July 31 2016.
TV IS WHERE IT’S AT.
I watch the Oscars and the Emmy’s every year and after each are over, I come away
feeling as if Television blows the big screen away. Not that Hollywood has given up on movies, but it’s become a stale background full of franchise movies and the same tired stories. The big movie studios don’t seem to challenge themselves as much and come up with original ideas. Television on the other hand; has grown in huge leaps and bounds. Unlike radio, the advantage with television is a fragmented market. What I mean is that no longer does a writer feel they have to worry about work being too safe for television. You can write edgy original ideas for cable or Netflix or Hulu without having to worry about middle America or censors like you would on CBS, NBC or ABC(Fox would be the lone exception of the four.)
This section of my blog is about what I have watched recently that I think is hot. Here are some shows I would recommend. Some are recent hits and some are current.
I know what your saying. This show is old, it came out in the late 90s and into the 2000’s and your telling me shows on the mob are pretty much history now. However; if you want a show with gritty story lines this is the show for you. It’s interesting to note the movie “Analyze This” came out about the same time as the Sopranos. I’ve seen both and have liked both. The idea of a mob boss going to a shrink for anxiety attacks was definitely different, but Tony Soprano didn’t just talk about his problems within his own family, he talked about his problems within his own mob family. When the show came out, it was definitely groundbreaking. It made a huge star of James Gandolfini. It didn’t shy away from what Mob life is like. It was a show that utilized many famous actors from TV and the movies in guest star roles. One of my favorite episodes involves Chris Maltasanti, Tony’s nephew who wants out of the mob to follow his dream to be a big Hollywood player. He meets up with Ben Kingsley as he and a partner are trying to pitch him a script. Ben is at some sort of before Oscars party checking out the swag. Chris is blow away, that everyone in Hollywood gets all this expensive stuff for free. So of course he manages to steal it and brings some back for Tony.
Some of my favorite characters were Chris Maltisanti. The disgruntled newly made man that Tony has great plans for, but he always manages getting crapped on, so he resorts to drugs. Michael Impieroli plays his angst and frustration very well. Janice Soprano(Aida Tuturro), Tony’s scheming sister and Ralph Cifaretto, played by Joe Pantiliano(Guido the killer pimp from “Risky Business”), Pauli Walnuts(Tony Sirico) and Bruce Springsteins’s East Street Band member Steve Van Zandt as Tony’s Consgiliari Silvio Dante. After the Sopranos left the air, HBO replaced it with an interesting quirky half hour dramady set in Hollywood called…
A show loosely based on some friends that Marc Walberg grew up with in Boston. Doug Ellen and Walberg shared stories of their child hood and he merged the stories into this great concept for a show about Hollywood, the games that are played there and the hearts that are broken. The show revolves around Vinnie Chase who follows his brother Johnny Chase, (known as Drama to his friends) to Hollywood and he becomes to next it star in Ari Gold’s stable of gold. I heard about the show from my boss while we were running movie quotes from Gross Point Blanc. He told me that Jeremy Piven ripped up the furniture in as Hollywood agent Ari Gold.
My friend John was right. Piven didn’t just rip up the furniture, he rebuilt it and redefined it. Piven was the break out star of this show. His character was everything you thought a Hollywood agent was, a lying, scheming, conniving dirty rascal, who took his enemies down and destroyed them. According to Doug Ellen and cast members he was based on a real Hollywood Agent. However, there are some redeeming qualities about Ari, he’s loyal to his number one client (Vinnie) and he loves his wife and family very much.
If you’ve never watched this brilliant show and you are interested in getting into the business, you may want to think twice, because this show doesn’t pull any punches about the people that run Hollywood. I found it to be very realistic and a bit unnerving.(Not a bad thing.) It was also an extremely funny show with some interesting characters. It’s a show that allowed for many actors to come on the show and play themselves. Jamie Lynn Sigler(Meadow Soprano), plays herself and dates one of Johnny’s friends, Turtle(Jerry Ferrara.) Gary Bussey, Bob Saget, John Stamos, Eric Roberts and some famous Hollywood Directors also make cameos. The biggest was Martin Scorsese. My favorite character was a recurring character named Billy Walsh, (Rhys Coiro) a quirky Independent Film Director.
Although the show is about Vinnie Chase and his quest for Hollywood’s A list, I found it was more the bond between these childhood friends. And although Vincent Chase is the main focus, I found his Manager and best friend Eric Murphy(Or as he is known in the series as E)to be more the focal point.
What I loved about this show was the realism of the entourage. There was never an episode that went by when Eric and his friends didn’t bust each other’s chops, or boast about their latest conquest and they always had each other’s back even in the darkest times.
The humor in this show was mostly provided by Kevin Dillon(Johnny Drama, (Vinnie’s brother.)and Vinnie Chase’s driver Turtle(Jerry Ferrara). These two were the misfits of the show. Johnny had been trying to make it in Hollywood for years and had one successful show called “Viking Quest”, which lasted a brief time before it was cancelled. Drama, a neurotic mess before every audition manages to always get himself into some sort of mess. For instance before one important audition he doesn’t like this calves and decides to get them augmented.
Turtle is a little different, he’s from the streets, has a whole closet full of sneakers and is a true fan of rap. He has his own dreams during the show, but he isn’t always sure what they are. He tries a variety of different things to get out from under Vince’s money. He tries managing a rapper to no success, then gets involved in limousine company involving hot looking female drivers and later he sells a new kind of vodka from Mexico with Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban’s help. Eventually Turtle ends up doing pretty well for himself. Someone else who had done well for herself is Clare Danes in…
HBO isn’t the only movie channel that decided to develop a television division. Showtime decided to jump in the fray and when Homeland came out on the heels of “24,” I don’t think anyone was disappointed.
The show came out in 2011 and each and every year, it kept taking away Emmy after Emmy award for it’s writing and it’s acting. Particularly it’s acting and particularly Clare Danes, who is riveting to watch. The show revolves around Carrie Mathison who works for Homeland Security fighting terrorism in the Middle East. Now Carrie’s got a big problem, she’s bipolar and she doesn’t want her boss to know anything about that. The fact that Carrie was bipolar and a Homeland Security agent is what drew me to the show. A bipolar Homeland Security Agent, now that is different. Very different. I had to watch. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing on this show is phenomenal and it keeps you on the edge of your seat all hour.
When Carrie’s on her meds, she feels less confident in cracking the case, when she’s off, she feels she functions better and a sense of clarity comes to her, but then she is also at her most destructive, not only to herself, but to others around her. The first two seasons she was involved tracking down a United States Marine named Nicolas Brody
(Damien Lewis, Band of Brothers.)who she makes the mistake of falling in love with. The third season lost some edge but halfway through season four, it got it’s juice back and ended with a bang on season five. The acting in this show is tour de force. Mandy Patinkin plays Carrie’s boss Saul Berenson and he’s brilliant. The other actor to pay attention to is British actor Ruppert Friend who plays Carrie’s latest love interest Peter Quinn. I am eagerly awaiting Homeland’s return in 2017, but in the meantime I have stumbled on the latest hot show.
All writers do research and since I am writing a show if you’re writing a show where one of my supporting characters is a computer hacker, I needed to watch Mr. Robot.
I have watched five episodes of the first season and I definitely have not been disappointed. The show revolves around Elliot Alderson an IT Tech working for a security firm called “All Safe.” By night Elliott hacks into people’s computers and steals valuable bits of information from the seedier people of life. The opening scene of this show blew my mind. We meet Elliot wearing a hoodie. He has a file with him and he walks into a restaurant of some kind to meet the owner, who he exposes as a child pornographer and if he doesn’t stop, he’ll expose him.
During the first five minutes we find out some interesting things about Elliott, he’s verging on schizophrenia. He hears a voice in his head. After his contact with this man, we discover he’s not only a bit schizophrenic, but he’s a morphine junkie.
His job with “All Safe” involves keeping their number one client E corp,(Short for Evil Corp)safe from computer hackers. He despises E Corp because they are run by the richest 1%. You can probably see where this is going at this point. After E Corp are hacked, Elliott is eventually approached by the man responisble, Christian Slater. He heads Fsociety a secret hacker organization(Think Anonymous and this is who these guys are.)
This show is intense from the first frame to the last. The first scene had me on the edge of my seat. I have always found Rami Malik to be an intriguing actor. I thought he was incredible in The “Pacific”. He plays everything so low key. He plays Elliott like a robot. When he speaks it’s monotone and robotic. All Malik’s acting comes from his eyes. He has this interesting look which makes him all that more intriguing to play this character. I just finished watching an episode in which he goes through Morphine withdrawal. It was an intense scene where he had these intense hallucinations. His acting was riveting.
I grew up a movie watcher of the late eighties and nineties, so I knew Mr. Slater’s acting well. Some of my favorite movies were “Murder In The First,” “True Romance” “Heathers” and my personal favorite, “Pump Up The Volume.”(One of the best movies about teenage angst I’ve ever seen) As Mr Robot, Slater reminds me much like an older version the character Mark from “Pump Up The Volume.” He’s always been an interesting actor to watch and he always plays quirky characters and he seems to revel in the layers he finds. As Mr. Robot he doesn’t disappoint and you won’t be disappointed watching this show as it is riveting and fascinating to watch. These are just some of the shows I have watched and I am watching at the moment. Some time in the future I will have a post about a character named Ray Reddington.