Reviews & More: Comedy & Tragedy

"The Good Fight"

It’s been an exceedingly strange and troubling three-and-a-half years since Donald Trump assumed the office of president; and since governmental misdeeds that might at one time have led to scandal, outrage and appropriate punishments have slipped through the 24/7 news cycle like trash sent out to sea and forgotten; and since Black Lives Matter has never been more important; and since we have basically shut down as a country due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have ceased to be taken seriously by the rest of the world. What I just wrote is not a political rant but a fact-based recounting of recent history.

Interestingly enough, “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access)—an excellent spin-off of “The Good Wife,” with the same creators (Michael King and Michele King), writers and some of the same cast (Christine Baranski, who can do no wrong, Cush Jumbo, Sarah Steele), and adding the powerful Delroy Lindo and Audra McDonald—covers these past four years with a vengeance. I binge-watched all 41 episodes over a period of 10 days, and it was like living through it all over again, which may sound like something one might wish to avoid. Don’t, please. Like its predecessor, it’s all there: legal challenges and messy private lives, wry humor and mouth-dropping, daring plot lines, plus scripts that amuse, challenge, invigorate and teach. Over the course of the series (especially in the first part of season three), paranoia about governmental spying and retribution grows stronger and the episodes take a much darker turn. However, the show soon returns to more evenly balanced scripts, I’m happy to say. Unfortunately, filming on the final season four must have had to stop when production shut down in March because there are stories that were left hanging and puzzles left unsolved. Here’s hoping the future will bring the return of production, so we can find out what happened… both in the series and in real life.

“Palm Springs” (Hulu). If you’ve heard that this new romantic comedy—which is not very romantic and often more upsetting than comedic—is a riff on “Groundhog Day,” you’re correct. But it’s also quite different and far more outrageous. Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, who has been living the same day over and over again—his girlfriend is a bridesmaid so they’re in Palm Springs for the wedding—for an untold amount of time, due to some blip in the time/space continuum (don’t ask, I have no idea). There is another person (J.K. Simmons, in top form) also in the same situation but, as he blames Nyles for their fate, he tries to kill him each and every day. Fun, right? Then they are joined by the bride-to-be’s sister Sarah, played by the gifted Cristin Miloti and she alone is worth watching the picture. She injects a new, vigorous element into the film with her portrayal of an unhappy, self-hating, destructive and yet oddly appealing woman with a death wish. Sarah glows with a complex inner life, and the connection she makes with Nyles leads to outrageous capers and silliness in a truly enjoyable way. There are some moments of philosophizing on the meaning of life, and while they may or may not be profound, they don’t detract from the fact that “Palm Springs” is a hoot for grown-ups. 

“Fisherman’s Friends” (On Demand and digital as of July 20). If the two previous selections this week seem somewhat heavy, relax and enjoy this lovely import from England, based on a true story. A cynical musicians’ agent from London winds up in a small town in Cornwall, where he finds a group of friends, hardy, seasoned fishermen, all, who sing folk songs about the sea. What happens—he falls in love, he wants to get them a record deal, obstacles abound—is not that original, but the ambience, the stories, the delightful old and young salts, kept a smile on my face from beginning to end.