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.

Crack (,

10 PM EST, HBO….

In recent weeks, the NYPD and Washington, D.C.P.D. grabbed headlines with high profile pot busts.  In New York, Kareem Burke, a former business associate of rapper Jay-Z, was one of several caught in an interstate sting, which put the dope on the table.  Before we quote the New York Daily News, let’s re-quote Treme and The Wire creator/executive producer David Simon, whom we agree with on his low opinion of dope on the table police work.

So, you have to look at what the Baltimore Police Department was doing in the war on drugs.  They were consumed by the idea of statistics.  Of dope on the table.  To this day, when a police department puts dope on the table or guns on the table, you know, ‘we did a raid yesterday and we seized these drugs and these guns’ and they call a press conference.  The city is awash in heroin, cocaine, and guns.  Any street cop can go out and make a gun case or certainly a drug case.  It’s like the entire city is swimming and they’ve literally put a beeker of water on the table and gone, look, we’ve done police work.  But dope on the table works.  The cameras always come.  The cameras always say ‘ah, they’re fighting the war on drugs’ and what they’re not doing is anything meaningful in the way of  police work.  They were locking up more people for drugs than ever before, the rates of violence went up, and their ability to solve those crimes of violence went down, because they had taught a whole generation of cops not how to do police work.  They taught them how to go up on the corner and jack a guy up, go in his pockets, get a vial here, a vial there.  To actually solve a string of robberies on your post, to actually solve a murder, to actually solve a string of rapes?  That requires police work.”

Now listen to this lying liar customs agent:

“This isn’t just a group that controlled one block, one neighborhood,” said Jim Hayes special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“They dominated the wholesale marijuana market in New York for 20 years.”

And then they put the dope on the table for all of us folks who missed the 2 second local news piece:

The investigation that derailed the ring was launched 18 months ago after investigators sniffed out the money trail, the law enforcement source said. In addition to rounding up the ring, the feds seized $1 million in drug profits and 177 pounds of pot.

Okay.  First of all, there is no possible way for one operation to control the marijuana trade.  In fact, a state can’t even control the trade, but one is doing an excellent job: California.  177 pounds…is nothing.  Where we sit, in NYC, so much herb is coming from California and from the provinces of Quebec and Vancouver–places where it is not illegal to grow.  Various ethnic cartels have the direct connect to Cali and to Canada, and cannabis is so plentiful–beautiful Cali bud–that I can have unlimited pounds at my door within 30 minutes at almost any hour of the day.  If I had $25,000-$30,000 and wanted 10 lbs. of herb, I could probably name my strain.

Like David Simon says, it’s bullshit police work, a bullshit news story, and a complete waste of taxpayer time and money.  But with the economy in dire straits, police forces are going to play the seizure of assets game to the fullest, right up until the minute that every state goes the way of California.  Still, the federal government says they won’t buy in to the legalization craze.  Just last week, the attorney general said ‘all illegal drugs remain a serious priority, blah, blah, blah.’

Let me translate for you.  States’ rights will prevail, but the federal government reserves the right to start the drug war back up again, when they see fit, even though states’ rights will prevail, and the federal government will be “at war” with its own states.  Nice.

But here’s an even better one, that went down in Washington.  The bang up police force–real crusaders–got some hardened criminals off the street.  Or, at least, out of their backyards.

CBS News chief is facing serious jail time and the loss of his job after cops busted him for growing marijuana in his back yard.

Howard Arenstein, 60, an award-winning reporter and the news-radio station’s Washington bureau chief, was holed up in his Georgetown home yesterday after he and his wife, Orly Katz, were released early Sunday without having to post bail.

Katz, 55, is the Washington-based correspondent for Yediot Ahronot, an Israeli newspaper.

The couple has four grown children.

Police, acting on a tip, raided Arenstein’s home Saturday and discovered 11 “full-grown marijuana plants” in his back yard, each more than 8-feet high, and “six 2-ounce bags of marijuana,” a police spokesman said.

Howard Arenstein and Orly Katz?  With four grown children?  Growing in their backyard?  They had eleven shwaggy outdoor plants and 12 ounces–less than a pound–of gross DC outdoor bud.  The police did rid the streets of an awful operation.  In terms of quality.  But do you know who grows herb in their backyard?  Amateurs.  This is some sort of political dispute, jealous underling, anonymous tip type of bullshit. 

Here’s the kicker.  Jay-Z’s boy and the Arenstein’s have already retained sterling legal counsel who will probably earn their retainers.  Especially in the case of Katz and Arenstein, who maybe had $2500 worth of herb on hand, to be very kind.  No way on earth those 2 go to jail.   Burke will probably get the absolute minimum sentence allowable for his “crimes.”

A beeker of water indeed.  And to what end?

Crack (,

The brilliant David Simon, who we all have much to thank for, because of all of the outstanding television he has brought us, and continues to bring us (The Corner, The Wire, Generation Kill, Treme), and for his vocal and intelligent stance as an opponent of the war on drugs and really, as a gleaming light post for contemporary reform, says the following in the forward of the director’s cut from season 1, episode 11, “The Hunt”:

So, you have to look at what the Baltimore Police Department was doing in the war on drugs.  They were consumed by the idea of statistics.  Of dope on the table.  To this day, when a police department puts dope on the table or guns on the table, you know, ‘we did a raid yesterday and we seized these drugs and these guns’ and they call a press conference.  The city is awash in heroin, cocaine, and guns.  Any street cop can go out and make a gun case or certainly a drug case.  It’s like the entire city is swimming and they’ve literally put a beeker of water on the table and gone, look, we’ve done police work.  But dope on the table works.  The cameras always come.  The cameras always say ‘ah, they’re fighting the war on drugs’ and what they’re not doing is anything meaningful in the way of  police work.  They were locking up more people for drugs than ever before, the rates of violence went up, and their ability to solve those crimes of violence went down, because they had taught a whole generation of cops not how to do police work.  They taught them how to go up on the corner and jack a guy up, go in his pockets, get a vial here, a vial there.  To actually solve a string of robberies on your post, to actually solve a murder, to actually solve a string of rapes?  That requires police work.”

While Simon’s words do ring especially true, his depiction of the above through the paradigm of West Baltimore that he created, probably made for the best television ever in the realism genre.  Are you asking if I’m really going to do this?  Am I really going to review a show that had it’s original air date in August of 2002?

No.  I’m going to review parts of two Wire episodes (s1, e10, “The Cost”, s1, e11, “The Hunt”) because the masterful sequence in specific I’d like to discuss cuts off at the end of episode 10 and picks back up at the beginning of episode 11. 

In “The Cost”, the episode is framed around a buy and bust.  The police higher-ups, impatient that the bust-for-show they have demanded hasn’t come off yet, order Lieutenant Daniels (Lance Reddick), whose unit is up on a wire on West Baltimore’s most dangerous and successful drug gang, to arrange for a quick bust that they feel will make them look good.  The squad concocts a plausible scenario–to them.  Orlando (Clayon LeBouef), who has already been busted, is looking to buy weight from Avon’s (Wood Harris) crew, and will have his girlfriend along for the ride–Detective Greggs (Sonja Sohn) undercover.

Is that a good plan?  Orlando already got busted, and is out.  Any street person would be suspicious of that.  You get busted, you don’t make bail in those parts.  But Orlando is out, so obviously, he’s been snitching.  If Orlando was going to make bail, it would have been Avon’s crew who bailed him out.  But Avon only needed Orlando’s name on the liquor license at the strip joint he owned, and once his name got dirty, he no longer needed him.  So this crew that owns West Baltimore is supposed to believe that Orlando, who got busted in the first place because he tried to step out and sell a package because he needed money, somehow got his bail arranged in some way that didn’t involve cooperating with the police.

They don’t believe it for a second.  The police keep trying to convince themselves that it’s a good plan because they think it’s plausible that Orlando needs to go buy weight to make money to pay his legal fees.  And they convince themselves that it’s also plausible that Kima be there too, playing the girlfriend that Savino (Chris Clanton), the dealer they are procuring from, doesn’t know and has never heard of, despite knowing Orlando very well.  As a viewer, you are sitting there saying “I can’t believe the police are stupid enough to try this.”

But they are.  And that’s the foundation for The Wire’s chilling platform of realism.  The bureaucracies do not work well, and function nowhere near as effectively as the criminals.  Over the course of The Wire’s full run, Simon and Ed Burns would expose the failings of Baltimore’s city government, courts, educational system, prisons, and newspapers as well.   But for perhaps television’s best show ever, there were few moments that better illustrated the stark contrast between the effectiveness of the criminals and the ineptitude of the law.

From the moment that Kima gets in Orlando’s car, Simon plunges us into this vacuum of chaos that gets exponentially more intense with each second.  Though there are detectives in cars just a few blocks away, they are unable to locate Orlando’s car because the drug dealers have turned all the street signs in order to “fuck with the cops.”  Kima, who’s wired, is trying to give her location by rattling off street names from the back seat of Orlando’s car, but she doesn’t really have any idea where she really is, and even “foxtrot”, the B.P.D.’s helicopter unit can not locate them, as Savino has now made off with their money, and while Orlando and Greggs sit helplessly in the car waiting for their drugs like sitting ducks.

Gunmen take over from there.  Orlando the snitch is dead, and Kima is officer down.  Her squad, who were desperately and helplessly trying to find her, still can’t find her, and are all screaming “OFFICER DOWN!” into their radios frantically.  These are cops–for all their faults–who operate essentially as rogues who are always looking to circumvent the chain of command, but who are all extremely dedicated to their detail and to each other.  Incredible acting performances are turned in by Lance Reddick (Brooklyn holler!) , John Doman (Brooklyn holler!), Dominic West, Seth Gilliam, Clarke Peters (Treme), Dominick Lombardozzi, and Corey Parker Robinson.

Carver (Seth Gilliam) brings the news to Kima’s partner, and then brings her to the hospital, and asks D.C.O. Burrell (Frankie Faison) and Lt. Daniels if someone will say a word to her.  The entire force was galvanized when one of their own went down, for sure, and Greggs’ heroism was appreciated.  We know this because in a gripping exchange between Rawls (Doman) and McNulty (West), Rawls implores McNulty not to blame himself for the situation, that he “didn’t do one thing to get a police shot” and that the “only moral here is that she took 2 for the unit.”  But when Burrell informs the commissioner, and the commissioner sees that Greggs has a lesbian partner, he declines to offer her his support. 

After the shooting, it’s fascinating to hear the chatter over the wire regarding the shooting–clearly the police’s best resource, and maybe only real resource, when it comes to doing real police work, despite objections from the very top of the force over the wire’s expense and slow and deliberate way of delivering information.

I have zero interest in cop shows.  The Wire has always been so much more than that.  The Wire is by far the greatest show of its kind and has brought a much higher standard to realism in television and film.  I know a lot of you missed it the first time around, and that’s shameful.  But having forever missed it would be unforgiveable.  Try to catch it.  Season 1 is airing frequently on Directv’s channel 101, with episode 12 to come Sunday night.

Unless for some crazy reason, that’s not how you carry it.

Crack (,

The suicide is important because most of us from New Orleans know at least one person/know of at least one person who took his/her (usually his) life post-katrina. One notable person was the pediatrician, Dr. Treadway:

Another one, though I don’t think he received any press from his passing, was a lawyer named Herman, who went to his partially destroyed house in Lakeview, called his siblings and then put a bullet in his head before they could get there to help him.

The theme of suicide is an important one in dealing with the rebuilding of New Orleans– not everyone decided to stick around for the rebuilding. Some decided to check out early because at the time it seemed like it would never happen.


–Crack (,

A grieving Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) above.

My brother’s gone.  Lotta people gone.  The people left have to worry about the day to day.


In Treme’s s1 e9, entitled “I Wish Someone Would Care”, David Simon did the unthinkable, killing off Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman, who, if he wasn’t the show’s biggest star, then certainly a strong case could be made for him as its most pivotal character and most ardent advocate for the beleaguered city.  Bernette, disgusted by events in New Orleans post Katrina, jumped off of a New Orleans’ ferry boat in “I Wish Someone Would Care” in a defining moment for the young Treme, David Simon’s and Eric Overmanyer’s latest masterpiece in television realism, which comes on the heels of HBO’s Generation Kill and the cult classic and our favorite television show ever, The Wire.

We have lampooned Treme a bit early on for being too dependent on obscure jazz terminology, and New Orleans, for as a city as dire as it is post Katrina, would still make Simon’s and Burn’s depiction of Baltimore look like the demolished city and the crescent one look like a washed out cradle of culture populated by a few displaced musicians.  But Treme distinguished itself as master reality television in its own right with a tremendous first season, who by the weight of characters and action, now have us hanging on the fate of new Orleans’ great displaced community.  Treme  built to the Bernette suicide with deft foreshadowing, and went back to it’s most pressing storyline as it opened s1 e10, “I’ll Fly Away” with detectives talking to Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo), Creighton’s wife, and relaying to her the story of the ferry operator, who a fellow rider told shared a smoke with Creighton Bernette, saw the “big guy” walk over to the edge, looked back a minute later, and that man was gone.

Toni Bernette, a pit bull of an attorney and perhaps the only character besides the musicians who has gotten anything done professionally in Simon’s post Katrina Treme, tells the officers that the man could have easily gone inside the boat and may have been taking a ferry “joy ride” when they tell her the big guy did not get off the boat in Algiers, and proceed to ask her if Bernette was under any pressure or whether he was on any medications.  The next time we see Toni Bernette, she is crying hysterically on her couch when her daughter, Sophia (India Ennenga) comes home looking for word of her father.  Toni just shakes her head in the negative, and the two embrace each other on the couch.

The news is read in the local paper by Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) and Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens, Deadwood), together at a breakfast cafe, and both recognize that they know the man from the ferry–McAlary teaches piano to his daughter and Bernette’s wife is McAlary’s attorney, and Desautel recognizes him too, from her closed up restaurant, and says “that’s Cray.”

Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), the chief, readies his band of Indians to march, as they are hunkered down in the throes of the final preparations on their magnificent costumes when he is paid a visit by a police commander, who tells him he is worried that he will not be able to keep the peace between his forces and the tribe during the march.  The chief has developed a high profile politically by publicly squatting at a housing complex, shut since Katrina, which is one of many that still have power and are inhabitable, yet the federal government has kept shuttered, because they do not want the residents of such low income housing developments returning to their homes, in what was the poorest city in the nation per capita before Katrina hit.  The chief exacerbated his problems with the police by forcefully resisting arrest when the police came to remove him from the complex.

Toni Bernette refuses to stop and mourn for her husband, and arranges for his body to be cremated, over suggestions that she might want to give him a proper New Orleans funeral, with a band, that it might be best for her daughter.  Bernette bristles at the notion, and says that everyone else was doing their best every day, and that her husband just gave up.  Instead, she will be there for LaDonna’s (Khandi Alexander) family, as David Brooks, LaDonna’s brother, lost in the system since being arrested on the night of the flood, is finally being laid to rest.

Davis, granted a day by Janette to convince her of the virtues of New Orleans in attempt to stop her from moving to New York, having failed in the New Orleans restaurant business, gives it his best shot, starting early at her door, a singer in toe who serenades her when she greets them, and then takes Janette on a day of New Orleans filled activities.  That night they find themselves in front of a live band, of course, that Antoine Battiste (Wendell Pierce, The Wire) is playing with in a bar, where they dance to Drink a Little Poison Before You Die, before one last romantic interlude with Janette leaving town the next morning.

The talented violinst Annie (Lucia Miccarelli), who had left Sonny (Michiel Huisman), her piano playing street performing boyfriend hooked on heroin, finds the transient lifestyle very difficult, and returns to Sonny’s place, to find another woman there, and then quickly flees again.  It sends Sonny out to a bar to score heroin, which he snorts off a dirty sink in the bar’s bathroom (below) and leaves Annie, the sweet character clearly at a crossroads, who came to New Orleans with Sonny, firmly entrenched in doubt about her future.

The chief’s tribe, late in its march, runs into a another tribe, whose rival chief, adorned in yellow feathers, seems to have Albert beaten, costume wise.  The two men come to loggerheads, then shake hands.  Delmond (Rob Brown), Albert’s son, explains to a younger tribesman that the two chiefs embraced out of respect, and that it was “respect for respect.” 

When police cars screech out to the scene of their march, lights blazing, we see more “respect for respect”, when a senior officer commands some angry cops who are mad at Albert for swinging on a cop during his public stand on housing to get back in their cars.  “Get back in your damn car.  Now God damn it!” 

The next morning, we see Delmond, who also happens to be a successful New York jazz musician, at the airport, waiting for a flight in a seat near Janette, also on her way to New York.  We see Annie on Davis’s stoop holding his party invite as he returns home from his last day with Janette, a fitting end of the season for 2 characters who seemed to bond well, impromptu, during the Fat Tuesday celebration.  Also, a deserving end for Annie, who has all along deserved better circumstances.

Then, artfully done, the season ends with the funeral of David Brooks, juxtaposed with the night of the storm, showing vignettes of all the main characters and where they were right before and during the storm–all seemingly pretty happy before and some during–notably, Creighton alive and well with his family, Annie and Sonny dancing and kissing in the streets, and giving a face to David Brooks, who had until then, been just a name who LaDonna and her mother pined for, and who Toni Bernette tried so hard to see justice for.  It was an excellent way to show the contrast between pre and post Katrina Treme, before showing us something that would have been an injustice had we gone the year without seeing: a proper New Orleans funeral march.

And the recently widowed Toni Bernette marched, and smiled as LaDonna danced.

–Crack (

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