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Anne with an E, Season 3

People tend to have a love/hate relationship with Anne with an E, the edgy Canadian reboot of the beloved 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables. Many will not accept the wildly off-book changes, while others, myself included, have come to view the series as fan fiction and embraced the series as a character study of favorites. While Season 1 touched on some iconic scenes from the book—raspberry cordial, anyone?—and Season 2 shocked viewers with its themes of tolerance and inclusion, especially in regards to the LGBTQ community—Season 3 settled in and found sure footing. Again, there is very little plot-wise that resembles the book here, although Anne does go in search of her biological roots in the books and in the series. My daughter, adopted from South Korea, watched the whole season and was inspired anew to find her birth mother one day. Other adoptive mamas told me the same thing about their children, which I loved. Other themes in Season 3 include a girl named Ka-Kwet from the local Mi’KMaq tribe who is forced to live at a residential school, and how the teenage residents of Avonlea, including Gilbert Blythe, make their way in life and love. Though I felt that Season 2 became too overlaid with modern ideas about inclusion and sexuality, I relished Season 3 and mourned the cancellation of the series by Netflix.  (TV-PG, Netflix, CBC)


When my sister-in-law recommended Longmire, I was skeptical. I have yet to enjoy any Western except for True Grit, the newer one starring Jeff Bridges, and a modern Western didn’t sound any more appealing. But when someone else also recommended it—a Christian English teacher with a love for a well-told story, I gave in. Of course, I ended up kicking myself for not finding it sooner. Longmire centers on principled Walt Longmire, a widowed sheriff in rural Wyoming, who solves crimes with the help of his grown daughter, his female deputy, and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne bar owner. The show ran on the A&E network for 6 years and is a little bit like Blue Bloods, set in the West. Though it is rated TV-MA for violence, kind, unflappable Longmire exhibits integrity, character, and a profound respect for the dignity of human life—even dead bodies are treated with reverence—something sorely lacking in most TV crime procedurals. The Wyoming scenery is stunning, and yes, the wild West setting was a refreshing change of pace from the usual “New York” setting (a.k.a. a sound stage in L.A. or Toronto, pretending to be New York). My husband and I found the interaction between Longmire and the local Native Americans fascinating and respectful. Finally, we had found a show we could binge together, and indeed, we found it comforting and reliably entertaining and engrossing during the shutdown. (TV-MA, Netflix)

Land Girls

This British series about “land girls,” mostly young women who volunteered or were conscripted into the Women’s Land Army on England’s homefront in World War 2, is just the very thing to watch with a cup of tea on a drizzly night. Good old-fashioned storytelling propels the plot, as a mix of working-class and middle-class women are thrown together to work a farm on the grounds of a grand, Downton Abbey-esque estate. Their relationships with soldiers, some fighting in the trenches and some stationed on the home front, take center stage, as well as some upstairs, downstairs shenanigans involving the snooty Lord and Lady Hoxley. The creator, Roland Moore, wanted to highlight less well-known aspects of the home front, including bombings, racial segregation of American troops, the hunt for Nazi sympathizers, and the use of prisoners of war as farm laborers. Like Downton Abbey, you learn about history as you get hooked on the storylines, not to mention the period clothing and details are gorgeous to look at. In the second and third seasons, the parish church and its pastor take prominence in the character’s lives. (TV-14, Netflix, Amazon Prime)

Tough as Nails

In a surprise hit of the summer, Tough as Nails, from executive producer Phil Keoghan (Amazing Race), quickly became a top 20 show in its debut season. Twelve contestants, six men and six women, from “real world” gritty jobs such as a prison guard, ironworker, ex-Marine, farmer, firefighter, and baggage handler (a woman in her 60s who gave me new respect for the physical strength of all baggage handlers) are tested in competitions at real-world job sites with tasks (putting out a fake fire, flinging garbage into moving garbage trucks, transporting 24 bags of mortar by wheelbarrow across a set of narrow beams) that test their muscle and mental toughness. The top prize was  $200,000 and a Ford Super Duty truck, but each week the contestants, even those who were eliminated, had the chance to win $2,000 each in a team challenge. This meant everyone came away with thousands of dollars, not just one winner. We were surprisingly riveted, not just by the challenges, but by the incredible bonds formed between contestants. Hosted and created by the congenial Keoghan, the show was blessedly free of drama and backstabbing and gave us a peek into the lives of tradesmen and -women working hard for every dollar. What was most intriguing was how important mental toughness is as compared to physical strength. In any given challenge, the winner was usually the one who worked smarter, not harder. Highly recommended for families. (TV-PG, CBS All Access)

World on Fire

There’s nothing better for me than to find a sumptuous period drama from PBS’s Masterpiece Theater to follow on concurrent Sunday nights. World on Fire fit the bill perfectly, and I can’t wait for Season 2. The seven-part series opens in 1939, as the Nazi threat looms over Europe but is still not taken seriously by the rest of the world. English translator Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King) has a girl in at least two ports, Polish Kasia in Warsaw, where he is stationed, and singer Lois back in Manchester. This conflict forms the backbone of the plot, as dithering Harry is torn between his two loves. (He is the main character, but Kasia and Lois are both more interesting than him.) Meanwhile, American journalist Nancy Campbell (Helen Hunt) witnesses the German invasion of Poland and later the horrifying reality of Hitler’s Eugenics program. In seven weeks, we soaked up quite a bit of history and particularly enjoyed learning about lesser-told stories of World War 2, including the invasion of Poland and the Polish resistance (my husband and I both have Polish in our backgrounds). One subplot involves a same-sex relationship between an American surgeon in Paris and a French-African jazz musician. The drama is gripping and emotional as we are reminded of the terrible consequences of war. (TV-14, PBS Masterpiece, Amazon Prime)

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