Not So Deep Thoughts

Part V: Just Like Starting Over

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Archive for June 17th, 2010

Review: Hot In Cleveland

Posted by jkhutchins on June 17, 2010

Betty White is on a tear right now.  Now, I’ve liked her for years.  She was wonderful as Sue Ann Nivens, great on the Golden Girls, and a hell of a Pyramid player.   So, I’ve been in complete approval of the Betty White renaissance.  I was amused when SNL, having finally given in on having Betty White host, arranged for a bunch of women to back her up because she was old and they didn’t really think she was up to it.  Hah.  While she definitely needed cue cards, she still had better comic timing than the rest of the cast put together.

So, I’ve been anxious to see Hot in Cleveland.  It looked very sitcomy to me, but I was willing to give it a shot.  The rest of the cast looked promising.

The show is in fact very sitcomy.  It has sitcom timing and blocking.  The show itself is reminiscent of Golden Girls or Designing Women.  But that isn’t criticism.  Both of those shows had a great cast and smart writing.  As does Hot in Cleveland.  Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves are good, professional actresses, and have a nice rapport.  They seem to be having a good time.  Betty White, of course, is wonderful.

The other thing I liked about the show is that it features older women in a human light.  They aren’t all cougars.  They aren’t ashamed of their age.  The characters treat each other with affection.

I am not going to make an effort to see it every week.  I don’t really do that with any show with the possible exception of Daily Show/Colbert – and even so I don’t have a Tivo.  If I have other things to do, I do them.  But if I am home, and I remember it’s on, I will watch this show.  It’s very likeable, even if it isn’t revolutionary.

Good on you, Betty.

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Review: The A-Team

Posted by jkhutchins on June 17, 2010

The A-Team was never great television.  It was great guilty pleasure television, it was great entertainment for 10 year olds who enjoyed watching cars go boom and Mr. T in his glory.  Although I was always more of a Murdock fan.  The A-Team was a Stephen J. Cannell production, which meant that the characters had personality and a fair amount of humor filled out the time before stuff blowed up.  Blowed up.  It was a terrible show.  Nonetheless, I still have affection for it.  Yes, I have watched it as an adult and still gotten enjoyment out of it.

So I wanted to see the movie.  I wasn’t sure about it at first.  After all, does the world really NEED an A-Team movie?   It’s no Star Trek, no cult classic.  It is more of a cult b-lister.  Nonetheless, the fact that they used the Mike Post theme in the promos did tweak my curiosity.

I have great affection for Mike Post. My mother had an album full of Mike Post themes, and I’ve had an appreciation for him ever since.  Mike Post is the composer of many of the great TV themes, among them Rockford Files, Magnum PI, Newsradio and Law & Order.  He created the Greatest American Hero theme and that of Hill Street Blues.   Most importantly,  Mike Post is Stephen J. Cannell’s go-to guy.  His music tends to warm me up to a show right off the bat.  So, it was vital to me the theme be there.

The theme, in fact, was representative of the whole movie.  The theme was used in the promos, which made me want to go at all.  It was not used in the opening credits, which disappointed me a little, but I figured it was coming.  It was used to brilliant effect in the middle of the movie, by which time they had my full approval.  It was repeated over the end credits in a way that made me indecently happy.

The movie started off in a way that made me a little nervous, but I was cautiously optimistic.  But the characters seemed to have the spirit of the thing down, so I decided to just ride it out and see how it went.  More importantly, I saw something truly amazing; I kept seeing one name in the credits over and over again.  Stephen J. Cannell.  One of the truly great showrunners.  The man who created Magnum PI, the A-Team and Rockford Files.  Not to mention a bunch of quite watchable action shows like Simon & Simon.  Castle is his.  It wasn’t exactly Lost but you know, it was not an awful way to pass time either.    His shows tended to have great characters in them, if not the world’s most complicated plots.  Great shows like Burn Notice owe a lot to Cannell.  The minute I saw his name, my expections for the movie went WAY up.

I wasn’t disappointed.

While the origin story was tweaked (and honestly, it had to be), the characters were the same.  At the same time, the movie was not slavish to the originals.  B. A. Baracus was not a caricature of Mr. T.  Murdock was still manic, but played in a way true to the character, not just for easy laughs.  The catchphrases were thrown in, but not overused.  The movie was not a parody.  The movie was played straight; it was clearly derived from the show, just with a bigger budget.

And Stephen J. Cannell, king of the tv action drama, had a budget.  And he used it.  Oh wow did he use it.

The other thing about the movie was it stayed true to one of the most important rules of fiction.  You establish a world, you set the rules, ludicrous as you want, but one the world is set, stay within those rules.  The movie established early on that the A-Team lived in an exaggerated world where people could make helicopters do loop-de-loops and survive high speed drops.   The team wasn’t suddenly regular mortals in the middle, or suddenly powerful at the end.

Was it great cinema?  Of course not.  It was however very entertaining.  And sometimes, that is all you really want.  For a not particularly necessary movie, it was done well, and the kind of movie I would stop to watch when surfing channels.  On its own terms it is very successful.  Two thumbs up.

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