Summertime TV and book pleasures

Grantchester currently airs on PBS.

As any columnist will tell you, writing a column at the end of summer, in the middle of an August heatwave, when most people are out of town for various weeks, is a challenge. Rather than work, most people will want to relax, enjoy and appreciate what they have around them, spend time with their friends and family, or go on a quiet get-away.

The reality that all of us weekly columnists know is that many readers simply are not tuned in at this time of year. And that’s all right; we all need a break from news at some point. So this week I’ve decided to share with you some of my guilty pleasures, which you might like to utilize during this slow period. Don’t worry: it’ll be fall soon and politics will kick into overdrive. Enjoy this time while it lasts!

For my summer, I enjoy reading and that most damaging of guilty pleasures, watching television.

My reading really took off during the pandemic. I’m a prolific news reader everyday, but before the pandemic my book reading was sporadic. These days I can think of few things that bring me as much enjoyment as book reading. A great mystery like “The Thursday Murder Club” or any of Anthony Horowitz’s books keep me glued for hours. My other choices run the gambit from history, especially LGBT history, biographies, and my guiltiest of all: the LGBT romance novels which I refer to as gay Harlequins. 

My TV viewing falls between high brow and low. For low we go to game shows. “The Chase” is our favorite, but “Jeopardy” and even “Wheel of Fortune” come in a close second. 

Then there are the British mysteries. “Midsomer Murders,” “Vera,” “Granchester,” “Endeavour” and any Agatha Christie. Then there’s this glass blowing competition on Netflix, “Blown Away,” which we sit and watch amazed at the art created and wonder how they do it without getting burned. 

And if that is not enough there’s an occasional movie like “They/Them” which is, would you believe, a conversion therapy horror thriller, starring Kevin Bacon. This is not a joke, and it even got great reviews.

I also enjoy “Grace and Frankie” starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, which is in its last season. “Operation Mincemeat” was a fun movie on Netflix about a crazy plan that British intelligence launch against the Nazis during WWII. 

Or what about a great half hour situation comedy? For that I only have one suggestion: “Abbott Elementary” on ABC and HULU. The subject matter is close to all our hearts, people working in a typical Philadelphia public school, and I have it on good authority that what you see is actually a G-rated version of what actually happens in our schools and how the teachers cope. 

But all of that will have to be put on the back burner since this month we’re off to a journalism conference in Chicago and then a speaking gig at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa to help Canada celebrate its Pride month. 

This will now be the eighth country I’ve had the honor to speak in regarding LGBT history, and each time is an overwhelming experience. It’s a great way to finish out the summer, and in this heat wave, heading north to Ottawa will be a great way to go!