TV: OJ, the Path,the Ranch and 11.22.63

 

Premiers

The Path (Hulu)

Both Hugh Dancy and Aaron Paul are coming off brilliant performances in Hannibal and Breaking Bad respectively. Put them together and we should get a brilliant show, right?  Wrong. The Path premiered this week with its first two episodes made available on Hulu (after these, Hulu will drop one a week). The show is about a cult headed by Dancy and the crisis of faith that Paul’s character Eddie is going through. Why people join this cult, the magnitude of the power held over them, the difficulty in leaving the cult are not themes really explored in any coherent way in these fist episodes. The acting is much stronger than the material given to the actors and this is especially true for the wonderful Michelle Moynihan who is turned into mush as Eddie’s wife. So far, the best thing about this show is that the elder (I think the cult founder) that Dancy is taking inspiration from is the actor who played Dave in 2001 a space Odyssey. He is now about as old as the character who aged in the movie and as he lies there in bed with feeding tubes, he looks remarkably like how Dave looked in bed as the movie ends.

Hulu works very poorly for me. It usually takes me 20+ attempts to get into a show.  I either get audio or visual but not both during those attempts but remarkably, the add always seems to work. So it is a real chore for me to watch a Hulu show. I think they must be making the service with the ads horrific so that people will upgrade their subscription to the non-add service but I’m paying more than enough right now thanks. I find 11.22. 63 interesting enough to go through the horror show of watching Hulu but I’m not sure I can say the same thing about the Path particularly as there are some new Netflix and Amazon shows premiering and they are much easier to access.

The Ranch (Netflix)

I had mixed feelings as to whether to watch this new comedy series from Netflix. On one hand, I’m not a big comedy or Aston Kutcher fan but on the other hand, I am a huge Sam Elliot fan. The latter won out so I saw the first couple of episodes and it wasn’t horrible. As a comedy, it is fair (although the laugh track made me kind of crazy) but as a drama, it was decent. This probably isn’t what the show runners want to hear about their “comedy” however.

Sam Elliot plays an old curmudgeon farmer who is having a very tough time due to a prolonged draught. He has one son who lives with him and helps him run the farm and another deadbeat son played by Kutcher who shows up at 34 after pursuing a long and uneventful semi-professional football career. Elliot is separated from his wife played by Debra Winger who is great in the scenes she has been in. I’m streaming a lot of shows right now so not sure when I’ll get back to this one but if you like ½ hour dramadies, Sam Elliot& Debra Winger and can stomach Kutcher then you might give it a go.

Finales:

11.22.63 (Hulu)

I found the premise of 11.22.63 to be intriguing – going back in time to try and prevent the assignation of Kennedy. That being said, there were several things that bothered me about the show. The first is that several scenes in the first couple of episodes suggested that external supernatural forces from the past would start getting in the way of Jake (James Franco) progressing along his mission. These just stopped at about episode 3 along with this whole plot line until the finale and then just occurred briefly. The second is that I didn’t find the characters particularly well developed. They never really changed along the way. I also didn’t understand why at certain points, Jake just didn’t go back to the present and reset the timeline to get around some of the obstacles he encountered along the way. In addition, I found for me the show dragged some but all that was forgotten in what I consider to be a great finale.

Overall, I’d give this show a solid B. James Franco is a very divisive actor. I happen to like him so he didn’t bother me being in the lead of this show as it did other viewers. I think the audience is better off having not read the book for a couple of reasons. The first is that the finale is filled with drama and intensity and if you already know what happens, I don’t think it would pack the same punch. The second is that the readers seem to fixate on the plotlines the writers did not pursue but as someone who is watching this as it unfolds, it doesn’t make a difference. The ending was so touching as Jake and Sadie meet once again (after Jake reset the timeline so that Kennedy died) in a poignant moment. The finale justified everything that went before it.

The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX)

This show was great. For the last couple of months, it is the only show other than the Americans that I really look forward to seeing each week. The finale did not disappoint as the verdict was read and the responses of all of those involved portrayed complex emotional reactions. The actors portraying Marcia Clark, Chris Darden and Jonnie Cochran were all brilliant and deserving of Emmys. Watching the “Where are they now” depictions at the end which showed the real person next to the actor, it is uncanny as to the resemblance of each and every actor chosen for their respective parts.  They all nailed it – even John Travolta.

Even though we know the outcome, the drama was palatable and there are certain to be things you are unaware happened.  I vividly remember how outraged I was when O.J. was found to be not guilty but did not recall the swiftness of the verdict or Robert Kardasian’s mixed emotional response (which was so well played by David Swimmer) along with other events. I didn’t understand at the time why the African American community thought O.J. was innocent.  I do now thanks to the last 20 years of history and watching this show.  The finale brought all of that home.  The pain on the faces of Marsha Clark, and Chris Darden was palatable and watching Chris Darden break down in the arms of the Goldmans was heartbreaking. There were great moments throughout this final 1-½ hours. The camera work and music really enhanced this last episode – everything was just so well done.

This mini-series resonates so completely with the current environment and the continuing violence of police against African Americans. Looking at what happened 20 years ago through this lens should alter one’s perspective. It certainly adds many shades of grey to what at the time seemed completely “Black and White” No matter what you think you know or remember about this period in American History, this mini-series will make you at least reconsider those views. This is really an important show – see it!

Note:  FX will air a marathon of all 10 episodes of ‪#ThePeopleVsOJSimpson starting 2pm ET Saturday. 1st episode will be commercial free. If you missed it, watch and/or DVR this amazing series.

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