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Spouses' Night In: Dames, Planes, Thieves, Mail, and Marriage

, | May 17, 2024 | By

It's just you, your spouse, and the TV. How can you pick something that both of you will enjoy? We have five TV and movie suggestions, new and old, that should appeal to both men and women.

Downton Abbey (Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, Britbox, etc.)

Originally aired on PBS, this wildly successful historical drama has now spawned six TV seasons and two movies (with a third to come).

Created by British Catholic writer Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey follows the pattern of an earlier PBS hit, Upstairs/Downstairs, by chronicling the parallel, and often intertwined, lives of the aristocratic British Crawley family (the upstairs) and the staff (the downstairs) of its palatial country estate, Downton Abbey.

The show begins in the wake of the Titanic disaster in 1912 -- which affects the Crawleys directly -- and has continued through World War I, and up to, so far, 1928.

Women enjoy the family drama and intrigue, the costumes (fashion changed wildly from the series beginning to its current era), and the interplay among all the characters.

For the men, there's a lot of masculine maneuvering, challenges both internal and external, and various power struggles.


If you enjoy Downton Abbey, similar things exist in Fellowes' other series.

Set in London in the 1870s, Belgravia (MGM+ -- formerly EPIX+ -- and Amazon Prime Video), follows one untitled family that attains wealth and success by helping to create a swank new London neighborhood. There are two seasons, with the second called Belgravia: The Next Chapter.


And, on HBO (also the Max app, and Prime Video) is The Gilded Age, the third season of which comes later this year. The drama is set in the 1880s in New York City, when the old-money aristocrats of Mrs. Astor’s “The 400” are giving way to pressure from fabulously wealthy railroad barons and other well-heeled upstarts — and they don’t like it.


Top Gun Maverick (2022, PG-13 Paramount+)

Tom Cruise reprises his 1986 role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky, daring Navy fighter pilot. To be honest, he is good at it.

When Pete is called back to the Navy elite instructional program nicknamed Top Gun, he must train the best of the best Navy fighter pilots for a special and dangerous mission. One of the pilots is the son of his former wingman, who was killed in the first film, making this not only a story about fighter pilots but also a personal story involving old relationships.

Teaching the pilots how to carry out this dangerous mission while staying alive is his top priority. Will he select his old friend’s son for the mission or keep him safely on the ground? It’s a tough decision.

Men will be transfixed by the flying scenes and electrifying combat scenes and women will understand the sensitivity of the assignment and the emotional issues with personal relationships. Plus, they will also be exhilarated by the flying action.


To Catch a Thief (1955, MGM+)

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly combined to make this timeless classic Hitchcock film.

Grant is a reformed cat burglar living in the France Riviera, and Kelly is a wealthy American on vacation with her mother. When a copycat cat burglar makes an appearance, the police automatically think John Robie has come out of retirement.

To clear his name and catch the real copycat burglar, Robie enlists the assistance of an insurance agent Frances Stevens (Kelly), and her mother.

While the foursome joins together to plot how they will ensnare the real burglar, sparks fly between Robie and Frances, who sometimes has the feeling that Robie might actually be the real burglar. But in the end she realizes he is the good guy.

It’s been said for years that men want to be like Cary Grant. He has an onscreen persona that men enjoy and want to emulate. And Grace Kelly is beautiful in every one of her scenes.

While men want to be like Cary Grant, women want to be with Cary Grant. He has the smoothness of a fine wine combined with the romantic gestures that melt women’s hearts.


You’ve Got Mail (1988, PG, Netflix)

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan seem to be perfect for each other even though in You’ve Got Mail, their characters are business foes.

Joe Fox (Hanks) and his family own a big chain of bookstores. Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) owns a small children’s bookstore.

When a new Fox Books opens up around the corner from her little shop, it looks like the end of the line for Kelly’s little store. While she tries her best to keep it afloat, there’s no competing against the big bookstore that also sells coffee and has places for people to set up their computers (the proto-Starbucks?).

That’s the subplot. The main plot is the anonymous interactions via email between Kelly and Fox, who met online and now have a symbiotic relationship via their computers.

When Joe realizes his online bestie is Kathleen Kelly, he has second thoughts about continuing their emails. But as time goes by and the two get closer to each other online (and in person with Joe not divulging his true identity), they realize they have a deep connection.

Men will be charmed by Meg Ryan’s spunky yet innocent character, and Joe’s attention to business and growing the company. Women will enjoy the way Joe goes about endearing himself in person to Kathleen not to mention the fun interactions they have through their computers

“You’ve got mail” is a powerful phrase ... or at least it was in the age of AOL.


A Marriage Made in Heaven (2022, UP Faith & Family)

New to the UP Faith and Family network is an endearing yet thought-provoking story of lost love. The thing about this story is that love doesn’t have to be lost.

The winner of the 2023 International Christian Film Festival for Best Screenplay for a Feature Film, A Marriage Made in Heaven will touch emotions, even in the most macho man.

After Demetri (Robert Krantz) prays at the graves of his mother and brother, an angel appears. (Imagine Tom Arnold as an angel!)

Johnny Angel poses the question, “If God let you relive one week of your life, which week would you choose?”

Demetri chooses to go back 10 years to when his marriage fell apart. Being able to change his circumstances and see where he went wrong all those years before is an amazing experience.

Having put work before family, Demetri realizes that the most important thing was and is his family, and while reliving the past, he changes those days. But what will happen when the week is over and he must return to the present day?

Seeing his mother again is something that will bring tears to viewers, especially when Demetri must say good-bye to her knowing it is the last time he will ever see her. Seeing our past through our eyes of today is powerful. This movie has a nod to the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life.

Men might identify a little with Demetri who has been driven by his dedication to his work, and seeing his realization of where he went wrong is touching for men and women. Women will love the sentimental story of second chances and seeing the relationships mend between Demetri and his family.


Image: A Marriage Made in Heaven/UP Faith & Family

Francine Brokaw is a longtime journalist, covering entertainment, product reviews and travel, and is the host of Beyond the Red Carpet on Village Television and YouTube.

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