Where Was My Fault In Loving You With My Whole Heart?

Maybe this has never happened to you.  Maybe you have perfectly appropriate, clearly defined boundaries.  Maybe you’re able to appreciate what you’ve got while you have it without pining for more.  Good for you.  I, on the other hand, am one greedy monkey.  When I find something I like, I want to hold on to it.  I want to relish in it.  I want to stretch out my time with it, make it last as long as possible.  Maybe you don’t know that place, but it’s a place I’ve come to frequent so often, I might as well buy some drapes and call it home.  Thanks to countless creative minds and a handful of talented actors, I visit that place several times a week.  Allow me to introduce to you five “guest” characters I’ve become so fond of, I can’t bear to think of them as temporary:

Ray Romano as Hank Rizzoli, ParenthoodI am, truly, a fan of the adorable Jason Ritter, who has played the love interest of Lauren Graham’s Sarah Braverman for a couple of seasons.  And while I do think they make one damned cute couple, I have come to prefer the cantankerous Hank Rizzoli as her suitor.  He’s a little older but Sarah is such a spastic, whimsical thing, I think his stern introspective nature would compliment her chaotic personality, be the yin to her yang and allow her to grow and embrace adulthood with a seriousness she lacks but sorely needs.

Joan Cusack as Sheila Jackson, ShamelessCusack has blown me away as the emotionally unstable, sexually deviant girlfriend of Frank Gallagher for two full seasons and, sadly, judging by the turn of events surrounding her character at last season’s close, she’ll likely not join the cast for the upcoming third season.  I’m not typically an advocate for flimsy, convenient plot lines just for the sake of keeping a character around, but Cusack’s bold, hilarious performance brought such joy and raucous humor to the show, it’s hard to imagine it without her.

Zachary Quinto as Dr. Oliver Thredson, American Horror StoryIt’s hard to say how large a part Quinto will have in this current season of AHS but he’s listed as “guest star” in the credits, which makes me fearful that his Dr. Thredson will soon die at Bloody Face’s maniacal hands.  I sincerely hope not, since his delicious portrayal of the catty interior decorator ghost last season was one of the show’s highlights.

Chloe Sevigny as Shelley, AHSTruth be told, imprisoned nymphomaniac Shelley has had the least amount of character development, the worst lines and the most unfortunate haircut of all of AHS: asylum’s characters thus far, but, because Sevigny is such an absurdly skilled actor, I still like Shelley and want her to stick around in the hopes that the writers will improve her dialogue and give her a story line worthy of Sevigny’s talent.

Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn, HomelandProbably my favorite on this list, Friend has, in two episodes, become such a key player and an enigmatic force on Homeland that I’m not only hoping for a lengthy run for him, I’d really like to see him and Claire Danes’ character, Carrie Mathison, develop a relationship beyond the professional.  Both Quinn and Carrie are whip-smart, bull-headed and seemingly volatile.  Add to that each actor’s ability to steal a scene and I think a complicated, charged relationship between the two would make this show even more heart-poundingly intense.

~Nikki

If You Want To Be Awe-Inspired…

It’s been nearly a year since the tenacious Christopher Hitchens left us and, unbelievably, I only just found this lovely video.  The visual quality could be better but don’t let that deter you; this is a gem.

This is why you were one of the greats, my friend:

~N.

War, Children, It’s Just A Shot Away

Let’s talk Homeland – arguably the most exciting, well-written show currently on TV.  If you aren’t watching it, you’re missing out.  Claire Danes stars as Carrie, a CIA agent who suspects that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), the marine who’s been held captive by al-Qaeda for 8 years, has turned against his country and is acting as a spy for the terrorist group.  Season one kept us in suspense, always questioning but never sure where Brody’s loyalties lay.  By its end, we knew – but we were the only ones.  Carrie’s mental health came into question, causing not only her family and colleagues but Carrie herself to question her sanity.

Four episodes into season two, we know who’s playing for whom and exactly how high the stakes are.  Yet, the show has lost none of its excitement, none of the thrill.  And it’s because of the whip-smart writing and fearless performances.  Homeland consistently takes you to the edge but never goes too far, redefining its limits nearly every episode without ever losing its focus.

Danes and Lewis knock it out of the park every episode and I admit that while I know their story lines must keep them apart the majority of the time, the scenes in which they star together, playing off one another, their strong personalities sparring, are some of the most exhilarating.  Mandy Patinkin as Carrie’s mentor, Saul, also plays his role to perfection and Morgan Saylor as Brody’s daughter, Dana, shines in every one of her scenes.  I can’t predict how her budding relationship with the son of the Vice President will come into play but I don’t doubt that it will have a larger, significant role in the grander scheme of things.  Nothing happens just for its own sake with these writers.

I was happy to see Rupert Friend guest starring as Peter Quinn, the guy Estes put in charge of Carrie’s operation.  He and Carrie have already established a tense yet charismatic rapport, both annoying and challenging each other, while each simultaneously intrigued by the other.  I’ve been a fan of Friend’s since Pride & Prejudice; I hope his run on Homeland is a long and relevant one.

Now that Carrie has forced the CIA’s hand in arresting and questioning Brody, I can’t see any other option but for Brody to turn double agent and spy on his benefactor, Abu Nazir.  With these writers, though, who knows what turn of events they’ve got planned.  Every time I think I’ve guessed what will happen, they surprise me.  Any other show would have dragged this out all season, gotten Brody closer to the White House, made his arrest the cliffhanger in the season finale.  But not Homeland.  No cheap tricks or predictable plot lines for this show.  Its writers are simply too smart for such frivolity.  Which is why Sunday night has become my favorite night of the week.

~Nikki

You’ll Be Dead Before The Day Is Done

Season 2 of American Horror Story begins entirely anew, independent of every story line and character that we watched in its first season.  Unlike the scattered, way-too-busy premiere of season 1, this new and different season begins with an evenly paced, focused and strategic start. Here’s what we’ve learned already:

1. Jessica Lange is still The Shit.  She’s back in all her menacing glory as Sister Jude, head nun of the Catholic asylum wherein this season takes place.  She does seem capable of compassion, which would mean she’s not entirely evil, but she’s certainly not a hero, either.

2. Evan Peters returns this season as well, not as Lange’s son, but as a troubled newlywed who witnessed his wife’s murder by what appeared to be aliens.  (Yes, I said aliens.)  No one believes such a story, of course, and Peters’ Kit Walker is admitted into the asylum while awaiting trial.  I have no idea if said aliens are real or a delusion created by Walker’s twisted mind (much like the cutesy inmate Grace, who is either a ghost or a figment of Walker’s imagination) but it sure is an unexpected complication.

3. Unlike his aforementioned co-stars who live in 1964 when the asylum was fully functional, Adam Levine’s character Leo and his newly-wedded wife Theresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) are members of the here and now.  They take a tour of the twelve most haunted sites in America, one of which is Briarcliff – the now closed and abandoned asylum – wherein something awful happens.  Not being a huge Maroon 5 fan, I wasn’t all that sorry to see Leo’s arm get mysteriously hacked off.  But I would like to know what that hideous monster-like creature was that did it.

4. Chloe Sevigny is just one of many superb guest stars this season and, of course, she’s starring as an incurable nymphomaniac.  Stick to what you’re good at, I say, and Sevigny is good at playing sexually deviant women.

5. Joseph Fiennes joins the cast as Monsignor Timothy Howard, the delectable priest after whom the seemingly tight-assed Sister Jude secretly lusts, and James Cromwell plays Dr. Arden, a mad scientist type of doctor who performs experiments (sometimes fatal) on the inmates without families and who probably created the monster that stole Leo’s arm.

6. Sarah Paulson guest stars as Lana Winters, a nosy journalist desperate to launch her career by getting an exclusive interview with Bloody-Face (the adorable nickname given to Walker, who is assumed to have killed his wife), but lands herself in the asylum as prisoner at the merciless hands of Sister Jude.

Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck seem determined to make some social statements here – what with two of the more victimized characters (Kit Walker and Lana Winters) voluntary participants in socially unacceptable (in 1964 and, to a lesser degree, today) relationships.  Walker and his wife were an interracial couple and Winters is a lesbian, which, no doubt, is the reason Sister Jude locked her up at all – to “cure her of her perversion.”

What made me most uncomfortable throughout is the knowledge that this inhumane treatment of mentally unstable people actually occurred.   The way mentally ill people were treated and abused by doctors, nurses, religious figureheads, police officers and prison guards is a reflection of one of many dark, ugly periods of human history and I’ve always felt so sorry for those poor folks who happened to have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or any other mental illness in a time when the most educated of humans thought they could be cured by torture.  A sad, shameful part of our collective history, but also one perfectly ripe backdrop for a horror story.

~Nikki