Let the TV reviewers soil themselves about “the New Golden Age of TV,” but I’m far from sold. Long form TV has been on a roll, they say, since “The Sopranos.” I say, “Yeah? Another ‘Goodfellas’ — doled out in tiny, slow-paced cliffhanging dribs and drabs.”
They say, “But this is different. The mobster is put on the COUCH!”
I say, “Didya SEE ‘Analyze This?’ How about ‘Analyze That?'”
“Redneck Gothic-biker vampire soap opera. Barely a variation on 345 other blood-sucker tales.”
“The WALKING DEAD!”
“Does nobody remember George A. Romero? Seriously, the man just died, dissed the crap out of this Georgia zombie soap opera, WITH CAUSE. The acting, the makeup, the draggy story lines — “Who will die next? Who will ‘turn?'” It’s been done, Romero said and I wholeheartedly agree. Almost unwatchable, and compared to ‘Warm Bodies,’ ‘World War Z’ etc., and not even in the Best Zombies Ever conversation.
Don’t even get me started on “Game of Thrones,” a sword and sorcery fantasy with a Showtime (uninhibited exploitative sex) touch. Yeah, I know it’s on HBO, and I’m a Dinklage fan from way back. But the first dragons and wolves that showed up, I tapped out. George “Arrr Arrr” isn’t the new Tolkein. He’s the new Stephen King. It’s pulpy page-turner proto-porn for people who’d be embarrassed to admit how much they adored the sixth-grade-vocabulary Harry Potter cut-and-paste fairytales.
The latest long-form that comes up shorter than short is “Get Shorty.” EPIX TV has taken the Elmore Leonard novel, and basically THROWN it out, to make a dusty, grubby and largely humorless Chris O’Dowd/Ray Romano vehicle that is lacking in almost every regard.
Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Get Shorty” delivered the Miami shylock Chili Palmer, a sharp-dressed thug played by John Travolta at his clothes horsiest, a movie-lover caught up in intrigues, learning the hard-funny truths about the movie business from the hangers-on, also-rans, has-beens and the inexplicably famous (Danny DeVito), a movie star that a low-rent director (Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm) needs to get his long-overdue big break. It’s knowing, very inside-mob-ball, freaking hilarious, a literal belly-laugh a minute farce with a bloody gangster edge.
Take away Miami, Chili Palmer, his swagger, confidence and sartorial sense, Leonard’s snappy, tetchy dialogue and most of Chili’s movie mania and you’ve got Miles Daly (Chris O’Dowd), a dull-ish, struggling, divorced desert-Southwest heavy in the employ of punks who couldn’t hold a candle to the elderly mid-level pot-bellied single-scene kingpin Momo of the Leonard novel and Travolta movie.
I love O’Dowd, but this series has me yelling at the TV — Dude, show some PRIDE in your appearance. Dude, DEMAND funnier/cooler lines. It contributes to your MENACE.
And man, nobody but NOBODY regrets fleeing Dust Bowling BFE Texas for LA. Miami for LA? Close call.
Ray Romano is this series’ version of Harry Zimm, and as sharp as he’s been in stuff like “The Big Sick,” as promising as the character — Z-level producer “Rick” — he doesn’t have the pop or poseur flair of Hackman’s horror movie bottom feeder Harry Zimm. He’s not as pathetic and funny. OK, pathetic, maybe.
There’s no Ray Bones, the mobster on Chili’s trail, because really, there’s no replacing the late Dennis Farina. Not a prayer. Nobody of the stature of Delroy Lindo as a foe, or James Gandolfini as a henchman, etc. and so on.
The story arc is the same — Miles, who has a movie-mad kid, is trying to “get out” of organized crime and into movie producing (“How hard can it be?” is the operative thinking in both versions.). Topher Grace, playing a B+ lister with odd sexual proclivities and a lot of demands on his vain, lucky-to-be-a-star time, makes a hilarious substitute for all the actor types of the original tale.
But the tiny steps forward in the story, the teeniest suggestion of Chili Palmer’s cocky self-assurance, that’s all drowned in this blood-stained tale’s strained efforts to get a story Miles, as a collector/enforcer, connects with in front of the cameras, to “Get Shorty” or whoever so that it can be made, are…just…tedious.
“The Last Kingdom” not as good as “The Pilgrimage,” Jason Bateman better in most every movie he makes than he was in “Arrested Development” or “Ozark,” and so on. And so forth. We’re in an era when daytime TV has given up on soap operas, but cable has embraced the form — long, interwoven stories with big casts and stories that advance and never quite come to a climax.
Because they want to bring “Ozark/Shorty/Divorce/The Night Of/Big Little Lies” et al back for a second season.
I crave resolution, and TV is hellbent on avoiding it. Unless we’re talking about British TV.
Movies — still better than TV. Thinking otherwise just betrays how much it takes to get you up off the couch. The prosecution rests.