A magnificent story about two brothers – Happy 40, Dallas!

Dallas premiered April 2, 1978, and from the beginning it had a lot of ingredients of a soap, but amidst the mistresses, the backstabbing and the shady deals there was a fascinating story about two brothers, Bobby and J.R., one the favourite son and the other always striving to become just that.

“Bobby James Ewing, I don’t believe you!” This is the first piece of dialog in Dallas, premiering exactly 40 years ago today, April 2 1978. Digger’s Daughter was the name of the first episode of the total five of the mini-serie, and it is Digger’s daughter herself, Pamela Barnes Ewing, that speaks the words. She is convinced that her new husband is as nervous as she is to come to Southfork, daughter as she is to her father-in-laws arch enemy, the drunken looser Digger Barnes.

For J.R. everything was about making his daddy proud of him, making him love J.R. as much as he loves Bobby. To have his daddy’s approval and praise is his driving force

I remember reading articles, maybe from an earlier jubilee, where the story is described in terms of sex, intrigues, deceptions and blackmail. It’s not the first time I see a drama series of the soap kind to be described like this, but I’m still astounded. That is of course not the story, it’s ingredient of the storytelling and yes, Dallas is filled with these ingredients, but it is not what the Ewing story is about.


What story was it the creator of Dallas, David Jacobs wanted to tell us? Well he tells us about the struggles and successes of a rich Texas family with one leg in the oil business and the other in old traditional Texas ranching. Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) had created a successful independent oil company, Ewing Oil, while his wife Ellie brought the ranch Southfork with her into the marriage.

Dallas also tells the tale of the difficulties for Bobby and new wife Pam to make the marriage accepted by their families. She also has her brother, Cliff, who is against the marital union. This Romeo and Juliette-story was supposed to be the original idea. The love between them is strong but their loyalties are tested over an over again when their families are making efforts to break them up. But it is not long before another tale is taking form in the midst of mistresses, miscarriages, the drinking and the shady deals, and that is the one about the two brothers, Bobby and J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman).

Bobby and Pam on their way to Southfork in Digger's Daughter, screenshot toralil
J.R. is the oldest brother who got to manage of the family business. Bobby is the younger who earlier lived kind of a carefree life, but after he got married decided to get involved in the company leadership. Again I have read strange things about J.R. being the strong brother, the industrious, the pushy while Bobby is the decent, but weak and wussy. I wonder if we have watched the same 357 episodes because to me it is crystal clear that it is J.R. who is the weak of the brothers and Bobby who is the strong.

Bobby has always lived with the advantage of being his dad’s favourite son and J.R. has known about this since his little brother was born. For J.R. everything was about making his daddy proud of him, making him love J.R. as much as he loves Bobby. To have his daddy’s approval and praise is his driving force, his incentive to do anything. That is why he is managing Ewing Oil, that is why he is doing anything to make it successful and that is why he does not want his little brothers competition. J.R. may have the world’s best self confidence, but his self esteem is just not in as good a shape and the constant drive to win his father’s love is his Achilles’ heel. This makes him weak.

Bobby was good at business and also has good self-esteem. He did not strive for approval or acknowledgement, he did things for himself. This made him strong.

No one took Jock’s disappearance and later death harder than J.R. Because without his father, who was he? What was the meaning with everything he did if Jock was not there to show it for? It was the son, John Ross Ewing III who got J.R. out of his grief and depression. He realised the son was who he should do things for instead. Suddenly everything he did was for his son instead, to be able to leave a great, successful Ewing Oil to him the one day he himself would check out.

It turned out that little brother was great at managing Ewing Oil and whenever there was a competition of sort Bobby always won, also the most important one when the brothers fight over the company according to Jock’s will. Earlier, when J.R. was shot and Bobby takes over the leadership, he manages to save the company after J.R.’s extensive deals with asian oil leases. J.R. also hoped that Bobby would fail after having signed a deal with the Cartel that he did not have the capital for, but Bobby manages to fix the deal with a clean conscience. How J.R. suffers when Jock praises Bobby for the refinery he as acquired and making sure they are still on good terms with the Cartel. ”I’m proud of him. Ewing Oil stands for something. He’s a hell of a son, a hell of a man.” Oh, if only Jock just once could be disappointed in Bobby!

Bobby, Jock and JR Ewing in Dallas, Lucy's wedding, screenshot toralil
Bobby brought himself out of the hole he was on without losing his honor, but decides it’s time to give back the chair to J.R.. ”I can understand how J.R. justify some of the things he does, It’s for the good of Ewing oil. I was borrowing from Pete to pay Paul. Pretending it was for the right reason. You can only lie to yourself for so long. Pretend that it’s all right for Ewing Oil. But it wasn’t right for me.” So he is righteous, but more so, a man that stands steadily on his feet, a man that has principles that he lives by and this makes him strong. Bobby was good at business and also has good self-esteem. He did not strive for approval or acknowledgement, he did things for himself. Of course he wanted to show Jock and J.R. that he could do it, but more so he wanted to prove it to himself.

J.R. and Bobby had a continued complicated relationship. Everything was a competition with J.R. but if another enemy turned on the Ewings the brothers would always stand together, also against Cliff Barnes even if the tore Bobby apart. There was a love and a loyalty between the brothers even if J.R. tested it so many times and continued to make trouble in Pam’s life trying to make them give up on their marriage.

Bobby and Pam and their love story was a perfect example for how it is possible to make excellent entertainment out of marital drama.

In episode 300 there is long, great scene with Bobby and J.R. where they kind of summarise their whole history. Bobby is in charge of Ewing Oil again, together wth Cliff Barnes, and J.R. is there at Bobby’s mercy and is no way allowed to deal with oil. Of course J.R. can’t stop himself when he stumbles on something interesting and when Bobby finds out, he is mad and decides to throw J.R. out of the company. He has had enough of the lying. When they leave the office at night they get stuck in the elevator, the power has been turned off, and they get to spend the night together in that little space. Luckily Bobby got a box of wine from Ray, now living Paris.

J.R. does everything to convince Bobby to let him stay in the company, he really begs, but Bobby is tough as nails. For J.R. it is not only to be in the oil business, he doesn’t want to start his own business, it has to be Ewing Oil. Family is important to J.R. and he tries to make Bobby see it is also his fault. But Bobby laughs: ”Your logic is as twisted as your morals. It’s my company, I run it and you’re out!”

Then J.R. is reminiscing about when Bobby got married to Pam and wanted to work full time in the family business.: ”I taught you everything you know.” But Bobby won’t fall for it: ”You did teach me not to trust you and that it’s the head of the company who makes the decisions.”

“I had goals”, J.R. counters back, “goals that were drummed into me [by Jock]. It had to be the biggest and the best. Nothing came before Ewing Oil.”

Bobby even refuses to let J.R. taste the wine and they start bargaining, 500 dollars for the wine, 1000 for the corkscrew. J.R. is laughing, ”you’re a lot more like me than I realised”, before he gets serious again: ”You were his favourite from the day you were born and it was my company until he let you come en run it with me. Everything I did was for my daddy.”

Screenshot toralil, Bobby and J.R. stuck in the elevator in episode 300
And sure, maybe Bobby is a bit weak, maybe he gets where J.R. is coming from and the brotherhood wins. J.R. can become so incredibly pitiful and Bobby does give him another chance in the end when he realising there is a great deal to be had and another enemy to fight together (Carter McKay). And for once J.R. did not seem manipulative, just truly honest: ”You made me the happiest man in the world!” Ewing Oil was always more important then any woman.

For Bobby it was different. He was torn between work and marriage, Ewing Oil and Pam, and in relation to this I really would like to mention how Bobby and Pam and their love story was a perfect example for how it is possible to make excellent entertainment out of marital drama. So many shows stay away from letting couples be together, because what story should you tell them men romance and love stories can not be built around flirtations and sexual innuendo? In Dallas it was the opposite, they had no idea of what to do when the couples were not together. Everybody remarried each other. Bobby and Pam stayed married for six year before they felt the need to separate them (by letting Bobby for once be fooled by J.R.). There divorce lasted for two years only, before they rewed. J.R. and Sue Ellens divorce lasted only one year, before they remarried and later re-divorced. Also Lucy remarried and re-divorce her doctor-husband Mitch.

Screenshot toralil, Bobby and Pam at Lucy's wedding
Ok, so perhaps a bit too much belief in a second time around, but still through Bobby and Pam, Dallas made it clear it is possible to let the main ship stay married and make it dramatic and entertaining. For Bobby and Pam it did not all revolve around the family feuds, but also about miscarriages, depression and about having time for each other, about wanting, have time for and make the effort to have sex, which maybe was a subject not explored much at that point. Pam also had scars from her childhood, being left by her mother and growing up with an alcoholic father full of bitterness. These were scars not shared by Bobby, loved and cherished as he always had been and it had impact on their marriage and relationship.

J.R. and Sue Ellen’s relationship was different, very complicated and definitely as interesting. He loved her but at the same time hated her for being weak. She drank to forget her boring life with a manipulative husband. She felt unwanted and her very bad self-esteem stopped her for a long time to do something to straighten out her life. Both Pam and Sue Ellen disappeared and so did another pair of wives. But the love between the brothers remained. And J.R. did love his little brother. ”You are still my brother and I’m proud of you. And I love you”, as he told Bobby straight from his heart there in the elevator at the end.

Note! All pictures are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Brothers.

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A Fleabag full of depth and humor

It’s funny, raunchy, heartbreaking when Phoebe Waller-Bridge creates one of the best portraits of a young and somewhat lost woman of today.

It came out already in 2016, but it’s so much worth a watch if you haven’t. Already in the pilot episode of British show Fleabag, it finds breathtaking depth and black humor in the young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sometimes it’s in the same scene, sometimes in on and the same facial expression. Phoebe Waller-Bridge that has created and stars in the show succeeds perfectly with so much in this six-episode season available on Amazon Prime Video.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag. Photo Credit: Amazon

We first meet Fleabag when she shuffles herself to inhuman extent to make the right impression on the dude that she likes that unprompted decided to stumble into her flat at two o’clock in the morning. Instead of thinking she is hopelessly pathetic, she just makes us totally adore her. Later we get to peek at the most hilarious breakup scene ever and I can’t help wondering how Obama possibly can do that kind of damage.

Raunchy and hilarious scenes are mixed with somber ones that are allowed to stretch out. it doesn’t make them dull, but instead lets the laugh build up inside you at the same time as the sense trauma and desperation closes in on you. And did I mention she talks into the camera? Yep, and to hear her thoughts and comments works as well as when the narrator in Jane The Virgin gives us an extra layer of insight, that is masterfully.

There will be another season of Fleabag luckily. Next year.

 

Best TV Husbands of 2017

There are good men out there. These darlings are my pick of top TV husbands.

There are husbands on TV that will do more or less anything for their highly beloved wives, may it be experimenting with new sex-partners, committing a few murders here and there, persevering although knowing they are not “the one” to their wife or just relentlessly keep on loving, supporting and respecting. Here are a few good men I loved a little bit extra last year.

9. Sylvere, I Love Dick

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Griffin Dunne in Amazon’s I Love Dick

Sylvere does not come off very good in the beginning as he gives younger, female colleagues way too lingering and admiring looks. But as the arrogance and the confidence is being replaced by awkwardness, unease and the feeling of being left out, when his wife is showing Dick a grotesque amount of attention, I feel more and more sympathy for him. He loves his wife and the story of this somewhat odd couple going through a crisis turns into something rather lovely.

8. Kyle, The Arrangement

Kyle West

Josh Henderson in E!’s The Arrangement

»This is not right.« Kyle may have done a deal with his to-be girlfriend about getting married – if you are a major movie star maybe that is the best way, at least according to his mentor.

But when said mentor/cult leader as well as media do everything to control the narrative of the lovebirds, Kyle has no problem jumping out if his pants and pose butt-naked to assure both them and his girlfriend that no one else decides which story is to be told about them but they themselves.

7. Avery, Nashville

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Jonathan Jackson in CMT’s Nashville

Now I didn’t watch beyond episode 9 this season, so I don’t what happened to Avery and Juliette, but I do remember his loving, attentive caring of her after the plane crash even though she did her best to push him away.

How she screamed about how she did not want to be a chore, a burden and how he finally assured her this was what he wanted to do. And finally how he couldn’t stop talking about his feelings (how very unmanly of him) until both we and Juliette just wished he’d just stop and started SHOWING how he felt instead. Which he finally did thank god.

6. Len, Transparent

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Rob Heubel in Amazon’s Transparent

”I do this for you.” Those are Len’s words when Sarah somewhat worried wonder if it’s okey if they break up with Lila, the young pre-school teacher Sarah met at the sex-addict meeting and decided to write a book with, before it all turned into some kind of relationship of three.

Now I’m sure their threesomes, dominated and directed by Sarah, was not all a chore for Len, but still he makes it quite clear that there’s a lot of things he will do for this woman, who first left him for another woman, then explored her sexuality elsewhere before she decided to come back to him.

5. Kyle, Easy

Kyle

Michael Chernus in Netflix’ Easy 

»Kyle, you look surprised«, the therapist states when Kyle’s wife Andi blurts out that it’s time for the open marriage, time to have sex with other people. He is surprised for sure, but since he wants nothing but to please his wife he makes his own hesitant and awkward attempt to have sex as his wife goes on a date with a sexy colleague.

4. Ed, Big Little Lies

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Adam Scott in HBO’s Big Little Lies

“The essence of a happy marriage – the ability to pretend” is the sad conclusion Ed makes when talking to his wife Madeleine of the lack of passion and that she actually doesn’t like him touching her.

Seeing how much attention she gives her ex-husband, the father of her oldest daughter, it’s not much wonder why he feels unappreciated. He knows, or that’s how he feels, that he is not her great love, if also he knew that she had an affair…

But Ed is a good guy. He is kind and he keeps on loving even if he doesn’t get that much back. He even sings Elvis for her, with the hope that she will really see him.

3. Philip, The Americans

Philip

Matthew Rhys in FX’ The Americans

”Do you want to make it official?” Philip and Elizabeth were never each other choice, their marriage is a product of the job. Both have others they were in love with, both have been force to act in love.

The mission to spy on the US has been less important for Philip and he is hesitant of how much they should involve their daughter Paige. But despite of the differences in opinion in regards to these things, or maybe because of them, the love squiggled its way up the cracks between them and Philip’s proposal come as a total surprise and as an obvious given at the same time, as incredibly loving as it was.

2. Donnie, Orphan Black

Donnie

Kristian Bruun in BBC America’s Orphan Black

Seriously, is there any more devoted husband then Donnie? He hides murders, buries bodies, sells drugs, takes on the mob and god knows what for his beloved wife Alison during the shows five seasons.

Yes, Donnie was once her ”handler”, but after that was revealed no man has so tirelessly supported, encouraged, reassured and also made a fool out of himself for his snoopy, driven and uptight wife as he has.

1. Joel, Santa Clarita Diet

JOel again

Timothy Olyphant in Netflix’ Santa Clarita Diet

What do you do when your beloved wife goes through a change and suddenly feels much more alive, loses all filters and can only feed on human meat?

Never have I seen a husband so eagerly get out of his own way to support and adjust to his wife’s new way of living. Joel struggles industriously to find the balance between what he is prepared to do and what not at the same time as he feels more and more inadequate and lost.

But he continues to stretch his bounds of what he finds acceptable just to ensure the marriage with the woman he loves will work. He wants nothing but to continue his support for her, even if murdering for food is not something he ever will get completely comfortable with.

Joel is definitely my number one best husband of 2017.

Also read my list of Top 10 TV shows 2017: My Top 10 (or so) TV shows of 2017

Halt and Catch Fire: The inspiriting journey of Donna Clark

Halt and Catch Fire does not only give us a mesmerising tale of the computer tech industry in the 1980’s, it also brings us a woman’s very intriguing and liberating journey with it.

That I love the show Halt and Catch shouldn’t come as a surprise, I’ve written about this perfect show earlier. I admitted that I’d fallen in love with with one of its main characters, Donna Clark, portrayed impeccably by Kerry Bishé. This love is strong and I feel there is more to say about her and that she deserves an article of her own.

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Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.

Donna’s journey through the four seasons of the show is not only her own, it is in one way our common journey as women. The one from where women are destined to be responsible for home and family to where women can grow, develop and chase their own dreams while also inspiring others to do so.

The one doing all the work without getting any credit

The first time we meet Donna is a while into the pilot episode, where she picks up her husband Gordon from a drunk cell in the middle of the night with the young daughters sleeping in the back seat.

It’s immediately clear that Donna is the on making the family life work, the one solving the problems and the one adapting to her husband.

”You didn’t have to bring the kids, did you?”, Gordon asks somewhat accusingly, although he knows it should be ashamedly.
”I think I did”, Donna answers reproachfully, because who was she to ask for help in the middle of the night and who’s fault was it that she had to come to the police station in the first place.

It’s immediately clear that Donna is the on making the family life work, the one solving the problems and the one adapting to her husband. She is the practical one that worry about the important stuff:
”Do you still have a job?” is the first thing she asks Gordon in the car.
Donna Clark S1
Donna is not only the project manager of the home life. She has a job that isn’t really challenging enough for her, while Gordon has a job that is very much so. She comes and puts out fires at his work though, since she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are.

The climax of the first season takes place at the COMDEX fair, where Cardiff’s new PC is to be launched and make people gasp. And though it was because of Donna they actually made the fair, it is also her mistake that makes them fail there. Gordon is furious at first:
”He used you!”, he yells and refers to Donna’s boss.
”At least he encouraged me and rewarded me”, Donna coldly defends herself with.

So starved for attention is Donna that she lapped up what she could get from whoever who bothered.

So starved for attention is Donna that she lapped up whatever she could get from whoever bothered. She saved her husbands project a number of times with her knowledge and her ideas, which she has done on her spare time and what did she get? She didn’t get any acknowledgement or a request to join the company he is working for.

But Donna is no victim. The season ends with Gordon picking her up in a new fancy car when she has resigned from her job. He is feeling much better and she is feeling fantastic. They are a team again and there is a balance now. She has taken an active decision, she wants to move on, challenge herself and chase her own dreams.

The one learning to compromise with herself

When season 2 begins it’s almost two years later and we are at the homely office of Mutiny, the company that the SW genius Cameron started and asked Donna to join. Donna seems to be in a good mood, energetic and positive, when we meet her coming into work solving issues and conflicts, but it isn’t all fun. Her and Cameron’s different view on running a company becomes evident and again Donna is the responsible and the practical.
Donna Clark S2
”I don’t want to be the mom here! I do that at home. I came her to do what I love and I don’t love dealing with the power company”, Donna protests.
”Don’t do those thing! Nobody asked you to”, Cameron counters.

But it is just that, Donna can’t refrain from being the mother who makes sure everything is in order and at the same time sacrifices her wish to create new things. Again Donna actively tries to solve her own problem and decides to compromise, not so much with Cameron but with herself. She will manage the office and take care of practical stuff, but she will aslo make room for her to be responsible for the development of a new product.

”I don’t want to be the mom here! I do that at home.”

This means that Donna spends a lot of time at work, which causes her and Gordon to grow apart, but again Donna is the one finding the solutions, she is the one making demands. Gordon must invest in Mutiny and also in their marriage by following them to Silicon Valley. And she will defenitely not have any more children as a way to repair what has broken.

The one not afraid of making tough decisions

In season 3 Mutiny needs to expand and again Donna and Cameron’s differences in what drives and motives them comes to the surface. Donna is the business woman who wants the company to grow and make money. Cameron cares mostly about her games, her products, her babies. Donna is still the responsible one while Cameron disappears without telling anyone. Another side of Donna is then starting to show. She lies to get her way, but she doesn’t do it for her own benefit only, she believes it is the best thing for the company.
Donna Clark S3
The relationship between Donna and Cameron mirrors Donna’s inner conflict about who she is and who she wants to be – mom, business woman, developer, partner, boss.

Donna is the best thing that has happened to Cameron according to Cameron’s husband Tom and she herself agree:
”You anchor me”, Cameron explains (and a few years later when they have parted ways, she still admits that working with Donna is the best thing she has ever done).

”Cam is the genius, Donna is the mom!”

At the same time that Donna is the one steering the ship and enabling Cameron to flourish, she doesn’t feel she gets the appreciation she deserves.
”Cam is the genius, Donna is the mom”, is what she hears from the surroundings loud and clear.

In another room another time Cameron is pissed.
”Stop patronising me, you are handling me like you always do”, she accuses Donna.
”I’m not gonna sit down and watch when this company is taken hostage by a petulant child”, Donna counters.

Being a ”mother” is not simple, finding the balance between encouragement and discipline, guiding and steering. But it was the mother that the others listened to this time, not the genius. By the end of the season it’s a few years later and Donna is now the CEO of a big, successful Mutiny. She has gotten divorced, liberated herself from Gordon and is on the next phase of her journey.

The one finally embracing the different sides of herself

It’s a new Donna we meet in season 4. A few years has passed and she is now working at that investment company that helped Mutiny grow and get listed on the stock exchange. She is the one being waited on, now by her assistant. She makes people nervous, those who need her money to be able to take their idéas further.

”I’ve done things. It always comes with a price, but I did them”

”You need to pursue you own vision, not aping after others”, she instructs a group of hopeful suckers.
”I was really rooting for you guys”, is then how she softly but brutally ends the conversation while she drinks her vitamin juice and revels in the power she has.

Donna is smart. She has no problem to outmanoeuvre the men that tries to take her place. But being a power-exercising bastard is not something she is entirely comfortable with, to become like ”the men” is not something she strives for and she is not immune to her own unscrupulous actions. Out of the grey ashes of self-pity, grief and soul-searching a new Donna rises eventually.
Donna Clark S4
This Donna has gathered women in the same line of business to an event at her house where she gives a speech telling the audience what it took to get where she is. She lost her marriage. She voted her female partner out of her own company. She does wonder if she spends enough time with her kids. But on the other hand she has achieved things and that matters.

Donna finally embraces the fact that she is a mother. Not only literally, but also the way she is a person.

”I’ve done things. It always comes with a price, but I did them”, she states and stresses that it’s all about people and she had help, from Gordon and Cameron as well as from Diane, the investor that helped Mutiny and who later became Donna’s mentor.
”I’m rooting for you. How can I not?”, she ends it with, ”I’m a partner by trade, a mother and sister by design. I’m so proud to be this journey on you.”

Donna finally embraces the fact that she is a mother. Not only literally, but also the way she is a person, the caring, the fixer making sure the world is turning and the sometimes condescending adult who wants to handle and lecture the people around her, who doesn’t understand what is best for them. But this doesn’t stop her from being the business woman and partner she wants to be as well. The one she has chosen to become. It’s the opposite. It’s her strength.
Donna and Cameron final
In the last scene Donna manages to be both. She ensures that Cameron gets on the road to her mother at the same time as she figures out what their (her and Cameron’s) next business idea will be all about. She has succeeded in affirming both sides of her, they both fit into her life. She can be a mother and a driven business woman. She can make many mistakes and still be successful. She can have loads of flaws and still be perfect.

You have to be prepared to get on a journey, have courage, take risks, make mistakes, pay the price and get back on the road again. You have to find the right persons to support you, but there is no-one else that can make the journey for you. Donna Emerson Clark, in the fabulous shape of Kerry Bishé, does this journey for us. She is an inspiration. She is the woman I was, the one I am and the one I want to be.

For more about Halt and Catch Fire: Halt and Catch Fire was the perfect show

Another female character I adore: Abby Lockhart: Evidence the ER writers created a person, not a woman

My Top 10 (or so) TV shows of 2017

1. Halt and Catch Fire

One of the best shows ever, so perfectly depicting the computer tech revolution – with its failures and successes, struggles and innovations – in the 1980’s and four persons’ personal journeys with it.

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Susanna Skaggs, Kathryn Newton, Kerry Bishé, Lee Pace, Toby Huss, Annabeth Gish, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.

2. Jane the Virgin

The second half of season 3 where Jane is in the wake of healing from her tragic loss is the most clever, funny and fabulous drama-comedy I have ever watched.

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Gina Rodriguez as Jane in CW’s Jane the Virgin. Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW

3. Casual

There’s something so adorable about these confident yet so lost family members, a brother, a sister and her teenage daughter, navigating their lives the best they can.

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Tommy Dewey, Tara Lynne Barr and Michaela Watkins in Hulu’s Casual.

4. GLOW

Just a lovely story of a struggling actor who together with some other women become the 1980’s Glorious Ladies of Wrestling and end the story with their oh so uplifting ”we can do it” attitude.

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Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin in Netflix’ GLOW.

5. I Love Dick

Very touching and also thought-provoking tale of obsession, a woman going through a crisis and a small town awakening.

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Kathryn Hahn in Amazon’s I love Dick.

6. Santa Clarita Diet

The best show about a marriage ever, seriously funny and yeah, kind of gory.

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Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Netflix’ Santa Clarita Diet.

7. Timeless

Totally charming, intriguing show which together with its worthwhile, historical lessons make it irresistible (and because it has Goran Visnjic in it).

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TIMELESS — “The Capture of Benedict Arnold” Episode 109 — Pictured: (l-r) Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

8. The Arrangement

I thought I’d get a cheesy Hollywood soap, but got a smart, thought-provoking tale of identity, control and boundaries among other things.

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Michael Vartan, Lexa Doig, Josh Henderson and Christine Evangelista in E!’s The Arrangement.

9. Mary Kills People

A low-key drama where existential angst and ravishing thrills is mixed with family drama, unpredictable partners and irresistible cops. Mary Harris is a delight to get to know.

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Caroline Dhavernas i Global TV’s Mary Kills People.

10. Easy

A show that very entertainingly calls out hypocrisy, doesn’t stereotypically make people oppressed victims and includes lots of nice husbands/men, except for that genius artist, who just falls further into his self-obsessed hole.

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Marc Maron and Jane Adams in Netflix’ Easy.

And just below the top 10 we have:

Feud: Bette and Joan

A brilliant display of destructiveness and the cruel, oppressive games everyone seems to be playing in Hollywood to keep their head above water.

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Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange in FX’ Feud: Bette and Joan.

Girlboss

A charming and inspiring tale of a young, somewhat eccentric woman struggling to start her own e-business.

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Britt Robertson in Netflix’ Girlboss.

Bosch

There is no better crime show right now, with its embodiment of the dark as well as the dreamy LA atmosphere and with characters we now almost care more about than the plot itself.

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Titus Welliver in Amazon’s Bosch.

And further down we have the lovely new show SMILF about a single mom in Boston as well as the continued story about the ever so messy Pfefferman family in Transparent. Which ones were your favourites?

Halt and Catch Fire was the perfect show

Halt and Catch Fire takes the rise of personal computers in the early 1980’s, follows four engineers through ten years and makes an entertaining, captivating and flawless tech-drama perfectly relevant also today.

As a TV writer I often get asked to recommend shows when getting into conversations with people. It’s difficult, I get dumb, I mean it all depends on what kind of shows people like. But then there is one show that I have come to always recommend, because I think it suits most people and at least before, not so many were already watching it.

Gordon, Donna, Cameron and JoeThe fact that Halt and Catch Fire works for most people is not because it is a smooth and easy watch, but because it is universal and relatable to more or less anyone, as well as a marvellous portrait of people and the times. It takes us back to Texas in the early 1980’s where Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), a former IBM employee and a charismatic entrepreneur, decides to challenge his former employee, enlists Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a hardware designer and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a software genius to help him create a better Personal Computer (PC).

The characters, except for Joe, seems like they are taken from everyday life, but their stories are captivating as well as recognisable. They women runs companies in the computer business and the men try to find themselves and their context. There is a total retro-feeling to it at the same time as the questions asked are them same as we ask ourselves today, in the world of technology as well as in our private life.

Joe and Gordon Halt and Catch FireWhen the fourth and final season ended in October, I was immensely happy, sad, enlightened and broken all at once and I wondered if there would be a reason to watch TV ever again, since there never could be anything else like it. Halt and Catch Fire was a show that managed to brilliant from start to end.

The one making the world go round

The first seasons gave much space to Joe who gave the story such a brutal kick-start. Then the creators, Chistopher Cantwell och Christopher C. Rogers, did the smart thing and let the other characters get more prominent, first Gordon and Cameron and later on Gordon’s wife Donna, who just demanded presence and became somewhat of the nave of the story.

Donna puts out fires, also at Gordon’s workplace, because she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are. She’s the one making the world go round.

I know the exact moment I fell in love with Donna Clark, beautifully portrayed by Kerry Bishé and my favourite character of Halt and Catch Fire. It was a scene somewhere in the middle of season 1 when she has an outburst, accusing her husband Gordon of not even knowing the name of their childrens’ doctor.

That totally awesome Donna Clark
She just personified so many things I recognise in women also today. She is the project manager of the household and thereby ensures dinners are prepared, children get to bed, presents are acquired and all the other little things need to be done for everything to run smoothly.

She has a job that is not challenging enough for her, while Gordon has a job requiring enormous energy from him. She is being lectured by her boss, sometimes unfairly but always condescending, and can’t help but purr when receiving the appreciation her boss sometimes do find the effort to show her. Donna puts out fires, also at Gordon’s workplace, because she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are. She’s the one making the world go round.

Donna and Cameron Halt and Catch Fire season 2After a very fascinating first season building concluding after a COMDEX computer expo, the second one still managed to be better. The focus swifts when Donna and Cameron take their learnings and confidence and go into business together and takes part in creating the world of online gaming, shopping and community chat rooms. It becomes quite magical as we get to take part in the successes and failures and how to manage a company together, their company, Mutiny.

While also watching Gordon and Joe trying to find new goals and places for themselves, we slowly get to know all these people better and better. What drives and motivates them, what are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that form their lives?

The feeling of doom

The start of season 3 amazed as the production team so skillfully evoked the feeling of doom as Donna and Cameron with Gordon’s help tried to move their company forward in a new city. I thought we would revisit our friends in a more exuberantly energetic and intense state as they had moved from Texas to Silicon Valley at the end of season 2, but the show just went in the opposite direction.

Those words from the old machine code command, Halt and Catch Fire, couldn’t better describe the start of the season.

The gloomy, almost dystopian atmosphere was not only present at work, where the engineers are lazying around, not knowing what to do as you just waited for the roof to have all the pipes and cables crash down on Gordon trying to jumpstart the mainframe computer in the basement. Also at the house of the Clark family worrying signs, big and small, earthquakes and arguments, made their announcements one by one.

Donna and Gordon season 3
Those words from the old machine code command, Halt and Catch Fire, couldn’t better describe the start of the season. Everything seemed to be at a stop, there was no movement forward, not at Mutiny and not at the Clarks. Although in another part of the city, at a large stage, Joe appeared like a saviour in front of the audience – uncannily like other computer visionaries from that time – and intuitively it felt that something was going to catch fire.

The creators continued to handle the womens’ stories so utterly well through season 3, but did not forget about the men. Between Gordon and Joe there seemed to be some kind of destructive attraction, the same that belonged to Joe and Cameron in season 1. Gordon may had sued Joe for steeling his anti-virus code and Joe may had acquired a new disciple, but you could just feel how Gordon wouldn’t be able to restrain himself from getting drawn into Joe’s world again. There was something in Gordon that attracted him to the genius and the innovator that is Joe, even if he was awfully tired of the psychopath within him.

Joe the saviour, season 3That season ended beautifully with a chamber play of sorts when all the main characters – Joe, Gordon, Donna and Cameron – together with Cameron’s husband Tom, having a brainstorming session trying to understand that thing called world wide web and what it could possibly do in the future.

The world of ideas and innovations

The combination of the personal journey of the character with the technology makes Halt and Catch Fire so unique. This whole story with startups striving for success – the instinct to always look forward, to get further, understanding what people want, coming up with ideas, exert oneself for what seems impossible, unreachable – it’s so satisfying to see that getting room on television.

There are no bad ideas, because also bad ideas can inspire to new ideas and maybe the next one will be that fabulous one.

It’s incredibly exciting to follow the computer revolution in a perspective that make it not only nostalgic viewing, but relevant also today. We are more than ever looking of new services, new technology, to simplify and brighten are lives and at the same time parents will always worry about what their kids are doing. Technology changes, but behaviour stays the same, as someone taught me not so long ago.

donna-halt-and-catch-fire-from-amc-tvThe fact that it does take place in the tech-world is just something I enjoy immensely having worked in it myself for 20 years. Donna and Gordon embodies this world so well as I have seen and experienced it – Gordon, the introverted, rational designer, together with Donna, the structured leader, who in the longer run gets to lead change and run the company without there being anything strange about that.

I like character dramas where the obstacles for the characters comes from within themselves and their own personalities and struggles create the drama instead of having external forces steer the action all the time. Cameron and Donna were exposed to sexism for sure when trying to get to the next level with their company, but that didn’t stop them and at the end they found the right collaborators. Their main challenges on their path forward had to do with themselves and their different goals, purposes and motivation.

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The role of ideas and innovation got to be prominent in the show. “There are no bad ideas”, is something a friend of mine had learned at a course about innovation, because also bad ideas inspire to new ideas and maybe the next one will be that fabulous one. This thinking is confirmed by Donna (or was it Cameron) about Community: “It was just one idea that purcolated out of one of your ideas.” This is innovation and when you think that all is lost and someone else has won, there will still always be new inventions and more improvements to come up with, even if it might not be evident to you just then.

The reversal of roles

Season 4 touched and captivated me even more than before, yet it was hard to put in words what made what made it do so. We had gotten to know the characters so well by now though, they all had their own story. We’d known them for four seasons and ten fictive years, their journeys became clearer without them having to be explicit about it.

Donna has become Joe, Joe became Gordon and Gordon became Donna, their character journeys made perfect sense, although nobody seemed to be really happy or content.

What startled me was how different things were 10 years later compared to season 1. The roles had shifted around even if their personalities are the same. It used to be Joe that called all the shots and Gordon who desperately tried to deliver whatever Joe demanded. But season 4 starts with Gordon trying to get Joe out of the basement and engaged in the main company, instead of collecting url’s all by himself. Joe still has ideas, Gordon still is the one who do the actual work, but now it’s Gordon who is the chief.

hacf_403_bjm_0501_0144-rt-e1512170003660.jpgTen years ago it was Donna who was the caring one who took care of all problems, private and business problems alike. Now this is what Gordon do, taking care of Cameron in her time of need, tending to his daughters’ ups and downs. He is the sympathetic business owner who after a busy week hits the sofa and plays video games. He is the optimist that knows how to adapt to reality, still getting ideas from Donna though on how to develop his company.

Back then Joe was the brutal leader who had a vision. In season 4 it’s Donna that forces her entrepreneurs to sharpen their ideas while Joe is stuck in the basement, just as Cameron and Gordon once was at the beginning. Donna has become the merciless business woman that without blinking disses proposals not visionary enough. She is arrogant and self-centred and manages to get a promotion she gives to an employee to be more about her own excellence than the employee’s. She is still utterly smart though.

indie-music-and-television-blog-halt-and-catch-fire-joe-and-cameron-reunionDonna had become Joe, Joe became Gordon and Gordon became Donna, their character journeys made perfect sense, although nobody seemed to be really happy or content. The atmosphere the last season was a bit low-key and provided the characters with a bit of reflection and soul-searching. It’s not only the technology that is renewed and improved in the show, it asked the same questions about the people. What drives a person? Can you change and renew yourself, stop remaking the same mistakes? And how do you then do that?

Those questions certainly applied to Joe who’s journey from the genius, but slightly psychopathic innovator, to the softer, more mature man thinking about children and family was not an obvious one. Donna too got prompted to do some personal reflection this season when things just did not go her way.

Cameron final 2Cameron, the coding genius, was a bit hard to like in the beginning, I thought, so stubborn and headstrong. It did become easier to feel sympathy when she had a crisis to work through and her stumbling around this season, a few steps forward then a misstep of sorts, was one of the most fascinating stories of the season. The sorrow and fear as well as the willpower beaming out of her was impossible to fend off.

The season that killed

The show just killed me a little bit with each and every episode of the last season. As Rogers and Cantwell knew season 4 was the last one, they could finish off their stories neatly even if they chose to shake us up brutally before that. Because that is what they did and did so well as the pain was described in sentences that were not finished, farewells that could not be brought off and emotions that could not be expressed. I love when shows go introvert and nothing is explicitly expressed, we are not told what to feel and when. We just do it anyway, in our own way.

I will just have to take Donna’s words to heart. There is always something new around the corner to get obsessed to find, or just to get obsessed with.

Yes, Halt and Catch Fire started as a show about Joe and Gordon before it changed its focus to the women and certainly by the end that’s where the focus still was. I wonder if I have seen a better story of a female professional relationship than the one about Donna and Cameron, both female engineers, yet so different. One of the most rewarding scenes in season 4 must have been when Donna tells Cameron that she finished her game, the scene where they truly confess how much they do respect and admire each other: “I made it for people like you. Unfortunately there are not many people like you.”

Donna and Cameron at Mutiny 2But that was not it. They have also learned to appreciate their differences and I get goosebumps just thinking about the scene in the old Mutiny-building where they reflect over their past and imagine their future all at the same time.

The last episode could not have been better with that phone call from Donnas daughter that she will live on for a long time. How she and Cameron somehow got back to basics when trying to fix Haley’s computer, yet realising things are different. Donna who of course would not give up on her drive and ambition, but was ready to use it in other ways as well, inspiring other ambitious ladies. And then the so utterly touching scene between her and Cameron pictured above, that I mentioned before, forever preserved in my mind. It is the most beautiful and dignified ending I have ever experienced from a show.

Donna and Cameron final
Will this be the end of my TV-viewing life? No, I will just have to take Donna’s words to heart. There is always something new around the corner to get obsessed to find, or just to get obsessed with. She already found herself a new idea to explore.

Read more about Donna here: Halt and Catch Fire: The Journey of Donna Clark

ER’s Abby and Luka: 4 adorable moments of their friendship

The art of Abby and Luka’s friendship shown here in four adorable moments, how it evolved and in the end paved the way for their renunion in season 12 of ER.

There is nothing that I like about the Luka/Nicole storyline in the beginning of season 8 and that includes my view that Julie Delpy was totally miscast. But since the story has a purpose and it actually brought good things, I endure it. It told us a lot about Luka’s character, the caretaker longing for kids, and also contrary to what one might have believed, it actually brought Abby and Luka closer together instead of further apart.

Here somewhere, when the pressure of a romantic relationship is off, their friendship is born.

Despite of their brutal breakup, Luka felt he could confide in Abby and she was supportive, and here somewhere, when the pressure of a romantic relationship is off, their friendship is born and they started to be comfortable in each other’s presence.
I love these scenes and how they are showing their budding friendship, how it evolved and in the end paved the way for their renunion in season 12.

1. Abby being caring and compassionate:
“Thinking about your kids?”

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I’ll Be Home For Christmas, 8×10

2. Luka trying to master the art of joking and getting even while also wanting to protect:
“No, seriously, if you need a place to stay? You can stay as long as you need and you only have to sleep with me on the weekends.”

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It’s All In Your Head, 8×15

3. Luka being supportive and encouraging as always when it comes to Abby’s work, now when she has re-entered med school:
“The coat looks good on you.”

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Out of Africa, 10×05

4. Abby so cleverly cheering Luka up after Sam and Alex has moved out by joking with him and at the same time admitting that she knows the part she played in their own breakup:
“Thanks Luka! I always thought it was my fault things didn’t work out between us. Now I know it was you.”

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Nobody’s Baby, 12×02

That’s the beauty of this relationship. It started with mutual attraction, it continued as a friendship until they realised that friendship definitely was not enough.

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes