Some Shows I’ve Been Watching Lately

The Young Pope Half the time I don’t know what’s going on or even whether there’s a plot, but I can’t stop watching. Jude Law is great as the title character, and Silvio Orlando as his Secretary of State is an oddly compelling character. Interesting take on faith and lack thereof, not to mention a masterclass in how to run an ultra-conservative religion. Can’t help wondering if part of the reason the show holds my interest is that I see parallels between Jude Law’s character and the current President of the United States — particularly in terms of brash and ill-advised decisions.

The Man in the High Castle I’ve always been a Philip K. Dick fan, so it’s a little odd that it took me so long to check out this show. There’s a real sense of horror in seeing a world where the Allies lost World War II, and it’s heartbreaking to see the United States divided into three separate regions, the most attractive of which is essentially a lawless neutral zone where anyone who doesn’t fit the Aryan profile is forced to hide or risk death at the hands of either the Nazi government on the East Coast or the Japanese government on the West Coast. As with The Young Pope, the current political climate in the United States makes The Man in the High Castle particularly meaningful (and frightening) for me.

Mozart in the Jungle This one’s a comedy about the New York Philharmonic in which Gael Garcia Bernal plays the orchestra’s young wild and crazy conductor, Rodrigo. Bernal is just fun to watch in this show–he brings playfulness, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness to the role, and steals every scene he’s in. In an odd way, there are some parallels between this one and The Young Pope. Bernal’s character is as brash and unpredictable as Law’s. Part of this, obviously, has to do with genre and the fact that the stakes are somewhat lower in Mozart in the Jungle. More to the point, Rodrigo’s madcap antics come from a place of joy and curiosity rather than the place of fear and apparent self-loathing at the heart of the young Pope’s histrionics.

Let’s just say that if you’re going to watch either The Young Pope or The Man in the High Castle, I highly recommend Mozart in the Jungle as a palate cleanser.

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Vinyl and Lyme Disease

Whether you enjoyed the premiere of Vinyl as the folks at Rolling Stone did or hated it like the folks at The New Yorker, you were no doubt left wondering whether that reference to Lyme disease about halfway through the episode rang true. The reference occurs when Bobby Cannavale’s character, Richie Finestra, visits the home of radio personality (or lack thereof) Frank “Buck” Rogers, played by Andrew “Dice” Clay. It’s late when Finestra arrives, and by way of apology, he explains that he had to drive all the way from Connecticut to visit Rogers. Rogers replies by castigating Finestra and his ilk for living boring lives and worrying about catching Lyme disease. The problem, however, is that the show is set in 1973.* And although the oldest known human with Lyme disease is a 5300-year-old mummy, the disease did not earn its name until 1975 when a cluster of cases of what looked like rheumatoid arthritis broke out in and around Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. So Rogers was right to pinpoint Connecticut as a hotbed of concern regarding Lyme disease, but he was a couple of years early with his reference. An anachronism? Maybe. Or maybe we’re going to find out that he’s a fictionalized version of Jeanne Dixon.

*In fact, one of the major real-life events that occurs on the show is the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center, which happened on August 3, 1973, a historic date if ever there was one.

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This man does not worry about Lyme disease.