Posts Tagged ‘HBO’

Once Again, Politics Was The Week’s Top Story

October 7, 2016
There's no debate: Politics was the top story on TV this week.

There’s no debate: Politics was the top story on TV this week.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Oct. 7, 2016 — With the presidential campaign in high gear entering the final weeks leading up to Election Day, politics took center stage in three out of five of this week’s MediaPost TV blogs. Read all five with these links:

Monday, Oct. 3: On NBC’s ‘Timeless,’ Time Traveled Is Time Wasted

Tuesday, Oct. 4: VP Debate Preview: Quadrennial Battle Of The Sideshow Bobs

Wednesday, Oct. 5: VP Debate Postmortem: Unflappable Pence Won Against Smug Kaine

Thursday, Oct. 6: Nothing Funny About New HBO Comedy Called ‘Divorce’

Friday, Oct. 7: Like Mount Everest, A TV Columnist Covers Politics Because It’s There

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Relentless Robots Campaign For World Dominance

September 30, 2016
Hillary Clinton starred in three of this week's five MediaPost TV blogs. Read them all, below.

Hillary Clinton starred in three of this week’s five MediaPost TV blogs. Read them all, below.

THIS WEEK’S MEDIAPOST TV BLOGS, AND MORE 

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Sept. 30, 2016 — Robotic humanoids were the stars of this week’s TV blogs as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went at it in their first debate and HBO’s “Westworld” drew nearer to its premiere this coming Sunday. Clinton was the star of three blogs — two on the debate and one about this Sunday’s season premiere of “Madam Secretary” on CBS.

Read all five of my MediaPost TV columns from the past week — plus my three of my TVNewsCheck.com stories from this week’s TVB (Television Bureau of Advertising) Forward conference Thursday in New York. Follow all the links below:

Monday, Sept. 26: Smell That? It’s Clinton And Trump Going Nose To Nose

Tuesday, Sept. 27: Pundits Say Hillary Won, But Was Her Victory Decisive?

Wednesday, Sept. 28: CBS, NBC Dueling Victory Declarations Sow Confusion

Thursday, Sept. 29: ‘Westworld’ Boldly Goes Where Man And Movies Have Gone Before

Friday, Sept. 30: Secretary Clinton Sees Herself In ‘Madam Secretary’

PLUS: All three of my stories from this week’s annual TVB Forward conference in New York for TVNewsCheck.com:

1 – TV industry analyst gives financial forecast: Wells Fargo’s Ryvicker Sees Positive Future For Local TV

2 – Top economist presents outlook for automotive industry: Car Sales To Slow, But Not Harm Local TV

3 – Fierce competition to bring electronic audience measurement to local TV markets: Dueling Ratings Firms Good For Stations

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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This Week’s Blogs: From Hitchcock to ‘Star Trek’

August 12, 2016
Five days, five blogs -- from Alfred Hitchcock to "Ray Donovan." Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

Five days, five blogs — from Alfred Hitchcock to “Ray Donovan.” Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Aug. 12, 2016 — How many diverse topics can one TV columnist cover in five days? Well, “diversity” was one column topic — with others ranging widely from Alfred Hitchcock and “Star Trek” to “Ray Donovan” and the Olympics.

Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week with these links.

Monday, Aug. 8: HBO ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ Documentary Needs More Of Them, Less Of Others

Tuesday, Aug. 9: TV Columnist’s Desperate Plea: Will Somebody Please Explain ‘Star Trek’s’ Popularity?

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Best Way To Enjoy Olympics Is Watch Them In Your Own Way

Thursday, Aug. 11: TV Critics Adopt Role Of Diversity Police, Attack CBS

Friday, Aug. 12: ‘Ray Donovan’ Renewal Is Summer Bummer For Ray

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Hot Summer Blogs: From ‘Mr. Robot’ to ‘Fargo’

July 16, 2016
From "Mr. Robot" to "Fargo" and the Emmy nominations, here are this week's MediaPost TV blogs.

Here are this week’s MediaPost TV blogs — links below!

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 16, 2016 — The week started with a look ahead to the second-season premiere of “Mr. Robot” on USA Network and ended with a look at this year’s Emmy nominations announced Thursday — of which “Mr. Robot” received six. Read all of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past five days, right here:

Monday, July 11: No Easy Answers As ‘Mr. Robot’ Returns For Season Two

Tuesday, July 12: Obnoxious ‘White House’ Doc Reveals How First Families Live Like Royalty

Wednesday, July 13: Characters Have Many Vices, No Principles In HBO’s ‘Vice Principals’

Thursday, July 14: As Conventions Near, Late-Night Gets Serious About Politics

Friday, July 15: Thank You, Networks, For Tallying Your Emmy Nominations So I Don’t Have To

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Super Bowl Winners & Losers, Plus HBO’s ‘Vinyl’

February 12, 2016

THIS WEEK’S MEDIA POST TV BLOGS

From Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl to next week's Westminster Dog Show on USA Network -- all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

From Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl to next week’s Westminster Dog Show on USA Network — all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Feb. 12, 2016 — Presenting this week’s MediaPost TV blogs — the Super Bowl, TV’s apocalypse comedies, review of HBO’s “Vinyl” and previewing USA Network’s last dog show. Read all five, right here:

Monday, Feb. 8: From Halftime To Ad Time: Assessing This Year’s Super Bowl Telecast

Tuesday, Feb. 9: Apoca-Laughs Now: TV’s End-Of-The-World Comedies

Wednesday, Feb. 10: HBO’s Record-Biz Drama ‘Vinyl’ Is TV’s Next Great Show

Thursday, Feb. 11: All Hail Megyn Kelly, TV’s Top Newswoman – And From Fox, No Less

Friday, Feb. 12: Fox And Hounds: USA Readies Last Dog Show Before Move To Fox Sports

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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From Trump to Madoff: This Week’s TV Blogs

November 13, 2015
This week's TV blogs -- Trump, Donny Deutsch, TV court shows, O'Reilly vs. Will and Bernie Madoff.

This week’s TV blogs — Trump, Donny Deutsch, TV court shows, O’Reilly vs. Will and Bernie Madoff.

NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2015 — The week began with Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” and ended with TV’s dueling Madoffs — Robert De Niro and Richard Dreyfuss.

In between, this week’s MediaPost TV blogs included a look at Bill O’Reilly’s bullying brawl with George Will, another look at adman Donny Deutsch’s new sitcom on USA Network and a blog post about trial lawyers and their obsession with TV court shows (an idea that came to me while I was dozing off on jury duty in Manhattan this week).

Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from this past week with these links:

Monday, Nov. 9: Trump On ‘SNL’: As He Might Say, It Was A Total Disaster

Tuesday, Nov. 10: Random Thoughts You Might Have While Watching ‘Donny!’

Wednesday, Nov. 11: Trial Lawyers Obsessed With Influence Of TV Court Shows On Jurors

Thursday, Nov. 12: Bullied By O’Reilly, George Will Has The Last Word (So Far)

Friday, Nov. 13: Madoff Face-Off: De Niro, Dreyfuss Are TV’s Dueling Bernies

— Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

From Big Bird To ‘Perry Mason’: Last Week’s Blogs

August 24, 2015
From Big Bird to "Perry Mason": Last week's MediaPost TV blogs covered topics such as the HBO-"Sesame Street" deal, CNN's Morton Downey documentary, the threat of even more commercials on cable TV, the premiere of "Public Morals" on TNT, and a new look at "Perry Mason." Follow the links, below.

From Big Bird to “Perry Mason”: Last week’s MediaPost TV blogs covered topics such as the HBO-“Sesame Street” deal, CNN’s Morton Downey Jr. documentary, the threat of even more commercials on cable TV, the premiere of “Public Morals” on TNT, and a new look at “Perry Mason.” Follow the links, below.

NEW YORK, Aug. 24, 2015 — Still in shock over HBO’s deal to grab “Sesame Street” from PBS, the week began with a follow-up on the big story from the week before. The week also saw a mini-revival of interest in Morton Downey Jr., thanks to a documentary on CNN. TNT premiered a new cop show set in the 1960s — “Public Morals” — and I ended the week with a reconsideration of a courtroom drama from the 1950s, the incomparable “Perry Mason.” Read all five of last week’s MediaPost TV blogs with these links:

Monday, Aug. 17: Tyrion, Meet Big Bird: How The Media Told The HBO-‘Sesame Street’ Story

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Remembering Morton Downey Jr.: Documentary Revives The Man And His Era

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Dear Cable TV Networks, Please Don’t Add More Commercials

Thursday, Aug. 20: Costumes And Cars Are Not Enough To Make You Believe It’s The ’60s

Friday, Aug. 21: Television Noir And The Zen Of Perry Mason

— Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Wide World of TV: This Week’s MediaPost Blogs

August 14, 2015
From "Monday Night Football" in the 1970s to "Sesame Street" in the present day, here are this week's MediaPost TV blogs written by TV Howl's Adam Buckman. Follow the links, below.

From “Monday Night Football” in the 1970s to “Sesame Street” in the present day, here are this week’s MediaPost TV blogs written by TV Howl’s Adam Buckman. Follow the links, below.

NEW YORK, Aug. 14, 2015 — This week’s TV blogs began and ended with columns about television institutions whose histories stretched back more than 40 years — to an era that was much different than today’s. The week’s blogs started with a look at the phenomenon of “Monday Night Football” in the early 1970s, following the death last Sunday of Frank Gifford. The week ended with a blog post about the stunning move of “Sesame Street” — a PBS staple since its inception in 1969 — to HBO, an unlikely, if not unimaginable, destination for this kiddie TV show.

In between: A review of a new docuseries on CNBC about sports agents (“The Agent”), a column cheering on a Florida news anchor who rebelled against reporting yet another story about the Kardashian family, and a post praising Jon Voight, who is giving TV’s best performance this summer in “Ray Donovan.”

Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from this week with the links, below.

Monday, Aug. 10: Gifford’s Death Revives Memories Of TV In A Much Different Era

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Esquire Sports Agent Series Sheds Light On Real-Life Jerry Maguires

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Hooray For Local TV News Anchor’s One-Man Kardashian Protest

Thursday, Aug. 13: ‘Ray Donovan’ Actor Is Giving TV’s Best Performance Right Now

Friday, Aug. 14: What? HBO Picked Up ‘Sesame Street’? How Is This Possible?

— Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Last Week on MediaPost: My 5 Blogs 5/11-5/15

May 16, 2015
That was the week that was: From David Letterman to Ricky Martin -- links to all 5 of my MediaPost TV blogs, below.

That was the week that was: From David Letterman to Ricky Martin — links to all 5 of my MediaPost TV blogs, below.

NEW YORK, May 16, 2015 — From David Letterman and Queen Latifah to M. Night Shyamalan and “Mad Men,” here are all five of my MediaPost.com TV blogs from last week:

Monday, May 11: How’s Dave Doing? We Asked His Friend, Tom Dreesen

Tuesday, May 12: HBO Movie About Singer Bessie Smith Is Off-Key

Wednesday, May 13: Small Town, Big Mystery: ‘Wayward Pines’ Is Top-Notch Miniseries

Thursday, May 14: Five Questions We’d Like Answered In The ‘Mad Men’ Finale

Friday, May 15: Juvenile Seat-Saving Must Cease, And Other Upfront Observations

— Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

This Week on MediaPost: Five Blogs 4/6-4/10

April 10, 2015
The constant variety of television: This week's topics ranged from ad men ("Mad Men") to transgender women ("New Girls on the Block").

The constant variety of television: This week’s topics ranged from ad men (“Mad Men”) to transgender women (“New Girls on the Block”).

NEW YORK, April 10, 2015 — Catch up with all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from this past week (April 6-10) with these links:

Monday, April 6: ‘Mad Men’ Poses Existential Question: Is that All There Is? My ‘Mad Men’ recap

Tuesday, April 7: ‘Game’ On! Epic Battle of ‘Thrones’ Resumes Sunday on HBO

Wednesday, April 8: Addicted to ‘Nurse Jackie’: Beloved Edie Falco Series Starts Final Season

Thursday, April 9: End of the News Anchor Era? Say It Ain’t So!

Friday, April 10: Transgender Show ‘New Girls’ Is a Walk on the Mild Side

— Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Good riddance, 2013: My TV year in review

December 11, 2013
With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.

With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2013 — It was one of the strangest years in my long personal history on the TV beat.

Looking back in search of the year’s highlights, I find mostly lowlights.

With a few notable exceptions, the TV stories I covered that drew our attention in 2013 were either contentious and crude or irrelevant and trivial.

Falling into the former category: Alec Baldwin becoming embroiled in at least three controversies over slurs (two homophobic and one racial) he probably uttered (and then denied) in confrontations with reporters and photographers who doorstepped him outside his New York apartment house.

Plus, at least two incidents in which TV personalities flipped each other the bird on TV: David Letterman flourishing his middle digit at guest Rob Lowe in October, and Savannah Guthrie doing the same to Matt Lauer when he made some stupid comment about her unfamiliarity with a vacuum cleaner on “The Today Show.”

Here’s a request: Hey, you television people, how about dialing down the crass behavior in 2014?  Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

On the trivial side: The late-night hosts joked for the better part of a week about Justin Bieber having his monkey confiscated in Germany; they spent a month (or more) doing jokes about twerking and Miley Cyrus; and the entire year joking about Chris Christie’s weight.

Sharon Osbourne revealed she had a fling long ago with Jay Leno; rotund comic Louie Anderson was somehow persuaded to participate in the ABC diving-competition show called “Splash”; Hollywood heavyweight Jeff Garlin went after some guy’s Mercedes in an L.A. parking dispute; and the year’s most talked-about TV movie was “Sharknado.”

Everyone lied about Steve Carell returning for the series finale of “The Office” (they said he wouldn’t, and then he did).  Barbara Walters lied (seemingly) about her retirement (she said she wouldn’t, but then she announced she would) and about Elisabeth Hasselbeck leaving “The View” (Walters said Elisabeth wouldn’t be leaving and then Elisabeth left).

My favorite story of the year? Probably the feud Bill Maher ignited with Donald Trump when Maher comedically likened Trump’s orange hair to the fur of an orangutan.   The “feud” continued through at least three-quarters of the year, and I got five stories out of it stretching from January to September — here, here, here, here and here.

It was a year of sad news: Cory Monteith of “Glee” fatally overdosing at age 31, and James Gandolfini suddenly dying too, at age 51 — not that I ever met or knew either of them.

Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem

I am, or was, acquainted with Casey Kasem, and the stories emanating from his household this year about his relatives fighting over access to him while he suffers from what seems like a grave illness were also sad.  Though it’s been years since I last talked to him, I have always thought of him as one of the finest people I have ever come across in the broadcasting business.

The biggest ongoing story of 2013 was one that will be continued this coming February: The changes in late-night TV.  The ball got rolling last January when Jimmy Kimmel moved to 11:35 p.m. on ABC, followed by the announcement later in the year that Jay Leno would relinquish “The Tonight Show” to Jimmy Fallon.

Prediction: Fallon will do about as well as Conan O’Brien (if he’s lucky), although it’s not as likely that Jay Leno will come back this time.

A&E cancelled “Hoarders.”  And “Breaking Bad” had a series finale that everyone knew deep down was wholly implausible, and yet the “critics” gushed about it anyway.

I wrote slightly more than 600 stories in 2013, appeared on TV three times, and did six radio interviews — all on WOR in New York and five of them on “The Joan Hamburg Show,” which next year will be banished to weekends.  Alas.

I made two appearances in public, moderating seminars put on by the Center for Communication in New York.  Our panel of reality-TV execs from four cable channels last March was enlivened when a female questioner from our audience stepped up to the microphone we set up near the seats and, without hesitation, removed her shirt.  It was another first for me …

I met few celebrities and interviewed even fewer in 2013.  One exception was Lena Dunham, who was focused, intelligent and shrewd — a very good interview subject — when I met her at HBO last January.  I still don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of “Girls,” however.

In July, I came to the realization that I have spent 30 years on the TV beat when I came across my first bylined TV story, a Q&A by phone with Joan Rivers, published on July 25, 1983, in the now-defunct trade newspaper called Broadcast Week.

I still cannot decide if this was a milestone worth celebrating.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Best 2012 recap you’ll ever read: MY year in TV

December 24, 2012

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 24, 2012 — Let other critics waste their time on year-end lists of the Top 10 this and the Top 10 that.

My long experience in this business tells me readers aren’t interested in any of that.  What they really want to know is: How was my year in TV?

My year amounted to just shy of 600 stories.

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO's "Luck" (Photo: HBO)

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO’s “Luck” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite: The story of the HBO horse-racing drama “Luck,” and how it was cancelled due to the deaths of three horses.  I’ve been covering the TV business as a journalist for the better part of 29 years, and this one was a first — a TV show ceasing production due to animals being injured so grievously that they had to be put down.  It was a shame — for the horses, certainly, and also for anyone who, like me, happened to like the show.  Alas.

Odd as that story was, another one was even odder, and also sad: The attempted suicide of character actor Daniel Von Bargen, who’s been in a lot of movies and TV shows but was best known for playing George Costanza’s boss, Mr. Kruger, in the final season of “Seinfeld.”  There have been no updates on his health since the incident last February, and I hope he’s doing better.

The TV phenomenon of the year was Honey Boo Boo.

Warwick Davis in "Life's Too Short" (Photo: HBO)

Warwick Davis in “Life’s Too Short” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite scripted show of the year was “Life’s Too Short,” the reality-style comedy series about a dwarf.  Produced for HBO by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this show had dwarf actor Warwick Davis suffering humiliation and embarrassment everywhere he went.  It was just savage.

The year’s most memorable TV event was Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk over Niagara Falls on a Friday night last June.  ABC aired it and everybody watched.

My favorite non-scripted show (though it may have been scripted just a little bit) was “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites,” seen last summer on National Geographic Channel.  Though the Hutterites are not Amish, they were part of the whole “Amish” trend this year in “reality” TV shows.  “Meet the Hutterites” was by far the best of them, though, and I won’t soon forget plucky Claudia, her brother Quentin, their mother Bertha and all the rest of them.

I watched a lot of late-night TV this year, recapped “Saturday Night Live” after practically every show and endured, along with everyone else, the presidential campaign.  The nightly dissection of the battle on the news channels every night was a tough slog.  By contrast, the four debates this past fall — three presidential and one vice presidential — were among the year’s TV highlights.

I also watched too many violent TV shows — “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy,” Dexter” and heaven knows what else.  It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?  The real world is violent enough.

I would like to thank the following personalities for illuminating interviews: Ray Romano, Chuck Lorre, Jonathan and Drew Scott (the HGTV twins), Mark Feuerstein, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Danny McBride, and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” (great guy).  I loved encountering about two-thirds of the “Celebrity Apprentice” participants last winter at 30 Rock.  Shout-outs to Lisa Lampanelli, Dee Snider, Clay Aiken, Paul Teutel Sr. and Victoria Gotti for a great afternoon.

I met Aaron Sorkin for the first time this year too, and he was a great interview.  I also came face-to-face with Wilson Phillips and all three of them were a pleasure to talk to, though their reality series on TV Guide Channel was short-lived.

You get the opportunity to meet a great many interesting people in this business — and two of the most interesting personalities I ever encountered were among the TV personalities who died this year.  I loved meeting Sherman Hemsley back in ’96, and years before that, Dick Clark, who posed for a picture with me back in ’83 when I was very young and very green, and he treated me like I was the most important person in the world.  This was a guy who knew how to be a celebrity.

"The TV Guys," WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert's the one seated and holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

“The TV Guys,” WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert’s the one holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

We lost Bert Gould this year, my co-host on the radio show we threw together in the summer of 2002 on WOR in New York.

For 13 glorious weeks, we were “The TV Guys,” two self-styled experts on the TV business who talked about television, interviewed a couple of celebrities (Larry David and Michael Chiklis, most notably) and took viewer phone calls.

Short-lived as the show was, it was a highlight of my professional life and in no small way I have Bert to thank for it.

Without his brashness and enthusiasm, this idea for a radio show about television — an idea he concocted while we were talking randomly about TV on a bus to midtown one weekday morning — would have gone nowhere.  As it was, it went somewhere, if only for a short time.  Thanks, Bert.

As 2012 comes to a close, I ask myself the same question I ask every year at this time: A year from now, will I be doing this again?  Really?  Surely, there is something more to life than television …

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

If you missed Adam Buckman on CNN, here he is

June 25, 2012

NEW YORK, June 25, 2012 — It was Sunday morning on “Reliable Sources,” anchored by Howard Kurtz.  The topics: Ann Curry and “The Today Show,” Chris Cuomo’s interview of Rielle Hunter on ABC’s “20/20” the previous Friday evening, and Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series “The Newsroom.”  Watch this …

And this …

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Nothing huge, just a small thing about HBO . . .

April 1, 2012

TRAGEDY and COMEDY:  Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones,” left) and Warwick Davis (“Life’s Too Short”) have ’em covered for HBO. (Photos: HBO)

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, April 1, 2012 — Who else but your humble TV Howl correspondent would notice that, as one dwarf actor leaves the “stage” at HBO, another arrives to take his place?

The two little people in question: Warwick Davis — 42, 3’6″ star of “Life’s Too Short,” the seven-episode comedy from Ricky Gervais that ended its first season last Sunday on HBO; and Peter Dinklage, also 42, 4’5″ star of “Game of Thrones,” the drama about warring factions in something resembling England in the Middle Ages that returns for its second season this Sunday night (April 1) on HBO.

Why point out this unique and no doubt coincidental “changing of the guard” (as it were)?  No reason except that it gives me a chance to give “Life’s Too Short” some ink here.  And, to a lesser extent, “Game of Thrones” too.

I have no idea how many people tuned in for all seven episodes of “Life’s Too Short,” but I did and I loved every jaw-dropping moment of it.  This show was so “wrong” in its political incorrectness that I found myself wondering if Gervais had merely proposed it to HBO almost as a joke to see if they would say yes, simply because the folks at HBO like being in business with him.

And then the joke was on him because they did say yes.   So he and Stephen Merchant then had to actually produce this thing.  What they made was a “reality” spoof that had Davis starring as himself in a mock documentary about his life as a dwarf actor who had appeared in a number of movies with famous titles (parts of “Star Wars” and the “Harry Potter” series, to name two of them).

But in the show, he was seen struggling to find work despite those credits, while also trying to make his way in a world configured for bigger people.  If you missed this show, you missed incredible cameo appearances by Liam Neeson, Helena Bonham Carter, Sting (especially him) and Johnny Depp (especially him too).  (What are you waiting for?  Go watch it on On Demand.)

And you missed Warwick — a dwarf,  mind you, who’s making fun of what it’s like to be a dwarf — doing the kind of slapstick, physical comedy that hasn’t been seen since the silent era: Stumbling out of his SUV, climbing a bookcase to reach a trophy in one unforgettable scene, falling backward in his chair onto the floor of a restaurant and taking the tablecloth and dishes with him.

Much of “Life’s Too Short” was so painful to watch that you just sat there and thought, How on earth are they getting away with this?  In the season’s final scene, Warwick, penniless and homeless, was seen bunking in a friend’s dresser drawer.  I can’t wait for season two — if there is one.

Meanwhile, along comes Dinklage, who steals every scene in which he appears in “Game of Thrones.”  I’m a latecomer to this baffling, sprawling series about various factions of warriors and their kings who are all maneuvering into clashes with one another like some giant chess game.

But in the season premiere airing Sunday — which I got to see in advance the other day — Dinklage emerged as the most riveting character in the whole thing.  And that’s saying a lot because this is the kind of series that’s well-populated with serious actors — the kind of people whose bearing and voices suggest some sort of classical training on the British stage.

Not Dinklage, though.  He’s from New Jersey.

OK, so HBO has two dwarf actors appearing in consecutive series.  Does this mean anything?  How should I know?

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

‘Luck’ creator has uneven track record at HBO

March 18, 2012

Kevin Dunn in HBO’s “Luck” (Photo: HBO)

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, March 18, 2012 — Is David Milch out of luck?

Well, HBO keeps going back to him, despite the pay-cable channel’s uneven track record with the critically acclaimed producer/writer of TV shows people either love or hate.

Milch’s latest creation, the HBO horse-racing series “Luck,” made television history last week when it was abruptly cancelled due to the deaths of three horses during the filming of the show.  The latest, an accident in which a horse fatally injured itself while being walked back to its stall (it was euthanized), happened last Tuesday.

A day later, HBO made the stunning announcement: Production on “Luck” was being shut down for good.

The show was in the midst of filming one of the early episodes in its second season, even as the first season was still underway.  “Luck,” airing Sunday nights at 9 on HBO, has its second-to-last episode on Sunday (March 18) and its final, first-season episode — now its last episode ever — the following weekend (March 25).  Only nine episodes were made for the first season, and HBO was so excited about the show (for, among other reasons, it had succeeded in luring Dustin Hoffman to star in his first TV show) that the cable channel renewed it for a second season almost immediately after the very first episode aired back in late January.

Now, that’s not going to happen as “Luck” goes into the history books as the first TV series ever cancelled due to the deaths of animals used in its production.

In the wake of this week’s cancellation announcement, two subjects to contemplate: (1) Will “Luck” be missed?  And (2) what of David Milch, the bard of Buffalo (the New York city where he was raised), for whom “Luck” was his fourth go-round with HBO (that we know of)?

First, on the merits of “Luck”: Like Milch’s other shows, this one was an acquired taste.  And according to at least one report we read the other day, “Luck” drew more than a million viewers for its premiere and then, eventually, the audience fell to about half that.  The story even suggested HBO was seeking an excuse to cancel “Luck,” and the unlucky horses provided the reason the channel needed to pull the plug.  That’s just conjecture, but my take is: That’s not a far-fetched scenario at all.

Why’d so many people abandon the show?  For the love/hate reason suggested above.  The thing people love about Milch’s shows, primarily, is the intriguing, highly literate dialogue he writes for his characters.  Lovers of great writing appreciate when his characters engage in his trademark verbal sparring, even when they go off on irrelevant tangents, such as last week’s out-of-left-field conversation in which two characters debated the details of the Three Stooges’ “Niagara Falls” comedy bit.

The unusual tone and tempo of the dialogue is also why millions get turned off by Milch.  For one thing, it’s not what they’re used to hearing on TV shows.  For another, his shows often suffer from an action deficit.  Often, you go entire episodes without much happening.  Instead, the hour is sucked up by dialogues that, yes, are very creative, but also stultifying.

That was the thing with “Luck”: The acting was great, for the most part  (Hoffman, Michael Gambon, Jason Gedrick, Joan Allen, Dennis Farina, Jill Hennessy and all the rest), the horse-racing scenes were electrifying, and the cinematography was beautiful.  Still, not much happened.  And that’s a turn-off for many.  (Why include the phrase “for the most part” above?  Because the one cast member I didn’t care for was Nick Nolte, who played a gravel-voiced horse trainer.)

As for Milch, his track record with HBO is fascinating: First, there was “Deadwood,” everyone’s favorite Western series and the one that changed forever our perceptions of how the Old West should be portrayed from here on out.  Well, that series got cancelled suddenly before Milch had planned to end it, and fans howled in protest.  HBO promised some future “Deadwood” TV movies, but no one believed that, and indeed, they never happened.

Then there was Milch’s one-season series about a dysfunctional family of southern California surfers and their interactions with a godlike alien – “John From Cincinnati.”    For most people, that show was even less accessible than “Luck.”  (But again, like with all Milch shows, opinions vary widely.  I happened to love “John From Cincinnati” and consider it to be one of the finest TV shows ever produced.  Go figure.)

He then tried his hand at another cop show (he’d long been associated with “NYPD Blue” on ABC) called “Last of the Ninth” (referring to the Ninth Precinct of the NYPD).  He produced a pilot for HBO, but the network declined.  Then they said yes to “Luck” and that show bit the dust because of dead animals.

Will HBO take up any new business with Milch after all of this?  Well, it’s not his fault the horses died, but on this question, as with all Milch questions, there are two camps: Those who love him hope HBO will try again with him.  Those who can’t stand his shows won’t mourn the passing of “Luck.”

If you’ve been following “Luck” up to this point, I suggest you carry it through to the end, even though the March 25 finale does not serve as a series ender.  Truth is, you only really have to expend two more hours with this star-crossed show.  And then it’s good-bye and good luck to “Luck.”

“Luck” airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on HBO (for two more weeks, alas).

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

In HBO’s ‘Game Change,’ Palin’s a blithering idiot

March 10, 2012

Ed Harris as John McCain and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in HBO’s “Game Change.” (Photo: HBO)

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, March 10, 2012 — Let’s try and set the record straight on this HBO Sarah Palin movie called “Game Change,” which you’ve no doubt been reading about lately.

TV critics are hailing the movie, in which Julianne Moore plays Palin, in much the same way that they reacted to a previous HBO movie about another presidential campaign — the 2008 made-for-TV movie called “Recount” about the Bush-Gore Florida debacle of 2000.  Both movies were written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach.  Then, as now, the critics are enthusiastic about “Game Change” and, in particular, Moore’s performance.

Of course, any TV movie that purports to portray Sarah Palin will come to TV laden with controversy.  And that rule of thumb certainly applies to “Game Change,” which premieres on HBO on Saturday night (March 10) at 9/8c.

As with any TV dramatization adapted from real events (or, as in this case, a non-fiction book about real events), your enjoyment of “Game Change” might depend on whether or not you accept its portrayal of Sarah Palin.  And this movie’s depiction of Palin is downright brutal.

It’s the Sarah Palin of summer and fall 2008, when she skyrocketed to instant fame as John McCain’s surprise pick to join his ticket as the Republican candidate for vice president.  The movie focuses primarily on three characters — McCain (played by Ed Harris), Palin, and McCain campaign advisor Steve Schmidt (played by Woody Harrelson with his usual intensity).

In the movie, which I watched the other day on a preview DVD provided by HBO, Harris puts his own usual intensity on hold to portray McCain as an F-word spewing candidate who seems to prefer that his staff do most of the heavy lifting in the management of his own presidential campaign.

Harris doesn’t really try for out-and-out mimickry in his portrayal of McCain, but that wasn’t the case with Moore.  She nails Palin in all the crucial areas — her voice, her body language, her hair, makeup and wardrobe.  Moore’s portrayal of Palin is the great performance of this movie, and the primary reason to watch it in the first place.  She’s almost certain to be nominated for an Emmy and she’ll probably win it.

Her transformation into Palin was so complete that I couldn’t help but think of Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”  That was a richer role, but the two challenges were essentially the same: How to become another person so completely that you forget about the actress.  Among many great moments in “Game Change,” one of our favorites was when Moore, costumed as Palin, watched Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live” playing Palin.  It is a great moment in television.

Having said all that, the portrayal is savage.  This movie posits that Palin the candidate was an uneducated, inarticulate, head-strong egomaniac who knew next to nothing about history, geography, international relations or domestic affairs.  Moreover, according to the movie, when the pressures of running for national office mounted, she caved emotionally.  Basically, the movie depicts Palin as a blithering idiot who couldn’t take the heat.

Is the portrayal true?  Well, it is based on a book – “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime” by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin — and it’s the kind of book you assume is factual.

The book was about the Democratic and Republican campaigns that ended with Barack Obama’s victory — and all the people involved in the many dramas that took place that year.  And yet, the movie focuses only on the Palin/McCain drama.

“That book had several movies in it,” says executive producer Gary Goetzman in a video HBO produced to promote the movie.  “So we picked a piece of the book to make this movie.”   You can interpret that statement in any of two ways (or possibly more): (1) For the sake of producing a tightly focused two-hour telemovie, the producers had to pick one of the book’s many stories and restrict the movie to telling that tale, or (2) the producers have it in for Palin.  I suspect there’s more to item (1) than item (2) here, but just the same, both interpretations are probably valid.

Sarah Palin herself has said recently that she hasn’t seen the movie and doesn’t plan on watching it (though I expect she won’t be able to resist giving it at least a wee peek Saturday night, assuming she subscribes to HBO).

Love it or hate it, this movie is too fascinating to dismiss, or miss.

Remember when . . . Sarah Palin became a reality TV star on TLC?  I loved writing about “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” so much that I made 18 columns out of it.  Relive the experience HERE, with all 18 of those columns collected in one special place — only on TVHowl.com.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

‘Entourage’ series finale: A Hollywood ending

September 12, 2011

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: Adrian Grenier in “Entourage” (Photo: HBO)

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Sept. 12, 2011 — That was a dirty trick – ending the final episode of “Entourage” with “Going to California,” Led Zeppelin’s iconic song about the lure and promise of southern Cal.

The song framed a finish full of elaborate happy endings for the show’s principal characters – four of whom were once boys from New York who followed their dreams to California and, by the looks of it Sunday night on HBO, attained them.

The Led Zeppelin song came as they were gathered in an airplane hangar preparing to take two separate private jets on trips abroad – and at least three of the five were embarking on new lives representing a newfound maturity that was not much in evidence in this fun-loving, free-wheeling show’s previous seasons and episodes.

Why was the Zeppelin song a dirty trick?  Because it happens to be a beautiful song, and thus elevated a series that was never long on sentiment to something with meaning – at least for its final moments.

Of course, the neat tying up of all the show’s loose ends in one 35-minute final episode was as much of a fantasy as the way the show’s various storylines were wrapped up for each of the characters:

Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier): After one 24-hour date with the new love of his life – the journalist Sophia Lear (Alice Eve) – Vince declared they would marry that very evening in Paris, bought a ring for more than a million dollars and lined up a private jet to whisk everyone abroad.

Eric “E” Murphy (Kevin Connolly): Thanks to Vince’s largesse – not to mention his charismatic powers of persuasion – Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) agreed to meet E at the airport for their own private jet flight anywhere in the world.  With Sloan already pregnant with their child, we’re left to assume they will live happily ever after.

Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven): Ari did the unthinkable: He threw over his job as co-owner of the most powerful talent agency in Hollywood – the occupation that always seemed as vital to his survival as the blood coursing through his veins – in order to reconcile with Mrs. Ari (Perrey Reeves).  With the help of a young trio of Italian opera singers, the gambit worked and Mr. and Mrs. Ari joined the group for the trip to Paris.

Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon): There were no marriages or new loves for these two – their happy endings were sealed a week earlier, with Drama getting the TV-movie role of his dreams and Turtle becoming a multimillionaire thanks to Vince’s safe-keeping of Turtle’s investment in the tequila company.

Lloyd (Rex Lee): We were glad to see that a consideration of Lloyd’s future was included in the “Entourage” finale.  He was a great character and, in the end, when he fretted about what he would do at the agency without Ari to guide him, Ari told him, rightfully, that he possesses all the tools now to go in there and make his mark in the firm – and not as an Ari clone either, but as his own man.

“Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams . . . ”  “Going to California”?  Why not?  I wrote back when “Entourage” began in 2004 that, at its heart, it was a series about California – specifically, southern California (by which we mean L.A. and Hollywood) – about the fantasy and the reality of the place, and how the two are sometimes difficult to distinguish.

As for the series finale, whether you buy into the neat and tidy happy endings that creator Doug Ellin and his team conjured for the episode, as a time capsule of life in La La Land in the years 2004-2011, “Entourage” got it right.  And we’ll miss it.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Howling wolves: Max Weinberg, HBO’s ‘Chalky’

October 10, 2010

FASCINATING INTERVIEWS!

CONAN’S LONG-TIME BANDLEADER;

TOUGH-GUY ACTOR MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Oct. 10, 2010 — Why did bandleader Max Weinberg decide not to follow Conan O’Brien to TBS?

Blame it on the irresistible lure of the Garden State.  In the final analysis, this lifelong Jersey boy says he just couldn’t pull up stakes in his home state at age 59 for a new life in La La Land, though he did follow Conan there for his short-lived stint as host of ‘The Tonight Show’ on NBC – a gig which abruptly came to an end last January.

The famed drummer – a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1974 (since Springsteen’s third album, “Born to Run”) and a fixture in late-night TV as Conan’s musical director (and sometime comic foil) for 17 years – talked about his decision to withdraw from late-night, revealing for the first time that he underwent life-saving open-heart surgery just two weeks after the demise of Conan’s ‘Tonight Show’ last winter and how this “life-changing” experience influenced his decision to stay put on the East Coast.

The occasion for the interview was the pending premiere Thursday of a new documentary about Springsteen on HBO – ‘The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town’ (9/8c).  Weinberg, who appears often in the 90-minute film, shared his own memories of the lengthy process from which the ‘Darkness’ album was born – three years after ‘Born to Run’ turned Springsteen and his bandmates into international rock stars.

It was finally confirmed a week or so ago that you’re not joining Conan on his new TBS late-night show.  What happened there?  Will we ever see you on TV again, other than documentaries about Bruce Springsteen?

[Laughs] I’m sure you’ll see me on television again.  You won’t see me on an episodic show, that’s for sure.  I did my time.  I loved it.  It was great.  Frankly, I do prefer living in New Jersey and that was one of the problems I had.  I love playing in L.A., but my kids and my wife are back east, and we live part of the time in Italy, so it was hard to structure my life [and have a job in Los Angeles].  I can tell you – I can make a little news here, which I haven’t talked about to anybody, but on Feb. 8, I came to the end of a 26-year watchful, waiting odyssey that culminated in 12 hours of massively invasive open-heart surgery.

Was it a bypass?

[No] I had valve repair.  I found out about this 26 years ago and I knew about it and I monitored it.  At the time, there was not much they could do and it wasn’t as serious as it became.  As I got older, it got worse.  Fortunately, the protocols for dealing with it became much more advanced and I found a wonderful doctor in New York who specializes in repairing valves.  Two years ago, it became life-threatening and I had to do something about it sooner or later.  I did it two weeks after [Conan’s ‘Tonight Show’] went off the air.

I’ll tell you it was a life-changing experience emotionally and spiritually.  I owe my life to these doctors.  If you can remember back to how moved David Letterman was when he got back on the air [in February 2000] – he had quintuple bypass surgery.  [In valve-repair surgery] they stop your heart.  I was on the heart-lung bypass machine for close to seven hours.  Did it play into my decision to remain where I am?  Maybe.  I mean I had three months of very difficult recovery.  When I say it was life-changing – I’ve always been a person who smelled the roses, but everything looks a little brighter.  Everything looks a little bit more manageable.  Nothing is really that big a deal to me anymore.  I’ve never felt better.  I thought I had energy before [but] I’m a thousand percent better.  I’m playing better than I ever did.  I’m not looking backward.  I feel wonderful about where I’m at – physically, personally, professionally.

Do you have anything to add to the story of what happened to Conan?  Were you as shocked as anybody else that his ‘Tonight Show’ went south that way?

It was very dramatic.  At my age, just being in this business for as long as I’ve been, nothing really surprises me, particularly in the landscape of television.  [But] any abrupt ending to anything is shocking.  It was very weird and awkward and, of course, I felt really bad for some of the people who moved out there – over a hundred people from New York who really took the hit, people who had purchased homes.   I know of one case where the day this news broke, which I think was Jan. 5 or 6, this individual had just closed on a house and that’s a real shame.

Let’s talk about the HBO documentary about ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’  Why are we singling out this album for documentary treatment?  What’s so special about this one?

Of course, I have a somewhat prejudiced opinion – that all of Bruce’s albums are special.  This record, as the next project that was done after ‘Born to Run,’ to me, is extremely reflective of what was going on in music at the time in the late ’70s.  If you contrast ‘Darkness’ and its sound with the sound of ‘Born to Run,’ it’s quite different.  And I knew at the time that Bruce had begun to crystallize what it was he wanted to write about.  I always viewed my role and the rest of the musicians as: We’re colors in Bruce’s palette and I can recall on that record they wanted the drums to be very austere.  I think the best example of that is probably the title track, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’  Why ‘Darkness’ now?  Well, why not?  It’s 33 years later and it’s sort of like the old Orson Welles line: ‘No wine before its time.’  There was footage that was filmed, it’s steeped in history and [so many years later], there’s a deeper resonance.

The movie traces the creation of the album and it goes into detail about the painstaking length of time that it took.  How do you remember it?  Was it satisfying, frustrating, tedious?

I remember it as a full range of emotion – definitely not tedium.  Now, I’m not the guy sitting in a room writing the songs.  Prior to actually going into the studio in, I believe, June of 1977, we rehearsed everyday at Bruce’s house – from like 2 o’clock to 7 o’clock almost everyday and we’d rehearse four or five songs and get them playable.  Then he’d come back the next day with four, five or six new songs.  That went on for two years!  Bruce had to do everything.  He had to write the songs.  He had to sing the songs.  He had to think about what he was trying to say as he was writing it. Really, to be the boss you do have to pay the cost.  And that was the cost that he did pay.

Will you watch Conan’s new show when it premieres Nov. 8 on TBS?

Absolutely.  I hope they do wonderfully well.  I’m sure they will.  I put a lot of time and effort into creating our little world over there, you know, with the band and the musical direction and what the band contributed, and I trust and I hope that the band retains the profile they had.  [Conan] is a brilliant, hard worker.  I’ve been fortunate to have people like Bruce and Conan – you don’t run into guys like that very often.

 ____

You know him as “Omar,” the toughest thug in Baltimore on “The Wire,” and now, he’s a crime figure of a different sort in “Boardwalk Empire,” HBO’s new series about Atlantic City gangsters at the dawn of the Roaring ’20s.   Meet Michael Kenneth Williams, HBO’s Chalky White.

CHALK UP ANOTHER ONE: Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White in “Boardwalk Empire.” Photo: Craig Blankenhorn

Chalk up another one for Michael Kenneth Williams.

He’s the Brooklyn-born actor who riveted audiences for five seasons on ‘The Wire’ in the role of Omar Little, the most-feared of all the thugs, gangsters and street toughs on that hallowed Baltimore-based HBO series.

And now, Williams is back on HBO in a series that’s shaping up to be an even bigger hit than ‘The Wire.’  It’s ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ the sprawling series from executive producers Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese about Prohibition Era gangsters in Atlantic City, N.J, at the dawn of the Roaring ’20s.   The series stars Steve Buscemi as the town’s all-powerful political boss and Williams plays dapper Chalky White, also a key local figure whose power stems from his ability to marshal the African-American vote for the city’s white political machine.

In this Sunday’s episode (9 p.m.8c on HBO), Chalky has his most important scene yet, and Williams gets to deliver an unusually long monologue that reveals a harrowing and tragic episode from Chalky’s past.

Williams, 43, talked about the scene, about Chalky, about Omar Little, and how the actor came to receive the facial scar that, for better or worse, has helped define the characters he plays.

That’s a long speech they gave you in this Sunday’s episode of ‘Boardwalk’.  How many pages of material is that?

Williams: That was actually three pages.  That was the longest speech I’ve had in my career thus far.  There was someone I’d seen do a speech [and] I always admired her performance and it was Epatha Merkerson and she did this speech in this film we did together called “Lackawanna Blues.”   And I always remember saying, God, if I had the chance to rock a speech [like that] – just the way she embodied that spirit and the character in that scene, it just blew my mind.

What was the effect you were trying to achieve in the scene, particularly as it pertains to the other participant in the scene, a Ku Klux Klan leader tied to a chair and at the mercy of your character?

It’s 1920.  It’s a whole different era.  You know, for a black man to be in a white man’s face with that type of confidence, it was a rarity.  It wasn’t like a cockiness.  It was from pain, ancestral pain, if you will.  I wanted that hardcore pain to come across in that scene.

Tell us more about the character of Chalky.  Is he a stone-cold gangster?

He’s not a stone-cold gangster.  He’s a businessman first.  But he had to learn how to have a tough skin in order to [obtain] the finer things in life.  He wanted the American dream and he had to learn how to deal in the water filled with sharks and he had to kind of become like that to achieve it.  He’s like Omar, in a sense.  He has a sense of code, he’s loyal, he’s not a backstabber – you’ll see that come out.

You pointed out how Chalky and Omar are similar.  How are they different?

You know, Omar was in it for the thrill of the hunt.  He didn’t care about the money or the fortune or the fancy house and the jewelry and the cars.  He just did it for the love of the hunt.  Chalky ain’t in it for the hunt, as long as you bring good business by his way, you ain’t got no problems outta him.  But you gonna cut him in whether you like it or not.  He’d rather just do business and keep the peace, where Omar just liked to stir the pot.

How did you come to get cast on ‘Boardwalk’?

I had worked with Martin [Scorsese] – Marty, as good friends call him [he laughs] – back in ’98 on a film called “Bring Out the Dead” with Nic Cage and Marc Anthony.  So there was a familiarity there. I’m quite sure that everybody and their father was going up for this role so [there was] a lot of competition – but I think that [producer/director] Tim Van Patten was my ace in the hole.

When all was said and done, the seemingly invincible Omar Little was fatally shot by a child while Omar was purchasing a pack of cigarettes in a convenience store.  What did you think of the ending they wrote for the character?

I mourned Omar like I lost a best friend.  He was a part of me.  It was definitely a surprise that no one expected, and it spoke to [the one weakness of] Omar, his Achilles heel.  Everybody who was trying to kill him couldn’t get to him and it took a little kid to catch him completely off guard.

How important is ‘The Wire’ to you?

‘The Wire’ changed my life, personally and professionally.  It opened me up [to a greater awareness of society’s problems].  It made me more aware of the social issues.  You know, me comin’ from East Flatbush, Brooklyn, I was exposed to just my ’hood, but there’s a “wire” in every city in this country, it opened my eyes up to that.

Would you tell us the story behind your scar?

I was 25 – my 25th birthday.  I was in Queens, N.Y.  I had been drinking.  I had that liquid courage in me and so some words got exchanged with some other guys and, you know, normally something I would have ignored, and I got jumped and one of the guys had a razor in his mouth, a straight razor in his mouth like they do in jail, and he pulled it out and he started slicin’ me.

Well, it doesn’t seem to have stopped you in the pursuit of your career.  You just did a fashion spread in the October issue of GQ (posing on the Atlantic City boardwalk in a series of designer suits. 

I don’t take too much credit for anything.  I’m just pretty fortunate.  There’s tons of talent walking around here on the streets of New York.  It wasn’t like I did anything great.  I’m just truly fortunate and grateful for my opportunities.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Revisiting the good old days of racism and sexism

September 23, 2010

Women were good for jumping out of cakes, but not much else in the 1920s depicted on “Boardwalk Empire” (Photo: Abbot Genser).

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2010 — Something tells me we might be flocking to TV’s nostalgic dramas a little too enthusiastically.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire” have caught on.  They’re both great-looking shows.  “Mad Men” is made by a lot of people who worked on “The Sopranos,” so there’s a noticeable high quality in the way the show is filmed and lit.

“Boardwalk Empire,” depicting the luxury of the 1920s resort town of Atlantic City, has a sumptuous look that’s also easy on the eyes.  The show was apparently expensive to produce — $20 million alone, reportedly, for that premiere episode directed by Martin Scorsese — and it looks it.  Like “Mad Men” (seen on AMC), no expense seems to have been spared on “Boardwalk Empire” (seen on HBO) to reproduce the best and most authentic period clothing and furnishings.

They’re the elements that make these shows fun to watch (particularly “Mad Men,” since it’s a show about the 1960s, which plenty of people still living can still remember.  The 1920s?  Not so much).

Secretarial pool: The office gals of “Mad Men.” (AMC)

Of course, for everyone who likes “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire,” there are detractors.  Some people old enough to remember the world of New York’s Madison Avenue in the 1960s have been nitpicking about some of the details on “Mad Men” — from the use of certain electric-typewriter models to aspects of the English language.

While “Mad Men” is now well into its fourth season, “Boardwalk Empire” just began, though we critics have seen the first six episodes.  For me, “Boardwalk Empire” hardly stands up to the pantheon of latter-day gangster classics that includes the first two “Godfather” movies, Scorsese’s “GoodFellas” and “Casino,” and “The Sopranos.”   But it has many of the elements most people hope for in these things — mainly, warring factions and the violence that results, in this case, between figures whose names are familiar to gangland devotees — Johnny Torrio, Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone.

But here’s something else to consider about “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire”: They both traffic casually in the racist and sexist attitudes of their times.  And it’s true that it would be difficult to depict these eras honestly if you didn’t account somehow for the second-class citizenship of groups such as women and African-Americans.

Now, the 1920s are pretty far off and relatively few people are still around who can remember them vividly.  In “Boardwalk Empire,” women have not yet won the right to vote.  And most of the women in the series are ditzy showgirls and prostitutes.

In “Mad Men,” whose era is much closer to our day, the women are housewives, executive secretaries or lower-rung executives who feel acutely that they’ll lose promotional opportunities to male competitors.  As for blacks, the only ones seen in this show are domestics and after-hours maintenance men.

And yet, “Mad Men” is celebrated for its style, with whole industries cropping up to market its dark mens’ suits, skinny ties and short, parted haircuts.   People who watch the show say they find it refreshing to see so much cigarette smoking and martini swilling.  Sure, those pursuits were fun — also unhealthy.

But something tells me that some people are nostalgic for more than just cigarettes and midday cocktails.  Sometimes it seems that the way some people have latched on to “Mad Men” — and will likely latch on to “Boardwalk Empire” — indicates a nostalgia for something else, perhaps a longing few people would admit out loud for a time when equality was not the norm and certain groups knew their place.

This element gets lost in the shuffle of acclaim that has been showered on both of these shows.  I happen to know people who can’t watch “Mad Men” because it serves as a reminder of a time when some groups lorded it over other groups.  They can’t stand the fact that people celebrate a show that seems to depict the days of racism and sexism in so favorable a light.  For these people, “Mad Men” makes them sick.

And I don’t blame them.  It’s a point of view worth thinking about.

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

If you’re from Philadelphia, ya gotta love this

April 18, 2010

Toothless but tough: Bobby Clarke, captain of the Broad Street Bullies — the Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970s.

HBO’S ‘BROAD STREET BULLIES’ BRINGS BACK FONDEST MEMORIES

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, April 18, 2010 — This time, it’s personal.

Seldom does one get the chance to evaluate a TV show from the vantage point of personal experience, but this new HBO documentary on the rough-and-tumble Philadelphia Flyers of the mid-’70s hit me right where I live — or, more specifically, lived.

And I have to say that this documentary, titled “Broad Street Bullies” (and premiering May 4 on HBO), gets so many of the details right that watching a preview DVD was like taking a trip back in time — to the Philadelphia of 1974 and ’75, when the city’s sports teams didn’t give their fans much to cheer about.

That’s one of the details this documentary notes right up front as it tells the story of an expansion hockey team, established in 1967, that became notorious for adopting a strategy for winning that was based on fighting, without regard for penalties.  The strategy, coupled with some formidable talent in hockey fundamentals (along with an innovative coach, Fred Shero, and one of the stingiest goalies in hockey history, Bernie Parent),  led to two consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1973-’74 and ’74-’75.

‘Mass ecstasy’: The Flyers win the Stanley Cup.

And, as the documentary reports, the city went nuts.

We had never experienced anything like this before, and I remember that on the night of May 19, 1974 — maybe 15 minutes after the Flyers clinched their first Stanley Cup championship in a game the entire Delaware Valley watched on television — we all heard something we had never heard before in our sleepy suburban neighborhood on the city’s western border.  It was the honking of car horns up the street on City Line Avenue.  We walked up there to watch and came face-to face with a phenomenon I can only describe as mass ecstasy.  The horn-honking lasted far into the night.

Another detail lovingly recounted in “Broad Street Bullies”: The song that improbably became the team’s good luck charm — a 1938 recording of “God Bless America” by Kate Smith.  Smith herself turned up in Philadelphia, standing in a single spotlight in center ice to sing the song before the final game of the ’73-’74 series.  Her appearance floored the entire city.  Even at age 67, Kate Smith was a real belter, and she brought the house down.  In “Broad Street Bullies,” Bernie Parent testifies in a present-day interview that he found her awe-inspiring and the Flyers won.

Fun-loving Bernie also revealed another detail: That he loved the Three Stooges (and still does) and would watch them to relax before games.  Boy, did THAT bring back memories; in those days, Channel 29 aired an hour of Stooges (three short films) every afternoon that was must-see, after-school viewing.  It boggles my middle-aged imagination today to learn that Bernie Parent was watching the same silly Stooges movies I watched every afternoon.

As this documentary notes, the Flyers players of the mid-’70s became the most beloved athletes in the history of Philadelphia sports — before or since.  In “Broad Street Bullies,” many of them are on hand for present-day interviews, a thrill for a Philadelphian who hasn’t lived there for 30 years and hasn’t thought about this band of Flyers in at least that length of time.  But here they are: Dave Schultz, Bobby Clarke, the Stooges-loving Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, Bill Barber, Gary Dornhoefer, Ed Van Impe, Orest Kindrachuk (a great hockey name, ay?) and even Ed Snider, the team’s owner who baldly admits that fighting for the purpose of intimidation was a strategy wholly endorsed and encouraged by Flyers management.

Though I rarely think about these individual players, a paperweight here on my desk never lets me forget the Philadelphia Flyers phenomenon from those bygone days.  It’s a Philadelphia Flyers puck, the only door prize I ever won, bestowed in a raffle at our synagogue some time in the Flyers heyday, given to me by the guest speaker that evening, Flyers defenseman Barry Ashbee.

Sure, we Philadelphians remember these Flyers, and Philadelphians of a certain age, or any age, will love this “Broad Street Bullies” documentary.  But other than us city natives, whoever cared about Philadelphia?  No one, and that suits us just fine.

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com


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