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Category: Entertainment

‘Happy Valley’ New Netflix police show will leave you wanting more

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

Whenever Netflix releases new shows, they always put a little tag under the graphic that says “New Episodes.” The other day, “Happy Valley” had that label and at first, it seemed like it might be a comedy.

But it was far from it. Turns out “Happy Valley” is an incredible new police series, exclusive to Netflix in the United States (created by the BBC), with a six-episode run.

The six episodes were as intense as any TV as there’s been in quite some time.

It’s a show with two distinct plots that have a major connection. One story line surrounds police Sgt. Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire, who comes from a most dysfunctional family.

She divorced after her daughter killed herself, right after the daughter had a child that was fathered by a rape. The father of the child, Ryan, is Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton. Cawood’s sister is a recovering heroin addict. And her son wants little to do with her.

Photos courtesy Netflix.com Kevin Weatherill, played by Steve Pemberton

Photos courtesy Netflix.com
Kevin Weatherill, played by Steve Pemberton

 

The second plot surrounds Kevin Weatherill, a down-on- his-luck bookkeeper who wants to send his daughters to private school. But he can’t afford the tuition. So, he asks his boss and long-time friend Nevison Gallagher for a raise in salary.

But Gallagher declines the offer at first.

To fix this, Weatherill devises a plan where three men he knows — including Royce — will kidnap Gallagher’s daughter, Ann, and demand ransom. The four will split the ransom, ideally, and Weatherill will have more than enough money to send his daughters to the private school.

Sounds like the movie “Fargo” in way, doesn’t it, where Jerry Lundegaard has his wife kidnapped to make money from her dad?

And of course, just like in “Fargo,” you can rest assured in “Happy Valley,” it’s just not as simple as kidnapping someone, a ransom demand — the criminals get the ransom and everyone lives happily ever after.

No, it’s not even close to that — and that’s why “Happy Valley” is intense and unpredictable.

So much goes wrong over the course of six episodes for Cawood and Weatherill. But it’s hardly the kind of stuff you’d be able to sit back and forecast.

The follies of the two lead characters are what make this new series so great. Nothing one witnesses can be seen as predictable. Not at all. But for the sake of not spoiling the six episodes, we’ll leave it at that.

Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton

Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton

 

Though the show is filmed entirely in England, it’s very easy to follow. The accents aren’t thick. And the town, in West Yorkshire, is a lot like our local towns — with lots of hard-working, middleclass families.

Perhaps the only drawback to the show is that it’s loaded with violence and graphic imagery — but that all gets lost in the incredible writing and incredible storylines.

The episodes were so good that this writer watched them all in a seven-hour span.

If you’re looking for a new Netflix show, and you enjoy suspenseful police dramas that aren’t necessarily about police procedure, “Happy Valley” will keep you wanting more. And the good news is there’s already a second series planned for just around this time next year.

(Are you in a band? Starring in a show? Live in our readership area? We want to know about it. Send an email to kevincanessa@gmail.com and we’ll feature you, your band, etc). 

Kearny band ‘A Midnight Tragedy’ has its eyes set on big goals

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.

 Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY — 

You’d almost think that a kid who grew up in Brooklyn would have a lot more opportunities with music and the arts scene there than in West Hudson. And yet, the truth is, Dallas Sanchez, who moved to Kearny in 1994, says the chances he got here musically and artistically far outweigh what was available to him 20 years ago as a boy in the city’s most populous borough.

“Not even close,” he said. “When my family moved here from Brooklyn, the music and art opportunities here in Kearny were tremendous — and they helped shape me into who I am today.”

And today, Sanchez is the lead vocalist and guitar player in a band he formed back in 2005 called A Midnight Tragedy. The 31-year-old, who still calls Kearny home is a self-taught guitarist.

“Never took a lesson — and I don’t read music,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know what any of those notes mean. I just have the ability to take what is going on inside my head and to play it on the guitar.”

A Midnight Tragedy isn’t the first band he was in, but it’s certainly the one he’s been involved with the longest. When he formed it nearly a decade ago, he did so with one of his dearest friends — now his brother-in-law — Dan Mennella, also of Kearny.

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Photos courtesy of A Midnight Tragedy

 

Mennella is the band’s drummer. 

Over the years, there have been a few changes in members, but now, the pair are joined by John Leonti, the bassist, and Esteban Pastor, who also plays guitar.

Sanchez says one of the greatest aspects of A Midnight Tragedy is that there really isn’t another band out there — in the mainstream or otherwise — that he could say is reminiscent of his. Their style, instead, is one-of-a-kind — and it shows.

“And yet, our new album has 17 tracks, and the concept is that it’s a musical,” Sanchez said. “We’ve done it all ourselves, too. In the tracks, you’ll hear theme like you would in Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall,’ or pieces you might hear in ‘Rent,’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ And there’s a lot about having faith … not necessarily religiously, but having faith in anything. But it all has our own unique sound, and I am very proud of that.

” That album will be released in less than a week — on Aug. 26. It’ll be their third.

And with all of this success, Sanchez says there’s one thing, above a lot else, that he’s most proud of.

“And that is that we’re from Kearny,” he said. “When you see us performing, mostly you’ll see red and black, the colors of Kearny High School. The Kearny pride is amazing. And what I hope happens is that when younger kids see us — whether it’s driving along Kearny Ave. in our tour bus, or at a show … wherever … that they see us and say, ‘Well, if they can do it, we can do it, too.’ There is a lot of musical talent in this town.

“We even filmed a video for one of the new songs in Kearny just the other day.”

Now while Sanchez says he hopes one day the band and touring can be a full-time career, he and his band mates have other careers, too. But Sanchez says he’s quite fortunate because his other job is also music-related.

He works for a company that provides buses for musicians on tour. And, he says it’s been a blessing to have such a job.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “Having this job has opened up so many other opportunities — and I’ve been able to meet so many great people in the business. None of that hurts, at all.”

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Meanwhile, Sanchez does all of this with a family of his own. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children: a 10-yearold son and a 2-year-old daughter. And he gets a lot of support from them.

“My wife has been to a lot of our shows, and last year our daughter was at a show, also,” he said. “My wife has been very supportive over the years. It’s not always easy, like in any marriage, but she’s been just great.”

A Midnight Tragedy will perform two shows later this week. They’ll be at Mexicali Live, Teaneck, on Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. and at the Trash Bar, Brooklyn, on Aug. 24 at 11 p.m. The new album will be available for sale at the two gigs for an introductory price of $7. Once it’s officially released on Aug. 26, it’ll cost $7.99 and can be downloaded from iTunes.

To find out more about A Midnight Tragedy, to listen to their music, to buy the new album, for tour dates and more, visit www.amidnighttragedy.com.

‘Polarized’ impossible to put down after picking it up

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By Ryan Sloane
Observer Correspondent 

With some summer night’s heat so oppressive you don’t want to venture outside, there’s always a great book out there that can make the doldrums of the humidity and stale air just go away.

Such is the case with the biography, “Polarized: Sex, Lies and Family Betrayal,” the story of Joseph DeBlasi, formerly of Staten Island, N.Y., who shares his experiences of being bipolar.

Much of the book depicts how DeBlasi was faced, at a very young age, with having to deal with the highs of mania and the lows of the depression the disease caused — and still does cause to this day. But it’s important to know a little background on DeBlasi before reading the book — and we certainly hope you will give this one a read.

When DeBlasi was a young boy, not even 10, his parents were divorcing. His father, a prominent doctor on Staten Island, decided he didn’t want his soon-to-be ex-wife gaining custody of the boy, so DeBlasi writes of how his dad “kidnapped” him to make sure of it. Read more »

‘The Hunt With John Walsh’ on CNN is already paying off

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

John Walsh lived every parent’s nightmare back in 1981, when his then 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped from a mall in Hollywood, Fla., and found dead, decapitated, just weeks later about an hour or so north of his home.

And for years, Walsh went on a crusade, hosting “America’s Most Wanted” on the Fox Television Network. With that show now a thing of the past, he’s taken his mission to find criminals to CNN with a new show called “The Hunt With John Walsh.”

The show airs on CNN every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, and after being on the air for just three weeks, it has already led to the capture (and ultimately, death) of one of the profiled criminals.

If there’s a show on TV that every American should take time to watch each week, it’s this show — because not only is it riveting, it’s also perhaps the most beneficial law-enforcement tool on the air, or anywhere, for that matter.

Each episode profiles one or two criminals who are involved in a most heinous crime. The details of each crime are re-enacted. And while some of the scenes are extremely graphic, they’re by no means a turnoff, because in reality, they’re demonstrative of some very evil acts committed by some very evil people.

So why isn’t that a turnoff?

It’s simple actually.

It’s because every viewer of the show should watch “The Hunt” with the thought that perhaps, at one point or another, they’ll see someone featured whom they know, or might have seen somewhere.

It was somewhat perplexing when a show as beneficial as “America’s Most Wanted” was cancelled. It led to the arrest and capture of hundreds of wanted criminals over its long run. And clearly, “The Hunt” is poised to do the very same.

“All it takes is one person, one tip,” Walsh said on the show’s preview. “We might not get tons of calls. We might not get tons of accurate tips. But all it takes is one person who knows something to pick up that phone, or to go online, and we’ll make a difference and bring these animals to justice.”

And that’s exactly what happened in New York last week.

One person picked up the phone and made one telephone call, and Charles Modzir was found by U.S. Marshals and the New York City Police Department working in a Manhattan smoke shop.

Modzir was on the run for more than two years after he was accused of sexual abuse against a young boy. When he was confronted by marshals and the NYPD, he immediately began to fire on them, according to police reports, and when they fired back, he was killed.

Of course, Walsh says he’d prefer the criminals be caught and not killed, but he’s always delighted when one more criminal is taken off the streets.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive
Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.

 

All sorts of cases, crimes 

The episodes and kinds of crimes committed by those wanted vary from week to week. Without giving too much away, this past week’s installment profiled two criminals: one wanted on vehicular homicide charges (Christopher Ponce, 24, of Florida) and another wanted on attempted murder charges (David Burgert, 50, of Montana).

Ponce was awaiting trial for a 2012 incident where he was alleged to have killed several people while driving the wrong way up an on-ramp on a Florida highway. He was on bail with an ankle monitor, but he cut it off and has since jumped his bail.

Burgert is wanted after he allegedly opened fire on police officers while he was a member of a militia that reportedly had a list of people — mostly government officials and police officers — whom they wanted to kill.

He escaped after a violent shootout with police, though some interviewed on the show believe he may actually be dead since he’s gone two years without resurfacing.

There have been other cases involving murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping and other crimes. But the bottom line is these cases are getting exposure — and it will become very difficult for these criminals to remain on the run after the episodes air.

So if you’re not busy one Sunday night at 9, turn on CNN.

Perhaps one week you might see someone being profiled whom you’ve seen.

New twist to ‘The Addams Family,’ performed by Teen Drama, at W.H.A.T.

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY– 

There’s no doubt you’ve likely seen “The Addams Family” at some point, whether it’s the classic TV show or more recent versions on the large screen. But this week — Wednesday to Saturday to be precise — you’ll find a completely new take of “The Addams Family” at West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.), presented in conjunction with Teen Drama, a local theater company for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade,

This production, says show co-director Michele Sarnoski, is based more on “The Addams Family” comics. It focuses on Wednesday who is all grown up and in love with someone unlike any member of the Addams Family.

“So a lot of the show is how The Addams Family deals with someone who comes from a normal family,” said Sarnoski, a graduate of Lyndhurst High School.

The two most veteran performers in the show are Faith D’Isa (Wednesday) and James Berko (Lurch). Both D’Isa and Berko are longtime members of Teen Drama — but are back, one last time, as ascending college sophomores. And that delights Sarnoski.

“They are just amazing,” Sarnoski said. “And what’s perhaps the greatest part is that this year, there are 11 new kids in the production. And they’ve both grown to embrace the new kids — to show them what Teen Drama is all about — and it’s not an easy task.

“A lot of what James has to do is in his movements. It’s physical. So he doesn’t get to use his voice much to show the other kids things. Yet he does it so well. And Faith, if you’ve ever seen her, she’s always got a smile on her face, she’s always so bubbly. And she plays the ever-stoic Wednesday.

“But they’re both so awesome at showing the younger kids our traditions.”

The rest of the cast includes Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector- Williams (Morticia Addams), Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams in two shows), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams), Michael Oliveira (Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski (Addams Family Ancestors).

5 years and counting 

For Sarnoski, this is year five of Teen Drama. She began the program after several local parents approached her and said they wanted more for their kids to do, dramawise, in the summer months. So Sarnoski and her show co-director, Joe Ferriero, got together to form Teen Drama.

Sarnoski and Ferriero had worked together for quite some time — dating back to 2003 — when they co-founded an immensely successful drama program at the former St. Stephen’s School … and later Mater Dei Academy.

“Joe is my best friend, and I love working with him,” Sarnoski said. “So about five, six years ago, we put the program together for kids who are in kindergarten to the 12th-grade. The first year, we had just 10 kids. Now we’re up to 25. It’s been an amazing experience.”

And the connections with W.H.A.T. have been very beneficial for both organizations, as well.

Many of the youngsters who have performed in Teen Drama shows have gone on to perform in W.H.A.T. shows. And, because W.H.A.T. offers several theater-related educational programs each year, the youngsters in Teen Drama have benefitted from W.H.A.T.’s outreach, as well.

“We’ve been great feeders for each other,” Sarnoski said.

Speaking of feeders, the young performers aren’t just from West Hudson. In fact, this year, there are kids from Nutley, Lyndhurst and North Arlington — from middle schools and high schools, both public and private. And that expansion is very exciting, Sarnoski says.

Sarnoski says she’s most satisfied when people leave Teen Drama shows with a smile.

“We want the kids to feel like they’re part of a family,” she said. “It’s only a six-week program, so there’s a lot to do in a short period of time. Then when people leave happy after shows, and they’re impressed, we know we’ve done things right.

Indeed, they have.

Find out more about Teen Drama by visiting www.teendrama.org, or by calling 973-498-8336 or by sending a message by email to info@ teendrama.org.

Showtimes for “The Addams Family” are Wednesday, July 30, to Saturday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School). Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 or online at www.teendrama.org. Special $7 tickets are available for the Saturday matinee for senior citizens.

W.H.A.T. presents ‘The Addams Family’ July 30-Aug. 2, including preview tonight at Angry Coffee Bean

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KEARNY —

Teen Drama, a theater company for teens celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, in association with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) presents the modern classic Broadway musical “The Addams Family” this summer. The smash-hit musical comedy brings the darkly delirious world of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and, of course, Lurch to spooky and spectacular life.

Performances of the musical, based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams, are July 30 to Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m., and a matinee performance Aug. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School).  General admission tickets are $10. A $7 senior citizen discount ticket is being offered at the Saturday matinee.

The cast will make a special appearance on Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. for a special preview of the show at The Angry Coffee Bean Café, 89 Ridge Road, North Arlington. (201) 772-5554.

The Teen Drama production features:

Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector-Williams (Morticia Addams), Faith D’Isa & Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams),James Berko (Lurch), Michael Oliveira (Lucas Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros  (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski  (Addams Family Ancestors).

“The Addams Family” is being produced by Michele Sarnoski, who is co-directing with Joe Ferriero. Scott Burzynski, music director; Dana Mannie, choreography (Mary Berko, assistant choreography); Maximo Grano De Oro, crew chief; Matt Lepore, stage manager; and Vincent Venziano and Alex Palomino, stage crew.

Tickets for The Addams Family are $10 and can be purchased online at www.teendrama.org, by phone 1-800-838-3006 or at the door 30 minutes before performances.  Teen Drama can be reached at 973-498-8336 or info@teendrama.org.

Check next week’s issue of The Observer for a full preview of the upcoming shows in our Entertainment section.

‘House, M.D.’ meets ‘Royal Pains’ in new USA drama ‘Rush’

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Take the pill-popping Dr. Gregory House, from “House, M.D.,” and combine him with the concierge medicine of Hankmed on “Royal Pains,” and you’ve got TV’s newest — and perhaps darkest — TV doctor on USA Network’s “Rush.”

Dr. William P. Rush, played by Tom Ellis, is one of L.A.’s hottest doctors. It’s not because he’s a great diagnostician as House is — or just because he makes house calls like Dr. Hank Lawson does. But it’s because he’ll make the house calls for the rich and famous, and regardless of what he sees, he’ll keep his mouth shut.

And in the premiere episode, did he ever witness a lot that required discretion.

Without giving away too much of the plot, because we want you to watch the show and this first episode yourself, let’s just say Rush overlooked a professional baseball player who has a reputation for an intense temper and for laying his hands on his girlfriend. Read more »

‘Jersey Boys’ … on stage & screen

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

NEW YORK CITY – 

For nearly nine years, “Jersey Boys” has been a staple on the big stage in New York City. And its incredible run, which includes a Tony Award for “Best Musical” in 2006, continues to this day as the 13th-longest-running show in Broadway history. And it’s now a major motion picture, partly shot in Kearny.

“Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli, who grew up in nearby Newark and who also lived in Belleville, and The Four Seasons — and their unprecedented rise from ordinary, struggling Jersey guys to being acclaimed as among the most noted singers in American history. Read more »

Canadian imports, especially ‘Rookie Blue,’ are keeping summers free of repeat TV

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of good television. And you’re more than aware that for years, TV series stopped in the summer months — and were always marked by the shows you saw all winter long in repeats.

But thanks to several Canadian imports — most notably, “Rookie Blue,” – the summer months on network TV are no longer just repeats. In fact, in the case of “Rookie Blue,” the summer months offer some of the best TV of the entire year.

Most don’t even realize just how active the Canadian television show market is. In addition to “Rookie,” Canada also offers us the second-year cop drama “Motive,” which is wildly popular north of the border and here in the U.S. (But we’ll save “Motive” for another review.) Read more »

‘Rectify’ explores life after prison

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Imagine what it must be like knowing you’re innocent of a crime.

Then, somehow, you’re charged with the crime, go through a trial, get convicted and then sentenced to death. You’re spared the death penalty for 19 years, and thanks to DNA evidence, your sentence is vacated — and you’re released from prison.

Such is the scenario for fictional character Daniel Holden in the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” a series that debuted a year ago and that is currently in its second season.

Daniel Holden’s background 

Holden stood accused, at age 19, of raping and murdering his then-girlfriend, Hanna, 16, in 1994.

When he’s released, it’s 2013 — and just think for a moment how radically different things are now than they were in 1994. For starters, there’s this new thing called the Internet. TVs are flat. Computers are everywhere. Cassette tapes are obsolete. Life as Holden knew it in 1994 is nothing as it is upon his release.

This incredible drama deals with how Holden, now 38, deals with life on the outside. And is it ever a challenge. Now keep in mind this — it’s one thing to be released from prison. It’s a completely different scenario when that release happens in a small town in the rural South — in the fictitious town of Paulie, Ga.

In small-town life, everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone has a formed opinion. Everyone believes their opinion is the one that matters the most.

Sound familiar?

Such is the life Holden faces back in Paulie. There are countless people — including the sheriff, the prosecutor and a state senator who is the former prosecutor who tried and convicted Holden back in 1994 — who won’t rest until he’s put back into prison.

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

 

But then, there’s a faction of people who truly believe — just as they did 19 years ago — that Holden wasn’t responsible for the death of the 16-year-old.

It all takes an already-divided community — and divides it even further — to a point where people truly learn to despise one another.

The writers of the show do a brilliant job of making it all seem so real.

Holden’s character is portrayed brilliantly by actor Aden Young. At times, the man you see in the Holden role is the same 19-year-old who went away for as many years. At times, you find a man who is curious — who wants to learn how to get a driver’s license, what wants to discover what Target is, wants to learn to play games on a Playstation instead of his old, ancient Sega Genesis.

Yet throughout it all, you find in Holden a man who is completely lost — who really doesn’t know what life outside the walls of a prison is supposed to be like … who doesn’t know his place in the world … who can’t seem to figure out whether he even believes in his own innocence … who longs just to be touched by another human being.

What makes “Rectify” a hit is that it’s not like anything else you’ll find anywhere on TV. It tackles a quite taboo subject. It’s not a typical crime drama where the crime is the main focus of the show. It’s not in a hospital. It’s not in a police station. It’s not in a law office.

Instead, it’s in real America. It doesn’t take us to the absurd. And it portrays what this writer would imagine would happen in a nosy little town forced to deal with a man being released from prison for a crime that divided everyone.

As TV Guide said in its review, “Rectify is “one of the most captivating and poignant TV series” currently on the air.

Couldn’t agree more. Season 1 is available now on Netflix and Season 2 is currently underway. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Sundance Channel.