Murder in the First: Season 3 -Episode 1- Normandy Bitch

TNT’s Murder in the First began its third season last night (Sunday June 26th). The seasonal opener  was supposed to have aired the previous Sunday, but due to the mass-shootings in Orlando, the network wisely pushed the start date  to this weekend. ****SPOILERS AHEAD****

The opening sequence ran about 6 minutes, and was crammed with the introductions to two separate story lines. Then  as the credits rolled, we got two more story lines. A bit too cramped for my taste, especially so since at least two of the story lines have zero bearing on the true subject matter of the series which is, murder in the first degree.

The two leads are Detective Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Detective Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson). It is a no-brainer to have them appear on the series poster for this the third season. But I think the poster is poorly executed.  That said, the first character of the series that we meet in this episode is DA Mario Siletti.

It is a birthday party for Mario. He’s just turned 50. And within seconds, he, with his wife sitting right next to him, is strongly eyeing a pretty blonde, ADA Melissa Danson played by Amanda Schull . In full view of the whole table, they are are making eyes at each other. Seconds later, a colleague of Mr. Silletti has risen to her feet and is making a toast. The camera pans over to show us that the Danson’s seat is now vacant.

Mario gets a text message on his phone. I’m in the lobby is what he reads. Then he excuses himself telling his wife he has to make a call.

Moments later, after a brief flirtation, Danson unzips the front of her dress and heads into the Ladies Room. Mario follows.

We then pan to another Ladies Room where a slinky blonde in pink is doing a line of Coke.

This, as it turns out is another birthday party – this time for Normandy Parker, who is the top quarterback in the NFL.

As the blonde sings a Monroe-esque version of the Happy Birthday song, a man in a dark hoodie comes up from behind Parker and then puts two rounds into his head. In the ensuing chaos, the shooter is able to flee the party.

There’s your opening. I never really much cared for Mario Siletti as the ADA then DA. In season one, the trial of murderer Erich Blunt, I thought Siletti made some egregious errors. The actor who has the role of Siletti, one Currie Graham does an effective job in his portrayal. But the character is hard to like. We are tasked with watching Siletti and his wife discuss his infidelities, or hear the Siletti family work through their problems with their son Michael, who is soon to be off to college in Corvallis, Oregon, but it is not all that interesting.

At the Mulligan home front, Hildy is having issues with her 11-year-old daughter Louise who resents that Hildy, her Mom, went through her bag and found something objectionable. So when Hildy gets the call from English to meet him at the scene of the quarterback’s murder, Hildy isn’t at the place where she should be – that is to say – focused on her job.

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Queen of the South – New Series on the USA Network

Did you catch the premiere episode of Queen of the South which aired on the USA Network on Thursday. A better title might have been The Never-ending Story (which has been used before) because, yes – this is yet another story about the drug trade.


Following along the same path as the Oscar nominated Sicario (which opened last October) and the Netflix Original Series Narcos which also aired last fall, The Queen of the South takes the path less traveled. This time the head of a drug cartel is a woman.

As the series opens we watch a woman, who is dressed elegantly as well as expensively, step down from her own private helicopter. She will tell us that she is the head of the largest drug empire in the Western Hemisphere. Her name is Teresa Mendoza, and her role is played by Alice Braga.


QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Piloto" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza, Jon Ecker as Guero -- (Photo by: Benedicte Desrus/USA Network)

Like Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s Scarface, Teresa began in the streets. Montana washed dishes in a greasy spoon in Little Havana (Miami), and Teresa worked as a street side money changer. She caught the eye of one El Guero, a captain in the cartel hierarchy.

Of course it was love at first sight. And in minutes Teresa and El Guero are living it up in an elegant home. There’s a double reference to Scarface as we watch Teresa in a huge bubble bath watching a video with Al Pacino saying Say hello to my little frien…

There’s also something that El Guero gives Teresa. I’ll call it the Take Me and Run bag. It has lots of cash, a passport, a gun, a book of drug business secrets, and of course, a phone. Just the sort of thing Jason Bourne always has lying around. Guero tells Teresa – Keep this phone. If it ever rings, it means I am dead. And when you have to – trade this journal for your life.

Ominous? Certainly. And even more certain is that, at some point, Teresa will have to hit the streets on the run. You see, Guero and another distributor, have gotten greedy. Stealing from the cartel’s supply, they’ve branched out to do some business on the side. A definite no-no.

The head of the cartel is one Epifanio Vargas played by the familiar (and always great) Joaquim de Almeida. But he has political aspirations. He wants to step out of the cartel business and become legitimate, like a politician. He wants to become Governor of the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

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The Last Tycoon (2016)

Aubrey Hackett (Screenwriter) – Don’t you ever go to church?
Monroe Stahr – (Head of Production at Brady American Pictures) – You know that I pray at the box office…

It is Amazon Pilot Season again. You watch the pilot offerings, then you vote for the one you want to be produced as a series. It is a great idea, and while you don’t have a say in which pilots are offered, you do have a vote to determine if a particular pilot is good enough to go into production as a series.

The folks at Amazon in conjunction with Trinity Pictures have reached all the way back to 1941 for one of their latest offerings. That’s the year that saw the posthumous publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon. While Fitzgerald’s book was published unfinished it has been made into a movie before – Robert DeNiro, Tony Curtis, and Robert Mitchum starred in the 1976 version that was directed by Elia Kazan.

The tycoon in question is Monroe Stahr (played by Matt Bomer), a thinly disguised version of the legendary Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg, aka the Boy Wonder, who became the head of production of what would become MGM at age 26. The story can be summed up as a film producer slowly working himself to death. Some Spoilers follow but keep in mind that this is only the pilot, and story lines are introduced rather than decided.

The role of Louis B. Mayer, in this production, he’s called Pat Brady, is handled by Kelsey Grammer. It is the golden era of Hollywood. And Amazon has done a great job making the look of this period drama fit the time.

Bomer as Monroe Stahr seems like perfect casting. He has the style of a Hollywood leading man rather than a Hollywood ‘suit’.

And his acting isn’t just being charming to the women on the studio lot, or standing up to the Nazi consulate who demands that certain aspects of certain films be adjusted so as to be not unflattering to the Reich.

Brady is willing to go along as Germany was the second biggest market for Hollywood films in those days. But there’s more than just making the perfect film going on within Stahr. He was married to a top Hollywood leading lady – Mina Davis – who died in a tragic accident a year ago. Stahr has yet to recover from that tragic event.

In the office and on the sound stages and the studio lot, Stahr more than lived up to his nickname of the Boy Wonder. But at home, it was altogether different. Stahr watched, on a near nightly basis, all of Mina’s most recent films. And his current project was the Mina Davis Story.

He didn’t date, and his circle of friends was small.

Such was the life of a Hollywood producer. The film earns high points for showing us both the underbelly of Hollywood, as well as the fiscal battles in the head offices, and the struggles of the screenwriters to keep the copy coming.

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While The Good Wife, a flagship series that ran for 7 seasons on CBS-TV, has passed into history (the series ended on May 8th), the creators of that show, Robert & Michelle King, without missing a beat, have launched a brand new series, called BrainDead which premiered last night (June 13th).

The main question I have now is this – will continued viewing of this show render me into some sort of mushy-brained, incoherent, babbling and drooling blogger.

BrainDead’s story can be summed up rather quickly. The setting is Washington DC, and a good part of the show is set in the building where the US Senators have their offices. It may be The Russell Senate Office Building, a Washington DC landmark, or it may not be. But within these corridors of power, running in the hallways is not permitted, and even walking fast is looked down on.

We learn this as we are focused on the winsome Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Laurel Healy. She’s an early 30-something documentary film maker, and she’s in need of funding for her project about Melanesian Choral Singers. Her brother Luke Healy is played by Danny Pino, and he is a Senator.

If Laurel will go to work for her senator brother for six months, her Dad, Dean Healy (played by Good Wife alum Zach Grenier) a rich something or other, will pay off her college loan debt which currently amounts to being in the neighborhood of 200K. In short she has no choice.

Her first day on the job begins at once, and you may be shocked to learn that the Senator’s offices are anything but luxe. All the money that the Kings and the their producers put into sets and office furnishings on The Good Wife is nowhere to be seen in this production.

But that may be the point. After all this is public service. Laurel is assigned the job of CRA – that stands for Constituent Relations Administrator, and her job is to listen to, then work on and, hopefully fix the issues or problems of Senator Healy’s constituents.

There’s no manual or training course for this job. You listen and you learn as you go. Of course, the needy constituents that line the chairs in the waiting room are a motley crew. Except for one woman who says – My husband, he was away at sea, but now that he’s back, he’s not the same. He’s my husband but he’s not my husband.

Mmmm, that sounds strange.

But it is only the beginning. Still to come are Aaron Tveit (Graceland and before that Les Miserables) as Gareth Ritter, a somewhat shady political consultant/bagman/fixer, Tony Shalhoub (Monk) as US Senator Red Wheatus, plus Megan Hilty (Smash).

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Animal Kingdom – New Series on TNT

There are no secrets within this family….

Animal Kingdom is a new TV series that will begin airing on TNT on June 14th. However, the network is offering the pilot episode right now via Amazon Prime. Of course this series appears to be misnamed as it deals chiefly with people rather than four-footed creatures who are a part of the real animal kingdom.

Yes, it is true – that some people are more animal-like than we might expect or even like. But hey, that’s life. This series begins with a tragedy as in the pilot’s first minute. A young man sits on a couch and next to him is a woman, his mother, who has apparently OD’ed on heroin. He’s waiting for the EMS to arrive.

The young man is called J, which is short for Josh Cody. He is played by Finn Cole. You may have seen him in the series called Peaky Blinders. J now has no choice but to contact his maternal grandmother, even though his mother had been estranged from her own mother, and they hadn’t seen each other in years, in the hopes that she will be able to take him in.

So J is going to live with his grandmother and his uncles. The setting is Oceanside, CA, which is about 2/3’s of the way south from Los Angeles to San Diego. Oceanside is south of San Clemente, south of the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton, and just north of Carlsbad, CA. This is So-Cal to a T. So what can we expect?

Surfing, smoking, sex, snorting, and of course – stealing. This isn’t your standard issue So-Cal family nor is ‘Grandma’ anything like what you have seen on TV or the movies. In Animal Kingdom, she’s called Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody, and Ellen Barkin has the role. In short, she’s the matriarch of a free-wheeling criminal enterprise.

Welcome to the family, Josh

Welcome to the family, Josh

It doesn’t take J very long after greeting his relatives to notice his surroundings. Lots of new cars and trucks, huge flat screen TV’s, boats, jet skis, and even big wads of money are present and in plain sight. J is assigned to Pope’s room.

‘Pope’ whose real name is Andrew Cody,  is the eldest of J’s uncles, and he’s somewhere, but we aren’t told where. That is until Pope shows up the next day. Pope is played by Shawn Hatosy (Fear the Walking Dead, Bosch, and Southland).  He’s just been released from prison. And for sure he is a scary presence.

Let’s meet J’s other uncles: First there’s Craig Cody played by Ben Robson. He’s big and brawny, and on J’s first night at Grandma Cody’s, we find that Craig has spent the night with not one but two bimbos.

The second uncle is Deron Cody played by Jake Weary. He’s the youngest of the siblings, and he’s really just a younger and smaller version of his older brother Craig.

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