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What to watch, read and listen to in February

Welcome to the first round-up for 2020, which has a collection of TV, books, articles and podcasts to interest you this month. Summer holidays are fading as the work-school-life routine shifts into full gear, but we’ve all got to try and carve out time for arts and culture.

How do you make the time? Share your habits and tips in the comments.

A quick trip through the Broad’s notebook for the summer lists How To Be Famous, an amusing, easy read by Caitlin Moran, Devotion by Patti Smith, where the punk rock poet expands on the mysteries of the creative process, and The Testaments. On the big screen, the film list includes Portrait of a Woman on Fire and Little Women, while on the small screen, Untogether by Emma Forrest, the French Netflix series The Bonfire of Destiny and the made-for-Netflix film Marriage Story

Looking ahead to February, there’s plenty on offer, so let’s get right into it.

A Note on TV

Pros and Cons

The first TV series to recommend this month is the Danish series Pros and Cons. Think: Breaking Bad meets The Americans. The story revolves around a married couple, Erik and Nina, one-time con artists, who have given the game away to live a quiet life in the Danish Burbs. But this is no Hygge life of balance and relaxation. 

Having squandered their ill gotten proceeds, they’re short on money and long on marital discontent when their partner in crime from their old life offers them an opportunity they can’t pass on. What ensues is one final, and very large, con, which should get them out of their financial hole, reinvigorate their marriage and allow them to afford iPads for all the family. There are lots of surprising twists and turns as they try to pull off the scam. 

There’s a bit of dark humour in this series, plenty of surprises and high tension as they try to get away with the money and get back to pick the kids up from school on time. 

It was announced this year that a second series has been commissioned, so the scam con-tines.

Pros and Cons

SBS On Demand

Photo credit: Pros and Cons' / 'Friheden' / 'Friheten' season one Viaplay Original

Photo credit: Pros and Cons’ / ‘Friheden’ / ‘Friheten’ season one Viaplay Original

Olive Kitteridge

This four-part TV series featuring the always interesting, Frances McDormand, as a small town Maine retired teacher and family is adapted from Elizabeth Strout’s novel of the same name. It was made by HBO in the US and screened in 2014, and also features Richard Jenkins as Olive’s husband, Henry, and has a wonderful cameo by Bill Murray. Featuring this series this month to coincide with the launch of the follow-up novel, mentioned below.

Olive Kitteridge is not an entirely likeable woman, and this is precisely why this series is so engaging. A sharp tongue, at times cruel, and distant to a fault, Olive makes those around her suffer as she too suffers through her own lack of emotional intimacy. It’s a close portrait of an everyday life that explores a long-haul marriage, not hiding in sentimentality, and just getting along in life despite the banality and tedium of it. Olive’s harsh honesty is relatable and she’s still likeable, all while being unlikeable.

Olive Kitteridge

YouTube, GooglePlay

A Book Note

Olive, Again

Olive, Again is Elizabeth Strout’s latest installment in her story of Olive Kitteridge, the retired maths teacher with a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue. In this second installment, Olive adjusts to life with her second husband, while attempting to repair a connection with her son, all while negotiating the challenges of life’s ups and downs – both hers and those around her.

The first novel, Olive Kitteridge, introduced us to the character of Olive and those around her as they navigated life in small town Crosby, and its conflicts, tragedies and joys, and the endurance required to survive it all.

Invisible Woman

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men is an astonishing new book by writer and campaigner Caroline Criado Perez. Not to make you feel bad about your sex, but the reality is that so much of what women interact with in their lives has been consciously, or unconsciously, based on the male as the standard.

Criado Perez features on Julia Gillard’s new project, A Podcast of One’s Own (see A Note on a New Podcast, below), where she discusses her feminist awakening, her campaign in 2016 to get the first woman on a UK bank note and this book and her startling research into the gender data gap. 

“From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women.”

The Broad spotted a woman reading this book on the train the other morning and her facial expressions said everything about her reaction to this book.

A Note on a New Podcast

A Podcast Of One’s Own is a new podcast hosted by former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard for the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. In each episode, exPM Gilliard interviews a woman about her professional life and the lessons she has learned, the obstacles and challenges as well as the insights gained in her endeavors. Guests have included Hilary Clinton on global gender equality, Marcia Langton on Aboriginal women’s rights and Caroline Criado-Perez on the gender data gap. See ‘A Note on Books’ for more on this issue.

Julia Gillard talking to Professor Marcia Langton

A Note on A Few Interesting Articles

If you’re looking for ideas on a TV series to watch, check this ranking of shows from IndieWire to find some inspiration.

OK, Boomer – dance

The Boomers cop a lot of flak. Charged with burning up the planet, living off the wealth of surging property price rises and skating through university without the burden of debt, they’re much maligned. Whether or not you subscribe to this view of the oldies, they’re still changing things as they go. Not going gently into that goodnight, some are literally still raving. According to this Guardian article, some folks in their 50s, 60s and even 70s are still clubbing with no plans to settle down. Ride on time.

Brexit is bollocks

While Brexit may be a reality in the UK now, the analysis of who, why and how hasn’t finished. And this article from Irish writer Fintan O’Toole, an excerpt from his book Politics of Pain on England’s embrace of Nationalism, posits a disturbing links between Leavers and former Punks. From Anarchy in the UK to London Calling, the answer, it seems, is in the music.

“The great mystery of Brexit is the bond it created between working-class revolt on the one side and upper-class self-indulgence on the other.”

Putting herstory into history

This article from The Conversation on Catherine Hay Thomson is from its ‘Hidden Women of History’ series and tells the story of the journalist who in the 1880s revealed the conditions women endured in Melbourne’s public institutions. 

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Rosalyn Page
Journalist, blogger and writer covering arts, culture, travel and digital lifestyle at www.rosalynpage.com and www.somenotesfromabroad.com.

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2 thoughts on “What to watch, read and listen to in February

  1. Thanks for the tips!
    We are watching The New Pope which has incredibly lush production/art direction combined with mischievous script writing. John Malkovich is himself as usual and there is a widely shared scene where Meghan Markle keeps calling him for fashion advice. V funny and ‘..definitely wear the yellow Dior.’

    1. Sounds amusing and will add it to our list. Good tip! We’ve now just started watching Belgium series The Twelve, also on SBS, and loving it after the first ep.

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