Delta Watchlist: Part 1

I stopped writing my Pandemic Watchlist posts when Covid-19 loosened its hold and life was returning to normal. Then the Delta variant began spreading. Now that brief time between crises seems like the eye of a hurricane, where everything is calm and clear before the winds start up from the other direction.

A Sentient Virus

Delta Variant, STOP, Delta Watchlist, pandemicI sometimes think the coronavirus is sentient. It figured out that vaccinations were getting ahead of its ability to spread so it cultivated the Delta Variant and became more virulent. It realized that old people, the low-hanging fruit, were either dying or getting vaccinated, so it opened a new front. “We forgot the children,” it said and began spreading among those too young to be vaccinated—and often too small to follow precautions. The coronavirus didn’t have to evolve a new variant to take advantage of those too gullible or fearful to get vaccinated; we did that ourselves.

So, now here we are, masking up inside again, avoiding crowded places, and waiting for booster shots to become available. In some parts of the country, we have returned to crowded hospitals, overworked medical staff, rising death rates, and mobile morgues.

Good grief.

The Delta Watchlist

What had opened is closing back down again and that means we’re staying close to home, especially in the evenings. Once winter sets in, the few remaining outdoor activities we can enjoy now will shut down.

TV Watchers, Delta Watchlist, popcorn, television, TVThat means I’m returning to my Pandemic Watchlist posts as a guide for people who complain, “I can’t find anything decent to watch on TV.”

That depends, of course, on what you like to watch. We’re pretty eclectic in our tastes, which range from westerns to science fiction, police procedurals to fantasy, documentaries to action movies. Here are just a few of the things we have watched—or are watching right now—with my take. I’ll call these posts the Delta Watchlist.

Little Tolerance for Violence

I rate things differently than my husband does. He has a higher tolerance for violence than I, while I enjoy relationship-based drama more than he. This is my blog, so you get my opinions. Adjust accordingly.

Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly of what we have seen in the last few months. The Delta Watchlist is designed to help you find some new, interesting, and sometimes educational, things to watch in the evenings. Winter is coming.

NOTE: We do not have every streaming service known to man. We lack HULU, Disney+, Apple TV, and some other premium services. Most of what we watch is on Netflix, HBO, and whatever streaming services come with our Comcast account

Documentaries

The 100-Foot Wave: HBO
In English and Portuguese with subtitles

“The six-part series intimately captures the decade-long odyssey of surfing pioneer Garrett McNamara, who, after visiting Nazaré, Portugal in hopes of conquering a 100-foot wave, pushed the sport to ever-greater heights and alongside locals helped transform the small fishing village into the world’s pre-eminent big-wave surfing destination.”

big-wave surfing, Nazare, Portugal

Starting a run off Nazare

Back in 2020, I wrote about the big waves at Nazaré in Portugal. This documentary series follows the surfers who feel compelled to ride these sea monsters. Full disclosure: I couldn’t stand up on a surfboard if it was on my front lawn, so these feats of strength and balance awe me. I also think these surfers are crazy but that doesn’t stop me from watching the waves loom up, curl over, and fall with the weight of tons.

I would love to stand by the lighthouse at Nazaré to just watch the enormous waves roll in and feel the energy of them crashing against the rocks. That experience probably lies outside the realm of possibility, so I watch this series instead. It’s mesmerizing. Recommended.

UFO: Showtime

“A four-part docu-series from JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot and Glen Zipper exploring our fascination with unidentified flying objects, and what clandestine influence the American government, lucrative private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth behind extraterrestrial phenomena to further their own agendas.”

UFO, UAP, Pentagon, Preliminary Assessment on Unidentified Aerial PhenomenaIf you are a UFO skeptic, chances are that you have been living inside the bubble of ignorance, misinformation, and ridicule that our government, the military, and the media have maintained for the past 70+ years. This documentary might change all that.

You can’t ignore the sheer volume of sightings from all over the world that you see in this documentary series. Also, pay attention to the video and photographic images, the commentary from experts, and the personal descriptions. Just watch; you’ll see. Don’t believe in UFOs? Belief is not required when proof is presented. The series is fascinating, and you might even change your mind.

Escape to the Chateau DIY: Peacock

“Many Brits have moved to France to buy crumbling French chateaus to renovate into stunning homes. This series follows their progress and sees them try to use their homes as a business for events, etc.”

Escape to the Chateau DIY, French chateaux, Loire Valley, FranceHaving loved the original Escape to the Chateau Series, which introduces the Strawbridge family and their struggles to renovate an old French chateau, I have become engrossed this extension. The series makes the Strawbridges a focal point as it follows the efforts of other British families to turn decaying hulks into vacation and wedding destinations.

These historical mansions are scattered all over France, so the show provides a travelogue to those of us who can’t wait to start traveling again.

Although the chateaux are gorgeous and works of art in their own right, they have typically been abandoned for years, if not decades. The new owners face problems with basic infrastructure (water, heat, electricity) along with wild boar, bats, leaking chimneys, crumbling plaster, giant water tanks, and enormous chandeliers. It even follow an owner’s attempt to recover historical suits of armor sunk into a moat to protect them from Nazi invaders.

If you enjoy home restoration and real estate shows, travel, old house, and France, you will love this series. Highly recommended.

The Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch: History Channel

“In this groundbreaking second season, the team goes deeper and higher than ever before, applying cutting edge technology to investigate the 512-acre property to uncover the possibly “otherworldly” perpetrators behind it all. With everything from mysterious animal deaths to hidden underground workings and possible gateways that open to other dimensions, witness the close encounters that go beyond conventional explanation.”

Although this show has about 15 minutes of real content per episode, I’m hooked. I have always wanted to bring high-tech equipment to one of these mysterious places and that’s what they’re doing. It’s taken three seasons to pin down what seems to be the locus of the mysterious activity in Utah’s Uintah Basin and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their attempts to pin it down and identify it the next season. Recommended for the curious.

Fiction: The Good

Shtisel: Netflix

In Yiddish and Hebrew with English subtitles

Shtisel, Netflix, haredim, ulta-orthodox“The story of a haredi family in Jerusalem. Shulem Schtisel the father of a large family is dealing with his younger son who he wants to see married soon. His daughter, Giti is dealing in secret with marital problems while his other son Zvi Arie tries to patch everything up”

The haredim are members of an ultra-orthodox sect who dress like they’re still in 19th-century Poland and live a life separate from that of other Israeli Jews. The series starts off slowly and we considered abandoning it because it takes so long for Akiva Shtisel, the protagonist, to smarten up and follow his own dreams. But we kept at it and were rewarded by excellent second and third seasons.

Recommended. Now if someone could only explain to me why they wear their hats perched on top of their heads and looking like they don’t fit.

CONDOR: EPIX

“A brilliant, young, idealistic CIA analyst finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy that kills everyone else at his office. Can he, with no field experience, stay alive long enough to get to the bottom of it?”

This smart, complicated and fast-paced series keeps you engaged and fascinated from the beginning of the series to the end. Joe Turner runs and we sprint along with him. Highly recommended for action fans.

The Chair: Netflix

At a major university, the first woman of color to become chair tries to meet the dizzying demands and high expectations of a failing English department.”

What can I say? Any show where one character corrects another character’s grammar sotto voce has me hooked. These six episodes introduce us to the world of prep school politics. They reminded me of Henry Kissinger’s famous comment that, “‘The reason that university politics is so vicious is because the stakes are so small.” Small, perhaps, but the emotions are huge. Any working woman can empathize with Sandra Oh as chair of a dysfunctional English department.

Unforgotten: Season 5: PBS

Unforgotten, Masterpiece, PBS“CI Cassie Stuart and Cassie’s partner-in-solving-crime, DI Sunny Khan, are veterans at uncovering the truth of tangled, complicated murders of the past. But the deeper the truth lies, the bigger the emotional toll for the suspects, the families left behind, and for Cassie and Sunny to handle.”

This police procedural deals with a special London police unit that investigates cold cases, identifying bodies that have been lost or hidden, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. If you have been watching it, don’t miss Season 5. If you are new to the series, start from the beginning. You have to go on this journey along with the characters to get the full impact of the story arc and this season’s finale.

Lillyhammer: Netflix

In Norwegian and English

“Frank Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) is a former New York mobster, who after testifying in a trial in the United States, joins the witness protection program. Intrigued by the place after watching the Winter Olympics in 1994, he is relocated to Lillehammer in Norway. The transition from being a feared and respected gangster in New York, to becoming an unemployed immigrant in Norway, is not simple. Frank soon discovers that in order to succeed in this rural Norwegian society, he must resort to his old ways.”

In this joint Norwegian-American drama, Steven Van Zandt recasts his character of Silvio Dante from The Sopranos as Frank Tagliano. He’s a NYC made man who rats out his boss to the Feds and takes the Witness Protection Program all the way to Lillehammer, Norway. There, he’s supposed to live quietly but he reverts to doing what he knows best. While it’s amusing to see him introduce mob “persuasion” to the non-violent Norwegians, it’s also disconcerting to watch him corrupt them. Still, it’s funny and unpredictable. Recommended.

Fiction: The Bad

Slow West: Showtime

“A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.”

This Western with Michael Fassbender as an improbable bounty hunter and Cody Smit-McPhee as a love-struck Scottish laird’s son, would have been more interesting without all the killing.

People get shot right and left, front and center, with and without drama. At the end, the director lovingly revisits each one as a way of making a point, although I wasn’t sure exactly what the point was supposed to be. Plus, I notice things like milk and butter on a farm that appears to have no cow. But that’s me. Not recommended.

The Cook of Castamar

In Castilian Spanish with dubbed English

The Cook of Castamar, La Cocinera de Casta,arSet in early 18th-century Madrid, the plot follows the love story between an agoraphobic cook and a widowed nobleman.”

How do you say “bodice ripper” in Spanish? Does “destripador de corpiño” do it or does the translation require something idiomatic? This series, set in 18th-century Spain is well acted, well written and beautifully photographed. But there’s too much romance, and not enough cooking. The plot is so predictable I stopped watching before bodices got ripped in the inevitable explosions of passion. Recommended if you like romance novels.

Fiction: The Ugly

Beckett: Netflix

In English with some Greek

“Following a tragic car accident in Greece, Beckett, an American tourist, finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life.”

This starts out as a straightforward chase movie and morphs into a confusing mish-mash in which motives are mixed and no one can be trusted. Lots of killing. Eventually, you stop caring. Not recommended.

Chapelwaite: EPIX

“In the 1850s, Captain Charles Boone relocates his family to his ancestral home in the small, sleepy town of Preacher’s Corners. Charles will soon have to confront the secrets of his family’s history and fight to end the darkness.”

There’s nothing wrong with this series: good acting, literate script, excellent cinemaphotography, creepy special effects, and a weird old house. After one episode, though, I agree with the housekeeper that I don’t want to go back into that house.

Delta Watchlist: Part 1 Ends Here

I’ll end the Delta Watchlist there after giving you multiple series worth your time and attention. New things are appearing every week now that fall looms near. I’ll publish another Delta Watchlist when I have some good viewing to report.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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