Last Week’s Reading: Nothing!

This week I took a reading break. I’m not sure why. I finished my TBR Challenge book Saturday night. I started another book Sunday, and I liked it, but I only read a few pages. The rest of the week, I just didn’t feel like reading. What did I do?

Well, I listened. I finished the audiobook of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. (I feel rather smug about this, but don’t ask me how much I understood. My thoughts about it are mostly personal and I’m not sure how much I want to say about me and money here. It’s kind of like when a romance makes you think about your own love and/or sex life and it’s better just to keep those TMI thoughts to yourself).

Mostly, I watched. I almost never watch TV anymore, but I do like to pick a show on Netflix to entertain me while I’m on the elliptical. Lately, that’s been Scott & Baileyand I binge-watched all of Series 3 this week (that’s only 8 episodes). 

I know some of you have already watched it, but if not, it’s a British police procedural centered on a pair of female detective constables. My husband said, “So like a British Cagney and Lacey,” and that’s not totally off–though it’s more of an ensemble piece than I remember Cagney & Lacey being.

What I loved about the show is the competent female characters: not just Janet and Rachel, but their boss, Gill Murray. The main pathologist, Chief Constable, and the other DCI who makes regular appearances are also women. It’s a female-centric show, but without making their gender a big workplace issue in the way Prime Suspect, much as I loved it, did for Helen Mirren’s character. The mysteries were engaging, the procedural part seemed plausible, and the workplace dynamics felt real. But what I mostly enjoyed was watching these driven, ambitious women who loved their work do a great job. (Even Rachel, the “fuck-up,” fucks up more in her personal life than at work, though she does make some big mistakes).

What I didn’t like as much were the increasingly melodramatic personal lives of these women (especially Rachel, but all three of them). This, I realized, is one reason I watch little TV these days. A lot of shows have a soapy element, or develop one to keep things interesting after many seasons, and that kind of emotional drama/big plot twist storytelling just doesn’t engage me as much as it used to. I watched plenty of TV in my younger days, and loved plenty of soapy shows. Now they just make me feel tired. I think the reason it worked for me here was that the seasons are so short–for a total of 24 episodes, I didn’t have time to get fed up with the drama.

And I hate the IMDB plot synopsis, which describes Janet Scott as “motherly.” Janet is a mother, but I didn’t see her as “motherly” at work. What she is is a damn good interviewer, because she’s smart and empathetic. She can often get witnesses and suspects to talk because of her skills. Don’t write that off as just “feminine intuition”–the people she works with don’t. I’d also describe Janet’s relationship with the younger, more emotionally volatile Rachel as mentor, not mother (a male character in this role would never be described as “fatherly”).

By Friday night, I was ready to read again, and I’m well into Stuart MacBride’s Dying Light, the second in his Logan McRae series (guess I’m still in a police procedural mood). But I’ll be honest: if series 4 of Scott & Bailey were available here, that’s what I’d be doing, melodrama and all.

Thanks to Twitter, I’ve also started my next show–The Fallfeaturing another strong female cop played by my beloved Gillian Anderson. But it’s too dark and creepy for me to binge on. I have to work off the adrenaline on the elliptical while I watch. I’d ask for Netflix recs, but Canada doesn’t have half the shows the rest of you get.

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19 Responses to Last Week’s Reading: Nothing!

  1. Rohan says:

    I really agree with you about the strengths but also weaknesses of Scott & Bailey. I’d watch S4 immediately if Netflix put it up, but I can do with less of the soap-y stuff. I felt sort of the same about Happy Valley: that it was too strong to need the melodrama they ended up packing in. Have you watched ‘Last Tango in Halifax’? It is a bit more of the Aga-saga type, complete with a bit of melodramatic back story, but Derek Jacobi is great, as you’d expect, and I enjoyed watching a show that *isn’t* a crime drama!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      That’s a good suggestion! I tend to watch a lot of crime dramas (or spy or political thrillers). I think somehow I find intense drama easier to take in that context–of course it’s intense! Where interpersonal/relationship drama just depresses me. Maybe I can only enjoy it now in the context of romance, where I know things will work out.

      My husband complains because whenever I suggest something to watch together it’s a really dark crime show, and then I burn out and give up on it. (especially because we usually watch right before bed. Watching something while I exercise gives me time to recover before I have to sleep). Meanwhile, he’s watched Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, in which I can’t work up any interest. We’ve got some kind of gender reversal thing going on.

      • Jorrie Spencer says:

        Heh, my husband won’t even watch the dark stuff, so I sometimes binge on it without him. But I agree it’s easy to burn out on it. (Top of the Lake is tight and relatively short; I watched that with my sister and brother-in-law. It’s not without flaws, but I thought it had a lot to offer as well. New Zealand set. Jane Campion.)

        I do actually like binging when it works for me (Game of Thrones, season 1 & 2; Orphan Black, The Closer/Major Crimes), as it puts me in a “I want more of that” mindset. But it does leave me a little exhausted, and there are times when I just stop (True Blood, The Killing, off the top of my head, though there are more).

  2. Have you tried Parks & Recreation? It’s a comedy about a woman who works in the Parks department of a small town in Indiana and loves government. I think I might have to write a whole post about it I love it so much! (Also, the romantic arc that plays out between its main lead and her love interest is one of the best ever–though it starts only from Season 3)

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about that one and I’ve been meaning to try it. It would be nice to watch a comedy for a change.

  3. Sunita says:

    I definitely have those weeks, where I read almost nothing. They do feel weird, but they probably recharge my reading-brain batteries. I’m in awe that you finished the Piketty in audio.

    TheH and I have been watching Inspector George Gently slowly over the last few months (binging doesn’t work for us). Martin Shaw is wonderfully grumpy, Lee Ingleby is deeply annoying (as I believe he’s supposed to be), and the setting is great. If they are available and you haven’t seen them, give Season 1 a try.

    We watched the first couple of episodes of The Fall and decided to shelve it for a while. The cast is excellent but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that it was still a bit too “oh, the poor pretty young things.” I’ve had a harder and harder time watching serial killer plotlines, especially when the victims are young attractive women (reading them is easier for me for some reason). I had the same experience with Appropriate Adult, even though it is also very well acted and written.

    • Barb in Maryland says:

      I second Sunita’s recommendation of the ‘Inspector George Gently’ series. I’ve had a serious crush on Martin Shaw since his “Professionals” days and I must say he has aged very nicely. He does ‘grumpy’ so well. And yes, I have wanted to smack his young sidekick many times. Also I will say that I could have used a few subtitles when the local accents became almost unintelligible.

      • Liz Mc2 says:

        Oh, I watched a bit of George Gently when my husband was out of town once, thought I should save it for us to watch together, and forgot about it. We should try it again. (I do remember how annoying the young guy was).

        I can’t binge on TV for long–there are series I started binging and never finished because I just get tired of the characters and world, or the niggles get more and more obvious. (Same reasons I don’t usually glom book series/authors).

  4. Ros says:

    I much prefer the shorter TV series we get here. 20 weeks of something just makes me exhausted. Plus, I don’t record shows, so there’s almost no chance of being able to watch the whole thing (I do watch catch up episodes online, but they’re usually only available for a week). I feel like 6 or 8 shows is plenty for an overall arc.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      With shorter seasons/series I am much less likely to feel that a plot line is being overplayed–it’s just much tighter.

    • KeiraSoleore says:

      I like the shorter season, too, because the overarching story lines feel cohesive and you feel like you have a handle on to the show. I, too, feel the long series exhaustion.

      • Liz Mc2 says:

        I have this same problem with romance series (or really long mystery fiction series). At a certain point I’m just done with the world and characters, however much I once liked them. But obviously many people feel differently, because series do so well!

      • KeiraSoleore says:

        I do have a couple exceptions to this long series exhaustion. I have loved and read every single one of PD James’s and CS Harris’s books with a lot of enjoyment and always looked forward to the next one. Ditto Deborah Crombie. I think the compelling romance plotlines and developing character arcs served to keep me engaged.

  5. KeiraSoleore says:

    I’m always on the lookout for British police procedurals, so I’ve added disc one of S&B to my Netflix queue.

    The issue with Prime Suspect I found was that Helen Mirren brought this really strong, abrasive personality (some say her true personality) to the show. It became all about her rather than the story. I mean, look at Lewis & Hathaway, it’s about them but that doesn’t dominate the story. Same with Foyle’s War. You totally get a sense of his personality and her personal story, but the main crime story’s the focus of the episode.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Yes, I know what you mean about Mirren’s character. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but she did dominate. Scott & Bailey is much more an ensemble–I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

  6. Janine Ballard says:

    I wonder if you might like Marvel’s Agent Carter– I started watching it recently and so far I’m enjoying it. It’s set in the late 1940s, has a super competent female protagonist, and so far almost all her issues are related to work. It’s well executed, and from what I understand it’s only an eight episode miniseries. If you don’t mind a fantasy/superhero element, it might work.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I thought that sounded fun, but I have to wait for it to appear on Netflix or something. I just cannot manage to keep up with weekly broadcast TV appointments (or even record and watch them later) for some reason. I always lose track or forget I have DVRed them.

  7. Janine Ballard says:

    All three episodes that have aired so far are posted on ABC. I don’t know if you like to watch online though.

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