If anyone left any comments for this blog at the old Gertler.com address over the last couple months — sorry, they’re gone. I have no forwarded all calls for the old blog over to the new one. There may still be some problem with old images, I’ll have to see.
Justified is a new series on FX. Or USA Network, or TNT, I tend to blend them together. No, I think it really is FX. It’s a southern-based cop show that is well shot, well acted, and not for an instant believable. It’s a tale of a cop who is tough as nails and part of a hard-hitting force and yet somehow they believe that they can’t arrest a criminal unless they actually catch him in the act. And it’s about a racist criminal mastermind who goes through complex mechanations and sacrifices key crew members so he can have a face-to-face dinner with the good guy. And they’re old friends with strict codes which help them set up the dinner so that one of them is going to get shot, but only after they analyze each other.
People in this are making let’s create interesting dramatic conflict decisions rather than actual human ones, and thus they aren’t interesting dramatic conflicts that arise.
Life is getting busier these days, and with some other shows coming back on, I’m just as glad not to have something good to add to my schedule, I suppose.
GOVERNMENT DOES SOMETHING
Citizens shocked, bewildered
The concept behind Sons of Tucson has been tried before – kids hire someone to stand in as their not-on-hand parents so as not to be taken as wards of the state. And now I feel guilty for saying so – I can’t tell you off the top of my head where it’s been done before – I’ve seen it at least a couple times, and there’s some specific example bouncing around the edges of my brain with orphans hiring the homeless. But that’s not here, nor there; it does not gain or lose in quality by being other non-original or time-tested (depending on how one wants to spin it.)
In its launch, Sons of Tucson is a mixed bag. The kids are too rigidly defined – a set of simple quirks that get the story going, but don’t feel like real individuals, much less a defined family. The slacker pseudo-dad is defined in nothing but loser terms… which is an attribute needed for the setup, but he could use some unlikely dream or ability to give him something to move toward, instead of just having something to run from. Because as it is, none of the characters are quite human, so it’s hard building up any sort of concern for the characters. When your humor rests on situations rather than one-lingers, you need some sense of human involvement to make it interesting.
But this feels less like a failure than it does like something not quite solidified yet. So there is hope that it will find its shape.
edited because apparently I don’t know how to spell “Tucson”.
Yay, District of Columbia!
Florida offers a tax credit to filmmakers, so long as their films do not feature “nontraditional family values”. Which values are those? The law doesn’t say… but the guy who sponsored the law will say this:
Think of it as like Mayberry. That’s when I grew up — the ’60s. That’s what life was like.
Ummm, what version of Mayberry is this? Quick, think of a currently-married character among the regulars on The Andy Griffith Show. Andy? Widower. Bee? No. Barney, Thelma Lou, Helen? No, no no. Floyd? Apparent widower (dates, but has a son.) Gomer, Goober? Neither. Howard Sprague? Briefly engaged, but that breaks off. Earnest T. Bass? Tries to woo a married woman. The Darlings? A widower and his children. (If you follow through to the sequel series, Mayberry R.F.D., Andy and Helen do marry, but, well, who follows through to Mayberry R.F.D.? And even then, the focus shifts to another widower with son.)
If you want to find someone married on The Andy Griffith Show, you have to dig down to Otis… and he’s the town drunk, hardly a role model. (The Darling daughter, Charlene, does get married… but then seeks divorce.)
For healthy “traditional” families, modern Massachusetts has Mayberry completely beat.
Edited because had had “widow” where “widower” was meant.
Hat tip: The Bureau Chiefs
The new series… well, not a new series, the second attempt of doing a series off of the movie… Parenthood is a very serious attempt. It’s got Peter Krause of SportsNight playing someone who is (among other things) a kids’ sports coach; Craig T. Nelson of Coach playing a sports-intensive grampa, and Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls playing a female.
As good as the lineup is in front of the camera, there are some pretty powerful name behind the camera. The pilot was directed by Thomas Schlamme, of West Wing and SportsNight. It was written by Jason Katims… and that’s the name to focus on here, I think. Katims has quality credentials from My So-Called Life to Friday Night Lights… but the credit I want to focus on here is Relativity, a short-lived drama with a really annoying central romance (the boy played by Katims himself) but really good supporting stories about the central characters family.
And that’s what this feels like – the supporting stuff from Relativity. This story deals with several generations, and with people dealing with various combinations of life situations. In this case, it deals with different forms of parenthood – the grandparent, the well-meaning parents with the problem son, the divorced mom with a daughter at risk, the guy who didn’t know he had a kid, the woman working towards being a single mother by choice. True, we don’t get a lesbian Lise Edelstein in this one, but you can’t have everything.
So it’s all respectably done, but the fact that it doesn’t have that problematic center story doesn’t mean that the center story isn’t a problem. I’m not sure going without something at the center is a good thing, or whether they’re building a structure that’s all rococo trim and no load-bearing pillars. I’m certainly willing to spend a while finding out… and seeing this certainly closed the door on my continuing to watch the thematically-interesting crap of Life Unexpected.