Some things I’ve been watching lately

(besides The Wire, whose first season I’ve just inhaled on a loaner DVD and the rest of which I’ll be buying):

  • Stephen Fry in America, a six-hour TV series he did for the Beeb in 2008. His ambition was to visit all 50 states, and he did, but some states (such as Delaware and Idaho) were “covered” in less than two minutes, and others received a stereotypical treatment (Maine = lobsters; New Jersey = gambling). With this kind of superficiality, I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know. However, I appreciated Fry’s lack of vanity: He was willing to make a fool of himself on camera drinking bourbon in Kentucky, riding a horse in Georgia, and firing a gun in California. And his conversations with Morgan Freeman in the latter’s Blues club in Clarksville, Mississippi and with a native of Hawaii were genuinely interesting. Such moments of entertainment and illumination were rare, though, and it was apparent to me that the sole audience for this series was a British one, although I do wonder how their ears coped with unaccustomed accents, such as that of the prison warden in Louisiana. (If I were a Beeb producer, I’d have suggested subtitles for quite a bit of the series dialogue.) Bottom line: If you’re a Canadian or an American, give this series a miss, even if you’re a fan of Stephen Fry.
  • A couple of animated features from Disney/Pixar: Wreck-It Ralph (2012) was strictly for kids, as was Brave (2012), which was given a review by Abigail Nussbaum that I agree with. I’m trying to be loyal to Pixar because of its past greatness (Toy Story and its sequels, Finding NemoWall-EUp), but my expectations have been unmet for years now. The previews for Monsters University, coming in June this year, make it clear that this will be a juvenile movie. Monsters, Inc. (2001), for which University is a prequel, had some excellent moments and I enjoy rewatching it. But I suspect that one viewing of University will be enough. The buying of Pixar by Disney in 2006 has proven to be bad news for adults looking for intelligence and originality in their animated fare.