Caught Watching TV This Weekend

Caught a few quality gems on the old god box this weekend, stuff I’d never seen before and found quite enjoyable.

  • History Detectives – a PBS program that ran late Saturday night I think. I was just passing by on a channel surfing spree when I caught this interesting program about historians, conservators and archivists researching artifacts for people. This particular episode featured the historians tracking down some unknown early drawings from a Polish-American artist and a scrap of what might have been a Civil War era balloon. Definitely worth catching again, though I got the feeling it was a last minute replacement in KGTF’s lineup that night.
  • Black Narcissus – Again, I caught this one while channel surfing. I didn’t catch the first half hour or so of this movie because I was in and out of the house working on my bicycle, but I was really impressed once I came into the house and started watching it in earnest. It’s about a group of nuns that establish a convent high in the Himalayas, inside a palace festooned with salacious sculptures. Apparently all the carnality depicted in stone gets to one of the nuns, leading to a tragic denouement with the station agent and the abbess in the valley below. A real find on Turner Classic Movies.
  • La Grand Illusion – I kept it on TCM after Black Narcissus and I was rewarded with this absolute jewel of a movie. It’s a war movie, it’s a prison movie. Think of it as the template from which Stalag 17, The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Great Escape were cut. They are all great movies, but this was the mold from which they are but copies. It concerns a group of French officers captured during World War I, their life in camp and their efforts at escape. Two prisoners in particular are followed, Lt. Marechal, a former mechanic turned pilot, and Capt. de Boeldieu, a career officer from a long line of aristocrats. The other French officers keep their distance from the aloof de Boeldieu, who has more in common with the prison commandant, Capt. von Rauffenstein, another career officer and German aristocrat. These two men realize the days of their class are numbered, that no matter who wins the Great War, they will lose everything.

Well that’s it. I just wanted to throw this out there. I wanted it understood that I do watch television, I just don’t watch crap. Hell, this was just what I watched on Saturday afternoon and evening. Yesterday I watched a baseball game in the morning and NOVA in the evening. And NOVA actually kinda sucked. It was an entire hour devoted to bowerbirds. It was a well done show, just not that interesting to me. I got the sense that this was a pet project of David Attenborough’s, and PBS just doesn’t say no to Sir David Attenborough. The guy’s the Pope of Chili Town as far as public television is concerned.