The Vast Wasteland

30 Jan

In the half century since JFK appointed FCC Commissioner Newton Minnow pronounced television a cultural “vast wasteland” one could argue that some signs of life have blossomed, Thankfully that’s beside the point today’s modest feuilleton. Suffice it to say that if what used to be called the small screen had spawned no more than HBO’s The Wire that would be sufficient to justify its previous aridity.

Arguably there are (many) other high points in television history (which understandably was hindered by the necessity of collecting large numbers of viewers) but its not a stretch to award HBO with coming up with a different model for programming (keep in mind HBO’s motto, “It’s not television, its HBO.”) Which brings me HBO’s latest offering, Luck

Whatever disclosure is worth, this 9 episode series is being touted as a collaboration between two masters, director Michael Mann( Thief) and writer producer David Milch (Deadwood). Now I don’t doubt Milch’s credentials and talents but I do find his claim of being unaware of Pete Dexter’s wonderful novel Deadwood disingenuous. But, to quote, Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

In any case, Luck with Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina (a Michael Mann favorite),Joan Allen. Jill Hennessy,Nick Nolte, Michael Gambon (playing even nastier than his role in Open Range) and a wonderful ensemble cast, muck about legendary Santa Anita race track involved in any number of high-jinks and naturally mayhem follows.Though one may look upon the intricacies of the Sport of Kings indifferently even a non-horsey person (like myself) was entranced by the race footage and splendor of these complex animals.

Having watched the whole season’s episodes, Luck does make it through the backstretch to deliver at the finish.

Sadly, NBC cancelled their version of Prime Suspect (first done in England with the incomparable Helen Mirren) with Maria Bello.

For the time being you can still catch the first and last season’s episodes here

In addition to the Closer and Law and Order reruns what does that leave on the television horizon? I have heard good things about Shameless, and Breaking Bad but not enough to move me to watch.Justified apparently is in its 3rd season and in an uncharacteristic move, Elmore Leonard has written Raylon (Wm Morrow) another story about Raylon Givens, hero of the series and protagonist of a previous novel, Riding the Rap.

Currently reading Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin (Oceanview Publishing)

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