Shining Vale: enjoyable with intercourse, infidelity, ghosts and midlife crises

Courteney Cox as Pat and Mira Sorvino as Rosemary in Shining Vale.Kat Marcinowski/Courtesy of Crave

This time of year things get a little strange. Even with multiple streaming services, there’s a feeling the best of drama and comedy is being held back for fall. And when it comes to programming, strange choices are made. This weekend, the W network is offering romantic Christmas-themed TV movies. On Saturday, there’s “Christmas in Toyland” (W, 8 p.m.) about “an analyst at a toy store trying to save hundreds of jobs just before Christmas.” And Sunday at 8 p.m. is Christmas in Tahoe. Whatever gets you through the heat and humidity.

Instead, I’m directing you to an underrated dark comedy. It’s about a haunted house, but so much more; Sex, infidelity, ghosts, midlife crisis and angry womanism.

Shining Vale (Streams Crave) can also be very funny. Co-written by Irish novelist Sharon Horgan (disaster, divorce) with Jeff Astrof, it has Horgan’s trademark bite and bite when writing about troubled couples. Her ability to draw the ire of women in their forties is second to none.

Find out about the best streaming TV of 2021 with our holiday guide

At first it seems like a brittle dark comedy with haunted house shenanigans. Searching for a fresh start after her lurid affair with a handyman, Pat (Courtney Cox) moves from New York City with her family – husband Terry (Greg Kinnear) and teenage children Gaynor (Gus Birney) and Jake (Dylan Gage). to New York big house in Connecticut. The house is a bargain, Pat can work on her books – she rose to fame years earlier for an erotic novel – Terry can work on his anger at the affair and the kids may be able to grow out of urban lunatics. Gaynor is obsessed with sex and little Jake lives in a video game universe.

There’s plenty of sport with small-town life and Terry’s demonstrative attempts to make peace with Pat, and the dialogue is fast-paced and fun. Pat is depressed, physically unwell, and nervous. She has writer’s block. She begins to see things, and she becomes particularly aware of a housewife named Rosemary (Mira Sorvino) from the 1950s. The two connect. Rosemary says, “Good news, Patricia. You’re not crazy.” What happens from there isn’t the wacky spook you might expect. First off, is Rosemary part of Pat’s fiction or a guide to moving forward? What is certain is that Pat struggles with different versions of femininity and motherhood being offered to her by Rosemary, her own mother and in some ways her own daughter. What is the real you?

This layering of meaning doesn’t detract from the dead hilarity. This comedy-horror hybrid – a season of eight half-hour episodes – is dark, rich, sometimes brutally frank and hilariously funny. It’s an adult watch and happily renewed for a second season to come.

Also airing/streaming this weekend – Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (Sunday, HBO, 6:40 p.m., Streams Crave) is a repeat but a break from darker material. An HBO special where Crystal does a one-man show based on his memoir. The title comes from the weekends he spent with his father, a record store owner and jazz producer who died suddenly when Crystal was 15. It’s nostalgic and deeply personal, aimed at an audience able to recall the times Crystal is nostalgic for, but its personal investment in all of it goes beyond nostalgia.

Sorry for Your Loss (streams CBC Gem) was originally developed for Facebook Watch when the platform had ambitions of becoming a TV streamer. It is enigmatic, an odd little drama that seeks depth and often achieves it. It’s about grief and over two seasons – the first season has 10 30-minute episodes aired on Gem – he never lets go of his core mission.

Elizabeth Olsen as Leigh Shaw in Sorry For Your Loss.Courtesy of CBC Gem

Basically, it’s about Leigh Shaw (Elizabeth Olsen) who tries unsuccessfully to get away from the death of her husband. As the series begins, it’s only been a few months since he died, and Leigh is simultaneously confused about how he died – it appears to be an accident – and her own inability to process her grief.

Created by playwright Kit Steinkellner, the series often feels like stage-anchored drama. Some scenes are long, passive-aggressive conversations in a kitchen, and there’s no action until someone leaves the room. It’s also set in sunny Southern California, where the atmosphere is in stark contrast to feelings of loss. Olsen is excellent, as is Janet McTeer as her mother. Recommended if you are able to contemplate grief.

Finally, 60 Minutes (Sunday, CBS, Global, 7 p.m.) interviews Reality Winner, the former NSA operative, on why she gave the media classified information about Russian hacking of the 2016 US election. And Anderson Cooper introduces artist Laurie Anderson.

Schedule your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Comments are closed.