I’m delighted to see that season four of Merlin is making good on the promise of the show.

I love the Arthurian tales. Their telling is like pizza — good, even when it’s bad. Not that there’s anything wrong with the first three seasons — on the contrary, there is much there to love and admire.

But toward the end of the third season, the show really seemed to find its legs with the coming together of the round table. No doubt the good people who bring us the series realized they have a hit on their hands.

Now the story is going from strength to strength — with verve, sweep, and romance … and magic!

Good for them. Good for us.



O, drat — they’ve cancelled the series.


 Merlin @ BBC 1

Game of Thrones

There is a wealth of good things to be said about Game of Thrones, the terrific series on HBO, easily the most grownup sword & sorcery epic I’ve ever seen.

Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, is at the top of my list. He’s a generous actor, but his instincts, intelligence and gift for invention make it impossible to take your eyes off him.

Fascism TV

I have nothing against cops on TV, per se. Like many others, I think The Wire was one of the best offerings in the history of television. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed Without a Trace, Law & Order and CSI. My new fave rave is Justified.

That said, I’m increasingly tired of the whole genre. It’s gone way beyond the saturation point. In recent years we’ve had The Shield, The Academy, Cold Case, and Flashpoint. Today, we have The Closer, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-O, Prime Suspect and multiple clones of Law & Order and CSI. We have NCIS and now NCIS: LA.

It gets better. Tuesday nights on CBS, all of prime time is dedicated to cop shows. Last week, I had a gander at the ironically titled Unforgettable. It’s about a beautiful woman cop who never forgets anything. It’s a predictable procedural, but with a twist. In this episode, she tells a bunch of activists to go ‘camp out in the park, knock yourselves out.’ You could cut the sneering condescension with an axe.

Friday night, confronted with a vast wasteland, I had a peek at CSI: New York, which is typically all too forgettable, and with no twist in sight. We find a noble cop talking with his adorable girlfriend. It’s an intimate morning-after scene and all very affectionate — right up to the point where she makes a smirking reference to some “sexually ambiguous” person of interest.

In the cop show called Person of Interest, we recently had the computer-savvy-nerd half of a vigilante team make an approving remark about fracking.

You get the picture.


Timothy Olyphant and Joelle Carter

My new fave rave

Fans of Deadwood will remember Timothy Olyphant as the intense lawman turned store keeper. He returns as a Federal Marshall in this terrific series, produced by Elmore Leonard and based on a character from one of his stories. Exciting, colorful, sexy, powered by great writing — it’s a heaping helping of good fun.

IMDB: Justified

Cool Cats & Hot Chicks, II: Michael Bublé

Michael BubléThe first time I saw this guy was during a PBS Festival fund-raising gig. My first thought was, “OK, who’s this cheeseball?” Happily, there was nothing else on, so I gave him a listen and… Was won over. Big time. Dude can sing.

He’s an absolute natural on stage: Charming, handsome and graceful, he has a sense of the material that draws favorable comparison with Sinatra.

I finally got around to picking up a Chris Botti CD the other day and found him there, crooning, “Let There Be Love.” I think that’s a safe bet.
I hear he acts, too.

Check it out:

Hot Chicks & Cool Cats, 1

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Years ago I fired off a piece about Joni Mitchell in another venue. A bunch of rock stars had justed voted her in 5th place in a ranking of woman musicians, behind Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and others. I opined as to how that was pretty dumb, considering Mitchell’s body of work in respect of range, originality, sheer artistry and so forth. Or words to that effect.

I felt kind o’ dumb later on, thinking who was I to diminish those other women in the slightest — treasures, every one of them — and how I’d inadvertently bought into the whole “what is worst and what is best” mentality. I resolved to make amends by paying tribute to Aretha & Co.

I haven’t quite gotten around to that, but in the meantime I’ve hatched another project: Giving credit to people I like who are in the public eye, but who have yet to receive their just due.

I enjoy many of the law and order shows that have populated TV in recent years, though lately I’ve yearned for more variety, a broader sampling of the available genres. In a time when the disparities between the haves and have-nots is ever widening, I worry whether all the prime time crime is our take on Big Brother. (Now, if we could only harness the torque on Orwell.)

That aside, television has lately given us a bevy of fine programs which, among many positives, allow us to explore the state of things among the criminal class.

One of the best is Without a Trace.

The writing is tight, the editing taut. The actors are terrific and make up a wonderful ensemble. There are many good things one can say about every member of this attractive cast.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste has won my heart, though, and I have wondered why.

With a fine artistry, she seems to effortlessly convey warmth, strength, humor, candor, quiet dignity and sterling integrity — all in the course of going about another day’s work for the FBI.

I have come to love her and feel compelled to watch the subtle play of her gestures, curious to see how she will take in and respond to the all-too-real horrors the team confronts while searching for those who have gone missing.

I see a grandeur in her that might be easy to miss because, like many classic artists, this lovely woman has brushed away all traces of art.