pregnant wife. Even though Madeleine and George seem to be at the center of the story, I got more out of the supporting characters and their troubles. The Ashley character alone is so complex in her simplicity that she could star in a movie all her own (which might be one of the reasons Amy Adams got so many raves for her over-the-top yet (at the same time) understated performance, including an Oscar nomination for supporting actress).

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