UK TV gave me a new binge show, all 11 seasons of it.
I took my time finding it, but once I saw an episode of “Vera,” with Brenda Blethyn playing a crumpled working class chief detective assigned to complex murder cases at London, I wanted to.
The clues from which Vera Stanhope solves her mysteries sometimes don’t add up as you might expect, but Blethyn and her nuclear cast always keep their culprit pursuits interesting and entertaining.
Key to everything is the banality with which Blethyn plays Vera. The character presents himself as real and natural. There is no glamor or polish in the character. She’s an everyday professional who has incredible prowess at bringing together what appears to be unrelated information.
It’s fun to watch Vera roam around London in her beige raincoat and comfy shoes. It’s nice to see the charm and sympathy with which she interrogates suspects and potential witnesses and the frankness she shows when she knows she has a stuck assailant.
I love watching Vera toast a lunch employee, then politely order an egg and tomato sandwich to eat on the way back to the station, adding a muffin at the last minute with that gooey frosting the Brits love so much.
Two-time Oscar nominee Blethyn is happy to watch her character as she creates suspense with her tireless work on a case.
Vera is pleasantly pragmatic. When a subordinate asks him when they are going to visit a suspect, Vera looks at him like he is an idiot and says, “Now”, even though they worked to find and process facts for 14 hours that day. .
Her team seems as realistic as she is. You know you’re watching a scripted TV show, but the meetings in Vera’s card-filled office feel like a documentary. It all registers as being so believable and everyday. It makes detective work more interesting and intense than some flashier and more powerful series.
Not since I hiked âShamelessâ earlier this year, have I stuck with one episode of series after episode, season after season.
Remembering Cara Williams
Older viewers may recall a sitcom called “December Bride” which was popular in the late 1950s. (I often hum the theme song.)
As if Spring Byington’s antics as a widow living with her married children weren’t enough, additional comedic relief was brought by a character named Pete who was harassed by his wife, Gladys, who was often talked about but never seen.
Until CBS opted for a “December Bride” spin-off called “Pete and Gladys.” Suddenly Gladys is not only visible but a main character, co-starring with Harry Morgan in one of the first of many TV roles.
Gladys was played by Cara Williams, known for more serious roles in feature films, including an Oscar nominated nod in 1958 for “The Defiant Ones.” Ms. Williams has also appeared in several episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, still airing on MeTV.
As a lifelong TV addict, I maintained an appreciation for Cara Williams in the hopes that she would find the role that would make her more people’s favorite. It didn’t happen. She was given another streak after “Pete and Gladys”, but nothing got her to the top. Ms Williams ceased to act in 1982.
Fortunately, the memory lingers, and I’m one of those who reminds people of Cara Williams’ best moments because I think her potential was so remarkable, fulfilled or not.
Williams died last week at the age of 96. I immediately watched âThe Defiant Onesâ as a tribute.
Remember her or not, I’ve never seen a performance from her that wasn’t great, and I hope more people will recognize her loss.
Nesmith more than just a “Monkee”
A few years after âPete and Gladysâ, NBC decided to capitalize on the popularity of the Beatles-like groups. They recruited four actors and turned them into “The Monkees”.
Unfortunately, two members of the cobblestone group, Davy Jones and Peter Tork, grew up young.
They were joined last week by a third member of the group, Mike Nesmith, an excellent guitarist and author of several of the Monkees’ best-known tracks, including “Mary, Mary”.
This number was also recorded and became a hit for the Paul Butterworth Blues Band. Perhaps his biggest hit for another artist in “Different Drum”, which helped establish the careers of Linda Ronstadt and the Stones Ponies.
Better known, Nesmith’s mother, Bette Graham, invented liquid paper, a product she built in a successful business that she sold to Gillette for $ 48 million in 1979.
Nesmith was an entrepreneur in his own right, producing films including the cult film “Repo Man” in 1984.
Mike Nesmith died last week of heart failure at the age of 78 in Los Angeles. With the passing of Mr. Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, with whom Mr. Nesmith has performed a few concerts, is the only surviving Monkee.
Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.