The Regime is a Maddening Ride

The Regime

The Regime on HBO. What to say? Indeed, what to say? It’s a show. It’s difficult to watch. It’s maddening to watch. It’s enraging to watch. Comedic, horrific, painful, touching even. Drama? Satire? Comedy? Historical Retelling? Dystopian? I’m not sure, all of them?

The Regime tells the story of Elena Vernham, the chancellor of a Central European autocratic state. She is insane, crafty schemer, delusional maniac, abused daughter, hapless pawn of the Super Powers? Pick your poison.

For Whom are we Rooting?

If you’re looking for something to cheer you up, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. If there is one decent person in this show it’s Agnes whose misguided loyalty to Elena is her ultimate demise.

Everyone else? No, thank you. Elena? Self-serving monster. Herbert? Abusive, violent psycho. The rational cabinet? Greedy pigs stealing from the workers at every opportunity. The husband? Simp. The opposition leader? Manipulative, arrogant prick.

A show has to have someone to like? Bah, we don’t play by those rules.

The Moral Lesson?

Good luck finding anything here. The show isn’t about lifting you up. It’s about despair. Elena, in one of her rare moments of lucidity, confesses she always ends up as back as a scared child. Well, that’s a happy thought.

The Regime Quality

Superb. The acting is top-notch from Kate Winslet’s Elena all the way down. Nobody fails here. I believe them, in all their wretchedness. The sets are superb. The music is a delight, enhancing and not leading. The cinematography is beautiful, well framed shots. The sound is clear and crisp. This is a quality show in every respect. It’s just not easy to watch.


I’m not sure I can come up with a clear conclusion here. The show is wonderful and horrible.

I’ll finish with one observation. Agnes’s son. All but stolen from her by Elena. The last we see; he is laying terrified on the floor as the revolutionaries storm the building. What happened to him? The only thing we know for sure is Elena isn’t wasting any time worrying about it. That’s Elena. That’s the show.

Tom Liberman

Shogun Leaves the Audience in the Dark


I just finished watching the critical acclaimed 2024 Shogun miniseries based on the James Clavell novel. It is an updated version of the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain.

Shogun tells the story of John Blackthorn who arrives at the island of Japan as an English merchant hoping to break the Portuguese monopoly on trade. Well, at least that’s the supposed premise but more about that later.

Shogun largely received good reviews from the critics and acclaim from the viewers. There is a lot to like here but it falls tragically short in my opinion. The show goes out of its way to leave the audience in the dark and that ruined it.


One of the things that makes a show good is immersion. When I’m watching a show, reading a book, or otherwise engaged in consuming entertainment, I want to feel like I’m part of it all. I want to feel fear for the protagonist, lust for the romantic interest, elation at the victories, sadness at the losses, and all the rest.

The way this is achieved is by including the audience. Let us in. Tell us what’s going on. Shogun spends almost the entire miniseries keeping things from us, I’m guessing so as to spring twists and surprises.

How does Shogun keep us in the dark. Below is a list of things that bothered me, it is not all encompassing but my general thoughts.

What is Kashigi Yabushige Doing? 

The first instance we get of being kept in the dark during Shogun involves the possibly loyal servant of Toranaga, Yabushige. He is a schemer. He understands his lord is possibly going to lose the struggle with the counsel and is playing both sides of the divide to assure his survival.

How do we learn about this? Basically, in a series of conversations between Yabushige and his son. We never actually see him carrying out any scheme. We see him all too obviously prevaricating in conversations with Toranaga which a method of exposing his schemes, none of which we actually see.

Near the end he betrays Mariko and Blackthorn by scheming with a rival lord. Do we see him agonizing about this decision, planning it? Basically he’s asked to do a favor for the rival lord, cut to black.

This is a potentially interesting storyline. If we actually got to be in on Yabushige and his plans, to fear for Toranago, Blackthorn, and Mariko. We don’t and I therefore I don’t really care.

Buntaro’s Survival

The finest warrior in the land stays behind to guard the fleeing Toranaga as he escapes Kyoto. We see Buntaro battling off hordes of warrior as he disappears around a corner.

The next time we see Buntaro is when he returns. We are told he joined a band of Ronin who fought there way across the countryside with only he and one other surviving. Wow! I mean, what a fantastic little story. Are there any scenes of it happening? What about the surviving Ronin, is he made a Samurai by Toranaga? He must be a bad ass!

Nope, nada, nothing. Just one line. Why? Probably because the burgeoning romance between Blackthorn and Mariko must come to a shock conclusion with the arrival of her presumed dead husband. What a shame.

The Gardener’s Death

This one was particularly upsetting to me. At Blackthorn’s home there is a gardener. Blackthorn hangs up a pheasant to rot and the smell is so horrible, the gardener takes it down and is executed for disobeying Blackthorn’s directives.

What really happened? We find it out all through exposition. Toranaga has a spy in the village. Yabushige, discussed earlier, is trying to find that spy. Toranaga and the gardener come up with the plan to frame the gardener as the spy and thus stop Yabushige’s investigation.

The gardener is ill and feels he is near the end of his life. He wants to do one last service for his lord and thus takes down the pheasant knowing he will be executive but only after the fake evidence is planted in his home.

Holy moly! What a fantastic little side-story. It tells us everything about loyalty, the culture of Japan, etc. Do we see any of it? Nope, nothing. We just hear about it after it all happened. What a waste. I want to see the planning, the agony of the gardener’s family, the theft, the execution, the reward for loyalty and honor.

Yoshii Nagakado’s Death 

The son of Toranaga, Yoshii Nagakado, decides to kill his uncle because the man betrayed Toranaga earlier in the episode. He plans a daring raid of the brothel where the uncle is staying. He enlists compatriots, he carries out his plan. Again, great stuff. I want the anticipation of the attack, knowing Taranaga is opposed, perhaps it is almost discovered at the last minutes.

Again, nope, nothing. We’re at the brothel, the attack happens, Nagakado slips, falls, dies. Sadness. I don’t care! I just don’t care! You didn’t involve me! I didn’t see it coming. I had no rising tension. No chance to care.

The Final Plan

Toranaga surrenders to his peers but in reality, he has a cunning plan. He schemes with his must trusted advisor who commits suicide to make the plan more convincing.

Do we know this plan? Are we let in on it? No, no, and no. It’s all sprung on us as a big surprise. It’s the final insult. Nothing could be clearer: audience, we don’t care about you. We don’t want you involved, just sit there, trust us, it’s going to be great.

Is Shogun Terrible?

No, it’s not terrible. The acting is hit and miss. Cosmo Jarvis as Blackthorn and Anna Sawai as Mariko are unconvincing, bland, boring. Their romance is milquetoast. Everyone else is pretty good with particular credit to Moeka Hoshi as Usami Fuji who absolutely steals every scene she’s in. She does more with a single expression than Sawai does with her endless philosophical blithering. I felt her pain at the death of her husband and child, her loathing to serve Blackthorn, and her eventual respect for the man. She I believed. This is a woman of her time, of Japan.

The sets are great when they are actually sets but the CGI, mainly cityscapes and ship scenes, is adequate at best.

The story is scattered. Is it about Blackthorn’s merchant mission? Blackthorn and Mariko? Toranaga’s schemes? It’s just all over the place. It meanders from one place to the next like a drunken sailor without stopping to focus anywhere.


I’ve gone on for quite a bit here so I’ll wrap up quickly. Include me, damn you, Shogun. Let me in!

Tom Liberman

Mr. Bates vs the Post Office Review

Mr. Bates

This is a difficult one for me to review objectively because the subject matter triggers me greatly. It tells the story of Alan Bates and hundreds of British subpostmasters fighting a power with limitless resources, the government. The entire story in Mr. Bates is everything Libertarians worry about in a government agency.

Basically, the Post Office installed faulty software in all their branches. The faults resulted in many subpostmasters showing accounting shortfalls. The government, along with the software developer, hid the faults, blamed the subpostmasters and sent them to jail, took their money, and largely ruined their lives.

Eventually one subpostmaster, the titular Mr. Bates, managed to raise enough ruckus to bring the attention to the public. It only took twenty-five years. Yep, this whole mess started in 1999 and isn’t fully resolved to this day.

Sadly, my job today isn’t to lambaste the British Post Office and government, it’s to review a television series, and that is what I will do.

Lots of Characters

Mr. Bates starts at the beginning of the disaster when Alan Bates loses his post office because of accounting shortfalls for which he refuses to accept responsibility. He asks for audits, software checks, and what not but is denied.

We then start to meet some of the other subpostmasters encountering the same difficulties. This leads to the biggest problem with the series, there are a lot of characters. It’s not really anyone’s fault and I think they did an admirable job of consolidating people and keeping the total down to a reasonable number. That being said, there are a lot of stories going on at the same time and the complexity of weaving them together is no easy task.


I found the acting in Mr. Bates to be largely top-notch with Toby Jones in the lead role particularly strong. He shows his determination to see the truth prevail but also his fatigue over the course of the decades long fight. His wife, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is also quite strong in her role.

Ian Hart as Bob Rutherford is a particular standout although, as I mentioned, the acting is excellent throughout.

Cinematography, Music, and the Rest

All of the supporting features of the show were well done and believable. I was particularly impressed with the music which didn’t try to overwhelm us with emotions but simply enhanced the sometimes-traumatic story. All good work in my opinion.

The Story is the Thing

Mr. Bates is not a big budget, high-production, action movie. The horribly miscarriage of justice that all those subpostmasters suffered is the main star. It’s such a vile story, such a little guy against the government story, that you don’t really need anything else. I commend them for keeping it fairly simple because it could have gotten overly complex and tried too hard to manipulate the viewers emotional. It just told the story and told it properly.


Since the broadcast of Mr. Bates vs the Post Office, public awareness of the situation rose dramatically and reignited the legal proceedings, which as mentioned, continue on today. In that regard I find it impossible not to consider the show to be a spectacular success regardless of anything else.


I found myself immersed and oft-times riveted to the drama of the story. I was never bored although I suspect an audience looking for high-octane drama might find it slow-moving and somewhat dull.

A fantastic series I think well worth watching and not only because I’m a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

Taxes and Perrier a Study in Law


Do you think of Perrier as water? I do. I’d imagine the vast majority of people reading this do. Do you consider it soda? I don’t and I’d think the vast majority of people agree with me, including Perrier itself.

Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is what it says on the bottle. It is naturally carbonated, whatever that means and sourced and bottled at the site it emerges from the ground. I don’t drink a lot of Perrier, nor do I drink much soda but then again, as the saying goes, I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Perrier is water.

Why am I asking you about the nature of Perrier? Because the United States legal system decided Perrier is soda. Why you ask? Money. Taxes.

The Perrier is Water Lawsuit

Jennifer Montgomery filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania when she paid a tax of twenty-four cents on a 16-ounce bottle of Perrier. She wants a refund because it is illegal to tax water in the United States. It being considered essential to life and all.

Let me pause for a moment to praise Montogomery. Filing this lawsuit required time and money. When the original case was decided against her, she appealed. You go, girl! Sadly, the Pennsylvania Department Board of Revenue Appeals court decided that revenue is the most important factor. We need those tax dollars and nothing is going to stop us from getting them.

Nix v. Hedden

I haven’t put on my Time Travel hat in a while and there was a case back in 1883 involving a similar tax situation and tomatoes. Something about fruits and vegetables. Let’s go back and see what happened then. Now, where is the cap, we did a bit of Spring Cleaning involving the We Got Junk people recently and I hope it didn’t get tossed out along with that hideous lamp.

Hmm, not in the closet. In the fridge? Nope. Here it is, in the Gloomhaven Box, what’s it doing there? Well, never mind, let’s plop it on, spin three times, focus on 1883 and kapow! Here we are. Wowzer, am I poorly dressed, look at all those suits and dresses. I’ll just observe here in back, that constable with the baton looks like he’s ready to use it.

“A tomato is a fruit,” says the lawyer holding the delicious red object in one hand and a large book with the other. “Right here, your Honor, it’s science!”

Bang, down comes the gavel. “It seems obvious, any counter-argument?” says the judge looking at the other lawyer.

“If a tomato is a fruit it’s exempt from the vegetable tariff.”

Bang, down comes the gavel again. “I declare a tomato is legally a vegetable in the United States forevermore.”

“Your Honor …,” says the first lawyer.

“Shut yer yap, contempt of court. Ten days.”

Oops, that constable is giving me the side-eye, spin three times, poof, back home! Remember where I put the hat, I say to myself as I toss it on a shelf.

Well, I guess it’s good to know some things haven’t change. Tax revenue is more important than reality. Yay!


Perrier is soda, the courts have spoken and the courts can’t be wrong.

Tom Liberman