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.
Posts tagged TV
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.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read Sleepyhead, the Mark Billingham book upon which this miniseries was based. I actually have it. Picked it up just last week, before I knew the two Thorne miniseries would be airing this week. It was a fortuitous acquisition, though, and I’m keen to read it after seeing Thorne: Sleepyhead.
Thorne: Sleepyhead and Thorne: Scaredy Cat were shown on the UK’s Sky1 in 2010. But American cable channel Encore is giving Thorne its American premiere this week. Originally miniseries, each installment is being shown on Encore as a single telefilm of slightly over two hours. I just finished watching Sleepyhead, and I was blown away.
At the start, you might be forgiven for thinking that Thorne was another police procedural. Just a grittier Masterpiece Mystery. But it is far more. While I can’t speak for the second installment, Sleepyhead blends hardboiled police procedural with psychological and medical thriller to brilliant effect.
In Sleepyhead, DI Tom Thorne begins on familiar ground: trying to track down a seeming serial murderer. But one of the killer’s victims didn’t die. She survived, but is subsequently afflicted with “locked-in syndrome” and can only move her eyes. Thorne seems all to familiar at the outset, as well. Defiant hardboiled cop, haunted by a case involving a previous killer and dismissive of protocol and propriety in his quest to apprehend the killer.
But here’s where Sleepyhead’s multiple layers become apparent, and everything becomes much more complex. Thorne: Sleepyhead is exquisitely paced, and the suspense is riveting. The acting is top-notch, and Sara Lloyd-Gregory is especially memorable as the locked-in patient. She’s allowed only minimal movement or expression, but the voice-overs poignantly convey her character’s personality shining through the frustration.
Granted the romance between Thorne and Doctor Anne Coburn is more obligatory than organic, and isn’t very convincing. But that’s a minor quibble. DI Thorne spends most of his time as avenging angel, not amourist. And he is compelling in the former role, if not the latter. As Thorne, David Morrissey wears the burden of past cases and current pressures. Alternating between weariness and urgency, Thorne makes us feel the weight on his own shoulders.
I’ll be watching the next installment, Thorne: Scaredy Cat, tomorrow evening. I highly recommend it to you as well, and I’ll post a review after seeing it tomorrow.
People have been watching Perry Mason for decades. I’m sure they’ve felt many things as they watched. Probably most common was admiration for a legal system that doesn’t exist. A brief stint in law school cured me of any delusion that Perry Mason represented actual lawyering.
But it doesn’t really matter. I was too busy envying Perry and the rest of them to rhapsodize about the legal system. All the men were decked out in suits. They weren’t particularly handsome. None of them would be mistaken for Don Draper. Some were taller, some were shorter. Some thinner, others heavier. But they all wore suits. They had shirts with double cuffs and links. They all had neckties. They all wore a handkerchief in their breast pocket.
I was green with envy. I can do all of those things. I do all of those things. I have several suits. I have shirts with french cuffs; I have cuff links. I have handkerchiefs. I have white cotton that can be had for less than a dollar apiece. I have silk in burgundy and navy with white polka dots. And other patterns and colors. I have dozens, if not hundreds, of ties. I can wear any of these any time I want.
But I can’t do what Perry Mason, and all the men on his show, did. And I envy the bastards. Every one of them in a suit. As a matter of course. No one saying how well they dress. No one even noticing, really. They just go about their business, fanciful though it was, in a suit and tie.
And I can’t do the same. Not any more. Wearing a suit is a conspicuous act. Which doesn’t deter me. I don’t mind if I stand out. Because I’m not a twentysomething Maoist in denim and flip-flops. I’m not a crusader for khaki mediocrity who treats every day as Casual Friday and looks like a middle-aged adolescent in cargo shorts and running shoes once work is over. So I stand out.
I can live with that. But I can never look like Perry and his compatriots. Look over their suits. Nothing fancy. Sometimes slightly rumpled. You wouldn’t dream of calling any of them a dandy. No affectation. Just the way men dressed. Not just dressed. Lived. I can wear a suit or tie or any other item of clothing. I can’t live in it.