Netflix currently is featuring an eccentric little movie called The Dig, which is based on a true story about the excavation of ancient burial mounds in Suffolk, England, in 1939, in the days leading up to World War II.
Because the demands of the war effort have made it almost impossible to attract serious academics to the site, widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to handle the excavation. Brown makes clear that he's not an archeologist - he's just an excavator - but his experience and knowledge of the locality makes him an ideal person for the job … especially when he begins to discover more than anyone bargained for. That's when the academics and British Museum experts get interested, and much of the story concerns Edith and Basil trying to hold onto the reins of their enterprise.
There's a lot going on in The Dig - lots of interesting peripheral characters, most of them with an interesting backstory, and in some ways the film seems as interesting in digging into their personalities and motivations as into the burial mounds.
It all works, though, anchored in expert, understated performances delivered by Fiennes and Mulligan. The Dig is subtle and thoughtful, something all too rare from a lot of movies these days.
Mrs. Content Guy and I, back in the early 90s, were big fans of a sitcom called "Mad About You," which focused on young marrieds Paul and Jamie Buchman, played by Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. It was one of those NBC sitcoms that existed in the "Seinfeld"/"Friends"/"Cheers" universe … smartly written, urban in sensibility, designed to be what NBC liked to call "must see TV."
"Mad About You" probably wasn't as innovative as the others, but one of the reasons we liked it was that it seemed observational in a way that resonated with us. The Buchmans didn't have a perfect marriage, but they loved each other, and almost every week they'd exchange a look or a line that seemed like it was right out of our lives. (Their lines were snappier and funnier, but they had better writers than we did.) It was comedy by people like us about people like us.
Well, a few years ago, the Spectrum cable folks were looking for some proprietary content, and so they asked Reiser (who'd co-created the original series) and Hunt to bring it back for 12 episodes. Which they did. However, it being Spectrum, almost nobody saw them.
I happened upon them the other day when they popped up on Amazon Prime, and Mrs. Content Guy and I binged all 12 episodes over a couple of evenings - and enjoyed everyone of them, largely because once again, "Mad About You" seemed like comedy by people like us about people like us. Paul and Jamie are older now, their only child has gone off to college, and now they're negotiating with the vagaries of age and changing circumstances. Many of the original supporting cast has returned - Richard Kind continues to be a comic delight who brightens every scene he's in - and their timing and rapport is as if they never stopped.
One thing we did notice. A common criticism of those old NBC sitcoms is how white they were - they may have been urban in nature, but they seemed to be taking places in parts of the city unoccupied by minorities. The new 'Mad About You," seems conscious of that problem, and has cast for diversity - and the show is better for it. (Kecia Lewis is a standout.)
If you didn't like "Mad About You" the first go-round, then you probably won't like the revival. But if you did and you're the right age … well, enjoy. We found it to be an unexpected treat.
A wine for you this week - the 2018 Domaine Henry Pelle Sancerre La Croix au Garde, a delightful and crisp white. Excellent with fish.
That's it for this week … Have a good weekend … and I'll see you Monday.
Stay safe. Be healthy.