Hung


While we were glad to see a sorely missed Entourage return to the Sunday night HBO airwaves and re-enter the fray of stiff programming competition that always seems to make Sunday nights so strong, we’ve been vastly underwhelmed with the storylines so far, and the curious jumping in point for this season–Vince’s return from rehab.  In fact, all of the characters except Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Ari (Jeremy Piven) have come in at weird places when considering what could have been. 

We are very displeased at how Doug Elin and company have glommed over Vince’s (Adrian Grenier) arrest, Eric’s (Kevin Connolly) breakup with Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara…Brooklyn holler!) and his adventures in his new Tequila venture.  As far as Turtle goes, in the past two seasons he was finally given more to work with than his loyal but stagnant pot smoking lackey, and in an end eerily familiar to season six’s, the writers have chosen to make him all about some annoying Mexican chick who won’t call him back.  So far.  But we think, with Mark Cuban and his business manager, played by one of our favorites, Bob Odenkirk, getting involved as investors in Avion that Turtle could be doing much more right now than waiting by the phone for Alex to call. 

As far as E goes, he had come to a very compelling time in his relationship with the ultra hot Sloan, refusing to sign a pre-nup as we knew the stubborn E would.  But for the show to just pick up 3 months later with him and Sloane separated and little to no information given aside from the unsigned pre-nup that we know about it, strikes us as lazy writing.  Are they attempting to tell us their story with some out of sequence method?  If so, we would think that to be untrue to Entourage’s established style of story telling which has evolved in the last four seasons to make it one of the premiere shows on television.

The show, in our minds, had gotten out of the box originally as a sluggish male themed rip of Sex and the City, with a Hollywood, celebrity cameo laiden twist.  And then, when Vince began to go through some of the downs of the Hollywood movie star life, and the lives of Drama, E, and Ari were featured more prominently, the show became a much more interesting, layered, and gritty product.  In truth, we had totally given up on Entourage but felt we had to give it another shot because of the dearth of quality television in general and on HBO in specific at that time.  We were glad that we did give it another shot because Entourage had found a nice rhythm which it carried on, especially in depicting the rockier moments in Vincent Chase’s life.  Until now. 

To go from depicting Ari’s marital catastrophes to the hollow Mrs. Ari/Bobby Flay nonsense, to skip out on Vince’s troubles with the law and make his rehab seem like a vacation, and to gloss over formative moments for Turtle and E for what feels like the same old Sloan and Meadow Soprano nonsense are all bad shortcuts.  Do they feel that because they have shown enough of Ari’s agency in its various stages of growth and development, that they were doing us a favor by not showing how Scott Lavin (Scott Caan) can walk up to E and tell him that he was taking down Murray, their boss and Sloan’s god father, and E telling Scott he was in, to 3 months later and the takeover mysteriously completed without nary a word as to how?

And we love Scott Caan on Entourage and feel that the takeover could have been well interwined with Eric’s personal life, where they have also left us in the dark.  Back to Vince’s rehab for a second.  Would it be wrong for us to assume Vince will slip up and relapse like just about every other person who has ever been to rehab?  Because if that’s the case, then doing more than showing Vince giving his goodbye to crackheads speech would have been appropriate, and if it’s not the case, then showing some of the travails his brush with the law and addiction had taught him would go far in making a permanently clean Vince more believable.

It’s always hard to see a favorite show come up short.  We were extremely disappointed to learn that Entourage was not returning on the same night as Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even more upset to learn that Entourage was only back for a slate of eight episodes in its final HBO season.  But then, with the news that Scott Caan and Rhys Coiro (Billy Walsh) would be regulars and that another of our favorites, Andrew Dice Clay, had joined the cast as himself, we pencilled Entourage in to go out with a bang.

But the fact is, Sunday night, led by Breaking Bad, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Celebrity Rehab, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, are all already pencilled in as better shows right now.  Entourage’s lack of oomph has dulled our limited faith in humanity, making us think that the big screen version, already being touted by Elin will be nothing but a stale money grab which won’t even measure up to Sex and the City 2

Our criticism of Entourage can be extended out to HBO’s original programming in general.  Their 2 best newer comedies which were ready for both of the last 2 summers, Hung and Bored to Death are not ready for action.  True Blood is awful and has been for 2 years.  No word on season 3 of The Life and Times of Tim, or season 4 of In Treatment.  If not for Curb, which took its sweet time coming back, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones, we’d have nothing good to say about HBO compared to its glory days, which now see well removed.  And the latter three dramas, while all good, are nowhere near the level of The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood.

And to pass on Mad Men and Breaking Bad?  With decisions like that, and weak reprisals like the current season of Entourage, people might soon be passing on HBO.  I mean, we can only stare at Islanders t-shirts and screen savers as long as the show is good.

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Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

10 PM EST, HBO…..

When season 2 of HBO’s acclaimed comedy series Hung resumed last night, it picked up at the direct conclusion of last year’s finale, when Ray (Thomas Jane) had backed out of a date with a paying client who he had glimpses in the lobby of a Detroit hotel–his ex-wife Jessica (Anne Heche, who we must say, is excellent in this series), and with the abrasive Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) co-pimping Ray with Tanya (Jane Adams), or “T-Brain”, as Lenore prefers.  Things are tough in Detroit, as they are everywhere, and Ray, the beloved coach and educator, is seen maintaining the school’s baseball field himself, on a picket line in a job action, and arguing with Principal Rhonda (Gina Hecht) over transportation money for the team.

Conversely, we see Jessica, Ray’s ex-wife, in a loveless marriage with Dr. Ronnie (Eddie Jemison), the plastic surgeon who she broke up with Ray to marry, brooding in bed over being snubbed by the prostitute who she did not know was her ex-husband.  At the Detroit Institute of Art, the newly formed pimping braintrust gathers, and while viewing a sprawling fresco on class struggle, Lenore says with her usual bossy, crass atittude, “Although we sell dick and not cars, we can learn a lot from Diego Rivera.”  Lenore goes on with her speech, explains something she calls “stripper theory”, and gets snippy with Tanya when she tries to interject, and says, “You don’t know shit about it, T-Brain!”  The blue collar Ray, uncomfortable with the speech and the museum experience, even asks her to hurry to the point, planting the seed that perhaps Ray is already growing uncomfortable with this business arrangement.

For Tanya, who then stakes out a bad neighboorhood looking for a pimp who can advise her, there’s no doubt.  When a bunch of hookers rush up to her car asking for sandwiches because they have her confused with an aid worker, a concerned Tanya tells them she has no sandwiches, but can buy them a doughnut.  One of the hookers then shot Tanya one of a few classic lines in last night’s episode: “You think I need a doughnut?  Read the sign.  This is a doughnut hole!”

Tanya then runs into who she suspects is their pimp, who tells her to “…get the fuck out of here.”  Jessica is doing dishes at Ronnie’s house while her mother (Marylouise Burke) and the mother’s friend play cards and gossip in Russian.  The conversation provided more classic Hung lines, as the mother tells the other woman that Ronnie wants to kill her, that her grandchildren are weird, and that the boy always follows the girl around.  The rest of the exchange is hilarious, and we can let the pictures tell the story (below).

Meanwhile, Ray is still fucking his neighbor’s wife (Alanna Ubach), his house is still an unfinished mess, and he’s worried about Jessica, and what circumstances would prompt her to pay for sex.  When Tanya comes over with burgers, also equipped with pimping advice from Charlie, the ghetto pimp who finally decides to help her out, they discuss Ray’s problem servicing his only current client, the pregnant Claire (Katherine Hahn).  Ray confides that he’s having a mental block with Claire because she reminds him of his pregnant wife, and how in love he was when she was pregnant, and how much he loved having sex with her.  He is reminded of a happy time, but it bothers him, we think especially in light of his financial and family struggles, and Jessica’s struggles, which he keeps imagining, proving once again how much she is on the brain.

Pimps Charlie and Tanya (above).

Meanwhile, Jessica, who firmly defends her “weird” children to her mother, gets rocked by daughter Darby’s (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) assertion that her mother has built her existence completely around the men in her life, and that if she took her advice about boys, “…I might end up with your life.”  Darby then staggers her mother again when she says, “Not to be mean mom, but you just seem like a totally lost person to me.”

Ray, who has been calling Jessica non stop since being the ho that stood her up, tells her he wants to meet behind the premise that they should talk about their children.  After Jessica gets lit up by the kids, she takes a trip down memory lane, looking at the pictures from her teenaged years that her kids would be so quick to criticize her for.  She looks long and hard at a prom picture of her and Ray, and next, we see her breeze in to the bowling alley where Ray wants to meet her and talk.  After some trepidation, because she’s married, she decides to take Ray up on his offer to bowl, obviously something they enjoyed doing together in their past, and the two have a great time.

Ray and Jessica look destined for another crack at their relationship, which both seem as though they might want, making us wonder if Ray might go through with it if there’s a next time for Jessica behind the hotel door, or better yet, and affair with the ex as he tries to survive in these terrible economic conditions on the strength of his penis.  Tanya seems resolved to beat out the pushy Lenore in the battle of the pimps, and her conversation with Charlie makes us wonder if there will be male clients in poor Ray’s future, which would certainly be an interesting twist, if not for Ray.

And Hung has started season 2 by re-establishing itself as a smart comedy that does more than just highlight the human condition.  Instead, Hung dick slaps us with the depressing conditions of just about all its characters–whether it be Ray living in a tent on the site of his burned down house, Ronnie losing close to a mil on the market, Jessica’s identity crisis starkly summed up by her teen children, those children’s own identity problems, or Tanya’s struggle for respect–while making us laugh at the same time.

We’re glad it’s back.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

In Tuesday night’s Justified entitled “Fathers and Sons”, starring Timothy Olyphant as straight shooting US Marshal Raylen Givens, complex family relationships have further  threatened the Marshal’s tenuous work life, private life, and well, life in general.  Between Raylen and his ex-wfe Winona, Raylen and his dad Arlo (Raymond J. Barry), and Raylen’s foil, newly anointed man of the cloth, Boyd Crowder and his dad, Bo (M.C. Gainey), who is Harlan’s resident crime lord, and Bo and Ava, his daughter in law and sometimes Raylen’s lover who killed Bowmann, Bo’s abusive wife beating son, our favorite Marshal may have too much to handle with next week’s season finale almost upon us.

When we last left Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), she was unconscious and handcuffed, and Raylen was passing her off to Winona (Natalie Zea, Hung), who he knew could keep her safe.  While Raylen may not be in love with Ava, a sore point for her, who has been acting like the jilted lover, Raylen obviously cares about her.  He pulled strings with a federal judge Mike Reardon, who he was charged to keep safe, played by Stephen Root (News Radio, Office Space, True Blood), to get the terms of her parole amended so that she could leave Kentucky.  That would be safest for Ava, whose band of criminal inlaws is poised for revenge, after Ava killed her husband, Bowmann Crowder, who frankly, had it coming.  But the simple and stubborn Ava has not aceded to the Marshal’s Office mandate that her and Raylen can’t be sexually involved with her criminal matter ongoing, and has continually reproached Raylen’s efforts to relocate her for her own safety as unrequited love.

Winona and Ava (above).  When Ava wakes up in Winona’s house, and hears Winona on the phone with Raylen, the antennas go up, and for a minute, the audience gears up for a possible cat fight.

Ava: “Yall seem pretty civil for divorced people.”

Winona: “It’s kinda hard staying married to Raylen.”

Ava may have bought Winona’s non answer, but after she flees the scene at her own house where some Crowder family cronies are holed up, she drives to Raylen’s hotel, just as Winona was leaving.  What was Winoa doing there, you ask?  The same Winona who seemed to emphatically slam the door shut on Raylen’s affections a few weeks ago when Raylen saved her ex-husband from the Dixie Mafia?  Well, she didn’t say much, but actions speak louder than words.  Winona dropped her wedding ring on the table, kissed Raylen, and then, sexy time.

A closeup of Winona (above), after she had dressed and was shamefully sliding her wedding ring back on. 

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With all of the developments in Raylen’s love life, we are yet to discuss the full scope of the Crowder family’s criminal reach, which has caused Raylen to interact with his own father Arlo, who used to collect for Bo Crowder while he was away, and who Raylen has a contentious relationship with.  Bo has come looking for money from Arlo, who doesn’t have it, putting Arlo in jeopardy and driving him to deal with the Marshals, who are putting a case together against Bo and his various criminal enterprises.  And did we mention that a Mexican crime lord who promises Bo a large shipment of ephedrine, a base material for the production of methamphetamine, also establishes with Bo a $2M bounty on Raylen’s head, who has killed a close associate of his, Tommy Bucks, in Miami–the shooting that has gotten Raylen jettisoned back to a Kentucky Marshal gig.

Bo, delighted by his son Boyd’s demolition of a trailer park meth lab, had the surviving meth makers murdered because they were witnesses to his son’s crime, and because they represented competiton in the crystal meth trade.  Bo turns up at Boyd’s Jesus camp in the woods with a thick envelope full of cash, assuming that Boyd had blown the meth lab up as a favor to his dad.  But Boyd tries to refuse the money, claiming from the Bible that he shall take no gift because that would perverteth the words of the righteous.  Bo leaves the money on a rock, and we assume that Boyd decides to take it.

Boyd, since being released from prison, has promised not to fall back on his old profession of robbing banks, and is clinging to the Jesus shtick he picked up in jail.  He claims he blew the meth lab up because it was poisoning the community, and as a guest preacher at a local church, he describes his repentant nature to the congregation while advocating the need to “strike out against evil”, as he preached right at his father Bo, who had come down too hear his son’s sermon.

Outside the church, Bo tells Boyd he is perilously close to an ill fate, and that he has pushed Bo quite far with is God stance.  Boyd, a well played villain by actor Walter Goggins, tells his father that he will destroy his own father if he tries to bring meth into the community.  While the Crowders have their disputes, Ava Crowder pays Raylen’s dad a visit and asks Raylen’s stepmom for a gun because she is afraid of the Crowders.  After a heart to heart, Raylen’s stepmom sends her off with a sawed off shotgun, which she takes over to Bo’s hangout, and reminds him that she’s already killed one Crowder man, and would he like to make it 2?  But Bo and Ava are at an impasse, because like Raylen, he wants her out of Kentucky, but she is dead set against leaving.

Raylen goes down to the VA to check on his father, who happens to be locked inside the VA’s bar as a hostage to a disillusioned soldier, who is playing with a live grenade, refusing his deployment order to rejoin the war.  Arlo, the calm customer, tells him a story about his days in Vietnam that gets him to put down the grenade, but when asked about the story by Raylen, he tells him he made it up.  A good bit of foreshadowing, as Arlo then tells Raylen that he’ll consent to wear a wire to collect evidence against Bo Crowder.  But Arlo goes to his meet with Bo with a pad in hand, and writes to Bo to “play along”, offering to be Bo’s double agent, and expecting to play both sides–the criminals and the Marshals.

In the end we see Boyd blow up an 18 wheeler–the one headed to Harlan with Bo’s ephedrine, true to his word that he will not allow poison to enter the community.  But is Boyd, who still obviously has a thing for blowing things up with rocket launchers, set on becoming a true prophet or on replacing his father as the head of the Harlan underworld under the pretense of doing God’s work?

The family dynamics that Justified has introduced has ramped up the intensity for what is sure to be an explosive finale, with Raylen’s gun staying holstered way too long.  Next week, expect Raylen to unholster his gun, but don’t be surprised if season one’s finale does more to cloud than clear up Raylen’s complex relationship with his beautiful ex Winona, and the investigation into his shootings led by Assistant US Attorney David Vasquez, played by our favorite character from The Life and Times of Tim, the voice of the priest, Rick Gomez.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

 

Excuse me but you seem to have taken my Swingline stapler.

                                                                                                              –Milton Waddams, Office Space

FX’s new series Justified initially excited us by casting Timothy Olyphant of Deadwood fame, to play lead character, U.S. Marshal Raylen Givens.  Also memorable faces for us appearing in the regular cast are Marshal Givens ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea who played Gemma from Hung) and his love interest, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter, American Pie 2).  A few weeks back, Justified cast W. Earl Brown (Dan Dority, Deadwood) and in two episodes we have seen David Eigenberg (Sex and the City). 

Last night the show continued to wow us with recognizable talent in episode 1o, “The Hammer.”  Veteran actor Stephen Root, who more recently played “Vampire Eddie” from True Blood, but more famously played quirky billionaire Jimmy James on News Radio, and also Milton, from the cult classic Office Space, played federal judge Mike “The Hammer” Reardon, who Givens is charged to protect.

Milton and his stapler, above.

Justified went back to the cast of Deadwood last night to cast Virgil, the judge’s pursuer, using actor Sean Bridges who played Johnny Burns on Deadwood (pictured below), who worked along side Dan Dority in the Gem Saloon.

The show once again featured Rick Gomez as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez, who we revere as the voice of the priest on The Life and Times of Tim.  Catch the priest in action at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eROEsOkrEPw

And for good measure, last night’s episode of Justified threw in another familiar face from True Blood, Jenni Blong (pictured below), who plays Michelle Stackhouse (Sookie and Jason’s dead mother) in flashback sequences.

As for Root’s character, federal judge Michael Reardon–he seemed to remind us of another Elmore Leonard character, the show’s writer and producer–the judge from the Leonard novel Maximum Bob.  Since I haven’t read Leonard since I was a child, you can always email Leonard super fan and Daily News columnist Mike Lupica for clarification.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Raylen Givens (Timothy Olyphant), above, took quite a beating this week on Justified.

On Sunday I read Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News, whom I despise, and he had something to say about Justified:

Elmore Leonard‘s new show, “Justified,” just got renewed by FX, but what you really need to do is watch the handful of episodes remaining in the show’s first season.

Timothy Olyphant, playing a marshal named Raylan Givens in a cowboy hat, is like some old-time Western hero, set in the modern world of Harlan, Ky.

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It doesn’t upset us that Mike Lupica likes the same show as us–that much.  But it is easily explained.  Lupica has been pushing his buddy Elmore Leonard for years, who I respectfully refer to as a pop novelist, but who Lupica puts up there like he’s Leo Tolstoy.  Let’s get something straight: Leonard writes straight cookie cutter, drug store fiction, and Lupica is a sports writer.  Just because we might want to read an article about sports doesn’t mean we want to hear Mike Lupica’s opinions on everything from politics, to fiction, to Imus in the morning (yes, he’s still alive).

Hey Mike?  If you want to put every random thought in your brain out to the universe, get a page on www.wordpress.com.   All that said, Mike Lupica and I probably enjoyed Justified very much last night, even if our favorite Kentucky Marshal, Raylen Givens had a really tough time of it.  In more ways than one. 

For starters, Marshal Givens was told by his boss, Marshal Art (Nick Searcy), to take the week off, because old Raylen has been a bit too hot to handle.  So the show opened with Raylen having some free time, drinking bourbon in a local bar.  The two guys to his right are boisterous louts who are cracking jokes about molesting children, and Raylen can’t resist.  They go outside and fight, 2 against one, and Raylen gets kicked around pretty good, has a 2 x 4 broken over his back, and has his trademark 10 gallon hat stolen.  It turns out Raylen was waiting at the bar to meet his ex, Winona (Natalie Zea), and the picture at the top is of Winona washing Raylen’s ample wounds on Raylen’s bed.

We thought it might be a sexy time moment for Raylen and Winona for a second, but just as soon as she had stripped his boots off she was out the door.  Before she left though, Winona told Raylen about how she was met by an intruder in her kitchen one day, and that she knows he is a bussiness associate of her husband Gary, in a business that’s gone south.  The Gary-Winona situation gives Raylen something to do while on his prescribed vacay.  The next day Raylen pays Gary’s associates a little visit, and these “Dixie Mafia” types have Raylen tailed when he leaves.  Raylen catches on really quickly, and shows up unexpectedly at the door of the ex-boxer muscle head sent to do him harm.  Raylen gets his gun, interrogates him, and learns that they plan to kidnap Winona to pressure Gary into paying what he owes them.

 Raylen rushes to Winona in order to get her to somewhere safe, and the audience is perhaps led to believe that the two will have a romantic reconciliation, though they never would get closer than how they are pictured above.  Winona refuses to leave unless Raylen will go and find Gary and make sure he is safe.  Raylen tells her he will, but she’s got to come with him so that he knows she is safe.  As they drive off into the night, Winona brings up a past conversation, about why she left Raylen, and re-affirms her love for Gary and the life they have.  She says to Raylen:

“Your grind is exhausting.  I don’t know how you do it, because I sure as hell couldn’t do it anymore.  I needed a little hope in my life.”

Raylen must now take this definitive negative criticism and his dashed hopes, and go and find Winona’s toupee wearing husband Gary, and deliver him from harm’s way, to top it off.  And he does.

See Gary and Winona’s happy reunion (above), after Raylen has delivered Gary back home safely, as promised.  Probably, they went inside and had sex, while Raylen is left to contemplate his murky work situation, an investigation into 4 of his “justified” shootings, and lost love. 

Winona, who went mean bitch on Raylen in the car, perhaps too mean, and the actress who plays her, Natalie Zea, also played an excellent mean bitch on Hung, may not have been exactly justified in blasting Raylen Givens, but she was under the stress of perhaps being kidnapped and killed and worrying that the same could happen to Gary.  She does throw Raylen a compliment at one point, who basically saves her and her husband’s lives.  “You’re a good man, Raylen Givens.” she says.  Poor Raylen replies, “apparently not good enough.”

We were treated to a cameo by David Eigenberg (Miranda’s husband, Sex and the City), who, after a 2nd appearance on Justified, may be establishing a bit of a recurring role as a loanshark/informant.  And next week, we may get to see our favorite voice from The Life and Times of Tim, Rick Gomez (The Priest), reprise his role as Raylen’s Assistant U.S. Attorney investigator.  Also, Raylen does get his 10 gallon hat back.

But Raylen’s happiness, or lack thereof, seems like it’s going to be as central a theme as his itchy trigger finger, and a lot more elusive than that old hat, as Mike Lupica and I gear up for season 2.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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