It’s January, we’ve had snowstorm after snowstorm, and we’re experiencing the coldest temperatures in decades. Time to call on AAA.
I’m not talking about the car-rescue organization, although I’m sure they’ve had more than their share of vehicles to jumpstart and pull out of ditches in the last few weeks. No, I’m referring to the three “A’s” of entertainment that are sure to get me through the wintry gap between December’s mid-season finales and the spring sweeps: “Accents,” “Awards” and “Athletes.”
ACCENTS: It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a proper British accent. (Heck, I even bought an outrageously expensive Dyson vacuum cleaner because the guy on the commercial sounded so exotic and all-knowing.) And now, three of my favorite imports are back on PBS or returning soon. “Downton Abbey,” the highest profile of the trio, recently kicked off its fourth season after last February’s tragically emotional season three finale. If you’re one of the few who haven’t given in to its addictive costume-drama charms yet, there’s still time to record the new episodes while binge-watching the first three seasons on DVD.
Its lesser-known, bigger-hearted cousin, “Call the Midwife,” is a fascinating exploration of midwives working in a nursing convent in London’s crowded East End in the 1950s. Based on a series of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, the series will start season three in March, so there’s plenty of time to catch up on the first two seasons, available on Netflix. I have yet to view an episode that doesn’t make me cry…and I hope I never do.
Perhaps the buzziest of the British offerings is “Sherlock,” a reimagining of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle tales set in modern day London. Ever wonder how the prickly Sherlock/Watson bromance would fare with cell phones, Google, GPS and Internet access? This highly entertaining mystery series answers that question with a resounding combination of action, comedy and suspense. The first two seasons consisted of three feature-length (90-minute) episodes apiece, and the rabid fanbase has generated enough fanfic and board chatter to fill up the lonely months between seasons. Season three comes to PBS in mid-January, but the first two series of episodes are available on Netflix or Amazon.
AWARDS: It’s a glorious time of the year to be a movie lover. If your favorite TV shows are on hiatus, spend your evenings in a warm, dark theater in the weeks to come and check out all of the top film award contenders, this year including “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle” and “Gravity.” Then, after you’ve seen the nominated movies, you can make your well-informed picks and see if you agree with the Oscar voters. The 2014 Academy Awards airs a week later this year (March 2 on ABC), so as not to interfere with the biggest TV event of the winter (see next category)…
ATHLETES: The Olympics are coming, and everyone has their favorite inspirational moment: some of us remember when Nadia Comaneci carried the weight of gymnastics’ first “Perfect 10” upon her wee shoulders in the summer of 1976 (if you haven’t done so, it’s a thrill to re-watch those historic moments on YouTube); others cheered in disbelief when the U.S. hockey team improbably pulled off the “Miracle on Ice” during the 1980 Winter Games; or many still get goosebumps recalling when Muhammad Ali lit the torch at the 1996 Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta …and the list goes on. Call it emotional manipulation, but I am riveted by every single human interest back story, and I militantly avoid spoilers all day in order to watch the prime time broadcast of the competition. (If I’m only going to be watching curling once every four years, I want to be fully immersed in the sport and its elite team members.)
The opening ceremonies of the XXII Olympic Winter Games take place on Feb. 7, so be prepared—because there’s no better way to celebrate the excellence of America’s finest world-class athletes than to put on your baggiest pair of sweat pants, make up a jumbo platter of chips and dip, and plop down on the couch for hours on end, watching TV to your heart’s content.