TV highlights of the week: Love stories, New France and Mob matters

If you feel that Tu Be’av is just an annoying way to make single people feel bad for an extra day, you can watch Sunset Blvd., which is showing on Yes 3 at 6:25 p.m. on August 4.

'Barkskins' (photo credit: COURTESY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)
The Israeli Love Day, Tu Be’av, is coming up, and there are a number of shows and movies you can watch to celebrate it. I caught up with the Amazon Prime series (available here on Cellcom TV and Partner TV) Modern Love, a dramatization of The New York Times’ Modern Love columns (full disclosure: I wrote a Modern Love column once, although not one that was used for the series) and it’s quite enjoyable. Each episode is a stand-alone story and the final episode brings most of the characters together.
The first episode is a home run, about the strange but comforting intimacy between an Albanian doorman (Laurentiu Possa) and a young female tenant (Cristin Milioti) of whom he is very protective, but in a touching, Old World way, not at all creepy. Other episodes don’t quite rise to this level, but it’s all intelligently written and directed by John Carney, who made Once, and has a great cast: Tina Fey (30 Rock) and John Slattery (Mad Men) as a troubled married couple; Andrew Scott (who played Hot Priest on Fleabag) as a gay dad hoping to adopt; Dev Patel (Lion, Slumdog Millionaire) as a dating-app entrepreneur and Catherine Keener as a journalist who gets him to open up about his own love life, and many others.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,” is one of the beautiful lines the late Nora Ephron wrote in the charming rom-com When Harry Met Sally... which begins running on Cellcom TV on August 6.
Another rom-com that is actually funny is Bridget Jones’s Diary – starring Renée Zellweger as a young, London singleton torn between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth – which will be shown on Hot Cinema 4 on August 4 at 6:45 p.m.
If you feel that Tu Be’av is just an annoying way to make single people feel bad for an extra day, you can watch Sunset Blvd., which is showing on Yes 3 at 6:25 p.m. on August 4. It’s Billy Wilder’s masterpiece about the twisted relationship between a washed-up movie star (Gloria Swanson) and a struggling young screenwriter (William Holden). It’s as sharp as the day it was released 70 years ago.
YOU MIGHT not think of the National Geographic Channel as a place to look for new series, but they are premiering an interesting new show, Barkskins, on August 3 at 9 p.m. It’s set in the 1600s in New France, territory that was later absorbed by the US and Canada, and it is based on a novel by Annie Proulx (Brokeback Mountain, The Shipping News). Judging by the first episode that was released to the press, it’s a well-acted, carefully researched series, about the rivalries and alliances among the French, English and Native Americans who fought over this territory.
It’s got some romance, as a group of French young women is brought there to marry. It features a mystery over a British man who disappeared; and tells the story of an intelligent, down-on-his-luck Frenchman (Christian Cooke) who is just trying to survive. David Thewlis is the standout as a flamboyant French landowner, and Marcia Gay Harden plays a wary, assertive innkeeper. It seamlessly weaves the historical background about a place and a period most of us don’t know much about into the human drama that plays out there, and the landscapes are breathtaking.
I THOUGHT I knew all about the 1980s Mob wars in New York City, but I learned a lot watching the fascinating three-part Netflix series Fear City: New York vs the Mafia. It’s a detailed look at how the Mafia ruled New York at that time and how it was eventually taken down by law enforcement. It features extensive interviews with the federal agents involved in building a case against the Mob, as well as a few interviews with some of the surviving wise guys themselves.
The series also looks into how an ambitious, newly appointed US attorney for the Southern District of New York named Rudy Giuliani used the new RICO anti-racketeering law to find ways to prove the guilt of a well-organized group of very savvy criminals.