The past week I finally had a bit of oral surgery I’d been putting off and putting off. It was for the gums on the back of my two bottom, farthest-back teeth (what is that, lower 2nd molars?) A few years back, thanks to not seeing the dentist for many years, some errant wisdom teeth had drilled their way into their neighbors leaving behind a bit of a gap which was collecting all sorts of debris and becoming quite the cesspool. So last Wednesday I finally consented to let a strange man cut through my gums on both sides of my mouth, clean things up, put a bone graft in one of the gaps and then stitch it all closed. As a result, I spent three whole days on my arse watching moving pictures on the telly screen as the Vicodin kept me fuzzily not-so-aware of my wounds.
Before I go any further: if you’re the type that doesn’t go to the dentist because, well, you just don’t like going to the dentist: GO ALREADY! Whatever’s going on now is going to get even worse the longer you wait, and if nothing’s wrong yet, you can avoid a lot of pain later by getting your regular cleanings like a good little boy or girl or whatnot. Now that people are living longer than ever, keeping your original teeth is a daily battle (and yes I’m talking to you smooth-skinned, dewy, I’m-too-young-to-worry-about-such-things types, too).
Harrumph. Sorry, double gum surgery brings out the mean ol’ schoolmarm in me.
One of the upsides (including NOT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT THIS ANYMORE as well as losing weight from a largely liquid diet) has been watching loads and loads and loads of British programs. Yes, I’m an unabashed Anglophile and used to be up on my Mystery shows on PBS or the British comedy nights on some cable channel, especially Are You Being Served?
But alas, Jamie hasn’t quite caught the bug yet – and since one of the few chances I get to watch television is with him, late at night, it’s hardly fair to subject him to all that tea and tweed. So last week was my chance to immerse myself in some shows that I’ve been meaning to catch up on or check out.
The three primary programs were Midsomer Murders and the new Sherlock series which are both shows I’d seen before but not in a while. And then I finally took the plunge into Downton Abbey. There are certain side effects however. In my head I now speak in a mongrel pastiche of British, Irish, Scottish and possibly Welsh accents – both from the upper and lower classes. And..I believe it’s even creeping into my writing (gadzooks!)
I guess it’s the escapism – England in any of its historical periods is almost the complete opposite of my upbringing in Florida. Instead of overgrown, tropical, humid marshes, you have crisp, snowy Christmases, as well as the other three seasons (actual seasons!) with picturesque woodlands right out of Faerie. Instead of the liveliness and heart-on-your-sleeve semi-madness of a Cuban/Southern household, the British (according to television) keep everything zipped up tight and proper while simmering underneath is a cauldron of passions and emotions. In any case, it worked a treat as I distracted myself from my physical woes. And in case you, my dear, are also an Anglophile and have not yet come across these programs, well then, stop taking the piss and get your Netflix queue sorted!
This contemporary mystery series first aired in 1997 and was based on a series of mystery novels by Caroline Graham. Though it takes place in the modern-day, the series manages to maintain a folksy British charm even as it deals with horrifying murders and truly creepy criminals. They don’t shy away from matters of race, sex or politics and yet there’s something still old-fashioned and whimsical about it with plenty of daft characters and pots and pots of tea. I’ve only watched the first few seasons and I understand the casting changes a bit as you go along, but the strength of the series (so far) is found in the central characters. Tom Barnaby is the inspector who never rests until he gets his man or woman – unflinchingly rational but with a bit of intuition that comes into play just at the right time (of course). Then there’s his adorable, slightly daffy wife Joyce, who’s notable contribution is her never-ending quest to elevate her gourmet cooking skills, much to the chagrin of poor meat-and-potatoes-loving Tom. Sergeant Troy, Tom’s right hand man, is a bright go-getter though at times his youthful impetuousness gets him into trouble. Still, his boyish manner tends to make him instantly forgiveable. When I read each episode’s synopsis, I tend to think “Oh, this could be a snoozer”. But sure enough, I’m soon sucked into another vortex of puzzles, sin and good ol’ human folly that keeps me guessing until the end. And with enough chuckles thrown in so I can actually go to sleep that night.
This is currently playing on PBS and is probably my very favorite example of the Sherlock Holmes legend on the small or large screen. It’s Sherlock Holmes of the Twenty First Century! With the Internet and cell phones and all kinds of cutting edge doohickery. And yet the finest tool of all is still Sherlock’s brain. The actors playing Sherlock and Watson are wonderful. Benedict Cumberbatch brings Holmes’ legendary incisive mind, devastating brilliance and razor-sharp wit to new levels. Those piercing blue eyes don’t hurt either. Martin Freeman is just so human as his doctor, former soldier ‘sidekick’ and (of course, this being the 21st century) blogger. I can’t emphasize enough how awesome the writing is – you do have to pay attention, but from the first frame it is a wild fast-paced ride through London and surrounding areas as Sherlock grudgingly takes on a new case that goes where you never thought it would. My favorite aspect is how the directing clues you in to Sherlock’s sonic speed of thought as he glances over someone and registers the smallest minutia of puzzle pieces to come up with a crystal clear picture of the truth. Bravo.
Ah, Downton Abbey. I don’t know you, you don’t even exist and even if you did, you’re a giant house. But oh am I smitten with you. Not that I’d ever want to have a house like that (or a life like that) but it really is a splendid estate. And I had my doubts about seeing this show, I mean, it’s not a murder mystery or anything like that. I’ve never checked out other Masterpiece Theater “costume dramas” like Brideshead Revisited. But I’ve now been sucked into my new soap opera (to go along with my two other telly addictions, Mad Men and The Walking Dead). First of all, Dame Maggie Smith. Enough said. Okay, maybe I’ll say some more. First the superficial stuff: the show is gorgeous. The clothes, the jewelry, the crystal, the furniture, the gardens, tapestries, linens. *swoon*. And the cast! It seriously is a beautifully cast show. The family is about as upper crust as it gets, but there’s compassion mixed with the pride, love amidst the manners, and so much humanity – especially as folks of all classes are swept into the horror of the first war to engage all major powers of the world. The staff completely blow away preconceptions of what a “servant” is making you appreciate and respect their art and craft, even as we shake our heads at their lack of autonomy and freedom, by today’s standards.
The main thrust of the plot is that the Earl and Countess of Grantham, of the family Crawley – whose children are all girls – must adapt when the Titanic sinks and the heretofore heir of Grantham turns out to have been on board. There’s a lot of legal hodgepodge but basically – because of something called an ‘entail’ – the estate can only go to a male heir and they must now accept a stranger, a distant cousin none of them had met, as the future lord of their home (and he a mere lawyer!) It just upsets their comfortable order of things and then with the advent of World War I, everybody’s lives are changed for better or worse. But beneath all the beauty and pomp and coldness and obligations that come with such a grand family and staff, simmers all flavors of humanity: love, lust, greed, pride, and wrath – in various plot formulas. Of course it’s a melodrama, so there’s lots of emotional turmoil, cliffhangers and tear-jerkers – but it’s a fascinating look at an entirely other world.
Which is just the ticket when you’re chained to your couch in the middle of the desert. Almost makes me wish I had another gum surgery coming up. Almost. Cheers, yall!