Sopranos


The grounds of beautiful Santa Anita Park (above), which has given HBO’s new series “Luck” unprecedented access.

We can imagine some of the criticisms of what we feel is a budding hit series, HBO’s new drama “Luck”.  The first few episodes seemed incredibly veiled, cloaked in terseness, as though the show was afraid to give away too much, too soon.  On top of that, anyone not acquainted with race track vernacular and etiquette, as I am not, had another layer of code to wade through.  But from early in episode one when the four amigos put together a complex pick six parlay, led by Jerry, a degenerate gambler genius, who reasoned out the long shot selection of Mon Gateau, a horse they now own, a person like me who fancies a good gamble–especially a good parlay, which is where the real money is–could feel that Luck was cultivating a certain electricity and excitement at Santa Anita.  And when Mon Gateau went out and won its race,  which was captured brilliantly in it’s full glory, as one would expect from a David Milch production, and the four amigos had won the 2.6M pick six, we felt that gambler’s high that only comes when a good wager goes green.

Jerry (Jason Gedrick), who tempts fate by playing in high stakes poker games he usually loses, has already lost a good portion of those massive pick 6 winnings, but the flawed nature of this character has hit home, making his storyline all the more interesting to us.  The four amigos made him the point man for the acquisition of Mon Gateau, and his street smarts both sealed the acquisition and secured that ace trainer Escalante (John Ortiz) would continue working with the horse, who, it seems very few people have the patience or nature to get along with.

While Jerry, to us, has stolen a portion of the show, there can be no doubt that this endeavor belongs to the legendary Dustin Hoffman, whose Ace Bernstein character has just been paroled from prison, taking a Cocaine possession charge for his grandson, that landed him 3 years in the fed.  While the first few episodes were exceedingly murky especially in regard to the Bernstein character, the plot has done enough to direct us toward a Bernstein revenge plan against those who have wronged him and his family.

In our minds, Bernstein is the next great HBO character, and will fall in line with the likes of Al Swearengen and Tony Soprano.  And to see Hoffman on HBO in his first ever television gig has been an immense gift for acting buffs and an all time coup for the network, with the credit going to Hoffman and David Milch.  To see Hoffman in scenes with his driver/confidante/right hand man, Dennis Farina (who could forget Farina as crime boss Jimmy Serrano in the all time DeNiro classic “Midnight Run”?) has been a real treat, and they are brilliant together.  And what about Hoffman’s first scene with our guy, Michael Gambon, who played Eddie Temple in Layer Cake, and who delivered on one of our all time favorite film monologues that ended with him telling Daniel Craig, “Welcome to the layer cake, son.”?  Gambon, most well known to youngsters for his work in the Harry Potter films, plays an ex and again business associate of Bernstein’s named Mike, dubious of character at best, and who was probably behind Ace’s set up and 3 year jail term.

Mike:  ‘How’s your grandson, Ace?’

Ace:  ‘He’s good.  Don’t talk about my grandson again.’

Mike:  ‘He’s very lucky to have someone do what you did for him.  Really, he’s good?’

Ace:  ‘You better fucking pray to fucking God every day he stays that way.’

There could be no doubting that Hoffman would bring his trademark electricity to the role, also establishing instant rapport with Patrick Adams (Mike Ross, Suits), who Ace has chosen to be his go between with the villainous Mike.  When Adams, playing young lawyer Nathan Israel, is first enlisted by Bernstein, the uptight young man is mock chided for “answering a question with a question.” When Israel is a bit more comfortable with Bernstein, in a subsequent meeting, he asks, “so what will I be doing to earn my keep?” Bernstein replies, “so what do you think you’d be good at?” Israel retorts, “answers a question with a question.” After Israel reports back to Ace the details of his first meeting with Mike, he tells him he’s not sure he can continue because of his conscience.  Bernstein replies, “that’s because you’re an honest man.  So far.”

With all of the obvious big money on the line, and with Bernstein already spending a fortune to buy a 5.1% stake in the race track, while leading others to believe he will bring lucrative casino and parlor gaming to Santa Anita, the stage seems set for the sting, and we expect it will bring out the duplicitous nature of some.  In the first episode, Ace tells Gus that he doesn’t trust anyone, but that in Gus’s case, he gets a pass.

In light of the congratulatory cake that Gus and Ace received in episode 6, a message to Gus emblazoned upon it that read not “Way to go Greek” but rather “Wait To Go Greek”, which was presumed as having something to do with Gus’s horse winning a race, from Mike and his crew, until Gus says out of earshot of Ace, “No icing error, this.”

Gus is obviously receiving a signal from the other side, but is he really one of them?  Or are they possibly threatening him?  All still part of the unrevealed plot.

While Ace has shown a forthright business nature in meetings with his board of directors, with the head of the casino, and with Escalante, whom he confronts over the training of the horse Ace secretly owns, Pint of Plain, he has also shown a tremendous soft side for the animal, spending one night in a chair in the barn outside the horse’s stall to see him through the night, and beaming in conversations about the animal.  Bernstein is truly at peace when the horse is at peace, and is livid when he feels Escalante is misusing the horse as a means of manipulating the odds.  Escalante, a major player in Luck, is a gruff trainer and a difficult guy, and Bernstein calls him to the carpet right away, because he wants to know if Escalante is a trainer or a gambler.  Escalante replies, ‘who says if you’re one it means you can’t also be the other?’

To his credit, the hardened Escalante does obviously love the animals he trains, and seems to respect both Jerry and Ace for their smarts, and for the way in which they care for their animals.    Also, Escalante doesn’t seem to know that it was Bernstein who got Escalante his break in the business, by suggesting that the stables hire him when he was only a kid who seemed to always be hanging around the horses.  We feel this is a resting plot line right now that will be revealing itself in good time, which Luck most certainly is, a veritable cornucopia for TV fans, replete with two forms of lightning in a bottle.  They have captured the tension, intensity, and magic of the races themselves, a tall order when filming with the animals, and also, the magical chemistry between fantastic castmates performing edgy, well written scenes.

We even get to see more of Kerry Condon practically naked (Octavia from Rome), who jockeys Walter Smith’s (Nick Nolte) star horse, Gettn’up Morning.

We like everything about Luck, including the song.  If you’re behind on your Luck, you have some great television to look forward to, and for those caught up, while only 3 episodes remain, Luck has already been renewed by HBO for a ten episode run beginning next January.

Lucky for us.

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

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)

The return of a few pivotal guest characters and some very funny moments, in some situations that those characters–Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie), and Glen Bishop (Marten Weiner) created.  Garner, may not appear much, but I’m sure many Mad Men fans are displeased with the character who is the reason that closeted homosexual art director Sal Romano (Bryan Batt) was fired.  Remember when Garner made a pass at Sal who nervously rebuffed him?  That’s all it took for Lee to tell Roger to cut Sal loose, which don didn’t hesitate at doing, once Roger told him it was for Lucky Strike, their number one client.

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I certainly hope everyone remembers the divorced neighbor’s (Darby Stanchfield) son, Glen Bishop, who Betty (January Jones) babysat for and who developed a crush on Betty.  One day the mother confronted Betty at the market after finding out that Betty had given Glen a locke of her hair, calling her juvenile and questioning her judgment.  Glen is played by Martin Weiner’s son, who does a creepy good job with the role.  Last night, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and Bobby (Jared Gilmore) ran into Glen while Christmas tree shopping, and Glen seems to take a liking to Sally, whom he tells, “I saw your new dad.  My mom said that would happen.”

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Then Glen calls Sally (top pic), tells Carla that his name is Stanley, and then tells Sally that her parents will not get back together because, of Betty he says, “she’s doing it with somebody else.”  Little Sally didn’t even get what that meant, but she did tell Glen she’s miserable, and Glen told her she would be miserable until she moved.  Later, Glen and a friend, who Glen calls a “shithead”, trash Betty’s house, because Glen feels he is helping Sally by getting Betty to think about moving.  Glen continues the onslaught by making crank calls to the old Draper resident in the middle of the night.

Another old character, the affable Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), walked in to the new agency clean and sober, with a major account in toe, and was hired back on the spot by Roger.  Freddy had a great line when he said of Roger’s (John Slattery) office, “it looks like an Italian hospital” and a very interesting one when he told Roger he didn’t want Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) anywhere near his account, and that he was surprised when he heard they brought Campbell along.  Remember that Campbell made fun of Freddy when he was on the way out due to his alcoholism, and when he pissed himself.  Freddy seems very sharp, and out for revenge on Campbell, who he also made a dig at in a meeting in Don’s (Jon Hamm) office with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss, looking large) and Roger.

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Speaking of alcoholism, let’s do our Don Draper update.  Early in the episode, Don drops his keys at his door, and is observed by his neighbor, as he wobbles to get down to pick the keys up.  Phoebe (Nora Zehetner), lets Don in and puts him to bed while resisting his advances.  Don tells her she’s good at this and she zings him with “my father was a drunk.”  The presence of a female around don usually means one thing: Don’s gonna tag her.  But with “Christmas Comes but Once a Year”, s4, e2, we see Don drinking too much–a fact pointed out even by Sterling Cooper all-star drunk Freddy Rumsen, when he asks Don f it isn’t too early in the morning to be drinking.  Also, the new artist calls Don pathetic, and it wasn’t the first time that he has made a remark about Don, to Peggy or some of the younger SCDP employees.  Last night, when he calls Don pathetic, nobody disputed him–an interesting tell on the state of Don Draper right now.  That’s why I’m not sure if Phoebe is there as Don’s neighbor this year as a romantic possibility, or as someone who is going to be coming to his rescue.

Then you have the Christmas party, where Don spoke with another potential hookup, Cara Buono, who played Phaye Miller, a consultant that the firm has brought in.  You might remember Cara Buono as Kelly Moltisanti, Chris’s wife, from The Sopranos, and also as Artie Lange’s love interest in Beer League.  But the party was made by the spoiled SCDP top client, Lee Garner Jr., who strong armed Roger for an invitation to the party, causing the party to be changed from a small, quiet affair to a fete worthy of the man who “keeps the lights on.”

Lee asked Roger to play Santa Claus, then insisted, waving off Campbell who tries to take the bullet for him, and staring Roger down and saying of the costume, “Seriously.  Put it on.”  Sterling trudged off and then trudged back as Santa, making for one of the funnier Mad men moments we’ve had.  Lee Garner Jr.’s Christmas present was a Polaroid camera, and, ballbuster he is, made everyone get on Roger’s knee for a picture.

When Alison (Alexa Alemanni), Don’s secretary, brings Don his keys after the party, Don makes a crude, drunken pass at her, and she resists at first before kicking her shoes off and laying back.  Joey, played by Matt Baird–the new character with a lot of venom for Don–seems to be dating Alison, a nice potential plot complication for the future.  And while Alison tells Don, or attempts to tell him she has a boyfriend after they have sex, she was clearly preoccupied with Don all episode, from her reading Don the letter to Santa from his kids, and she seeemed on the verge of tears after Don acted coolly towards her the morning after at the office.

And Sterling had us laughing until the end, when he greets Don that morning with, “Did you enjoy the fuhrer’s birthday?” in a German accent–a comment all the more valid when comparing the proclivities of Adolf Hitler and Lee Garner Jr.  But if Don is firmly walking in the land of the dangerous alcoholic this season, where he has tiptoed for years, and he has a tense office romance going with Alison, which could turn very badly, then Don might not be the hero this season that we have come to associate with his dapper character during the life of the show to date, and we probably won’t be laughing too much at all.

Here’s to Don getting it together.  Getting dissed and called a type by Cara Buono can’t be a proud moment, and it was only one of many inglories that Don suffered last night.

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

 

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In listening to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s commentary about his hit show’s third season, during an AMC marathon last week, and in his remarks about season 4, I have to admit that the Mad Men genius and former Sopranos writer/producer was making me nervous.  He said that everything that happened in season 3 was for a reason, and necessary, but that is what will make for a totally different season 4.  For a fan who likes his Mad Men how it is, the sweat was forming on my brow.

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And then season 4, episode 1, entitled “Public Relations” began, and Don (Jon Hamm) hits a reporter doing a piece on him in an ad magazine with his trademark smug, lambasts Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) for wasting his time with a cattle call when the hopes of the new agency rest on how he accounts for each hour, derrides Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) in his usual fashion, and then pours a scotch and dives on the couch in his new office for a nap all within the first 5 minutes, and I say, “Thank God it’s the same old Don” and “Matthew Weiner, you got me good!”

Vincent Kartheiser (L.), Jon Hamm, and John Slattery (R.), above.

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Next, Roger (John Slattery) imposes on Don’s nap to push a date on Don with one of Jane’s (Peyton List) friends, a twenty something year old we later find out is played by Anna Camp (Sarah Newlin, True Blood).  In fact, the Mad Men camp kept under tight wraps who the new castmates would be, and from what we could surmise, since Aaron Staton is still in the credits, the actor who plays Ken Cosgrove, we can assume that the struggling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may be soon hiring their old co-head of accounts to bolster their flagging revenue.

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Then Don’s accountant comes in to meet with him, and the two drink scotch, while the money man urges Don to get Betty (January Jones) to adhere to the divorce agreement and vacate their old premises, which Don is paying the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep on, though he no longer lives there.  Don says he doesn’t want to bring it up and start World War III.  It isn’t until about the 20 minute mark when we see Betty for the first time this season, with her new family, that of her new husband, advisor to the governor, Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), as they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Francis’s over-bearing matriarch, who seems very wise later on in the episode when she turns her attention to criticizing Betty to her son.

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That Thanksgiving dinner takes an eventful turn when young Sally tells Mrs. Francis she doesn’t like her food and then spits out her cranberry sauce while coughing loudly, before Betty pulls her away from the table.  Later that night, it seemed like sexy time for Henry and Betty, until Sally (Kiernan Shipka) causes some ruckus in the hallway, and Betty gets up to find her fumbling with the phone, trying to call Don.  Like children bickering almost, Betty tells her young daughter that Daddy isn’t going to be pleased when he hears Betty’s version of the story.  Since old Henry can’t recover the steam when Betty returns, he tells her to send the baby out tomorrow when Don picks up the kids, and that they’ll go out to a romantic dinner alone, as we get the idea that Henry is losing patience with Betty and all the baby momma drama.

Don, who had rebuffed Roger’s and Jane’s invite to Turkey Day because he has plans, despite the fact that Jane’s and Don’s new friend will be there (Don pictured at the top on one of his firsr post divorce dates), it turns out had plans indeed–for a young prostitute who Don requests slaps him in the face repeatedly, asking for it “harder”, while she is on top of him and they are having sex.  A stunning new trick for Don, who seems to play a dull character in “Public Relations” personally, working from home in the evening by looking at print ads and television commericals.  Could it be that Don, always the power player, now likes the fantasy of ceding that control in the bedroom, or is he perhaps feeling guilty about his treatment of women, or both?

The next day Don picks up his children (above) and Betty and Henry get in the car to head out to their romantic dinner, when Henry jumps her and they have sex in the front seat of the car which is still parked in the garage.

When Don brings the kids back the next night at 9 PM, the appointed time, Betty and Henry aren’t there.  Sally uses her key to let them in and don puts the kids to bed and then waits for Betty, like a guest, in his own house.  Don’s blood is boiling, and when Betty returns, Don tells her she needs to be out of the house.  Henry chimes in that it’s just “a temporary situation” to which Don replies, “that’s what everyone thinks.”  When Don leaves, the level headed Henry tells Betty that Don is right, and that she needs to get of the house, and that Betty hasn’t even looked for a new place, to which betty bristles and pronounces she won’t sell the house on “his terms”, referring to Don.

When we next see Henry Francis doing chores for his hulking, bossy mother in her living room, we get the distinct impression that the governor’s right arm is a card carrying momma’s boy, and when we hear her insight, we can’t help but to agree with it–especially those fans of the show who have been for long arguing and debating Betty’s relative ice queen like mothering persona and her often cruel treatment of the kids.  Remember in season 1 when Betty tried to demand that Don strike Bobby and how Betty is always relatively cruel to Sally, who complains about her continually, and who found great solace in the attention that Betty’s father Gene (Ryan Cutrona) gave her before he passed.  Betty seems to only chide or ignore the girl, who clearly blames her mother for her parent’s divorce.  Remember that in season 3’s finale, “Shut the door, have a seat”, the kids drank chocolate milk with their housekeeper Carla (Deborah Lacey) on Christmas while Betty is on a plane to Reno, pursuing her divorce and new marriage.

Henry’s mom slams Betty by calling her a “child”, laments on behalf of Betty’s kids that Sally and Bobby (Jared Gilmore) are “terrified” of her, and punctuates her remarks by telling her son that she has raised a lot of children and knows what’s going on, and that his interest in Betty is obvious and he did not have to marry her to satisfy it.  Sounds like Henry has plenty of reasons, after just one episode, to consider the folly in marrying Betty, as we flash back a few seasons to a creepy psychiatrist questioning Betty and then secretly feeding the information back to Don.

Don, in the end, recognizing the the critical mistake he made in the show’s opening scene when he was too terse with an ad mag reporter doing a story on him, leans back and makes himself appear to be Superman as he immodestly reveals  the exciting 11th hour formation of the new agency to a reporter from the Wall street Journal, set up by Bert Cooper who pulled some of his old world money strings to get Don another interview with a much more widely circulated publication.

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As for Weiner’s assertion that everything is different this year, we can ride with the statement along certain lines.  Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), SCDP’s Head of Television, has a bigger role, reflecting the period’s newest and most effective medium for advertising, television.  Joannie Holoway (above with Jared Harris) has her own office, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) seems invigorated by being back on the frontlines, so to speak, and Peggy seems like she may be the Head of Creative, as it certainly seems like she is the only person besides Don in Creative at the new agency.  But Mad Men, the best show on television, returned on the same high note with which it concluded season 3 in November, as it now sinks it’s teeth further into the historical plotlines of the 1960’s, while rememberring its bread and butter–the microscope on the disparate lives of its male and female leads, Don and Betty Draper.

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Well done indeed.

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

Jessie (above), as he stakes out the meth dealers in his new girlfriend Andrea’s neighborhood (Emily Rios).

Walt and Jessie (above) grabbing a beer, at which Jessie tells Walt that Gus’s (Giancarlo Esposito) crew killed their friend Combo (Rodney Rush) for selling the blue in the wrong territory.

Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) has obviously learned a lot as apprentice to scientific genius and expert chili cook, Walter White.  This season, we’ve seen Jessie graduate as a cook, now capable of making blue crystal as good as Walt’s.  But Jessie, who came home from rehab with some acceptance of that dark side which has gotten him into so much trouble, has showed us that he is a man with a conscience who is willing to protect his own–like Walt (Bryan Cranston), even if that conscience now requires a murder revenge plot on Gus’s street level dealers, who put a gun in the hands of an 11 year old, with the order to kill a rival dealer, who happened to be Jessie’s longtime friend.

Jessie, who is now seeing Andrea (Emily Rios, Men of a Certain Age), showed his soft side when he flew into a rage at Andrea’s story of how her 10 year old brother Tomas was recruited by the gang, and that he had no choice but to kill a rival dealer–a drive by bicycle shooting reminsicent of Snoop on The Wire–upon initiation.  The rival dealer happened to be a childhood friend of Jessie’s, Combo, who had played a substantial role in Jessie and Walt’s criminal life, commandeering for them the famous RV, and then selling their blue meth after Tuco (Raymond Cruz) was killed by Hank (Dean Winters), and they had nobody left to wholesale to.

One way in which Breaking Bad distinguishes itself even from a legendary all-time great show such as The Sopranos, is that past characters and plotlines may be gone for the moment, but they are never forgotten.  Jessie’s girlfriend Jane (Kristen Ritter), who died of an overdose last season, has weighed heavily on Jessie this season, and her memory has been a topic of many episodes.   Jessie meets his new girlfriend, Andrea, and witnesses her tough circumstances, denying her the opportunity to get high when he finds out she has a young son who will soon be arriving.  Her admission that her brother is a part of the drug gang, and that the same won’t be true of her own son, moves Jessie in a protective direction, both toward Andrea’s young family and toward his deceased friend, who until now, his passing has not been a main plot point.

When Jessie stakes out the operation from his car (top), we can see the sobriety chip hanging from his rearview mirror, though probably his own, it serves as yet another reminder of Jane.  There Jessie sees an old acquaintance–a meth whore played by Julia Minesci–pick up crystal from Gus’s 2 henchman.  Jessie hatches a plan to put ricin in the dealer’s food when he sees the meth whore, who Jessie reminds Walt stood up to D.E.A. interrogations in the wake of Tuco’s killing and the drug lord’s money turning up in Jessie’s car which was on the scene, bring the dealers lunch from a fast food joint in exchange for a better price on meth. 

Jessie explains the circumstances to Walt at a bar, and asks Walt to make him ricin to poison their food with.  Walt had planned to use ricin to kill Tuco when they feared their lives were in danger doing business with the volatile drug lord.  Ricin, a perfect poison for murder because of it’s speed in and out of the human system, would be virtually untraceable, and would kill the dealers responsible for using children, and Andrea’s brother in particular, to kill Combo.  Jessie, admiring the old ricin plan, thinks it’s the perfect way to kill the dealers without Gus finding out about it, but Walt tells Jessie, “murder is not part of your 12 step program” and that Jessie’s not a killer, and then goes to Saul asking for advice on how to keep Jessie from doing what Walt knew he was dead set on.

Saul Goodman offers to work something out whereby Jessie will be locked up for a small period of time, thereby foiling his murder revenge plot.  “You can do that?” asks Walt.  “For you?” says Saul.  Of course he can, but as he explains, it will come under the ‘premium services plan.’

Then Mike pays Walt a visit at home, and tells him he has heard from Saul, but that he is not going to be turning Jessie over to the police, even though he has done that sort of thing many times.  Why not now?  “Because the boss wouldn’t like it.  My boss.  Your boss.”  Mike explains that Walt has a very good thing going with Gus, that Jessie has been on the bubble a long time now, and that Gus would not be pleased if one of his chemists got arrested.  Gus would figure out the truth eventually, at which point they’d all be in trouble.  Mike explains to Walt through a story about a spousal abuser who he should’ve killed when he was a cop many years ago, that he wasn’t about to take any more “half measures” with Jessie, which was the title of last night’s episode (s3, e12).

Next we see Jessie, he’s in his car with the meth whore (above), ready to send her off to the dealers with a bag full of poison.  But the dealers aren’t showing up, and in their place, Mike (Jonathan Banks), dismisses the whore and tells Jessie to come along with him and one of Gus’s other goons.

Soon enough, Jessie is finally meeting Gus face to face, in a room with the dealers who arranged Combo’s murder, and with Walt and Mike.  Jessie thinks Walt gave him up, but Gus assures him that Walt is his only friend in the room, and that if not for Walt, he’d be handling this situation a lot differently.  Gus clears the room and orders Jessie to shake hands with the dealers when he brings them back in, because there is blame on both sides.  Jessie blasts Gus for using kids and refuses to shake hands, but Gus calls the dealers back anyway, and says to them, “no more kids.”  Then Jessie shakes hands and says “I’ll keep the peace.”

Jessie intended to do just that, even though he tore away from Walt after Walt takes him back to his car, still seemingly very angrily.  The next morning, Jessie does not show up for work at the lab.  Walt has trouble reaching him all day, and then hears the news and knows why.  The child, Tomas, Jessie’s new lover’s brother, has been popped, having outlived his usefulness to the drug gang in what is a very cold world.  Jessie, now set on direct revenge, goes back to that neighborhood, with his gun and a bag of crystal, and snorts the blue–the first time he has used since entering rehab–and then gets out of the car when he sees the two thugs come around.

Walt, who had been dining with his family, a privilege he had negotiated for earlier in the show when he agreed to buy the car wash and let Skyler (Anna Gun) run it so that she can launder his drug proceeds with a more plausible story than the one about laser tag that Saul gave them, gets up from the table abruptly, knowing where Jessie in all likelihood was.  As the shoot out between Jessie and the thugs is about to go down, Walt races on to the scene and runs over Gus’s men, probably saving Jessie’s life in the process.

Walt once again is there to protect Jessie, his protege and partner through thick and thin from the start.  But how will he keep an angry Gus at bay next week, who called the street level dealers his “trusted associates”?

Look for Walt to kill Gus, Mike, and anyone else who might pose a threat to him or Jessie.  We just hope Saul Goodman is spared unnecessary bloodshed.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/breaking-bad-back-to-basics/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/breaking-bad-is-mr-white-really-going-to-become-the-15m-man/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/breaking-bad-is-gus-about-to-get-got/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/breaking-bad-sun-setting-on-jessie/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/breaking-bad-pinkman-finally-passes-chem/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/breaking-bad-family-affairs/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/breaking-bad-season-3-the-gib-heads-are-gonna-love-it/

One week left.

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

RHONJ stars, Teresa (L.), Dina (C.), and Caroline (R.)

So I was watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey last night, looking at Teresa Giudice in her hospital bed, wearing her spotted leopard skin pajamas, having just given birth to baby Audrianna, and then Dina Manzo, whose husband, like Carlo Gambino I presume, is too uptight about being seen on camera, comes in and Teresa asks Dina how it feels to be holding her new god daughter.

I said to my wife, “Audrianna?  Adrianna?  I wonder if Silvio Dante is gonna pop her while calling her a ‘dirty whore’ some day.”  While that was just a joke, so are many truths.  Do I buy in to Italian stereotypes?  Let’s put it this way: if you are making sauce in your driveway in advance for the whole year, like Teresa Giudice, a geep of all geeps classic move, well, you might be connected.  If your husband has 22 inch biceps, speaks in grunt, and sponsors you for breast implants, you might be connected.

If you have a semi-automatic rifle, among other weapons and God knows what in a safe the size of a refrigerator, like Jacqueline’s husband Chris Moltissanti, um, I mean, Chris Laurita, and your favorite refrain is “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”, then, well, do I have to say it?

 Caroline’s husband, Albert Manzo, in this past episode, was sporting the old Passaic Police Academy sweatshirt (above).  A few weeks back on the show, him and his brother, the guy who is too camera shy to appear, threw a big bash for the county sheriff.  Who do you think fills the coffers of local law enforcement, district attorneys, and politicians?  Where I come from, it’s people who need favors in return.  Like Don Corleone the Senior said to Bonasera who wanted justice for his daughter, “who kept her honor”:

Some day I may come to you asking for a favor.  That day may never come.

Right, but if these ladies hate Danielle as much as they seem to, then that day may be on the way.  There have been 4 episodes so far this season, and none of the ladies have had more than a text encounter with the villainess, a very brief phone conversation, or a voicemail, and the Jersey housewives are on high alert, led by Don Caroline, who also happens to live by the credo, “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.”  Caroline said she’s on to Danielle’s game, when she heard that her mortal enemy, Danielle, would be presenting some check to a cancer kid at her family’s establishment, The Brownstone.  “She doesn’t bother me” said Caroline.  “I’ll call her garbage to her face if I have to.  I’ve done it before and I will do it again”, and she closed with the very omnious and direct, “Ultimately I’ll win.” 

The ladies have a sitdown (above).  Probable topic: Danielle (below).

Danielle might be a dumber bitch than Kelly Bensimon even, in the tri-state area real housewife dumbness hierarchy, and she has pissed some people off, sure, but she’s just going to a benefit for a little girl with cancer, though garbage she may be.  And bringing Danny Provenzano as her date, a felon/New Jersey wise guy/actor (This Thing of Ours) to the cancer party is a bad move, but one that dumb Danielle feels is necessary because she is entering enemy territory, and she’s still un-nerved that the enemy has called her garbage. 

The shame in this is that for all Danielle’s faults, she has two extremely nice, pretty young daughters, who her mother got called garbage in front of.  And yes, Danielle’s eldest daughter was a model at fashion week, and Danielle did throw a party in her daughter’s honor but she forbade the kid from inviting any of her friends, because Danielle, who was also photographed as an afterthought by none other than Gilles Bensimon (Kelly’s ex), wanted that spotlight all to herself.  But next week at The Brownstone, she’ll be sharing the spotlight with Danny P (below).

Danielle, Danny, and other wiseguy (above).

“How would you feel if someone called you garbage?”  Danielle asks Danny.

“I have a theory on that.  People need to shut the fuck up.”  Danny replies. 

http://starcasm.net/archives/49290

Follow that link should you wish to peruse Danny’s criminal record and the details of his racketeering conviction. 

Don’t be surprised if all hell breaks loose next week between the New Jersey housewives–at the cancer benefit.  Look, I’m not saying these people aren’t nice.  Actually, aside from Danielle, and the ultra bossy Caroline–who is still to us a way better person than say, her red-headed NYC counterpart, Jill Zarin–everyone on the show seems extremely nice and way more likable than our favorite, bitchy new York housewives who aren’t really housewives.  What can I tell you?  Some of the nicest people I know happen to be criminals.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/real-housewives-getting-ugly-literally-and-figuratively/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/mob-housewives-of-nj-v-for-vendetta/

Teresa Giudice (above), just before her shining moment in last season’s finale.

They’re nice alright.  Doesn’t mean a housewife like Teresa won’t flip over a table and scream, “PROSTITUTION WHORE!”  Why?  Because she gangsta.

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

So I’ve been going to town on television lately, and with good reason, for much good TV is either set to premiere or rerun.  Two Showtime favorites, if imperfect, that return tomorrow (3/22/10) are The  United  States of Tara and Nurse Jackie, a Lionsgate TV production.  Lionsgate’s masterpiece, Mad Men, also returns tomorrow/tonight in reruns (12 AM), as AMC looks to capitalize and piggyback on the success of Breaking Bad, in its season 3 premiere, which will be aired at 10 PM and repeated at 11 PM, leading into Mad Men at 12:03.

We have learned that tonight’s Breaking Bad deals with the aftermath of the plane crash, which is an indicator that there will not be any real time lag between the season 2 finale and the season 3 premiere.  We have no idea where Nurse Jackie will pick up, but it was certainly unsettling where she left off–locked inside a hospital room, about to pass out on the floor after drinking 3 bottles of morphine–and with good reason.  Her boyfriend, Eddie (Paul Schulze, who you might remember best as Father Intintola from The Sopranos), lets Jackie (Edie Falco) know that he has just met her husband, who she had concealed from everyone except Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best).

 Jackie is a very different role for Falco than Carmella Soprano, and I find her good in both, though Carmella Soprano was more of a scrutable character.  It is very hard to understand Jackie’s deviousness, and how she betrays her husband so easily (Dominic Fumusa).  Though she is a drug addict, and Eddie who was until recently the hospital’s pharmacist and her supplier, as well as her noon time  lover, which makes total sense from the outside, but not from within. Inside the text, Jackie is a lot more complex than that.  To crack her behavior up to the pressure’s of running a nursing unit in an ER in a busy Manhattan hospital is overly simplistic as well.

I find myself comparing Falco in this role more and more to her former fictional husband, Tony Soprano.  She gets off on being able to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and now we finally get to see her deal with some consequences.  While the audience, I assume, hopes she gets off easy, as we always hoped for Tony, I’m not sure we quite find ourselves rooting for her in the same way as we rooted for Tony, a veritable super hero of television–even though she has gone to great lengths to help children, steal from the rich and give to the poor.  Perhaps that’s a societal double standard at play.  At any rate, Jackie, like Tony Soprano, is a premeditated murder (she euthanized a friend and former colleague who was dying a slow and painful death), and that is a little different than killing one’s own nephew, the way Tony killed Christopher by pinching his nostrils while he choked on his own blood.  Jackie may have even more of a God complex than Tony S., and that means the show can literally take us anywhere, and I must say I am apprehensive about this powder keg.

I just saw spots for Tara and Jackie on Showtime, and Anne Deavere Smith, who plays Nurse Akolitas, talked on the ad about how at the end of the day, Jackie will do anything to help those in need.  Like snorting the little round contents of these unnamed capsules?  By the way, how do those little round balls stay up her nose?  She doesn’t even crush them up or anything!  I guess Jackie is a bit of a superhero too.

At the end of the day, I am left to wonder if she will do anything to help people because of the bad stuff she is atoning for, and not out of her “humanitarian” disposition.  Either way, season 2 should be the tits.  We’ve seen what she’s done, and now we have to see the repurcussions, and though Jackie isn’t all good, I, for one, am very scared for her.  But I have this feeling it aint gonna be no thing for this dope fiend.  And we would be remiss if we did not also mention the outstanding performances turned in by nurse in training, Zoe (Merrit Weaver), and by Haaz Sleiman, playing Mohammed, Jackie’s closest nurse friend.

As for Tara, her and I got off on the wrong foot.  When a scientific premise is not accurate, I have trouble falling into that sort of plot.  I’m not gonna go crazy about it, but I had a problem with the medication that Tara was prescribed for her M.P.D.  Not to be too specific, but they were talking about anti anxiety meds and she was in need of some serious anti psychotics.  If the much ballyhooed creator and lead writer, Diablo Cody, is too lazy to get that right, then the show stands on shaky footing.

But then you see the cast–truly stellar–led by Toni Collette, who burst on to the scene almost 20 years ago in the Indie classic Muriel’s Wedding, her husband, played by the affable John Corbett, who played Carrrie’s love Aiden on Sex and the City, and who I always preferred for her to Big.  By the way, how bad are they dragging Sex and the City out?  I mean, I thought the movie was over 2 separate times when there was still one and a half hours, and 45 minutes left, respectively.  Kill me already.  And that my wife will force me to watch the sequel, about 4 women who were never hot in the first place and are now 10-15 years removed from their glory days, is already making my stomach turn.

Tara’s children probably make the show.  Her daughter, played by Brie Larson (not Bree Olsen!), totally nails the free spirited hot teenage daughter of a seriously mentally ill mother.  Tara’s son, Marshall, played by Keir Gilchest, is considered by some to be the show, a young adolescent, openly homosexual, living in Kansas, who has enough to deal with, as you can imagine, without one of Tara’s alters hooking up with his first boyfriend.  But Marshall dealt with that rather decisively, by setting a large fire in the family’s backyard, now didn’t he?

And we must also mention Tara’s sister, Charmaine (Rosemarie Dewitt, also known for her role on Mad Men as the hippy chick that Don was fucking in season 1).

Speaking of Mad Men, as we have mentioned, reruns begin at 12:03, with season 3, episode 1, “Out of Town”, in which Don (Jon Hamm)and the aforementioned in these pages, Sal Romano (Bryan Batt) must take a business trip on which Don discovers that Sal is gay.  To his credit, Don is cool with it, perhaps identifying with Sal on account of his own secrets.  This pivotal episode involving Sal makes us all the more sad that he will not be returning to the cast to reprise his role.

But we are stoked that Christina Hendricks will be featured on the little screen for the next thirteen Monday mornings, in her role as office manager Joannie Holloway.  While January Jones and Elisabeth Moss come bearing bigger names, Joannie does more than hold her own, which isn’t easy, considering the size of her breasts and her alien like measurements.  Hendricks was recently featured in New York Magazine, and you should all check it out.  The 34 year old is about to become a breakout star.  And because I like you guys so much, I will leave you with a few photos of her to contemplate.

Obviously, Esquire was hot for her too…

Here’s a shot of Joan looking all hot over at Sterling Cooper.

Ahh, the women of Showtime and Lionsgate, their secret lives, multiple identities, and of Joannie–I don’t know what to say, other than I’m so glad she’s back, if only in reruns.  Enjoy.

Peace,

Crack