With the investment in time involved, how long do you give a series — broadcast or streaming, limited or open-ended — before deciding it’s not worth your time?
Pilot episode? One or two beyond it? On and on because “maybe it’ll get better?” Here’s a tip. They rarely, if ever, do.
Perhaps the time is right for a comic bookish Jewish “Hunters” tracking and killing Nazi war criminals series. Parking Al Pacino at its center, a “Bruce Wayne-rich” financier of Nazi hunting, is a coup. Logan Lerman as “the kid” given entre to this underworld team of avengers? Well, OK.
Setting it in the lurid, grimy Earth-tony and crime-ridden 1970s? Perfect.
But that’s all the slack to be cut this Amazon extravaganza, a long slow slog through a Tarantino-ish cartoon of glibly served-up gore and goofy, over-the-top touches attempting to hide the tedium.
I gritted my teeth through the pilot, which begins with a slaughter when a Nazi State Dept. insider in the Carter White House (Dylan Baker — Vorst Nazi ach-sent effa!) is outed at a pool party and shoots everybody there.
The unheralded blunt rookie FBI agent (Jerrika Hinton) given to making threats while digging into the Nazi past of a NASA scientist is on one story thread. Will she figure out who is offing Hitler’s minions?
Because that’s what the millionaire Jewish leader of the pack assembled that pack to do.
“You know vat iz the best revenge? REVENGE!”
Lerman is established as a bullied lightweight pot peddler who can’t defend himself, much less his Auschwitz survivor safta (grandmother, played by Jeannie Berlin) when a killer comes to their Brooklyn door.
But Jonah has an eye for patterns, clues and ciphers. He could be useful when he demands a place on Meyer Offerman’s Birds of Prey.
Jonah’ll complement the master of disguise (Josh Radnor of “How I Met Your Mother”), sassy black radical counterfeiter/forger (Tiffany Boone), torture-prone trigger-woman nun (Kate Mulvany), the Asian (Louis Ozawa) “forever soldier,” and the Holocaust survivor couple “gadget experts” (Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek).
The script is a cliched collage of Hebrew and Yiddish puns, anachronistic (remember, this season is set in 1977) slang and trash talk straight out of old WWII C-movies and bad war comic books.
The violence in the Holocaust flashbacks is horror movie exploitive.
Pacino doesn’t need a huge screen to chew the scenery, but he’s more subtle here. Until he opens his mouth and this laughably arch script reveals its Oy-chilles Heel.
“As ze Talmud tells us…I zuppose I vatch too much ‘Kojak.’ A potato of the couch” is he.
“Vell, Scooby Dooby, zis is von monster who need not be unmasked.”
Every so often, there’s a horrific, over-the-top flashback to the savage sadism of the Nazis they’re hunting, cunning ghouls who were thrill killers always looking for new thrills such as using camp inmates as human chess pieces in to-the-death matches.
The chilling topper to that is Mr. Next Gen Nazi (Greg Austin), an overtly racist “cleaner” who has a swastika tattooed on his shoulder, intimidates Congressmen and tidies up messy situations involving the vast Master Race conspiracy that keeps all these fugitives from justice safe and thriving in America.
SOMEbody had to keep the flame alive and inspire tomorrow’s Proud Boys.
The flippant tone and eyes-averting violence make this a series for everybody who loved the finale of “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” or “Inglourious Basterds.”
But it is so…damned…slow. The drip drip of plot doesn’t keep the viewer from getting ahead of the story. And all the Hebrew hep cat patter or Nasty Nazi trash talk isn’t enough to sustain it.
As with too many limited series, they had a feature film’s supply of story and (comic book) wit, saddled it with far too many distracting and less interesting outside of the leads, and then slow-walked the entire affair to a genuinely inevitable conclusion.
But go ahead, watch the pilot (I invested more time on other episodes so you wouldn’t have to). If it’s not instantly irritating to you, carry on, mazeltov and all that.
Not everything Jordan Peele slaps his brand on is worth our time.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, nudity, profanity
Cast: Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Jerrika Hinton, Tiffany Boone, Kate Mulvany, Josh Radnor, Saul Rubinek, Lena Olin, Dylan Baker, Carol Kane
Credits: Created by David Weil. An Amazon Original.
Running time: 10 episodes, 11 hours (1:30 pilot)