Give Hugh Laurie a #Chance

Reviews, Tv Series

Well, I binge watched this show that has now been canceled and I am not sure what to do next. I mean, shall I write a petition and ask Hulu.com to pay for another season or something? After all, if I have to tell the truth, I was watching it because Hugh Laurie was playing the part of a doctor, a different one from the one we used to know, not a new House M.D. style, so… maybe, the fact that I was not focusing on the plot that much, should suggest that it was time for the series to have a break. Or maybe not, I don’t know. What do you think?

The Coping Mechanism

In this series Laurie plays Eldon Chance, a forensic neuropsychiatrist from San Francisco, CA who treats his patients in an “alternative” way: he evaluates them from a psychiatric perspective to finally send them to other specialists depending on what he finds out about their lives, their habits and their -of course- mental problems, details that will eventually be passed to the police. Differently than Gregory House, Eldon has a family, although he’s going through divorce, he has a daughter who will get into trouble with the developing of the season, and he has some money issues that will force him to do some stupid things and to get into trouble as well. Father and daughter will eventually find out that they have more in common than what they have been thinking so far.

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Although there is no evidence that Chance was done considering Laurie’s previous works, I can’t help but find similarities in these two characters that are, at the same time, so different. The way Chance makes his reasonings, his mental speeches, the way he processes details, and how he evaluates situations considering all the information he can gather from not only his knowledge but his senses as well, resembles House in a striking way, at least to me. Also, in whatever way you want to put it, some actors can play roles that only fit to their appearance. I will always remember the shock I had when I watched the movie with Robin Williams, One Hour Photo (2005) where, instead of a cool character, he was playing a psychopath molester. No. Nope. No way. Uh, uh. There are actors and actresses who are flexible not only in their art but also in the way they look, and then there are others who simply cannot. Chance seems to fit Laurie’s predisposition to represent smart, wait… wise men, maybe tormented as well, and I believe he was the right fit for this role. (But who am I? I know, I know… ) Chance seems to be not only a well trained doctor, but a person with high values and wisdom. The torment seems to begin when his new patient, Jaclyn, comes into his life with her dark secrets and mental health issues. Moreover, it is not a chance -no pun intended- if this Chance is being accompanied by a sort of strange superhero, D., a huge bear-like man who looks a little isolated, asocial and probably a former mental health patient, who is above all, some sort of martial art skilled fellow, clearly bright but misunderstood, a calculator, with a baggage of knowledge about psychological reactions, combat and tools that make him survive in any case of potential scuffle. Eventually D. will become Chance’s reference point (I’d say a-real-friend) to fix his excruciating situation.

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Chance

Genre: they want to call it crime “drama”, I would go with psychological thriller
Based on: Chance by Kem Nunn
StarringHugh Laurie, Ethan Suplee, Greta Lee, Stefania LaVie Owen, Clarke Peters, Diane Farr
Watched on: HULU
Two Seasons, Twenty Episodes binge watched in: 4 nights

I almost said it all (about the plot) for the first season while trying to depict an image of this character, so please just take note that the second season will focus on Detective Hynes who will blackmail poor Chance and Darius (D.’s real name that will come out eventually) in order to find a serial killer, while they get into even more serious trouble and heavily dangerous situations. In fact, Chance’s life has gotten even more screwed up while he is trying to bring justice to his patients who had to go through abuses and bad management of their conditions under the lead of the authorities. Chance turns into a violent sort of “vigilante” after we found out that violence has maybe always been part of his DNA, because of some mental health issues he may have had as a young man. This features are later mirrored in his daughter who acts in weird violent ways to protect herself, scaring her mother to the point she believes her daughter has inherited some psychological deviation from her father.

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I can’t tell, and actually I can’t even guess, how the series will or would end as it was interrupted after season two, and there is no word on the street about a new season coming anytime soon. For what is worth, it was great to see Hugh Laurie back in the game again and most of all, appreciating his usual way of portraying badass men. Knowledge is power people, never forget this! The more you know the better, oblivion keeps you numb but social, knowing more makes you a little isolated maybe… but again, who am I to judge, so make your choice. Take your chance to grow, if I can say so. Oh and please, give Laurie another chance to play another cool role, I mean do it for yesterday! But first go binge watch the series…

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HTGAWM’s Annalise Keating and #metoo

Reviews, Tv Series

The reason I am here tonight is simple: after many years I realize I am not special, I am not “the unlucky one”, I am not different, I am not the only one, I am not #guilty. Since the Weinstein case came out on the news a few weeks ago, memories from the past -that never goes away- start playing in my head every time I stop to read about the testimonies of these women who, one by one, are finally denouncing the abuses and the sexual assaults they have been victim of, either in the past or in the current years.

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I had the same feeling when, thanks to my savior –the music-, I coped with adolescence and its aftereffects, becoming aware of the sad reality that sees many of us undergo mistreatments and abuses, accepting that “a trouble shared is a trouble halved”, and that we are all in this together. Still, whilst the sense of impotence and helplessness you get by feeling wronged by the world, the human existence and the mortal condition belong to boys and girls indiscriminately, it appears that what is going on right now is a massive uprising of female voices that, for many (too many) years, have been silenced. Muted by fear, by abusers, by society itself.

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Among the ones tweeting and sharing their “me too” message to make the world aware of a problem that has been smearing this sick sad society for centuries, there are not only women though. The oppressed, whether females, males, straight or gay, eventually felt they were strong enough and ready to speak up. There was no need to explain in detail, you only had to say “me too”, as if we were in school, the teacher asked a question and we had to raise our hands. Well, thank you Alyssa Milano for calling out to us victims of this broken system via social-media. Most of all, thank you Tarana Burke -credited by Alyssa, for creating this movement, more than 10 years ago, and that only now is coming to surface. Back then, Tarana wanted to help young women of color who were survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation, and who were not heard or believed. Today, everyone can be heard, we hope.

The picture is getting clearer, isn’t it? If you have been watching How to get away with murder these past few years, you can’t help but think of Annalise Keating, the protagonist of another great TV-show born from the magical mind of Shonda Rhimes. Let’s first have a look at the plot of the series:

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How to get away with murder

Genre: they want to call it “legal thriller drama”
Created byPeter Nowalk
StarringViola DavisBilly BrownAlfred EnochKatie FindlayJack FalaheeMatt McGorryAja Naomi KingKarla SouzaCharlie WeberLiza WeilConrad Ricamora
Watched on: Hulu and TV (FOX Italy)
Four Seasons, Sixty Episodes (48 aired so far) watched in: religious schedule of #TGIT.

Annalise Keating is a great lawyer, the best apparently, from what we understand, and also a Professor of Law at Middleton University in Philadelphia. Beyond her most trusted collaborators Frank and Bonnie, she picks five students to intern for her: Wes, Connor, Michaela, Asher, and Laurel. They work together to solve crimes that, through both flashbacks and flash-forwards, seem to be all related to one big homicide in which they are all involved: Sam, Annalise’s husband has been murdered because of his affair with Lila, a student at Middleton, who was killed before Sam, by someone unknown. One of the suspects, Rebecca, is a girl with whom Wes falls in love, and who turns everything into a big chaotic mess. Oh, Rebecca dies as well. Trust me, this is no spoiler alert as the rabbit hole has not even been crossed yet. By the end of season three, in fact, everything is literally screwed up and season four, which started almost three weeks ago, promises nothing but more troubles.

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Going back to Annalise and the “me too” movement, it first needs to be said that sensitive topics in the TV-show are obviously present (it is a crime drama after all), rape is condemned, although kept hidden for years, and sexual assault can be analyzed following several procedures, but it is not up to me, right now, to go deep into this kind of digression.

We need to focus on Annalise, and in particular, her relationship with her mother. The most intense moment in the whole series, from my point of view, is in the episode where the mother appears in the show, and the spectator can finally connect a few dots of the complicated story behind who Annalise, called Anna Mae by her mother, really is. The two women seem to have a weird bond: a strong mother and a strong daughter, who is eventually weak and misunderstood, start talking about their past, with Anna Mae accusing her mother of ignoring the sexual abuses she suffered because of her uncle. This is revealed by the touching scene when Annalise shouts “Did you know what he did to me?” until her mom starts listing the names, through the history of rape in their family, of those who did it to her and her sister, with a teacher and a reverend included. What strikes the most, and what hurts like a stab wound right between the back of your shoulders is hearing her words when she adds “Men take things! They’ve been taking things from women since the beginning of time, and it ain’t no reason to talk about it and get all messy everywhere. Certainly no reason to go to a head shrink or for help.” Wrong. It is and it was necessary to say it. To denounce it. To protect those who will come after, because no more people have to become victims. No more.

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Annalise’s self-worth, just like every victim’s confidence, was permanently scarred. Knowing her mother and her aunt had been violated did not make things easier, sharing the pain does not make it go away and it certainly does not cancel what caused the pain in the first place. Yet, by the end of the episode we realize that yes, silence has been reigning upon the family for years, the truth has been neglected for the quiet life, but eventually Annalise’s mother took care of her daughter’s abuser her own way: she burned the house while the uncle was drunk asleep on the couch, making it appear as if the fire started because of his cigarette falling. Being bright and kind of manipulative seems to be genetic in this family, although even the most dreadful action  is done for the greater good, sacrificing a person’s freedom for the sake of someone else’s life.

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Is it real then? Sexual harassment has been going on since the beginning of time so there is no need to make such a big deal out of it? Isn’t this like saying that if something has always been done that way, then there is no need to change it, although it is kind of obvious that it is deeply and terribly wrong? Eh, just think about it. Not a day, one.single.day passes by without having us (yes, I call myself in) molested, although we learned to just “accept” it, and move on. You walk down the street and that person approaches you “Hey pretty…” and you start walking faster to keep the distance. You stop at the traffic light waiting for the green light to cross, nobody is walking near you, and those people in their car start honking, at you, because there is no one else around; while they’re shouting obnoxious words you try to give them the evil stare, but they’re already mimicking oral sex right before your eyes. This to name just a few, of those moments that cannot be defined as “rare”, when you just “let it happen” because there is nothing that you can do. Sometimes you try to react, you shout back at these beasts, you show them the finger, always fearing a reaction, picturing yourself running because they could get mad or even overexcited because of what may seem like a fearless woman. Those other times though, you just shut up, with your blood boiling inside because you know that you can’t beat the pack if they attack, while going back from class, alone, on a Venetian day in spring, along a narrow calle that skirts the canal where four big men are unloading a boat. One points at you, so you look down: “ughhh, on that one I’d lie for hours pushing and pushing and pushing until she begs to stop”.

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Again, these are just a little part of the verbal assaults that we have to deal with since when we are born, with -let me say unfortunately for the time being-, a vagina. I won’t go over the actual physical assaults (and I am addressing only female victims for the sake of time and space in here, so allow me to focus on vagina owners for now) because those, as Annalise shows us, leave a mark on you that will never go away, and if you too can’t help but shed a tear while listening to Pink singing “that’s when dickhead put his hands on me” in U + UR hand during your morning run, giving a start to a list of flashbacks, well, just know that although this won’t change the past, you’re not the only one, you’re not alone, it is not your fault, you’re not wrong, you are a survivor.

See? I told you my reviews would be kind of alternative! All things considered, TV-series are fiction, but there is some truth in every fictional story.

 

 

Perception and mental wellness

Reviews, Tv Series

To begin with, why have I used wellness and not health? I will quote what the UNC webpage of Advisory Committee to the Chancellor for Employee Health and Wellness says with regard to this: “According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” So, mental health is the general term to refer to our emotional, psychological, and social …well-being. Mental wellness, as I am calling it here, is yes a synonyms of mental health, but I want to give it a slightly more positive connotation. The way our brain works affects how we think, feel, act and also how we make choices. Mental health is what makes us work properly in our society. Mental wellness, to me, is how we feel and if we feel -fine enough- to work, act, exist …in our society.

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There are several internal and external factors which contribute to a person’s mental wellness, including relationships with friends, loved ones, financial issues, workplace environment, and those that are called “coping behaviors” and skills. I wonder if I am interested in these topics because of my previous studies in psychology, but then I would have to ask why I was interested in psychology in the first place, back in the days. In this case, I would need a couple of years to go through this argument. So, no thank you. What remains though, is the fact that I just needed a word, perception, to be sure I would have binged watched another tv-show. Duh! And yes, the fact that Eric McCormack was the protagonist was a huge incentive because of Will and Grace, that kept me company during my first years at University, many, many years ago. (Oh, and by the way, a brand new season of Will and Grace is now showing on NBC, oh yeah!)

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I am going to introduce the plot of Perception-the series before continuing this digression on mental wellness:

Perception 

Genre: they want to call it “crime drama” …I would add something psychological too, but meh.
Created by: Kenneth Biller, Mike Sussman
StarringEric McCormackRachael Leigh CookKelly RowanArjay SmithLeVar BurtonScott Wolf
Watched on: FOX Italy
Three Seasons, Thirty-nine Episodes watched in: a couple of months.

Dr. Daniel Pierce is a neuropsychiatrist who teaches neuroscience at the (fictional) Chicago Lake Michigan University (CLMU), and his interest in neuroscience stems from his own long history of paranoid schizophrenia (everyone is interested is what touches them the most, I guess). He also works as an expert consultant for the FBI assisting closely a very Special Agent, Kate Moretti, who is a former student of Pierce’s classes back in the days. It is thanks to his hallucinations that, most of the times, he can pick out the clues allowing him and Agent Moretti to solve the crimes they are investigating. Lewicki, Dr. Pierce’s teaching assistant, is a fundamental asset for Prof. Pierce’s mental well-being, because he knows how to handle his crisis and his obsessions. Last, but not least, (considering she was in another tv-show, The O.C. another favorite of mine) Natalie Vincent played by Kelly Rowan, is the most favorite Pierce’s hallucination who manifests herself as a result of his schizophrenia, but who also serves as his counselor, clue collector and, of course, best friend. How the story “ends” in the last episode of season three is up to you to find out. No spoilers here. #Sorrynotsorry.

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One of the things I like the most is when a tv-series’ episode typically begins with a scene of the protagonist giving a lecture (missing academia much?), or introducing a sort of metaphysical problem, concerns, whatever, about an aspect of humanity that usually leads to the development of the plot itself (Grey’s Anatomy is another show that does something similar, I love you Shonda Rhimes). In this case, it is a brain fact or factor that becomes significant within the story, and reaching the end of the episode, the observations that the professor explains to the students about the paradoxes of human perception end his lecture. Brilliant, I know.

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Perception was canceled after the third season and there were controversies saying it passed a wrong idea about the schizophrenic disease. Now, seriously? The big issue for some was that the main character chose to go off of his meds whilst still managing to work and teach his students, having reasonings with his hallucination-friend, sharing the wrong idea that getting off of your meds is okay. Ugh, no. I bet this is not the message, as eventually Prof. Pierce is just an adult who sees that therapy is needed, but cannot be abused. Schizophrenia is a disease, a complex one which needs to be studied deeply, still. Also, not all the people diagnosed with schizophrenia are alike. The symptoms vary and the age when they first appear makes a huge difference for the prognosis. So every time we judge a tv-show, let’s remember the viewpoint and the actual fact that -this is fiction-, with a few hints of reality, yes, but basically fictional stories.

perception-eric-mccormack-1In conclusion, why was this show important, from my perspective? Because it opened a door on the so called “mental illnesses” that can be part of a person’s life without interfering so very much with their social life. I am not saying it does not affect their own lives, because it does, but it creates no harm, no danger for their social behavior if taken good care of and most of all, if responsibly studied and handled. An important part of mental health is how we perceive the world around us. A person with a mental disease may perceive things much differently than another person, but that does not mean it is the wrong way of perceiving it. Wouldn’t you sound crazy if you had X-rays in your eyes and told others you can see through their skin? Indeed. In many cases, therapy can help interpret and detect these perceptions, but these do not necessarily need to be corrected because someone evaluated and categorized them as distorted. They are simply different ways of perceiving the world around us that may make sense to a different being with a different sensibility, and sensitivity, than others. As they say, a word to the wise is unnecessary and If the cap fits, wear it.