I haven’t tracked down any episodes of Griff, so I can’t comment on the short-lived PI series starring Lorne Greene (of Bonanza and Battlestar Galactica fame). But Greene sure made for a natty private eye.
Posts tagged TV
Watching the first episode of Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond. Dominic Cooper looks nothing like Fleming, but let’s hope for the best. You gotta love this picture of the real Fleming. Nothing like a gun and bow tie. I’ll even forgive him the short sleeves.
Despite all the “shaken, not stirred” business, Fleming (and Bond) drank quite a bit of bourbon. Naturally, I have a few fingers of bourbon in a tumbler (that’s an old-fashioned glass, not this site) to accompany my viewing. I’ll report back with more after I’ve seen more of the miniseries.
I’m not sure if I buy Joe Mantegna as a Bostonian. Still, this was a decent telefilm. Mantegna is arguably closer to Parker’s Spenser than Robert Urich was.
thelamplightersserenade asked: Which Marlowe did you prefer? Bogart or Powell?
Bogart over Powell for me. But as much as I love the Bogart hero, there is little in Bogie’s portrayal of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe to differentiate two very different characters. My favorite Marlowe on screen is Powers Boothe from HBO’s Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.
Han Solo, P.I.?
A clever mash-up of Star Wars and Magnum, P.I. I would watch it!
PBS was showing The Beatles’ whimsical/psychedelic/bewildering Magical Mystery Tour this weekend. Known mostly as an LP in the US, it is just now being shown on American television. The hourlong special is quite interesting to see, especially if you are a fan of The Beatles or Sixties esoterica.
But Magical Mystery Tour also features the colorfully-named Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band singing their song “Death Cab for Cutie.” The emo band would later adopt the song’s title for their group, but I wouldn’t hold that against the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. ”Death Cab for Cutie” is a striptease in Magical Mystery Tour, and it’s one of the more intelligible sequences from the film. The clip above is from another TV program, but the striptease scene is worth a look if you can find it (I couldn’t find it online).
Most importantly, the title is deliberately pulpy. ”Death Cab for Cutie” is borrowed from Richard Hoggart’s pop culture expositional The Uses of Literacy. Once you separate it from sensitive emo nonsense, “Death Cab for Cutie” belongs above a lurid cover illustration. So give a listen, you’re not likely to regret it.
A rainy night. A cutie. A cab. A hint of betrayal. A warning. The retro doo wop crooning fits the pulpy title perfectly. And the refrain is relentlessly noirish: “Someone’s gonna make you pay your fare.”
Relaxing and ending my week with some vintage Mike Hammer
The All-Star Game. Lots of sports have one. Only one is The All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic. The only one a President of the United States would bother calling, even if just for an inning. But that was a long time ago. Before it was just another interleague game. After gambling but before steroids. When baseball wore stirrup socks and looked distinctive. Before everyone looked like slobs and baseball decided to follow suit. When Home Run Derby was Mark Scott’s, not Chris Berman’s. When the Midsummer Classic was classic. When we didn’t have to be reminded that it counted.
The All-Star Game isn’t what it was. But it’s still something. And it’s a chance to remember when it was more. So I’m listening to André Previn and Russ Freeman’s 1957 jazz album Double Play! Williams, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Musial—they were all All-Stars in 1957. Baseball deserved a celebration. And it got one.
Previn and Freeman were all-time greats, too. Don’t forget Shelly Manne on the drums. The music was sweet and sophisticated. Baseball wasn’t the only thing that was better then. It was a time when cool meant being a grown man, not a perpetual adolescent. It was the kind of music you could snap your fingers to, or maybe swirl your lady around. But you wouldn’t thrash like you were having a seizure with your pants legs pooling around your ankles and flip-flops.
No, you got better than that from baseball and music. And if you had a lady, she deserved better out of you. Because what you got from her was pretty damn good. It was a time when subtlety was still appreciated. ”If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” was a comedy tune—not a how-to manual. Men could appreciate feminine charm and women could still show it.
And that’s why I listen to Double Play! It’s a lost relic of a bygone era. Of pure pleasures that aren’t easy to find anymore. It’s from a time when baseball wasn’t hopelessly cluttered with gimmicks. When the All-Star Game celebrated the best ever. When music had style. When men weren’t girls and women weren’t boys. A worthy celebration of a worthy era.
RIP Nora Ephron, 1941-2012
Ephron was a national treasure. She is probably most remembered by twentysomesthings like myself for her romantic comedies. But there is so much more to her oeuvre. The thriller Silkwood was Ephron’s first screenwriting credit. Heartburn (the thinly-veiled novel and the film based on it, for which she also wrote the screenplay) is not only a vivid and heartbreaking account of Ephron’s marriage to the philandering Carl Bernstein, it also marks a sort of coda to Watergate itself. All the president’s men might not have been able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but Bernstein didn’t manage his own affairs (romantic and otherwise) too well, either.
But Ephron was probably at her best as an essayist. I am a big fan of Esquire magazine, and all the fine writing that has appeared in its pages over the years. Nora Ephron had a number of essays published in Esquire during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fittingly, Esquire has a wonderful eulogy for Ephron.
They also have posted her famous essay, “A Few Words About Breasts,” which appeared in the May 1972 issue of Esquire. Man or woman, who doesn’t want to read about breasts? If for some strange reason you don’t, then have a gander at her September 1973 piece, “Battle of the Sexes on the Tennis Court.” Better yet, read ‘em both.
Nora Ephron was married for 25 years to fellow scribe Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi is no stranger to crime writing, having written the nonfiction books that were turned into Goodfellas and Casino. Pileggi also wrote the screenplays for each of the films; the Goodfellas screenplay earned him an Oscar nomination. Pileggi also chronicled the adventures of real-life private dick Irwin Blye in his 1976 book, Blye, Private Eye. Pileggi is also a writer and executive producer on the very promising new CBS show Vegas, starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis.
Nora Ephrons’s witty and thoughtful observations will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Nicholas Pileggi as he mourns his wife.
In last night’s Sleepyhead, a smug doctor scoffs at DI Tom Thorne’s serve-and-protect mission. ”That allows you to act like a prick?” the doctor asks. If you didn’t infer the answer from last night’s installment, Scaredy Cat answers the question tonight. Yes, it does. Once again, David Morrissey is winsomely prickly as Mark Billingham’s DI Thorne.
In Thorne: Scaredy Cat, our hero is every bit the avenging angel that he was in Sleepyhead. Like many rogue cops and hardboiled mavericks before him, DI Tom Thorne is dismissive of police regulations, his superiors and even most rules of polite conduct. But he’s driven to find the bad guys. Fortunately for London, Thorne is assigned the most perplexing cases—villains a more polite detective might not be able to track down.
In Scaredy Cat, the police are once again baffled by a serial killer—or, Thorne suspects, by two. Pairs of murders are being perpetrated with the same murder weapons, but one is savage and the other more precise and clinical. Thorne is sure the pairs of murders are connected.
Part of what follows is predictable. Thorne is overbearing, takes risks, is second-guessed by his superiors but eventually solves the case. But the genius of Scaredy Cat, like Sleepyhead last night, lies in the psychological curveballs that the show throws at viewers. This episode seems to tip its hand early, but Scaredy Cat adroitly serves up red herrings while slowly aspects of the eventual conclusion.
Sandra Oh is a good addition to the cast as DS Sara Chen. As with Thorne, the sometimes grisly job seems to weigh on Chen. Thorne copes by being a prick. Chen needs cocaine and spontaneous sex. While we see the self-destructiveness Chen is now in, she isn’t a very developed character, and we don’t know why she’s using cocaine in the first place. It would be nice to see more of Aidan Gillen (Tommy Carcetti in The Wire) as medical examiner Phil Hendricks—Thorne’s sounding board and the only character who cal tell him off.
Taken together, both Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat rely on the continuing effects of childhood trauma as an explanation for serial killings down the line. Not being familiar with the Mark Billingham novels upon which the Thorne series are based, I can’t say whether this is unique to the first two, or recurs throughout the series. But the themes—dysfunctional identity, childhood flashbacks, broken relationships, compulsion to kill—remind me of a more violent (and perhaps less Freudian) Ross Macdonald.
But watch Thorne: Sleepyhead and Thorne: Scaredy Cat, and judge for yourself. These are excellent procedurals-cum-thrillers. David Morrissey’s downbeat magnetism will draw you in, and the piercing suspense will keep you watching.