Aesthetes, super-freaks, a dead guy and the 4400: this week’s viewing

Last year the Delta variant shut down the Durham Savoyards’ plans to stage Gilbert and Sullivan’s PATIENCE live so the went online (if you want to start with the overture, it’s here). They did a really amazing job adapting the story of Bunthorne — an “aesthetic sham” who spouts poetry to impress his female admirers — Patience, the unsullied milkmaid who has never known love and Algernon, the paragon of poetic perfection who steals her heart and that of the other women.

While the 19th century aesthetic movement (at one point Gilbert considered making it about rival curates instead, but decided mocking the church without offending the audience would be too tricky) is hardly a burning issue for most of us, pretentious artists and their groupies are still a ripe topic for satire. The script also mocks the Victorian meloramatic assumptions about love being unselfish and the twisting logic that leads to.

The Savoyards did a great job adapting Patience to an online environment, having much of the discussion take place in Discord chat rooms or Zoom conferences, with memes flowing in the chat channel (“They say I sleep too much — but I’m just dreaming of you!”). The end results were delightful and I recommend catching them if you’re into Gilbert and Sullivan. “I was the beau ideal of the modern aesthetical/To doubt my inspiration was regarded as heretical/Until you cut me out with your placidity emetical!”

THE DOOM PATROL opened its third season by wrappig up the Covid-shortened S2, with Caulder and his grumpy team putting an end to the Candlemaker. Things get livelier as we move into the real third season: a mysterious time traveler appears, the Doom Patrol dies, Rita travels back in time, the Sisterhood of Dada appears and so do some of the team’s Silver Age foes. It’s a weird, quirky mess in the best way, much more enjoyable than S2 was. “Jane dresses like a deranged sock puppet.”

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955) was one of my least favorite Hitchcock films when I first caught it and rewatching does not improve it. Harry is a dead guy found in the woods outside a small New England town — did Ed Gwenn accidentally pot him while hunting? Was it Mildred Natwick or Harry’s ex, Shirley Maclaine? Can artist John Forsythe get them all out of it? The running gag is that none of the cast really care about Harry except as an inconvenient problem, about as annoying as a speeding ticket; that might have worked for an Alfred Hitchcock Presents half-hour episode but it stretches to the breaking point here.

The Hitchcock Romance does make an interesting case that this the flip side of the small communities seen in Shadow of a Doubt and Rear Window, the difference being there’s no murderer here: the core cast are all innocents, none of them mistrusts or suspects the others of lying about their ties to the dead guy. I think that’s spot on, but I still don’t care for the film at all. That wouldn’t interest you, doctor — it’s purely personal and not medical.”

When the CW announced it was reviving THE 4400 I was puzzled why — sure, I liked the show, but it wrapped up in 2007; is 15 years long enough in the past a revival is necessary? Much to my surprise, though, it worked. The emphasis here is that the alien abductees mysteriously returned to Detroit are predominantly black, including a trans doctor from the Harlem Renaissance, a woman civil rights activist from the early 1960s and a black lawyer who vanished just 15 years ago — which is still time enough to have transformed the people she loves. And of course the ruthless government agents and bullying cops now feel like the evening news, rather than just something knocking off The X-Files. I do hope this makes it back for S2. “The answers you think you want will only lead to your death nd the death of hose you love.”

#SFWApro. Cover by Bob Brown all rights to images remain with current holder.

1 Comment

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One response to “Aesthetes, super-freaks, a dead guy and the 4400: this week’s viewing

  1. Pingback: The Wrong Man Gets Fast and Furious: Movies | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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