Sunday, September 04, 2016

American Television Crime

I’ve been watching Netflix, specifically the first season of American Crime, and I have watched half of the episodes from the second season of Narcos, the saga of the brutal reign and eventual downfall of narco trafficker, Pablo Escobar.

I watched a horror/science fiction series, Stranger Things, a series created for Netflix, and on HBO I have just completed watching The Night Of.

That’s a lot of TV watching, made possible only by having a lot of time to myself. My wife won’t watch crime or horror, so as the old saying goes, somebody has to do it, and it might as well be me.

Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman and Lily Taylor of American Crime.

American Crime has the benefit of 12 episodes to tell its interlocking (yet not over-complicated) story, giving each of several stories enough time to unfold, and to showcase the abilities of an extremely talented cast. I began watching it because of actors Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman as divorced parents of a son and his wife murdered in a home invasion. As parents they have an image of the murdered couple which over the course of the show becomes unraveled when truth emerges. But it is made even more pertinent by the actions of the rest of the cast.

It is grim, but not oppressively so. Like all good stories, there are echoes of Shakespeare, especially in a modern-day equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. That is, if Romeo and Juliet were meth addicts.

John Turturro in The Night Of.

The Night Of matches the drama of American Crime, but also has the benefit of John Turturro. He plays a lead role along with an actor I am not familiar with, Riz Ahmed, a Brit playing a Pakistani-American.

Turturro’s character’s particular affliction is allergies, and specifically a bad case of eczema. If not exactly comic relief (unfortunately, I have been plagued at times by the same condition, and it is not funny), it’s at least original.

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar

Narcos is a series that may not be as appreciated by people who don’t like stories told in another language (Spanish), with English subtitles. Because of my hearing problems I routinely use closed captioning so it’s no problem to me, but it can be an impediment. Especially if you are like a family member I know, who can’t read fast enough to keep up with subtitles.

Escobar was like a feudal lord of another time, defending his realm with near absolute impunity. It was his ability to carry on his lucrative business of supplying cocaine. He also didn’t mind getting his hands dirty with killing, which adds that extra touch to his narcissistic personality. Besides Escobar, there are American DEA agents, trying to catch or kill Escobar, and are finding it extremely difficult in a land where Escobar has a king-like presence amongst loyal “subjects.” (Not to mention unlimited funds for bribery.)

Kid cast of Stranger Things.

A different kind of crime is Stranger Things, a mini-series that has gotten good reviews, including a surprise (for me) from The New Yorker. I watched Stranger Things, although I thought it was a bit of a slog getting through it.  I found it derivative, a mash-up of old Stephen King stories. Others have noticed the same thing, but apparently don’t see anything wrong with it.

Asif Ali, Rhys Darby, Brooke Dillman

I am also a hypocrite, depending on the ability of the show to carry off being derivative, Wrecked, a comedy which just completed its first season on TBS, is like Lost as seen in a funhouse mirror. It has a superb cast, including Rhys Darby (“Murray” of Flight of the Conchords), and the incredible Brooke Dillman. This is one show that my wife would actually watch with me. We are looking forward to more, promised for 2017.