Beacon Hill: The First Eleven Episodes
Time for a new soap! I know I'm way late to the party, but I was dragging my heels due to the $10 season fee and the fact that it's online only. I hate watching TV on my computer. Sheepish confession: I only just found out I can just plug an HDMI cord into my TV and everything that's on my computer screen is all of a sudden on my TV. This has changed everything. Now I can watch not only web soaps, but all the Australian women's prison shows I want!
What this all amounts to is: welcome to Beacon Hill coverage! I'm sure anyone discussing it online has long since said all they need to say about it, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet so that once the second season starts, I'll be caught up and ready to go in a more timely manner. There are twelve episodes in the first season and I've seen eleven of them, so we'll just dive in to those and then I'll cover the finale in another post. Mind you, when I say "episodes," I really mean "scenes." Because they are short. I believe the longest episode was eleven minutes and the shortest was just six minutes. All told, the entirety of the season was still less than two hours total. Some episodes were just one conversation. The jury's still out for me on whether I can appreciate this format, since my tardiness meant that I could binge-watch as many episodes as I wanted to in a row. Having to wait a week before getting another 7-minute episode might not win me over.
Going into it, I knew the show was a political and personal drama that starred Alicia Minshew and Sarah Joy Brown as ex-lovers. I'm going to duck after typing this, but: that first bit of casting was an impediment to my interest. Alicia Minshew had her moments as Kendall Hart on AMC, but I never loved her the way a lot of people did. She seemed to have two default modes, and once the second one (the "vulnerably blinking back tears while trying to appear strong" mode) had been overused, I lost interest. She's also another one of those soap actresses that really struggles with gesture. (I had zero qualms about Sarah Joy Brown. I don't always love the material given to her, but she's always engaging to me.)
After this show, though? I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't know if it's the role or the format or just that she's grown as an actress, but the things that grated for me before are really not rearing their respective heads here. Is Sarah Joy Brown more convincing in their romantic scenes? Yes. You can tell it's new for Minshew to play lust for a woman and she's stretching a bit, but I think she's so close to being there that it's hardly distracting. A massive highlight was Sara's (Sara is Minshew's character, just to clarify) morning wine chat with her mother (played by Crystal Chappell). Not a lot is said in that scene (although the lack of intercutting scenes lets us linger a lot more with these people than we get to in the lightning-fast cuts of regular televised daytime soaps these days), but Minshew's performance gives us years of history in her complicated and painful but very loving, strained relationship with her mother.
I can't remember the name of the chick in the screencap above, but that's Sara's girlfriend back in New York. It looks like they live together, and she's big-time out-of-sight, out-of-mind for Sara once Sara gets to Boston to see her family and do her story. (Oh yeah, she's a journalist, sent back home to cover her estranged grandfather's stroke -- notable since he's a U.S. congressperson of some sort -- Senate or House? I think Senate.)
Basically dear old Gramps didn't care for his granddaughter lezzing out so somehow he decided to get Kate (Brown's character) away from Sara by offering her some sort of exciting political gig. I got a little lost in some of this, because they very clearly state that Kate is a bleeding-heart liberal and also imply Gramps is uber-conservative, and they only refer to "The Party." So I don't know how they're in the same party, but I can only guess that Gramps is center or left-of-center on issues outside of his granddaughter being gay? I have no idea. That part really confused the crap out of me. At any rate, in the present day Kate is a state rep (Beacon Hill being her district), and rumors are that if Gramps steps down, he'll appoint her to his position.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the confusion regarding party affiliation is deliberate so as not to alienate any viewers? Although let's get real, it's a soap with a lesbian romance as the central driving force, the demographic is not exactly going to a Tea Party meeting after binge-viewing.
The whole thing was so brief that there's not much to get into. They have terrific flashbacks of Kate and Sara's relationship to get us invested in the romantic tension. They haven't seen each other in six years and it could have been dangerous just to tell us instead of show us that they had a great love affair, but the flashbacks demonstrate a great deal. And are occasionally super-hot.
Yeah, they'll do.
Other characters of note: John-Paul Lavoisier as Sara's brother (though his stake and personal motivations are yet to be seen), Louise Sorel as a coffee-shop owner who is basically the biggest Kate/Sara 'shipper in town (if they established a specific relationship beyond that I missed it), Ricky Paull Goldin as Andrew (some sort of staffer for Kate), Ron Raines as Gramps, Scott Bryce as Kate's father, and Melissa Archer as Senator Gramps's trophy wife. That last bit of casting was my personal favorite and a bit of a genius stroke, I think.
I love it.
That's basically the gist of 1-11. I'm looking forward to catching the finale but a little bummed that the next season doesn't come out until 2015, and then I guess it's another afternoon's-worth of material and then another year's wait? This might be tricky for me.
Anyone else watch it? What did you think?
Thinking about watching it? I think it's worth a look. You can watch the first episode for free here. (You'll immediately notice that the opening credits are way more professional-looking than either of the two soaps that moved from TV to online last year. I won't name any names.)