The Don’t-Miss List: Homeland, Beth Orton, Alex Witchel and More

See it! Hear it! Read it! Do it! The best of movies, TV, music, books and beyond


Homeland Season 2 Premiere
Sunday Sept. 30, 10 pm EST
First, President Barack Obama confessed that he tells Michelle a little white lie: he’s “working” on Saturday afternoons when really he’s slipping into the presidential man cave to catch an episode of Homeland. Then, the show hauled in a heap of Emmys. Now, the second season of this red-hot series kicks off with the stakes raised and the characters in flux. Best Actress winner Claire Danes, who plays a bipolar CIA agent, says the show’s heat emanates from its balance of action and humanity. She says, “It’s political and it’s a thriller, but it’s also about isolated, complex, screwed-up people and a story about relationships with each other."

Sugaring Season, Beth Orton
Folktronica sweetheart Beth Orton took the inspiration for the title of her first record in six years from the time of year when maples are tapped for syrup. "What makes the flow are these long, cold nights alternating with those ever so slightly warmer days,” she explained to a journalist, “beauty and melancholy mixed together — and after that, that's when the sweetness comes." There’s no better description of her music.  

All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia, Alex Witchel
Meatloaf has long been emblematic of comfort. But perhaps never before has a writer so gorgeously deconstructed the metaphor. The dish, writes The New York Times dining columnist Alex Witchel, “is meant to make you believe the world is so forgiving a place that even an array of bits and pieces, all smashed up, can still find meaning as an eloquent whole.” Praised for its honesty and surprising humor, this memoir chronicles Witchel’s search for meaning and solace in the face of her adored mother’s dementia, or what she calls, “disappearing in plain sight.”

Won’t Back Down
If it’s tough to sift through the fuss engulfing this controversial film — the premiere drew protesters and the press zoomed in on the politics — it’s because few issues ignite more ire than education reform. With Maggie Gyllenhaal as the troubled single mom who teams with a dedicated teacher (Viola Davis) to take over a broken inner-city school, Won’t Back Down didn’t do itself any favors by casting the local union as a villain and misportraying the way parent trigger laws work. Still, the film deserves credit for planting a lightning rod in the heart of this critical issue.

Radiolab Live: In the Dark
Chicago: Sept. 28; Milwaukee: Sept. 29; Madison, Wis.: Sept. 30
On paper, it sounds like a yawn: a radio show about science on stage. But when Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take their beloved Radiolab on the road — 2 million fans download the podcast each month — with a promise of “gripping stories and jaw-dropping images,” expect magic to ensue. In the Dark explores light and darkness through tales of blindness, the miracle of sight and an astronaut drifting through the incomprehensible darkness of space. The New Yorker praises the show and the electric chemistry of its hosts: “Two grown men playing brilliant games with ideas. It’s one of the great artistic collaborations going these days.”

Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.

Next Avenue Editors Also Recommend:

Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,

"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."

Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. Every dollar donated allows us to remain a free and accessible public service. What story will you help make possible?