‘Thrones’ Gets Four Stars; Jim McGreevey Gets Pass: TV
“Fall to Grace,” Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary profile of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, presents the fallen politico turned Episcopal seminarian as a case study in redemption.
Viewers might be hard-pressed to understand exactly what needed redeeming.
The 45-minute “Fall to Grace” chronicles a humbled but happy McGreevey as he ministers to women in prison. His work is heartfelt and charitable, if not particularly extraordinary as such things go.
Pelosi, daughter of the House minority leader, all but ignores the thornier details of the scandal that prompted McGreevey to resign from office in 2004. He departed with the now-famous quote, “I am a gay American.”
That wasn’t the entire issue. McGreevey’s appointment of Golan Cipel, an Israeli man with whom he had an extramarital affair, isn’t examined.
Calling out the omission is more than nitpicking or scandal-mongering. Pelosi’s approach suggests that McGreevey’s transgressions were entirely personal -- a closeted gay man cheating on a wife who may or may not have been in on the ruse -- rather than the potentially serious ethical breaches of an elected official hiring his lover as an adviser.
Redemption, after all, requires a sin. Lacking that, Pelosi’s film is merely the portrait of a man who lost his spotlight. Until now.
“Fall to Grace” airs Thursday, March 28, on HBO at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: **
Dragons. They grow up so fast.
“Game of Thrones,” HBO’s gorgeously realized adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s bestselling pseudo-Medieval fantasy novels marches into its third season on Sunday. Flying lizards thrive where good men have lost their heads.
At this point, you either know a Targaryen from a Lannister, don’t care to, or are intrigued but intimidated by a narrative as impenetrable as chain mail.
Now might be the time to take the plunge.
Picking up where last season left off, a lone, fur-clad soldier is running across a barren, snowy landscape. Silhouetted figures approach not from shadows but the white-out conditions of the oncoming winter.
That sort of imagery, expansive and cinematic, is a “Thrones” hallmark. It stays with us through long, chilly stretches of dense exposition. The denizens of Westeros are a chatty bunch.
Fortunately, they’re also a well-constructed lot, and not just physically (this is, after all, nudity-friendly pay cable). Author Martin wears his influences well, from Shakespeare to Tolkien. Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss stay true to the vision.
“Thrones” has no better example than Peter Dinklage’s dwarf Tyrion Lannister -- the high-born rascal made cynical by circumstance. He’s Falstaff and Richard III in one tidy package.
This season’s newcomers include Ciaran Hinds as warrior king Mance Rayder and Nathalie Emmanuel as a slave freed by the dragon-commanding Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).
And not to be outdone by “Downton Abbey” in the diva department, “Thrones” recruits Dame Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, a ruthless matriarch whose beloved granddaughter is betrothed to the sadistic boy-tyrant Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Joffrey might have just met his match.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sunday, March 31, on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: ****
Why’s the clone always the last to know?
BBC America’s sci-fi thriller series “Orphan Black” gets off to a fine enough start as punky, headstrong con artist Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) witnesses a suicide-by-subway.
She swipes the look-alike girl’s belongings and identity. Suddenly Sarah is Beth, a Canadian cop who finds herself the target of assassins.
She also finds lots of other women who look just like her, some of whom turn up dead.
Even though viewers will be two episodes ahead of Sarah in figuring out the clone conspiracy, “Orphan Black” is better when Sarah is in the dark.
Once she catches on in episode three, the series settles into a familiar “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” groove, with Maslany playing Sarah/Beth as well as any number of quirky clones banding together to thwart their terminators.
“Orphan Black” airs Saturday, March 30, on BBC America at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2
Despite the title, Discovery Channel’s “Secret Life of Money” spills no beans about hidden offshore accounts or byzantine tax loopholes.
The secrets here are of the trivia-contest variety: The average dollar bill stays in circulation four years. Thirty-five tons of pressure -- the equivalent of eight elephants -- are required to make a dime.
The hour-long special meanders through bank vaults, casinos and armored trucks as it details the physical properties of our currency.
“Secret Life of Money” arrives at a point of genuine interest only towards the end, when it ponders the future of “analog” cash in a digital world.
“Secret Life of Money” airs Saturday, March 30, on Discovery Channel at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars and Lance Esplund on art.