Happy Valley

I used to live at the movie theatre.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was moving to Los Angeles. Back in the days of platforming, when it could take months for a flick to make it to the hinterlands, if it ever got there at all, every single movie opened in Los Angeles. I went every night. I couldn’t believe it. And when there was a gap, for this was when you could literally see everything, when there were about 115 movies a year, not counting foreign, I went to the revival house, the Nuart in West L.A., the Rialto in the Valley. Ultimately the Beverly… I’d scour the L.A. “Times” and pick out what I was going to see that night. On a day off, I might see two, maybe even three or four movies. Nowhere was too far to go, back when traffic was bad but not this bad, I’d drive out to Valley Circle. To that dump on Van Nuys Boulevard where during a showing of “Carrie” my girlfriend shushed the girl sitting in front of us and the young woman turned around and said “Shut up bitch.” She did, we did.

And go to the movies we did. That was our very first date.

Actually, I asked her to see “Rocky,” but she was busy. Not that I was absolutely sure I believed that, and I didn’t have any plans to ask her out again, but then she called me up on a Monday night and asked me what I was up to and we ended up going to that revival house in Beverly Hills, that ultimately turned into a Fiorucci, then a bank and then god knows what and saw two Cary Grant movies. And I didn’t think she was into it, but the next day at school…

She learned to shush people from me. Because, you see, I consider movies to be a religious experience. A journey to an alternative land where I’m safe from intrusions and am my best self. I think the first time I realized this was when I saw that Glenda Jackson movie in New Haven, I think it was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” could have been “A Touch Of Class.” You see I fell in love with Ms. Jackson.

Now I’m in love with Sarah Lancashire.

Neither is classically beautiful, but in their roles, and I’m savvy enough at this age to realize they’re rarely like the people they play, they both exude strength, I’m drawn to them, I can’t get enough of them.

And I ultimately sought out every Glenda Jackson flick, another great is “Women In Love,” but until the other week I had no idea who Sarah Lancashire was, until Jay recommended “Happy Valley.”

That’s all anybody wants to talk about, television. As my friend George Drakoulias says, he used to fight over records. Now nobody even talks about them. But they do tell you about their favorite series.

I’ve given up on a lot of the HBO and Showtime programs, maybe it’s the memory of “The Sopranos,” I’m not sure. But I’m constantly searching for a new Netflix series to sink my teeth into. Maybe it’s because Netflix is breaking the paradigm, making all episodes available instantly, but one thing’s for sure, when I pull up the stream I’m in my own little cocoon, with me and nothing but the show. It’s kind of like discovering an act back in the seventies, when they’d made a few albums but hadn’t broken through. In your heart you knew they had other fans, but when you were listening to an LP that no one was talking about you smiled and felt special, it was soul-fulfilling.

Watching “Happy Valley” is soul-fulfilling.

Actually, it should be called “Unhappy Valley.” But Jay testified about it at Casa Vega and I decided to fire it up and…

I became instantly hooked.

Everybody’s flawed, nobody’s beautiful and the landscape…IT’S SO GREEN!

I’m struggling trying to figure out what’s important to me, what I care about, but when I watch “Happy Valley”…I want to go there, to this lush landscape where it’s not about being famous or getting ahead so much as putting one foot in front of the other and living.

I grew up in Connecticut, I didn’t think twice about the greenery. But when you move to L.A., which is dry and drab, you kinda understand the fascination with New England.

But Happy Valley is New England on steroids, because it rains all the time. And maybe it’s the way it’s shot, but there’s this gravitas. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s England, where the buildings are old and the people are just passing through, showing us how insignificant we truly are.

Or maybe it’s the accents.

But it’s foreign and familiar at the same time.

But I’m savvy enough to know that it’s not real. I mean the images are, but the people and the story are not. But I had to pinch myself a few times, tell myself to realize this.

So, the set-up is…

No, I’m not gonna ruin it. Because oftentimes you’re not exactly sure what is going on. In today’s big screen opuses they spell it all out. That’s the essence of a comic book. But “Happy Valley” is no comic. It’s real life. What drew me to the movies way back when. I think I originally got hooked when my mother dragged me to Fairfield University to see Frank and Eleanor Perry talk about “Last Summer.” Have you seen that movie? One of the few that is better than the book, which I had to read after seeing it. Barbara Hershey is beautiful and bad, which is something we rarely see. And Frank said all the music in the movie only played when there was a radio on or…it was source music. And…

“Happy Valley” is about imperfect people, like you and me. Drug addicts and alcoholics and grudge-holders. And some of the plot twists happen too fast and are less than believable, but then you realize they’re just set-up for the actors to do their stuff.

Turns out Sarah Lancashire is a big star, who knew, she’s supposedly the highest paid actress in the U.K., she starred in “Last Tango In Halifax,” but…

Can you have sex with your ex?

Do feelings ever die?

How come some people categorically can’t do the right thing?

How come we need others to keep us on the right path?

Watching “Happy Valley” is like going down a rabbit hole where there’s no internet, where none of the rest of life matters. It’s complete unto itself. It’s not American, where you can see the stars doing their work, people better-looking and richer than us performing for us. Rather, everybody looks like a normal person. AND EVERYBODY CAN ACT! It seems that acting is a profession over there, whereas here it’s an avenue to stardom.

And there are only two seasons of six episodes each. So, you want to eat it up at the same time you want to slow it down and savor it.

But when the Jake Bugg song comes on, you know you’re ready to be dragged away once again, to a world that isn’t real but seems like it is.

This is entertainment.

No, compared to what’s playing in the movie houses…


Happy Valley – Netflix

Happy Valley – wikipedia

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