The Man Who Murdered Sherlock?

 DATELINE:  Well, Attempted Murder…

 Watson, We Have a Problem Watson, We Have a Problem!

 

Well, you have a trollish documentary here: The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes turns out to be a misnomer, if not a distortion of logic. It’s elementary to point out this is a headline grabber, not a fact.

Actually, the man attempted murder—and had regrets about it. That man is, as everyone knows, the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a doctor in the vein of Watson.

This presentation tries to make a mountain out of a molehill of money. If Doyle chose not to ultimately murder his creation, the fictional detective, the motive was cash. Doyle was offered more moolah than Moriarty had in his crime network.

The film tries to do a hatchet psychology profile on the author, suggesting he had deep-rooted emotional problems: and he took it out on his punching bag, Sherlock.

We all have heard that Dr. Joseph Bell was the model for Sherlock—that medical professor that Doyle studied with. However, this film hints there was a second model for Sherlock, far more nefarious.

It sounds like they film producers can’t tell Moriarty from Mycroft. Dr. Bryan Waller was the other role model: an arrogant and brilliant man who called himself a “Consulting Pathologist.”  Now you’re cooking.

 

Waller was not someone Doyle liked. It seems he was Doyle’s mother’s lover! Yikes. No wonder she loved Sherlock and was dismayed when Conan Doyle killed him off in 1891.

Waller and Mother Doyle were neighbors on his estate where he set her up in a cottage. Now this is the kind of sleazy detail we love to report. TMZ clearly fell down on the job of reporting this.

However, the false charges against the author seem trumped up at best. There never was murder, only mysterious death that was explained years later when Sherlock showed up to collect his royalties.

Of the spate of Holmes documentaries, this one still managed to bemuse us and hold us rapt, no matter what its shortcomings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next World is Your Next Stop

DATELINE: The Futurist Bible

Kaku Bird

 Kookoo Clocked?

Machio Kaku hosts a re-tooled Japanese series about the future, all done in English, called Next World from the CuriosityStream.

The five episodes are short and artificially sweetened, purporting to tell us what life will be like in 2045, just around the corner.

Machio Kaku is more like Mucho KooKoo as the futurist host with his introductions spliced into the show. He sits or stands in a white room with Internet screens to segue to a morose narrator who does the heavy lifting. He may be a virtual entity.

What we learn about the future is that computer chips will be implanted in our brains, eyes, and bloodstream. We will be hooked into a great Artificial Intelligence. Heaven help you if you receive wrong info or have some political dictator hack into your head.

They don’t discuss that possibility in this series, filmed mostly at Harvard and MIT in their labs.

There is a great deal of optimism that hospitals will become obsolete, owing to chemical/computer implants that will hunt out disease and keep us young.

You will face a lifespan of 100 years, adding five hours every day, until we reach the Singularity.

Yes, that ugly word crops up repeatedly, meaning a time of major cultural and human shift, like the introduction of agriculture or writing. AI will change everything, as we will make political allies of robots and androids, even marrying them.

The most intriguing possibility is that there will be recreated lives online of famous historical personages, or even less vaunted ancestors, to whom we may converse and seek counsel (sort of like crying “Fire” on the Internet).

To transcend death, you may be able to put your consciousness into an android and live forever.

All this is predicted by 2045 when you can live on Mars or in a tower of Babel, now an island in the rising oceans.

It almost makes you want to go back to the caves.

 

Ian McKellan’s Best Parts

DATELINE: Playing the Part

McKellan with Milo Parker Mr. Holmes, of course!

When the Great Thespian gathers together his early autobiographical photos and files, you know you are in for a treat. Ian McKellan sits down for a life achievement interview. It’s called McKellan: Playing the Part.

Now he has been great fodder for TV laugh talk shows for years, mostly owing to his dry wit and coming out at age 50 as a gay man during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

His great roles are in films like Gods and Monsters, Apt Pupil, and Richard III, though he is best loved for his superhero movies and Harry Potter junk. He is a good sport about the green screen stuff, but it’s not really acting to him.

We do see him in many rare behind-the-stage clips and playing Shakespeare on TV. He was quite a good-looker as a young man, though no one ever told him so, he admits.

He grew up at college with the likes of Derek Jacobi and Corin Redgrave. It was heady company. He admits his life has been one mostly of life in the company of strangers. Heavens, he must have relied on much kindness.

Like many middle-class Brits, he had to learn a posher accent and quickly discovered the best way to do it was hanging out at theaters. He started young, watching backstage, and appearing in any and every play as a teenager.

An interesting sidelight is that Milo Parker (costar of Mr. Holmes with McKellan) plays the actor as a boy. We presume Mr. McKellan had something to do with this casting. He thought he should have won something for Mr. Holmes—but forgot he already won a Screen Actors Guild award for something or other.

McKellan influenced many actors and stage people over the years. He has always taken some pride in that aspect of his life, which has been solitary without family or children, a conscious decision of a gay man. He has made the acting profession his family.

 

 

Michael Caine: My Generation is Not Yours

DATELINE: Swinging 60s?

Michael Caine Only Blowing Off the Doors?

Michael Caine, one of the great film stars, and under-rated actors since the 1960s, produces and presents a documentary that gives intriguing insight into the London influence of the 1960s.

That was the time of swinging London, Carnaby Street, and the Beatles. It was also when Caine first struck pay-dirt in his movie career.

Caine knows enough to start the documentary with his famous line from the Italian Job about blowing the bloody doors off the car, famously parodied in The Trip and The Trip to Spain by Coogan and Brydon.

You will see a few TV clips of his early performances, and he tells how he chose the name Caine for his career (based on an old Humphrey Bogart movie playing nearby when he was selecting). All this early detail is marvelous.

He even notes that he was a few years older than the group of Cockney stars that rose up in music, film, photography, and fashion. But he was there.

With ingenious clips of young Caine riding up in an elevator, and the old man stepping out, you have his memories coming out: he recalls going to a trendy dance club where every Beatle and every Rolling Stone was dancing; he figured this was the place to be.

Michael Caine converses with Roger Daltrey, Donovan, Joan Collins, Twiggy, Paul McCartney, and Marianne Faithfull, about the days when they were young. He is right there for most of this, but in the final segments, when drugs and LSD take hold, he is not really a participant.

As he points out, he kept his head. It is why he is still making movies fifty years later. He was far beyond London by the late 1960s and the drug scene there. It is alien to him.

The insights are fun and enlightening in his chats with those who transcended their Cockney roots. There is also a soundtrack of great 60s music from Kinks, Beatles, Stones, and Animals.

 

 

Mid-Trip Crisis

DATELINE: Coogan & Brydon in Italy

Italian job

The Trip to Italy is the middle piece of the trilogy of mockumentaries by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The Trip to Italy is directed by Michael Winterbottom again, and he condenses the film to the best bon mots uttered during the two-week business holiday.

These minor British TV stars are on the verge of making it big in American movies, and they are thrown together for another series of adventures by the media. They are temperamental actors who seem not to enjoy each other’s company.

However, they are amusing together. It’s said that Abbot and Costello were not friends but were a business association. So, it is here. This is the business of growing older with wit and aplomb.

The conceit of the journey is to visit great Italian restaurants and trace the expatriates Byron and Shelley along the way.

Coogan and Brydon compete over everything, especially to show which one has more talent and is more successful. They do imitations of Hugh Grant, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, and Sean Connery, over dinners to die for in exotic coastal Italian tourist spots.

Not much is sacred here in their barbs, not even the dead at Pompeii.

You may not be used to intelligent conversation like this. You certainly wonder how they could not enjoy their mid-life crises while living La Dolce Vita.

Not everything is fun, as there is a downbeat inner core to the cavorting. They might die happy in one of these spots, but we doubt it. They sabotage their own trip, their friendship, and seem to have a grand time of indifference, their personal existential crises.

We are happy to have a chance to be a fly on the walls of their discontent.

 

Filmworker: More Than Kubrick’s Go-fer?

 DATELINE: Alternate Ego?

Leon Vitali Young Vitali

We won’t quibble with you. At first, we were put off by the idea that someone had done a documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s assistant. We thought it was chutzpah to call this man a partner or more in Kubrick’s career.

Leon Vitali prefers to be labeled “Filmworker,” and how wrong we were about his contributions to the works of the grand master after 1976. For 30 years, Vitali became more than an assistant: he was an alter ego, a shadow to Kubrick’s Peter Pan.

To work in such proximity to a whirlwind dervish genius takes its toll. He went from stunningly beautiful boy to haggard and wizened old man. He was there for Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, doing everything with Eyes Wide Shut.

Kubrick met Leon Vitali as an actor on the movie Barry Lyndon. The beautiful young man so impressed Kubrick that he revised the film and made him a featured actor. He is brilliant, trained by the Royal Shakespeare troupe, etc.

Yet, he threw it all away when given the chance to work as a Doppleganger to Kubrick.

Not many actors would toss away potential movie star status to become lost in the voracious appetite for work that was Kubrick. When you look at Vitali today in his old age, you cannot find the pretty boy he once was: the Kubrick perfection disease has ripped him to shreds.

We were surprised that he had time to procreate a family. For 30 years, on every film, he worked 20 hours per day, doing whatever Kubrick wanted: casting, lighting, sound, editing, scripts, and jack of all trades. Leon Vitali puts to rest the rumor that Kubrick filmed a fake Moon landing for NASA.

He had the enviable job of being on the right hand and left hand of Kubrick. He took startling photos of the reclusive genius. We liked see James Mason with Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining.

It was Vitali who came up with the idea of twin girls murdered by axe. He was child star Danny’s acting coach, and the lines between Kubrick and Vitali disappeared over the years. Kubrick would send out messages in Leon’s name, would call him for impossible and constant errands.

Vitali was more than an assistant. He was joined at the hip with the great auteur. You might suspect they were gay lovers, but their love was strictly the film business and mostly the art.

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers Warner, Not Karamazov or Marx

DATELINE: Double-down on Cain & Abel

 warner brothers

Cass Warner is the granddaughter of Harry Warner, and she is instrumental in pulling together this family history of an illustrious foursome of Hollywood that are not the Marx Brothers.

The documentary about the studio founders is called Brothers Warner.

Harry Warner was the oldest, the manager of the menagerie, and the most sympathetic in the eyes of the narrator who has an axe to grind. In the middle were two others—Sam and Albert—each of whom were peacemakers and hard workers—between the arch-sibling rivals of Harry—and the notorious and despicable Jack L. Warner.

Whenever cruel, nasty, ruthless, egotistical producers are cited, Jack Warner heads the list. After viewing this film, you know why. He makes Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold seem like misunderstood youth.

Despite a lack of education, Harry Warner was well-spoken and highly intelligent. He led the troupe out to California in the days before World War I. They were never successful completely until brother Sam, the creative one, pursued Vitaphone and pioneered sound movies.

It was a gamble that paid off—changing the industry.

Harry wanted to make entertainments with a message (biographical stories like Emile Zola, and political issue movies like Chain Gang). Their Bugs Bunny cartoons may be a highpoint for many. Not till the TV generation did Warners slip into something less grand, but still successful.

Yet, there was a growing rift between Harry and Jack, culminating with a hostile cheating takeover that pushed out Harry in the 1950s.

Flamboyant and unlikeable, Jack Warner even disowned his own son and had him removed from the business.

Resentful and punitive, James Dean makes a cameo by throwing change at Jack’s feet in one meeting (according to Dennis Hopper) to indicate what he thinks of the studio head’s ruthless pursuit of money.

Jack has his defenders, in the persons of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., of 77 Sunset Strip fame, and Debbie Reynolds, who seem to understand his nature. You may be less forgiving or understanding.  He was a monster.

Fascinating, the documentary may settle family scores, but it is great movie-theatrics too.

 

 

 

 

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

DATELINE: Red Hot Mama!

Sophie & Tallulahwith Tallulah!

Without Sophie Tucker, you would never have her descendants in music and entertainment. She was the originator of the styles of Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, and Mae West too.

She preceded them by decades. She first burst on the scene in 1903, and the loving documentary on her called The Outrageous Sophie Tucker was directed and written by people who never knew her personally. Yet, she left many people thunderstruck—and she knew them all in show biz from Jolson, Cantor, to Garland and Sinatra.

Sophie was the first and last of the Red Hot Mamas. She could do jazz renditions like Bessie Smith, leaving many black people to think she had soul. She was a Jewish girl from Hartford, daughter of immigrants who ran a kosher restaurant.

She ran through three husbands in short order, but also dominated three media—radio, television, and music recordings. Movies were a cameo away.

A full-figured girl, she made her size of zaftig a marketing bonanza. She could do self-deprecating humor with Berle, Durante, or Bob Hope. Sophie also believed that simply being friendly to fans was the best marketing gimmick in the world: she spent hours sending off notes and going out to dinner with local dignitaries on all her tours.

She told soldiers during World War II to write to her—like a mother figure she was, and she answered.

She was friends with Al Capone—and J. Edgar Hoover. Indeed, Hoover and Clyde Tolson came out to her. He asked for one of her sequin dresses—and she joked with him “You’ll never get into it.” She later swore off men—and had a series of female companions; perhaps platonic, perhaps not.

If you don’t know Sophie Tucker (she died in 1966) after a career spanning seven decades, you might want to spend 90 minutes reprising her life in this wonderful documentary.

 

 

 

 

Hollywood: In the Beginning

 DATELINE: James Mason & Kevin Brownlow

intolerance

Intolerance Anyone?

To find the 1979 Kevin Brownlow documentary series on the origins of Hollywood is a treat. With the stirring music of Carl Davis, adapted to so many styles over the episodes, you have Brownlow’s research to find many lost clips and footage. The limited series was called simply Hollywood.

Of course, for us, the best part of the series was the narrative voice of James Mason, lending a kind of grandeur to the proceedings.

The first episode, In the Beginning, does indeed have a Biblical echo. After all, film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s epics, like Intolerance, put Hollywood on the map.

The story begins with gangsters in New York and New Jersey disrupting independent filmmakers around 1903. These producers and studios were under constant threats as the Edison company wanted exclusivity.

This led to many film producers to look for a place far from the East Coast unions and controls. It took them to California, to a spot outside Los Angeles, where orange groves dominated the mountain backdrop.

They could find every conceivable film set location within a few miles: from snowy mountains, to deserts, to mountains, to oceans.

In addition, movies required sunshine, as most films were made outdoors (even indoor sets) with open roof for light. Since Los Angeles had over 300+ days of sunshine every year, they had found nirvana.

Within a few years, the world knew the streets of Hollywood from movie settings. It became more enhanced when movie star mansions became the Newport of a new aristocracy. Pickfair was the West Coast Buckingham Palace with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as the ersatz American royalty.

If you want to see how the United States and its silent film industry took over the world of film art, you have Kevin Brownlow and David Gill to thank for this insightful series.

Other episodes looked at morals clauses in the budding business, stuntmen, Westerns, and comedians like Chaplin and Keaton and Arbuckle. If you love movies, Hollywood is the best series on its advent.

Edgar A. Poe/ American Masters’ Whitewash

 DATELINE: All This, and Nothing More?

poe Actor Denis O’Hare

When PBS tackles the life of Edgar Allan Poe in a re-enacted biographical documentary, you may have something special—or not.

In this case, the superior production values and participation of actor Denis O’Hare as Poe is high-end, though the actor is a bit long-in-the-tooth for the role. The film is Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive.

What’s buried alive, akin to one of his plots, is his sordid lifestyle and the likely truth.

The problem with Poe, and with the hypothesis of the film, is that he was the victim of bad press: not mad, not a drug addict, etc.  Alas, that is not-quite honest. You could accurately say he lived up to his press clippings or musty grave stories.

Poe was an American master in terms of knowing that he had to become his own character, much like Hemingway and other writers, to play himself as flesh and blood page turner to be a social media darling.

Poe’s mother was an actress—and he certainly inherited her stage presence. He loved to present his poetry in narrative drama on stage. His “Raven” was to die for, one hot ticket. O’Hare recites a few lines, making us wish the entire show was comprised of his reading Poe poetry.

Eddie, as his experts call him with all too much familiarity, was combative, especially when drunk—and he did drink, like many talented authors. The so-called experts cited in interviews are mostly novelists who admire his style, and act as apologists for his bad behaviour.

And bad it is by modern standards. There is no way to sugar-coat his marriage to a 13-year old cousin (faked ID marriage license said 21), and the experts here in the #MeToo age are winking and nodding, even the women fans of Poe.

Having middle-age O’Hare (age 55) play Poe at 27 with his interest in the pre-pubsescent girl makes it even more lascivious. You can’t sweep the stench of pedophilia under the grave or under the floorboards.

Poe’s mad, unreliable narrators and tales of murderers may nevermore be disparaged, but Poe himself is the epitome of one of his horrors. His mysterious death at age 40 stands as his greatest unfinished tale.

This is nevertheless a brilliant tell-tale heart-felt documentary. Well, let’s at least quoth the Raven.

The Green Girl, Susan Oliver Remembered

DATELINE: Character Actress Emeritus

Olive Girl, Susan Oliver

You know her from Star Trek. She danced exotically for Christopher Pike (Jeff Hunter) in the pilot episode.

Susan Oliver was not a dancer, and she was never green except in this one show. During the 1950s through the 1960s, she was the most prolific TV guest star of the era, often receiving special billing for roles in everything from crime dramas like Burke’s Law and Cain’s Hundred to westerns like Wagon Train and Rawhide.

She never wanted a series for herself—and turned down shows like I Dream of Jeannie.

She was a product of the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York as a stage star with Sanford Meisner where she worked with Jan Merlin, David Hedison, and Larry Hagman. We loved seeing Roy Thinnes, Peter Mark Richmond, Kathy Nolan, and Lee Merriwether, talking fondly of her.

During her starlet days at Warner Brothers, they shuttled her out to escort gay stars like Sal Mineo, James MacArthur, and Tony Perkins, and gave her meagre roles in movies like Butterfield 8 with Elizabeth Taylor.

A consummate pro, she remained true to herself, becoming a familiar face on weekly series.

The biographical documentary is loaded with faces from the 60s who worked with her—and all admired her.

She never married, being consumed by her career, though she was serious about Sandy Koufax, the baseball legend, and even dated Mickey Mantle.

While she looked young for 30 years, roles started to melt away in the 1970s—and she took up flying. She was a pilot, which surprised most of her Hollywood friends who were told during the documentary. She was the first woman to pilot a Leer jet.

Susan Oliver died too young of cancer in 1990, and we are so glad that someone took time to commit so many marvelous clips to this biography.

 

Every Picture’s Untold Story, Part Two

DATELINE: Twice-Told Lizards

Mrs. Arnolfini, not pregnant No Expectations?

Waldemar Janusczark returns for a second round of nasty interpretations of great works of art. The series is the veddy British Every Picture Tells a Story. He isn’t off much in his comments. After all, it’s art and open to criticism from a legitimate authority. He does it with aplomb and humor, if not deadpan accuracy.

Among the targets this time around are Da Vinci and Caravaggio, as well as Jan Van Eyke.

First up on the hit list is Caravaggio, known for his violent depictions of effeminate boys, mostly commissioned works for wealthy and gay bishops.

Caravaggio liked to use rough trade types from the streets of Rome in his religious depictions, and he also enjoyed using a younger version of himself as Bacchus, that god of dissipation and licentiousness.

So, Waldemar goes after Boy Bitten by Lizard. It may be one of the rare occasions when pontification about the symbol of the middle finger is at the heart of art.

Later, he tackles Da Vinci with a hatchet. There is no love for the great master as Waldemar notes how Mona Lisa is a marketing icon and a plump housewife whose critical appreciation is overwrought.

He also takes on The Marriage of Arnolfini, ridiculing anyone who says Mrs. Arnolfini is not pregnant in the picture. He goes even a step beyond to suggest that she is the victim of death in childbirth and that the portrait is posthumous, done as homage by her husband.

You cannot go wrong by hearing these takes on great art, and it will make you the center of attention at parties when you reveal what you have learned.

 

 

How Far Lifar Travelled

 DATELINE:  Male as Diva

Lifar with Daddy Diaghilev Lifar & Daddiaghilev!

Today he is barely recalled, except by balletomanes.

Serge Lifar was a name in Jeté sets and Monaco parties from the 1920s to the 1950s. He was a principal dancer for Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. He was a sort of sub for Nijinsky on stage, in bed, and off kilter.

Lifar was ambitious, and his tale is fascinating to see played out in a documentary called Serge Lifar: Revolution in Dance. Interestingly enough, the word gay is never spoken.

Considered pale in comparison to Nijinsky, olive-skinned Lifar played the same roles for Diaghilev who tutored him and turned him from a late-blooming peasant boy into a stunning aesthete. He became friends with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and a raft of Paris artists around the era.

Life was dramatic for Lifar. He was the epitome of a drama queen before the term took hold. He was a social media star when there was no such thing: he had a nose job to lessen shadows on his face when he danced.

As catty serious as this film is, it avoids tales of bedtime trysts, a fight with Boris Kochno (Diaghilev’s secretary) over the Maestro’s dead body (literally) in 1929. It details Lifar’s alleged collaboration with Nazis and handsome officers he needed to cultivate. He twice met with Hitler, and his Paris Opera House was always filled with front-row SS officers.

Yet, there is plenty of dirt to go around, even when spread nicely thin. Lifar refused to go to Berlin and start a ballet school, creating an epic ballet for the Third Reich. He was still convicted of collaborating by a French tribunal.

He regarded himself as homeless, a displaced person, a refuge from Russia who made a home for 30 years in France. He was an autocrat who saved the arts from Nazis, according to friends. He is often credited with “firsts” in ballet that rightly belonged to Diaghilev and Nijinsky.

He couldn’t give up the fame or infamy, having ridiculous duels and carrying on as a diva long after he should have retired. His greatest ballet creation was Icare, about the handsome young man who flew too close to the sun with wax wings. Delusions take many forms. How appropriate.

 

Sherlock v. Conan Doyle: Battle Royale

DATELINE: Who Hates Sherlock Holmes? The Author

doyle

If ever there was a legendary love/hate relationship, it was between Sherlock Holmes and the man who was his spiritual father and creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

In a French documentary called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle, we have a battle on the order of a duel with the Napoleon of Crime and the Actors Who Took Him On.

Meant to be a money-making enterprise and a throwaway for a couple of stories, Holmes turned into Doyle’s Frankenstein Monster.

A marvelous and entertaining documentary gives us a blow-by-blow description of Doyle’s losing war with his temperamental genius/consulting detective.

You know who will win this fight. Holmes has survived with hundreds of movies and TV shows, depicted by a variety of actors with waspy disdain—from Rathbone to Jeremy Brett, to the modern versions like Cumberbatch. Thankfully, we never see Robert Downey in the role.

The little hour is chock full of clips of these Sherlocks making annotations on Conan Doyle, a man of some adventure and style himself. Often thought as a Watson type, Doyle was actually more of a Professor Challenger sort.

Killing Holmes was frowned upon even by Doyle’s mother, and money is the great resurrection device. After ten years, Doyle was forced to bring him back from the dead.

Based on an old professor who used to wow the med students with his erudition, Holmes was a clever creation who was enhanced by his narrative fellow, long-suffering and frequent punching bag named Dr. John H. Watson.

If you want to see fleeting glimpses of many classic Holmes portrayals, and rare clips of Doyle, you may enjoy the time, though it covers familiar territory.

 

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.