Reviews & More: Yesterday and Today

Rosie Perez (left) and Kaley Cuoco in “The Flight Attendant”

“Lupin” (Netflix). “A gentleman thief of Paris” is the hero of a series of books written by Maurice LeBlanc between 1905 and his death in 1941. In this highly recommended, updated French adaptation, Lupin is portrayed as a crafty French-Senegalese con artist and enacted by Omar Sy, an extremely charismatic Black actor who is, by turns, fierce and gentle, loyal and driven by a need for revenge. Each episode turns the tables on the previous one, so we never quite figure out what’s going on, but in a good way. This is a thriller/comedy/caper series that shows off both the modern Paris that gleams and its underbelly. At the end of episode five we are told there will be two more… but not yet. Oh, no! Did they shut down because of COVID? I don’t know; I do know that they left me hanging and I really, really need to know how it all resolves. Hope it’s soon.

“The Flight Attendant” on HBO Max is simply smashing but only after you get past the first two episodes. I almost stopped watching at that point because I found myself really irritated by the bad behavior of Cassie, the title role (played to the hilt by Kelly Cuoco.) Her immaturity and self-destructiveness were a real turn-off. I’m so grateful that I decided to give it one more chance because the set-up was a good one: A blissful one night stand has our heroine waking up in bed with a bloodied dead man by her side; her drinking is at the black-out stage and she has no idea what happened. What goes on from there is twisted and clever and truly suspenseful. Check it out.

“All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS Masterpiece is a fine adaptation of the beloved books by veterinarian James Herriot based on his early professional life in the 1930s Yorkshire countryside. I saw the original PBS adaptation more than 40 years ago; my memories of it are so delightful that I find this version a bit dull in comparison. I especially remember greatly enjoying the curmudgeonly character of the older vet, played here by Samuel West and back then by Robert Hardy, and find West’s version lacking in substance. Still, my memory may be colored by the intervening years, and here there is the same combination of innocent sweetness mixed with the harsh reality of farm life. It’s sure to be a fine antidote for modern times and all its tumult.

Allow me to recommend two sterling documentaries. “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Prime) was released before the election last year but it couldn’t be more timely. It covers the history of voter suppression, especially of Black people, up until the present. Focusing on the career of Stacey Abrams, the lawyer/activist/former Georgia House of Representatives member and gubernatorial candidate, we honor the huge role she has played and continues to play in turning out underrepresented minorities. Part history lesson, part political education, watching it as I did before the recent inauguration, I couldn’t help noting how very many amazing people we have in this country who volunteer tirelessly and anonymously behind the scenes and give of their time with passion and hard work. Headlines might call attention to the false patriots; this is a portrait of a genuine one—someone who saw (and lived) injustice, rolled up her sleeves and got busy with changing it. Bravo.

For a completely different experience, do watch “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” (Prime), which tells the unbelievable story of how “Fiddler on the Roof” came to fruition, despite incredible odds against it happening. How did a basically somber story about a small town in Czarist Russia that is populated by struggling Jewish families—one of which has five daughters and no sons and who live in near-poverty—turn into a smash hit musical that has been performed somewhere in the world every single day since its opening in 1964? And how did its creators manage to get it mounted despite personality differences and egos and initial bad reviews? For musical comedy (or drama) buffs… and everyone else, too.