retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We are a little bit more than halfway through the eighth and final season of "Homeland," and it seems to be that the writers and producers have decided to finish with a story that is faithful to the series' core focus - the tragic psychic costs of war and terrorism, and the essential and perhaps unsolvable disconnects between the Middle East and the West.  It also seems, at least so far, to be a far more streamlined story that some of the seasons have offered - not a lot of distracting subplots or characters to take our attention away from what matters.

This season finds Carrie Matheson - played tight-as-a-drum by the incomparable Claire Danes - back in Afghanistan, helping Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), now the National Security Advisor, engineer a fragile peace with the Taliban.

As always, "Homeland" is replete with political intrigue, both here and abroad, with momentous decisions being made for sometime questionable and self-serving reasons, and Danes serving as a damaged moral compass trying to find her bearings in an ethical and historical morass.  The show has had strong spots - especially the first season - and weak sots, but I feel like when it ends a few weeks from now, it likely won't end well, and yet we'll miss its willingness to ask questions about the thin line between bigotry and nationalism, about the moral costs of never-ending wars, and about how it is hard to be a good gay in an increasingly gray and compromised world.


"Curb Your Enthusiasm" has just completed its 10th season on HBO … and I certainly hope that there will be an 11th.

It is the show in which Larry David - the producer, writer and star - plays a version of himself who says the things we's often like to say, does the things we'd often like to do, and gets himself into socially unacceptable trouble but manages to turn into sometime wincingly punchlines.

The thing about "Curb" is that each season's 10 episodes always play out like an incredibly well constructed joke - there is a foundation, the build, there are riffs and digressions, but somehow things always come together for the big punchline.  The people generally are awful and narcissistic, but for some reason - perhaps because the shows come in short bites - it all seems to work.  Beats me why, but sign me up for more … because it is a show that is pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.


Funniest headline I've read in the last week was in the Washington Post:

"If you’ve run out of toilet paper, Woody Allen’s memoir is also made of paper."

Boom.


I have been really looking forward to the season premiere of "Billions," which comes back on Showtime on May 5 for its fifth season.

But I'm also curious about how "Billions" will play in the current environment.  After all, it will portray rich and powerful people acting in fascinating and reprehensible ways, with an emphasis on conspicuous consumption.  (It is "Billions," after all.  Not "Millions.")

At a time when the streets of Manhattan are virtually empty, and unemployment is off the charts, "Billions" may not have the appeal it used to.  It may seem tone-deaf.  Then again, it may be the perfect escapism.

I have no idea.  Gonna find out pretty soon, though.


I'm a little surprised by how much I miss traveling.  I've been spending 25 percent of my time traveling for most of the past 30 years, so you'd think I'd welcome a period of time not spent on airplanes or in hotels.  But I miss it.  (I think Mrs. Content Guy and my daughter may miss me being on the road, too.)

A friend who shares this feeling - and also is a little surprised by it - sent me this video, which was part of an online streaming concert that ran a couple of weeks ago.  It features Willie Nelson and his sons doing a song that it one of my favorites, and one that seems appropriate for the moment.  Enjoy.


One more thing:



Okay.  That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Stay safe.  Be healthy.