I first learned of Last Tango in Halifax last year via Nicola Walker’s fan site, as I’ve been a long time fan of her work. In December, I ordered the DVDs from Amazon.co.uk (I have a multi-regional player, so no problems with international discs), and I could barely wait for it to arrive.
The series is about two seniors, who with the aid of their grandsons connecting them to Facebook, find each other again after 60 years, and both of their families coming together. Anne Reid plays Celia Dawson, a woman who was widowed by a philanderous husband and lives in a granny flat in her daughter’s house. Alan Buttershaw (peformed by Sir Derek Jacobi), had a wonderful marriage but lost his wife after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. To help his widowed daughter and her son, he moved in with them on her farm. Their story involves their two families coming together, paralleled and separate as the 6-part series progresses.
Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), Celia’s daughter, is the Headmistress of an independent school, and has two teenage sons. Her husband, John (Tony Gardner) had left her for another woman, Judith (Ronnie Ancona) and is now looking to get back in to her good graces. During the time that John left, Caroline was befriended by Kate McKenzie (Nina Sosanya), and developed feelings for, but it’s not all smooth sailing. On the other end of the connection, Alan’s daughter, Gillian (Nicola Walker) is a widow herself – her husband having committed suicide ten years prior, and she’s raising their 16 year-old son; Gillian’s choices in relationships are interesting, and for which comes some stress.
The writing by Sally Wainwright, who’s also been responsible for Scott & Bailey, At Home with the Braithwaites, Unforgiven, is tight and concise but not rushed. The characters feel real. The relationships are dynamic and there are very real consequences. There is laughter, there are tears, but there is a great story interwoven amongst the characters, and not everything is as it seems. There are layers to the characters that become revealed over the series.
The series, set in the north of England (Skipton, Harrogate, Halifax, Greater Manchester) is also quite stunning at times, lending to the atmosphere of the series.
The production team is due to start filming in June for series 2. This is a series that gets better with repeated viewings…and trust me, I have watched it multiple times.
Growing up, I’ve always had a fondness for Canadian-produced programming, as far back as The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup . As I grew up there was Danger Bay, My Secret Identity , The Beachcombers, and the various incarnations of Degrassi (Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High ), to dramas like E.N.G , Forever Knight , The Outer Limits, Snakes & Ladders, The Border, along with several US/Canadian Science Fiction series like Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Sanctuary, Blood Ties, Battlestar Galactica and Warehouse 13 . Among some of my favourite shows these days are Flashpoint , Republic of Doyle, Lost Girl, and Bomb Girls .
When I heard about the premise for Bomb Girls last year, I was really interested. Here was this miniseries, set during World War II, in Canada, about a group of people, majority of women working in munitions factories (among other jobs), doing their bit for the war effort on the homefront. It was something I had never seen televised from a Canadian perspective from that time period. When I saw the first episode I was incredibly impressed from the storytelling and the dialogue, to the authentic costuming, set decoration and design, and props. The interactions between the characters and their struggles become apparent early on, but the nature of their backgrounds and their social status help frame their stories but don’t limit them.
The core cast of characters include Lorna Corbett (Meg Tilly), as the supervisor of the Victory Munitions factory, overseeing the women making the bombs. She’s tough but fair, and for her girls she’s also sometimes a mother figure. Lorna’s husband, Bob (Peter Outerbridge) is a WWI vet who was paralysed during that war and has been embittered by his experiences. Both of Lorna’s sons are fighting in this war and her daughter is a nurse at the hospital. Kate Andrews (Charlotte Hegele) is a young woman who has escaped an abusive, oppressively religious father to come to work at the VicMu, and slowly learns to find her voice – not without its challenges. Betty McRae (Ali Liebert) is outwardly very confident and opinionated, but therein lies a heart who will protect her friends and loved ones but meets her match in Kate. Gladys Witham’s (Jodi Balfour) ready to buck society and her family’s place in society, wanting to make a difference in her life and be responsible for her own choices, but it’s not as easy as she wants. When Vera Burr (Anastasia Phillips) is injured in an accident on the VicMu factory floor, it changes her life forever; she has to learn that she’s more than she thought she was – or that other people that of her. Marco Moretti (Antonio Cupo) would like to be soldier in the war but because of his Italian heritage, the Canadian Forces refuse to admit him and his father has been held at an internment camp for a couple of years simply because of his Italian nationality. Also because of his background, he’s been on Lorna’s hit list – an Italian working at an Allied factory building bombs – and sparks fly. They’re all supported by a wonderful group of friends, family and co-workers, and help make the show a wonderful success.
This week I had the opportunity to interview Bomb Girls co-creators, Michael MacLennan and Adrienne Mitchell, to find out about how the series came to be, and where they are heading forward.
LS: It’s been fantastic seeing this series being a reflection of Canada’s past, and something I’ve never seen before, learning more about that part of our past. For those who maybe haven’t already heard, what prompted the development of this series and made it reality?
AM: A few years ago, Maureen Jennings (the author of the Murdoch Mysteries book series) and Deb Drennan ( a make-up artist) brought this series idea to Janis Lundman and myself as they thought we would be a good fit. Deb Drennan’s grandmother was a Bomb Girl and worked in a munitions plant called GECO in Scarborough, so the subject matter was very dear to her. Janis and I jumped on this idea; this was a piece of history that was rarely talked about or depicted. How many Canadians knew that by 1943 thousands upon thousands of women were working for the war effort in very dangerous conditions building munitions and for the most part, having never worked outside the home? We knew that the stakes, the drama and challenges for these women would provide for excellent and compelling drama. Next, we needed a talented, experienced writer with a penchant for WW2 history and a strong illustrious background in serialized character-based drama. Enter – Michael MacLennan who was our dream writer! He responded to the material immediately. Michael and I soon dove deep into this world to create this exciting series with the immediate support of Global TV ( Shaw Media). The network jumped on immediately and has been a strong supporter and advocate of the series at all stages with our co-producer Muse Entertainment.
LS: Each of the characters has an interesting and diverse background. How did you go about developing each of the characters?
MM: When it comes to the initial main characters, we looked at “orchestrating” the world of the show, to make sure that we were able to sustain many seasons of story from the core characters. This isn’t a show that lives and dies on its guest characters. My belief is basically this: if we don’t invest in our series regulars, then how can we ask our audience to? There was much research into various women who worked the lines, and for me they formed various archetypes which in turn became the main characters of the series.
LS: The concept of freedom holds meaning for each of the characters, both freedom for themselves in as much as they’re coming to this new world of working in the factories, building the bombs for Allied forces, but also freedom from their family, from their own identity, from societal expectations. In what ways would you like to see this concept of freedom further explored in the series?
AM: I’d like to further explore the consequences of the freedom our characters are experiencing. I’d love to depict how difficult it is for our characters to taste this freedom, knowing that when the war is over they’ll have to go back to their traditional and more domestic lives. It would be fascinating to show how this sudden freedom is changing them, and whether they like who they are becoming. It would be exciting to probe further into their fears and doubts surrounding their newfound freedom and show their struggles to hold onto it in the face of temptation and crossing boundaries. I’d love to look more into the cost of their sudden freedom, but dramatize this in a way that allows our characters to find ways to prevail.
LS: The attention to detail when it comes to the props and backgrounds to make everything authentic to the period is phenomenal, including sourcing out newspapers. What has been a challenge when it comes to finding props as new storylines progress?
MM: Everything — from each line of dialogue to a newspaper headline, only be a second’s shot in an episode — is researched and tested before it’s finalized. Setting a series in the 1940s is a tricky blessing. It’s far enough in the past that we need to do deep research to know the world. And yet it’s close enough to us that we know, if we ever get something wrong, we’ll be called out. So we’re careful to source it all. We’re blessed with an amazing props and set department that have been able to find everything we’ve asked for and more. We’re still waiting to tell a storyline about a gal sitting under a sun-lamp, 1940s style — since we went and bought one of these contraptions!
LS: Within the context of WWII there’s a lot of stories to tell and for the past season and a half there’s been lots of love, heartache, delving into social expectations and constraints, religious oppression & expression, pregnancy, suicide, sexuality, dealing with soldier (and Vera’s) PTSD. Ali Liebert has already expressed in a video interview that she’s already got ideas for her character for a third season. Is there anything you’d like to tackle but haven’t already?
MM: There’s such an amazing societal shift that’s starting to happen in 1942 and 1943… that’s what I’m eager to explore. I want to see how Vera comes to appreciate her intelligence, how Gladys witnesses a breakdown of class structure. How Betty comes to find her own self-confidence, and how Marco and Bob face their individual futures once their barriers begin to crumble. How Kate comes to find a real and authentic voice that’s separate from the narratives she’s been taught to accept. How Lorna opens herself enough to experience grace. In short… we’ve only begun.
LS: This series is one of Canada’s little success stories. The initial small 6-part period miniseries about (primarily) women in World War II set in Toronto has grown into a 12 episode second season, so far. The show has been critically acclaimed and is a genuine hit, and it seemed to take off on-line thanks to social media and word of mouth. What about the storylines do you think seems to garner such a great response to the show, both domestically and abroad?
AM: Our modern high-tech world with its advances in communication through the internet and social media has created this vast sprawling global village of interconnectedness. However it also has created a world that is steeped in information overload, where our attentions can be easily fractured and splintered, leaving us strangely alienated by it all. Bomb Girls, harkening back to a simpler time where women and men had a clear, common goal to fight an imminent threat, has a galvanizing force for our audiences. During WW2, women entering the workforce were enjoying a camaraderie and freedom that they had never experienced. Our characters and story-lines set in the factory, jazz clubs, music halls, workers’ rooming houses, and venues of the social elite exemplifies this freedom in a way that is compelling, seductive and charming. I think the series is a breath of fresh air for the audience and is a welcome contrast to our more complicated lives today.
LS: You’ve got a fantastic website with a lot of interviews, photographs (historical and set), video clips about the design and look. It’s very interactive, including the Facebook page and actor twitter accounts, something which a number of shows are doing at present. It’s a far cry from what was available back in the forties when people received their news and information on the radio. What do you think about the growing popularity of the show via social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, etc?
AM: With a period show we did so much research and tried to be as accurate as possible down to the last detail. However some of those details may have only ended up on screen for a second. The website was a great way to get into all of the fascinating stuff we’d unearthed about the era that didn’t make it into the show. Social media is such a growing trend with TV viewers nowadays; people are always looking for supplemental content and wanting to interact with and discuss the show between the weekly airings. One thing that’s so different about Twitter and Facebook is its a new way to receive a very instant response on what people are thinking of the show. We’ve also found it a great way to give back to our fans with various contests and giveaways. We’re also so impressed with all of the creativity coming from the fans on sites like Tumblr, the drawings and screen caps, and the deep analysis of the show. As for the actor’s twitter accounts, that’s all them. A lot of the actors are very active on social media and have been so great about interacting with fans and talking about the show. Some of them have gotten in on the fun with live tweeting during the episodes which has given the fans added value and new insights into the characters the actors have portrayed.
LS: You’ve been exploring Betty’s sexuality throughout the series. Her falling in love with her best friend over the first season and then learning to protect herself and her heart in the second season so far. I can’t remember ever seeing something like this so well written and established for a character of this time period (let alone any other), and it’s done so with respect and dignity. Thank you. How did you decide that this was a story that you’d like to see explored for this character?
MM: Thanks for the kind words. It may seem strange coming from a guy here, but Betty and Kate’s individual experiences are deeply connected to my own. It was a courageous thing for our broadcaster to buy into — remember, this is an 8pm network series — but I promised them that Betty and Kate would be the great love story of season 1. Seems I wasn’t wrong. Still, the challenge moving forward is to be true, as we always are, to the time. There are many times when I want one of them to speak her truth, to use language to break through the barriers of fear and deeply felt emotions… but the truth is, there just weren’t the words back then, to allow those kinds of conversations. I’ll say this: no one’s rooting for these two as much as I am. And all I can hope for is that the world of the 40s… and the world of today… can work towards a resolution that we all feel is true and right for these two remarkable characters. As for the Leons and Gladys’s of the world… what I found amazing is how, despite the lack of cultural visibility, there was in fact great tolerance and understanding for the wonky loves that arose due to the unique circumstances of WWII. You couldn’t find two more different people than Leon and Gladys. And yet, in their own way, each has a similar attitude of tolerance. With Leon, he assures that the series not deliver some kind of anti-religious message. Yes, there are men like Vernon Rowley. But his is only one interpretation of the holy and the good. Leon offers another… and we’ll see Kate torn between both, as she comes to fold together the various disparate elements of her being.
Bomb Girls is produced by Muse Entertainment Enterprises, Back Alley Film Production and Shaw Media and airs Wednesday evenings at 8PM ET on Global Television. Returns March 25th for the second half of season two.
I know this might probably be an unpopular opinion, since I am actually for Betty/Kate end game relationship, BUT, until Kate is willing/able to admit to herself (and Betty) that she is ready to stop deluding herself with Ivan/other men and willing to have a relationship with Betty, then I have no problem with Betty finding a bit of happiness of her own. Why should Betty have to suffer in silence?
It was absolutely necessary for Betty to have to articulate her needs, her truth – she can’t keep pretending as Kate so desperately needs – that she loves Kate. And as much as she might like to hold on for Kate to realize her own feelings, she can’t keep up that facade and continue to be lonely and having her heart break everytime. I’m very glad for Teresa/Bond Girl for finding Betty and Betty realizing she was not alone in her ‘otherness’; that circumstances surrounding the war makes them ‘not stick out like a sore thumb.’ For a long time Betty has provided that safe harbour for Kate (safe from her father, safe in this new world) and now at least for the time being, Teresa is providing that, albeit slightly differently (needs/desires and exploring those, articulating those needs/desires) for Betty.
“You have everything you want. A boy’s who’s falling for you and a girl who already has.”
And am I ever glad that it was Leon that addressed Kate’s issues of loving Betty. Providing a polar opposite interpretation (with regards to religion/bible) than her father. My guessing is that Kate’s family is Pentacostal (following a more literal translation of the bible), whereas Leon strikes me as someone that’s Methodist (more adaptive to the themes and broader interpretation of faith). One does not simply unlearn that oppression over the course of a few months to a year. That’s long ingrained. His contradiction of her perception of sin with regards to the bible is something she needed to hear. If she can’t love Betty (right now) the way Betty needs, than love her the way she can. When she sang that solo song, that was her singing to Betty much more than it was to Ivan. She communicates her ‘true’ voice in song – things she can’t seem to say in speech. That time her head was in the game, and when she noticed abetty had left before she finished, her mask dropped, for just a moment, and she realized that what she was saying, Betty couldn’t hear at this time. Betty, has put up those walls around her heart again.
Gene – as much as I didn’t like his character when he first showed, this ep actually had me feeling sorry for him. In some ways, his fate as a soldier home from the war on leave is worse than James’s death. Gladys can eventually mourn his death. For Lorna, Bob & other Corbett’s – Gene’s PTSD is something he’ll always have to live with. Bob was right on the money – war changes people that the folks at home don’t always know how to deal with. They can work with counsellors, but they’re never the same.
Gladys. My gods. That last scene with Lorna had me in tears. She so wants things to be different – to be able to effect her own independence from James and from her family. To be responsible for her own life – something I think she really admires in Betty. She sees Betty as being very independent – to make her own choices in life; maybe seeing something in Betty that she’d like to be able to do for herself, but her position (her family’s social status and her upbringing) has not allowed her do do so. At the beginning of the episode, she and Lorna are still at odds over Gladys’s interest in Gene, and by the end of it Lorna is trying to comfort Gladys when she informs her (via letter delivered to the VicMu) that James had died. Such a stunning scene by both of them.
Last year, a little Canadian 6-part miniseries, Bomb Girls aired with critical acclaim, enough so that they were given a second season with double the number of episodes. The show takes place in the 1940s during World War II, around the women (and few men) who work at the Victory Munitions (VicMu) factory, building bombs for the Allied forces. There’s a fantastic writing team who delve into the relationships of the characters.
Bomb Girls airs on Global here in Canada, and in the US the show has aired on Reelz and will possibly start airing season two in March. Unfortunately the DVDs of season one are hard to get hold of. It didn’t take me long to fall for this series. The writing is well done, the props are fantastic and realistic, the costuming is fabulous and detail oriented. The interactions between the characters is complex and well thought out. And I love the fact that it’s Canadian and shows a part of our history that isn’t much written about or told. I love that it explores a lesbian storyline set in the 1940s – the time period and the constraints around Betty’s exploring her sexuality and her feelings at a time when it wasn’t much talked about, and at a time where women had entered the workforce in a predominantly male-oriented job because the men were off to war. The fact was that the war time allowed her to earn the money that would eventually give her the funds to maybe buy a house and be more independent. And for Gladys, it’s her need to expand the boundaries imposed by family and high society’s expectations of women. Freedom from many sorts and from different backgrounds is explored for many of the characters.
Lorna Corbett (Meg Tilly) – the Matron of the VicMu, she oversees the women on the floor of the factory building the bombs – tough but straight forward and supportive of ‘her girls’. Her husband, Bob (Peter Outerbridge), is a WWI war vet who’s paralyzed and has many resentments of his time. They’ve got three grown kids; 2 sons that are also military and serving in the war and their daughter is a nurse.
Betty McRae (Ali Liebert) – one of the best workers of the VicMu, and helps train some of the new recruits. She feels like an outsider because she’s gay but not out – at the time she can’t be. Over time she falls for one of the new recruits, Kate Andrews.
Kate Andrews (Charlotte Hegele) – after escaping from her abusive father’s home with the help of her mother, Kate takes on her new identity (formerly Marion Rowly) and begins to work at the VicMu. She was close to losing her job due to an error made, but Betty gave her a rare second chance. She’s got a singing voice of an angel and quite naieve to the world because of her preacher father’s influence. She’s terrified that her father is going to find her so she wants to make sure her room at the boarding house locks, but Betty tells her she’ll keep her safe.
Gladys Whitham (Jodi Balfour) – a society girl who’s father and fiance are determined to use the war to make money by selling their food line for war rations for the soldiers. She’s determined to make a difference, and while her parents think she’s working in the office at VicMu (which they really don’t think she needs to be doing), Gladys decides she wants to make a difference and to do so works down on the factory floor building bombs with the other women. It takes time but she eventually makes friends with some of the other women, particularly Betty & Kate.
Vera Burr (Anastasia Phillips) – one of the floor girls that has an injury that changes her future.
Marco Moretti (Antonio Culpo) – an Italian-born Canadian, who works as a bomb inspector at the factory because the military refuses to admit him to serve because of his Italian background. His father has been interred at military facility for the past two years. He fancies himself a ladies man and sets his sights on Lorna.
I decided about a month ago to make calendars for sale from photographs I’ve taken, and I’ve come up with three to share with people. A good friend of mine has run a Zazzle store for a few years now, and I’ve bought several things from there over the years and it’s pretty easy to get set up. Over this past summer of talking with her and another couple friends, I decided to take the plunge and start my own. As the new year is coming up soon, I figured calendars would be a good place to start and I will be adding other things as time progresses. Enjoy!
As the release of The Rescues new album, Blah Blah Love and War nears, I had the chance to ask the band members, Adrianne Gonzalez, Gabriel Mann, Kyler England and Rob Giles, some questions this fall about how the album came together, what changes they’ve had to overcome as they put together the album and what drives them to make music together. The digital PledgeMusic release of the album is set for 30th October.
The Rescues launched their PledgeMusic campaign on 13th June, with the release of the following video, entitled, “The Rescues want YOU to be their label”. Within twenty four hours, they had reached 50% of their pledge goals, two days later they were at 75%, and by the 21st of June the project had been fully funded, and pledges have still been coming in.
One of the things I like about PledgeMusic and The Rescues campaign has been their frequent updates including fun videos of the band, and releases of songs that were recorded live, alternative mixes of songs, blended mixes with other songs and blog posts of their progression in recording. That is in addition to the Pledge Exclusives such as a Rescues Collection on USB, Skype with the band, lyric sheets to the songs, lithographs, house concerts and so much more. So, without further adieu, here are The Rescues.
Lynn Stapleton: With “Crazy Ever After” under Adrenaline Records in 2008, then “Let Loose the Horses” under Universal Republic in 2010, you made the conscious choice to produce this album independently, with the help from your fanbase via PledgeMusic, meeting your pledge goals in an impressive 8 days. With this change, it seems like there is a renewed sense of vigor, a sense of fun, and getting back what it means to be a collaborative band. What was the impetus to change? And how are you enjoying the change in freedom being able to do the album (and publicity) on your own terms?
Adrianne Gonzalez: It was really a choice made by necessity. To keep us alive, we had to go out and do things our own way, and by our own rules. They needed a huge radio hit for us to really be successful in their system, and we even tried working with some of the big “hit maker songwriters” to make what radio wanted. In the end, the songs just didn’t feel natural to us, and we felt we could do better on our own. We learned a lot going through the major label machine though, and doing it ourselves is definitely an exciting way to further challenge ourselves. It’s hard, but definitely rewarding work.
Lynn Stapleton: The spirit of flying, wings stretched in freedom, a tenacity of belief in yourselves (individually and collaboratively) and not giving up seems to be an overlying theme to this album. What were some of the challenges you faced prior to laying the groundwork for this album & how has it made you stronger together?
Adrianne Gonzalez: The biggest challenge was for us to just get along and learning how to communicate with each other again, and not letting the little stuff bring us down. We wrote in pairs mostly this time around, and many of the songs are very therapeutic and let us say a lot of the things we wanted to say but couldn’t before. It made us stronger, because it really showed us how much this band really matters to us all.
Lynn Stapleton: From the beautiful haunting ballad blend of “My Heart With You” (a capella version on The Rescues EP) to the lovely cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” (The Rescues – Single), the teenage social awkwardness in “New Kind of Cool” (Crazy Ever After), to the belt out fun of “Break Me Out” (Crazy Ever After & Let Loose The Horses), and the quirky “Can’t Stand the Rain” (Let Loose the Horses), The Rescues covers a gamut of song styles. As solo musicians you each have your own styles and methods of writing songs, so in a collaborative effort what do you each bring creativly to the table?
Gabriel Mann: We are each solo artists, so we are used to handling it all ourselves. that said, when we get together there is a bit of a division of labor that seems to happen naturally. Adri and Kyler come with a full arsenal of beautiful melodies, I’ve got the world of music at my fingertips, and Rob is a walking rhyming dictionary.
Lynn Stapleton: What inspires you creatively?
Gabriel Mann: I am inspired by fear, mostly the fear of repetition. I dont like to do the same thing, musically, as I have done in the past, so I am usually looking for new ways to express myself in music. This often involves getting really into one artist or another (recently that means Thomas Newman, the film composer, and the violent femmes first album), or exploring a group of chords over and over until I’ve exhausted it and can move on. Lyrically, I like to make up stories and tell them as though they’re about myself, usually about high school.
Lynn Stapleton: The growing power of social media in the last few years has become a more tangible way for artists to interact with their fans. The Rescues have embraced the power of this format to promote and publicize the band’s new album via PledgeMusic, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc., by having fans also spread word & support of the band via ‘Word of mouth’ – or in this case also via computers, cell phones, and tablets. That can be a powerful tool for an independent group. Your initial video for this album, ‘The Rescues Want You To Be Our Label’ acknowledges the strength of the benefical social connections between musicians and fans. How has this affected you as individuals and as a group?
Kyler England: It’s funny, we were all independent singer-songwriters before the band formed and our careers lived and breathed thanks to being able to connect with fans directly. Social media wasn’t as important then, it was more about websites and mailing lists. While the band was on a major label we had a lot of great people working for us in the label’s digital marketing department and in radio and in press but there was a disconnect. With such a big machine working for us, inevitably over time we became more hands off in the daily details.
Now that we’re back at the helm, we’re getting our hands in the engine, we have grease up to our elbows. There are a thousand little decisions to be made every day and we’re making them. In the last few years social media has grown exponentially in importance and we’re really grateful for the autonomy it affords us, as well as the closeness it allows us to have with the people that love our music around the world.
Lynn Stapleton: As part of this interaction, through PledgeMusic, The Rescues is offering a limited re-release of your Crazy Ever After album, lyric sheets, autographed albums, shirts, skype with the band, among many other neat things for pledgers, in addition to the blogs, videos, and unreleased songs. What made you choose the things you did?
Kyler England: Ha! To be a fly on the wall during that decision making process! what you see on our pledge page is about 1/10th of what we actually came up with. The narrowing down process was painful but we’re used to it. There’s always a wealth of ideas in this band. But to better answer your question, we tried to come up with pledge exclusives connected to the music and that we would have wanted to have from our favorite bands when we were 18.
Lynn Stapleton: These days, many independent musicians have their music appear in television shows, web shows, or film as a way to get into the collective consciousness. More often than not, that’s how I find out about new musicians & groups like Vienna Teng, Naimee Coleman, Jeremy Silver, The Rescues & more. Many of the artists I have in my iTunes playlists actually came from hearing songs on the daytime soap opera, ‘Guiding Light’, and the primetime drama, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, among others. If you could have a song of yours be on any show – television or web-based – (that you haven’t yet done), what song & what show?
Rob Giles: Man, I think I would love to have a movie written around our music, like PTA did for Aimee Mann in Magnolia. That would be the dream. But as of songs and shows now, I think I would love to have all of our songs on Private Practice, especially with that hot Dr. Amelia Shepherd.
Lynn Stapleton: For a lot of folks, for different reasons, a song sticks in their memory because it holds an emotional resonance in them; the lyrics and/or melody – to use a cliched term – strike a chord of meaning for them. Of the new album, which song is your favourite and why does it have meaning for you?
Rob Giles: I love Be My Cure as a feeling, the whole drums and strings thing. And the fact that Kyler and I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote again and again until we got it right. Makes a song special. I also love Under the Weather. I love when the Rescues are creepy the best.
Lynn Stapleton: I’ve heard many different album titles in my time. This one is certainly unique. How did the album title, “Blah Blah Love and War” come about?
Kyler England: They’re lyrics to one of our songs from the new album.
It’s not too late to make a pledge towards the new album, and receive the updates of songs, blogs and videos on offer, and much more at The Rescues PledgeMusic Campaign
I’m diverging from my usual discourse on this blog and rather temporarily talking about politics. I got into a discussion tonight on American politics on Facebook with someone who is against Obama’s policies – primarily focusing on economics and health care. I am pro-Obama and I am glad of his medicare plan – though not perfect, is a step in the right direction.
And before anyone can say that because I am Canadian it doesn’t qualify me to speak on American politics, let me just say that US policies, domestic and foreign affect many Canadians that live, travel, work in the US. Canada and US are big trade partners, so what decisions the US government makes with regards to Foreign and Trade policies affects Canada and Canadian businesses. So, we do have a legitimate point to discuss American politics.
The US Medicare program as supported by Obama is not perfect, but as I said above, it is a step in the right direction. It allows for the opportunity for many more people to be able to afford health care choices than ever before. Yes, it will cost more in the short term, as the plan is only starting. This plan also had to make HUGE concessions to the Republicans to even get it to pass legislation. Universal medicare should help much more than it hinders.
I think that seems to be the huge difference between Canada / UK / Spain / Netherlands vs The United States in terms of mindset for its population. If you treat your population with respect by offering them basic health care, basic housing and a social net with which to survive and enable them to get back up on their feet, get back to work, offer a support system with which to find work, education, then the society as a whole survives. I see Obama as trying to offer that for the American populace and I hope he succeeds in a second term to accomplish this. Providing a basic safety net supports your population. The old saying applies: “There but for the grace of God go I”. If for whatever reason – laid off, illness, natural disaster, etc. – that there is a support system for them to get back up on their feet / wheelchair and move forward. Yes, there will be people who will take advantage of the system, that happens, but as a whole, they could be a whole lot worse off…as could you or I. People always think “that couldn’t happen to me” until it does. Having to decide between food or shelter, especially when there is family and children involved, can never be good situation to be in. I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in that situation. I really can’t imagine what I’d do in that situation – I’d like to think that I would know, but I’d be lying to myself.
I count myself as being pretty fortunate. I have a pretty decent salary as a licensed practical nurse. I don’t have a spouse or child (other than the four-legged furry variety). I have a national health care program that I can use if I have to go to the doctor for preventative care or treatment of illness or to the hospital without it costing me out of pocket, as it’s paid for with my taxes. I don’t have to worry if my family (parents/siblings/extended family, in Canada) get sick as they also have our national universal health care program if they need it. Our national medicare program is not perfect either, but it does work. I also have unemployment insurance should I ever be laid off and not be able to find employment right away. And though I don’t need it, my sister has – maternity leave – up to 50 weeks of paid maternity leave, at reduced salary, between spouses/partners. I have sick leave benefits through work.
One person’s right to freedom of choice should not impose/impede on another person’s rights, be it in health care, economics, religion or anything else. Religion should NOT have any part of political decision making affecting the general public. There is a separation of Church and State for a reason. Believe in a faith or not (that’s entirely your choice and mine). And the right to believe in different faiths, if one chooses. And that right to believe in your faith extends to your home, your church. If I choose not to believe the same as you, that does not make me any less of a person. It also does not mean I want you camped out on my doorstep trying to convert me or telling me I’m going to hell for not believing in your god. If you do, I’m likely to tell you to piss off and close the door. That’s probably harsher than I intended, but it probably has more to do with the fact that I had at one point folks of a group of Mormon youths come to the door to talk about their ministry, after I got home from working nights and was already in bed…so it wasn’t one of my better moments. At least they got a “No, thanks. I’m not interested,” before I closed the door.
Speaking of rights, another thing that I’m glad of/proud of, as a gay woman, I have many more legal rights here in Canada than if I was in the US – although thanks to Obama and various Democratic state governments, that is improving.
Economics: Yes, social programs will cost money. A lot of this money does come from taxes. I find the ‘every man out for himself and screw everyone else’ mentality of many (not all) Americans particularly disturbing and backwards thinking. There is no compassion there. A “free-market” economy is no good if there isn’t a basic support system of the purchasers/consumers. If the consumers have nothing, they can’t put back into the economy. People should be encouraged to start businesses that employ others. Encourage enterprise. But not at the expense of shoving the next person over who also wants to try. Support for small local business is often what keeps small towns running.
I hadn’t intended this as a rant when I started really, but more a commentary of the current political environment. What’s happening in US politics and policies does have some impact outside the country’s borders, and to think otherwise is very short-sighted.
So, in the last few weeks, I’ve been marathoning episodes of the Spanish series, “Hospital Central”, which for anyone not familiar with it, it is a prime time ensemble soap like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “ER”, set in the city of Madrid. I first heard about this show several years ago because of the lesbian relationship that started between the new peadiatrician, Doctora Macarena [Maca] Fernandez Wilson (played by Patricia Vico, right) and ER Nurse Esther Garcia (played by Fátima Baeza, left).
Fátima Baeza (Esther) y Patricia Vico (Maca)
The story of Maca and Esther starts in the 8th season on a bit of a rough note – Maca arrives and Esther mistakenly thinks she’s the new nurse that’s supposed to be orientating but is late. Maca’s a bit rude to her and they have a couple run ins over the course of a couple episodes. Maca’s family are fairly wealthy but she uses her mother’s maiden name rather than her father’s when she moved to Madrid (from Jerez) after a bad break up, but the Central staff soon learn of her family background. Over a cooking class Maca and Esther start to form a friendship.
In episode 8×04, the episode starts off with Esther walking to work to find out someone is following beside her on a motorcycle, which it turns out to be Maca. Maca offers Esther a ride to work on the back of her bike, which Esther does despite initial trepidation. When they arrive at the hospital, Maca parks her bike and Esther says that her legs are still a little wobbly. [Ed note: okay, *I* would have been wobbly sitting right behind Maca on that bike, but it would NOT have been about nerves of riding on a motorcycle - rather a whole different kinda tension]. They work very well together taking care of patients.
After a long, crappy shift (8×06), Esther goes into the break room and flops down on the couch, where Maca’s been absently flicking through a magazine [it's been a relatively quieter day for her and several times she's looked for Esther to go for tea/coffee]. Maca offers to give Esther’s shoulders a massage and tries on a bit of seduction with Esther, kissing the other woman on the neck, which kinda freaks her out a bit. But by the next episode, Esther keeps trying to hunt down Maca. Finding the peaditrician doing some paperwork in cafeteria, she wants to talk about Maca’s kisses. Maca apologizes that she didn’t mean to offend Esther, but what surprises her is that not only is Esther not offended, she wants to repeat the kisses. Maca’s elated but says they have time (also, they’re in the cafeteria at the moment). As Maca leaves the room, Esther’s relieved and excited. Esther and Hector (another ER doc) are treating a young couple of women, both injured from diving. After a little bit of time with them, it becomes apparent to Esther and Hector that the two women love each other. As Hector and Esther head to the elevator, talking about the couple, when they get there, Maca’s already in the elevator. Hector keeps talking about the young lesbian couple and how sweet he thinks the couple is, precious love, meanwhile Maca & Esther keep looking at each other with barely contained tension. When the elevator dings for the next floor, Esther all but rushes him out and before the door closes, she lands a kiss on Maca’s lips, then tightly hugs her, nuzzling into the taller woman’s neck. They get caught by Rusti when the door opens again. Maca apologizes before they both break out in laughter. Thus begins the Maca y Esther love story.
Lots of kisses, many interrupted (which rather becomes a running joke on the show during the first year or two), and the lovely thing about their relationship was that no one really minded that the two women were together. Okay, initially, Teresa (receptionist in the ER) was concerned for Esther since it was her first time in a relationship with another woman, but she was happy that Esther was happy.
Despite the usual soapy nature of things, they married, had a baby boy via IVF, temporarily separated when Maca returned home with baby to help care for her father [allowing Patricia Vico maternity leave], Esther has a one night stand and of course an accidental pregnancy (Fátima’s real life pregnancy), they get back together (sort of), a sick baby needed a sibling stem cell donation (so Esther’s second pregnancy is an IVF one with same father. Maca starts an affair with a new psychiatrist, Veronica (Vero), but Maca decides she wants to get back with her family. Maca has an unexpected medical diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis but is treated for it. Esther starts a relationship w/ a married woman, Bea, but dumps her as she’s fallen back under Maca’s spell. Crazy ex decides to take a dive from a multi-storey building, pulling Esther with her. Maca & Esther get back together, again. All of this over 11 seasons. Despite the break ups and craziness typical of soaps, there’s still a deep love between them that keeps pulling them back to each other. A super-couple. In fact, theirs is one of the longest running love stories on the show that’s been on the air since 2000 (the show sometimes ran 2 seasons/year as there were 15-22 eps per season).
Season 19 (2010/2011) would be the last for the couple as the network and producers decided to wrap up their storyline. Mid season, Fátima Baeza (Esther) and Patricia Vico (Maca) left the show; Fátima in episode 8 (though reappeared at the end of ep 10), and Patricia in episode 10. Both also appeared together briefly in the final episode of Season 19 (ep20). Maca’s end story involved a young lesbian couple, one of whom was a patient who was on dialysis and required a kidney transplant. Because the patient (Sol) was a minor (17), the hospital was legally obligated to call them, although they hadn’t been part of her life recently. Alma, her partner had been the one to take care of Sol while she was sick. Once the parents were called in, the father didn’t want Alma anywhere near Sol. Thankfully, Maca advocated strongly for the couple, and for Alma’s right to look after Sol, who’s fire and spirit reminded her of Esther (who had already moved with the kids to Buenos Aires for a job). Below are the scenes for that final story. It was a nice bookend to the show’s love story for Maca & Esther to have a young lesbian couple bring them once back together again (Esther had a job offer in Buenos Aires which was why she left first; Maca’s love for Esther made her overcome her fear of flying.
Over the course of the show, since I have seen full episodes of much of the show, I grew to really like many other characters: Dra Cruz Gandara, Dr. Rodolfo Vilches (occasionally, when he wasn’t being an ass), Dra Claudia Castillo, Dra Laura Llanos, Dr David Gimeno, Receptionist Teresa Montoro, Dra Leire Duran, Dra Veronica Sole, nurses Alicia Monastiero, Eva Mendez, and Monica de la Fuente, & Guille Vilches, Dr Hector Behar, Dr. Javier Satomayor (occasionally, when he wasn’t being an ass), Dra Lola Sans, Rusti, Diego. Some were only present for a couple years, others for many years.
Much of the Maca and Esther storyline is available on YouTube – just search ‘Maca y Esther’ 8×01 and up. There are quite a few fanvids up for the show as well, and English and Spanish language forums devoted to the couple. Telecinco also has full episodes (~1hr10-1h15 min length each, with no ads) from S16-19 streaming online. [ETA (11 July 2012) - now seasons 12-19.]
All these Maca and Esther have to do is smile at each other and I go to mush. It’s like GL’s Otalia, but on speed. and the bonus is that it has improved my Spanish language comprehension. The fact that I’m a nurse myself makes the medical terminology easier to understand.
Recently, I’ve felt a little nostalgic and I’ve gone back to re-watch the UK ITV1 drama, “Bad Girls” on DVD; a show which started airing in the UK in 1999. Being fortunate to have a PAL/NTSC player, I have all eight series of the show on DVD. I first was introduced to “Bad Girls” when the Canadian Showcase channel was running a marathon of episodes from series 1-4, back in 2003 or 2004, and I was immediately drawn to the tight storytelling that was often times raw, sarcastic, engaging, maddening and occasionally campy.
The controversial programme about a women’s prison set in East London delved into all manners of what it was like for inmates of the fictional Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Larkhall, including pregnancy & miscarriage, drugs, sexuality, suicide, bullying, power and abuse of said power by prison officers…and that was just in the first episode. The show also explored issues such as women dealing with issues of parenting, or lack thereof, when the children are taken into care of social services because there is no family or friends that can and will take them in, or trying to provide for them if they’re lucky enough to have someone look after them while the mums are incarcerated. But what really drew me to the series was honest portrayals of a long-running front-burner, show-driving storyline of a lesbian love story, that was well built over the three seasons.
Nicola (Nikki) Wade was a woman in her early thirties, co-owner of a lesbian bar in London who had come to help her partner (business & personal), Trisha, close up their club for the night. Nikki’s intelligent, and has a strong sense fighting injustice. They routinely were hassled by local police, and one night a Detective Sergeant Gossard took it upon himself to show Trisha what she was missing and attempted to rape her. Nikki walked in and saw what was going on and saw red. She took a bottle from the bar and broke it over the copper`s head to try to get him to stop. When he didn’t, and rather laughed at her, she stuck what was left of the bottle in his neck – leaving him to bleed to death. So, Nikki received a life sentence.
Helen Stewart was a woman, also in early thirties, who was a university graduate and had worked her way into a fast-track in the Prison Services as a Wing Governor at HMP Larkhall. She was ambitious, but at the same time, she actually cared about the welfare of the women inmates and wanted to do some good for them, much to the dismay, disgust and distrust of two of her senior officers, Jim Fenner and Sylvia (Bodybag) Hollamby, two of the laziest officers on the wing, and from the misogynistic attitudes from her boss, the Governing Governor of Larkhall, Simon Stubberfield. She was doing her best to fight The Old Boy’s Club mentality of the Prison Service, but it took a lot out of her doing so.
Nikki and Helen started off in the first episode with a huge confrontation on the wing wherein a fellow inmate (and friend) had had a miscarriage in her cell the previous night and nearly bled to death, while several of the wing’s inmates were preparing for a fashion show Prison PR event. Helen’s investigation (or rather what she was told to conclude) was that it had been a tragic set of circumstances. Nikki (and others) take objection to that conclusion, and she delivers a powerful statement, in front of Helen, with guards and inmates around, which got her sent down the block (to the solitary confinement cells):
No, let me say it for her. What she’s telling us, is that none of us are safe in here, isn’t she? Cause even if we’re bleeding to death, we don’t get believed. Well, I’m telling her from us, you lot can’t run this prison unless we help you. And if we don’t get respect from your screws, don’t think we’re gonna make you look good in front of your VIP visitors, cause we’re not. So you can shove your stupid fashion show up your arse.”
Later, when Helen learned that Nikki was in strips (stripped of clothing – only had a blanket around her in a draughty old castle prison cell), she was furious. Hollamby (and Fenner) hated Nikki for many reasons, not least because she was a lesbian cop killer, but because she wouldn’t `put up & shut up` whenever they told her. Helen orders Nikki’s clothing returned to her and requests help from Nikki – agreeing that without the help of the inmates, the order of Larkhall would be chaos. Nikki’s not entirely sure what to make of the Wing Governor, but she’s glad to get out of the Block. In a show of support, Nikki returns to G-Wing and informs her fellow inmates that they’re back in the show if they behave themselves.
It would not be the last disagreement or public confrontation between the two women, on either side of the bars and doors, yet they build a mutual trust and start to rely on each other and protect each other when necessary, and begin to fall in love. The change in relationship over the three years is fraught with issues of distrust, jealousy, power imbalance at times, but also with great support and love. Their personal morals and senses of justice are tested as events with prison officers and inmates conflict (such as the suicide of a young girl who had been bullied by other inmates and abused by one of the officers (Fenner), and it’s aftermath, the death of one of the inmates (Monica’s) Downs Syndrome son while she was imprisoned and Monica’s attempted suicide, riots and the like.
Nikki was, by hierarchy, one of the Top Dogs, though not by choice; she detested the thought of being `head bloody prefect`. However, she was respected by many of the other inmates, partially due to her sentence for killing a police officer, but also because she was seen as a protector of the younger or disadvantaged inmates. Though she wasn’t afraid of physical altercations, most of Nikki’s jabs were of the verbal sarcastic and acerbic variety – to a select few fellow inmates and prison officers, and which often got her into trouble with the officers, including Helen.
Nikki and Helen wouldn’t be the only lesbian relationship explored in the series, as there are other characters in later seasons (Denny & Shaz, S2-4; Roisin & Cassie, S4; Kris & Selena, S5; Pat & Sheena, S7), but they would be the most prominent (and longest consecutive lesbian storyline) during most watched seasons (1-3) of the show. Despite the controversial storyline, having a lesbian relationship with a prison & inmate, it worked and it still remains a favourite and one of the strongest lesbian-themed stories on television period.
Issues of drug use and abuse, domestic violence, the depressive effects of prison on inmates, language barriers, illiteracy, rape, suicide, murder, cancer, births and deaths, abuse of power by prison officers, and mental illness are yet some of the issues explored through the storytelling of Bad Girls. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom; there are plenty of light-hearted moments of humour, laughing, and fun (like the Julies making wine – Chateau Larkhall, or smuggling in a cat onto the wing) to be had on G-Wing.
As an aside note, I was planning a trip to the UK in 2006, and I knew that the former HMP Oxford – the old castle prison that the Bad Girls` set for the fictional HMP Larkhall was designed after (and exterior shots were done at the old prison in Oxford until 2002) – had been excavated around and the building was renovated into a hotel – Malmaison Oxford. I had researched much of the history of the old castle / prison out of interest in advance and I budgeted for a stay for one night there at the Mal. What I got was an amazing experience. The hotel was opened on 5th May, 2006. I stayed there on 21st May. The advertising for the place keeps with the `prison` theme:
This time we’re taking no prisoners.
You’ve been bad. We know. It’s time to pay for all those second-rate hotel rooms, the third rate room service, oh, the travel inn express lodge travesty of it all. This time you’re going down. Guilty as charged.
Imagine a prison that’s a hotel. (I’m sure you’ve stayed in a few). Now imagine a prison that’s suddenly a luxury boutique hotel in Oxford, destination brasserie and hang-out for high-life hoodlums. Pinch yourself. You’re doing time at the Mal.
Malmaison Oxford, Oxford, UK
I must say, when I first walked onto the A-Wing (upon which BG`s G-Wing was modelled after), I got both a chill and a thrill at the view. While it`s completely renovated inside, the floors now fully finished and carpeted (instead of the bare metal corridors), there are glass partitions along the ledges of the three levels, looking down at the atrium, and the stairs are blocked off, there are floor pot lights marking actual working room doors (not every door is an actual functioning door now); it certainly invoked an odd sense of deja vu and amusement. After I got settled in my cell – room – I went and did some exploring of the building. There was still one of the old prison gate doors to the area leading to the exercise yard. Outside in the yard, the building remains very familiar for Bad Girls fans…but there is no potting shed in the yard. There are additions to the complex including another wing for more suites and plenty of shops in another courtyard area. It’s just so impressive. Inside again, there is a beautiful dining room – not at all like Larkhall`s cafeteria, and yet, since the hotel had recently opened, there were a few cells down on the lowest level, near the back, that were unfinished. Now that was kind of eery to see. You can see my pictures from this trip here
To get back to the beginning, I`ve seen plenty of lesbian storylines on different shows and films over the past 13 or so years, and the Helen & Nikki storyline and Bad Girls in general still stand among the strongest out there. It`s always worth coming back to – as a solo venture, sharing it with fellow fans or introducing other people, still, to the show. The show had a strong impact on many people’s lives because of the issues it touched on. There have even been academic papers written about the show, for example, Didi Herman’s “Bad Girls Changed My Life”: Homonormativity in a Women’s Prison Drama” .