Spies, spouses, suits, and skaters

Every moment of the show was an expression of director Jean Renoir’s maxim, “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.”

A scene from the show 'The Americans' (photo credit: WAEL WAKEEM)
A scene from the show 'The Americans'
(photo credit: WAEL WAKEEM)
No spoilers in the finale of The Americans, which aired last week, but it was a worthy end to a show that was never less than gripping.
In spite of all the action and violence, this series about Soviet spies in Washington in the 1980s was always a character study, with the complex husband-and-wife team, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), working at cross purposes with their friend and neighbor, FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich).
Every moment of the show was an expression of director Jean Renoir’s maxim, “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons,” and the finale brought this truth to life brilliantly in a beautifully written and suspenseful scene, which student actors may as well begin memorizing already, since it was really that good.
If you’ve never seen the series, you can catch all of its seasons on YES VOD.
If you’re still embroiled in The Affair, you’ll be happy to hear that the fourth season is coming up on June 20 at 10 p.m. on HOT HBO.
In the new season, all four of the core cast members – the adulterous couple and their spouses – are involved with other people, so perhaps it should now be called The Affairs.
If you still have royal wedding fever and want to see more of Meghan Markle, you can watch her final episode of Suits on YES VOD, and the fifth and sixth seasons of the series have just become available on HOT VOD. Don’t worry if you missed the first five seasons of the show. Suits is one of those not very subtle, old-style network television series where everything is rehashed endlessly.
It’s about a high-powered Manhattan law firm (the play on the word “suits” is the wittiest touch on the show), where a ruthless SOB named Harvey (Gabriel Macht) starts working with a brilliant young attorney, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). The hook is that Mike, who is from a tough background, didn’t really go to law school, but he is such a genius that he has hacked into the Harvard Law School database to make it look as though he graduated from there.
Markle plays a bright paralegal who dreams of being a lawyer but whose low test scores hold her back. Eventually, she makes it to law school and also gets romantically involved with Mike.
When I first heard that an actress from Suits had become engaged to England’s Prince Harry, I assumed it was Sarah Rafferty, who plays Harvey’s fiery, redheaded secretary, Donna. She has an insane amount of attitude and self-confidence, and she is the most entertaining part of the show – often, the only entertaining part of the show, truth be told. However, it was the less flamboyant Markle who won Harry’s heart.
In Markle’s final appearance, she and Mike marry in a far more modest event than Markle’s real life nuptials.
The trouble with I, Tonya, which becomes available on HOT VOD movies this week, is that the real story needs so little amplification or embellishment: Tonya Harding, an athletic young figure skater from a trailer-trash background, faced off against the patrician looking Nancy Kerrigan (who was actually from a working-class family herself) at the US Figure Skating Championships in 1994, when Kerrigan was attacked by a man who bashed in her knee.
Although both she and Harding went to compete in the Olympics at Lillehammer later that year, Kerrigan won the silver medal and Harding came in eighth, and Harding’s ex-husband and some buddies of his eventually pleaded guilty to the attack. Harding pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
The individual figure-skating championships at the Olympics, in which both of them competed, was one of the most watched sporting events of all time.
I, Tonya tries to portray Harding (Margot Robbie) as a sympathetic or at least understandable figure, and implicitly places the blame for Harding’s failings on her allegedly abusive mother (Allison Janney, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance). It’s all entertaining enough, but not nearly as riveting as the actual events were at the time, and the portrayal of working-class America is a bit cartoonish.