Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Milch + Mann + Hoffman = Awesome?

I don't ordinarily write about shows in development, but occasionally, one sounds so cool I can't resist. I was already intrigued by HBO's "Luck" due to the presence of "Deadwood" creator David Milch (one of the smartest and most talented writers to ever work in TV, and certainly the most colorful I've ever met), a subject (horse racing) Milch is passionate about, and then the presence of Michael Mann as a producer and director of the pilot. (Like Martin Scorsese on "Boardwalk Empire," I don't know how much Mann will be involved past the pilot, but it's gonna be a damn good-looking first episode.)

And late yesterday came news that Dustin Hoffman is going to play the lead, which is one of the biggest casting coups HBO has ever had. It's been a while since he was able to successfully carry a movie, but the guy is still a two-time Oscar winner, portrayer of some of the most iconic movie roles of the 20th century, and still a great actor when he's motivated to do so. (He's also still a big enough name that, as "Parks and Recreation" producer Mike Schur tweeted last night, Hoffman would more or less lock up the Emmy for lead actor in a drama for however long he'd be on the show. (Emmy voters love to honor movie stars who come to work in TV.)

I was going to watch no matter what, because I love Milch's work (even when it's weird and borderline-incoherent, like "John From Cincinatti"), and because Dennis Farina is one hell of a second banana to have in the cast. But Hoffman's presence means many more people will likely check it out, at least for curiosity's sake. And the more people who watch potentially great, challenging television, the more potentially great, challenging TV shows get to be made.

31 comments:

Hatfield said...

Farina and Hoffman speaking Milch's dialogue could be incredible. Here's hoping he hires a bunch of Deadwood people, like with John From Cincinatti.

Dan said...

Wow, sounds awesome! I love Hoffman, Farina and horse racing, so this should be a can't-miss.

Craig said...

Hoffman and Milch together will either be brilliant or produce more episode delays than a season of "Moonlighting."

blinky said...

I watched every episode of John from Cincinnati and what I got out of it was this. An idiot savant incarnation of Jesus Christ appeared to help a surfwear company to come up with a new logo and marketing campaign.
So David Milch is a genius?!??

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

I'm intrigued rather than excited by the thought of Dustin Hoffman coming to television. You've nailed my problem with Hoffman when you wrote he's "still a great actor when he's motivated to do so."

IMO, he's seldom "motivated" as opposed to -- like De Niro, Pacino and Jack Nicolson -- dialing it in instead of crafting an actual performance.

If Milch and Mann don't indulge Hoffman's mannered neurotic twitching (or create a role like Michael Dorsey in Tootsie where it actually works with, rather than against, the material), they deserve every award out there. Good luck is all I can say...

Alan Sepinwall said...

So David Milch is a genius?!??

Yup. Not all his ideas work - and John From Cincy clearly didn't, nor did much of his latter-day tenure on NYPD Blue, nor the theater company storyline from Deadwood - but when he's focused in, few are smarter, or better.

Gareth Wilson said...

It's interesting that the series will star a 72-year-old man and a 66-year-old man. I imagine that would be difficult for a broadcast network.

Craig Ranapia said...

Yup. Not all his ideas work

Sure, but am I the only person who rather see a movie or TV show that at least reached beyond its grasp rather than didn't try at all?

Anonymous said...

Wow. After a few dry spells it looks like HBO is really taking off again. They're going to have some pretty amazing shows/specials to hang their hats on.

It's also pretty incredible to see just how big a divide there is between network and cable television. Look at what HBO, Showtime, AMC, Comedy Central, etc. are bringing to the table, and look at what NBC is doing. It's crazy.

belinda said...

Sounds like HBO is finally getting their ass back in the game. I'm really excited to see not just LUCK and the other new development deal, but also all the new HBO shows coming up soon. Though, not before I watch my Breaking Bad!

I love Hoffman, and I hope he will do a fantastic job here worthy of an Emmy, but what is it about movie actors that gets all the love from Emmy voters? Is it purely a "oh, he's a film actor, therefore he must be better than tv actors" mentality (which is total BS, in all honesty.) or is it more of a "I don't know any of these shows or these actors. But hey, I know this name!" recognition type thing ?

Hatfield said...

You're not alone, Craig. Interesting failures are way better than the bland successes the networks tend to bring us.

Alan, on the subject of Milch, and I apologize if I've asked this before and forgot, but did you or anyone else ever get to see his cop show with Ray Winstone? That sounded so interesting, yet never made it past the pilot stage.

Craig Ranapia said...

but did you or anyone else ever get to see his cop show with Ray Winstone? That sounded so interesting, yet never made it past the pilot stage.

What the...? Winstone's done some cop shows in England, and they weren't bad -- but I still adore the Henry The Eighth he did for ITV in 2003 (with Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn). His slyly self-aware football hooligan of a king (who is a damn sight smarter than anyone realises) was about as far from The Tudors as you could get. Anyone who could bring his combination of menace and humour to the small screen on an American network would have something special.

blinky said...

If we are nominating for genius status I would go for David Simon.
Homicide, The Wire and Generation Kill. No misses that I am aware of.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the idea that John from Cincinnati didn't work. There is clearly a logic behind it, and the premise was (and still is) very intriguing, it just required effort to unpack. Given the fact that Deadwood was considered a 'difficult' show, it's not really surprising that something more conceptually difficult, something that lacked a complete, engaging central, would be seen as a failure.

But, having recently rewatched, it all hangs together and I would have been interested to see Milch run with it for another few seasons.

But, hell, Luck sounds good, too. TV with Milch, regardless of the show, is always better.

Anonymous said...

Stopped reading when I got to "horse racing". Much as I like Milch's work (well, Deadwood, anyway, haven't seen John from Cincinnati, so I can't judge that), that's just not an interesting sounding topic for a television series. YMMV, of course.

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

Anonymous:

Well, "period drama about the spectacularly screwed-up employees of a second-rate Madison Avenue ad shop in 1960" didn't exactly make my man-bits tingle when I first heard of Mad Men. It didn't turn out too badly, regardless. :)

blinky said...

To the poster who said that John from Cincinnati has a logic behind it: PLEASE explain it to me. I would love to understand what they had in mind. By the way, I actually visited Imperial Beach and saw all the locations.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who said that John from Cincinnati has a logic behind it: PLEASE explain it to me. I would love to understand what they had in mind. By the way, I actually visited Imperial Beach and saw all the locations.

I tend to think Milch could more effectively explain the show than I. The surfing element was bullshit, sorta foisted upon Milch, and something he accepted as a means to getting it on the air. But, basically, John from Cincinnati is a response to 9/11 and social/political trends that Milch found disturbing. God, Nature, whatever becomes conscious of the fact humanity is heading towards a genocide on its present course, so he sends a childlike innocent with enormous powers to the stupidest people on earth (surfers) as a means to change the pysche of the country.

And of course, there are a number of mini themes throughout, Milch expounds on the attributes of America that he sees as vices, self-centeredness (Mitch is more inclined, in his self-centeredness to believe he has a tumor than has is to believe that he's actually levitating), there's some stuff about commerce (Linc) and the fracturing and building of family, and community too.

It's good stuff, though kind of jarring the first time through.

Nevada Smith said...

craig said
IMO, he's seldom "motivated" as opposed to -- like De Niro, Pacino and Jack Nicolson -- dialing it in instead of crafting an actual performance.

Are you saying that Pacino and DeNiro have not been "dialing it in"? They haven't done anything in at least 10 years that haven't been caricatures of themselves. I loved those 2 guys in their prime and there was no one better than DeNiro. Sadly they have tarnished their reputation with some of the worst junk ever made. 88 Minutes!? That movie they made together-embarrassing. As for Nicholson I can't even think of anything he's been in lately. Hoffman is also way past his expiration date but if anyone can write him a good role it's Milch. Milch has been involved in 2 of the last 3 best TV series of the last 15 years (Deadwood and NYPD Blue-the 3rd being Lost). I will certainly watch.

Sareeta said...

I honestly never expected to enjoy Deadwood, based on the initial previews, but low and behold it ended up being a real gem. I have to hand it to the creators, making a show with characters I'd hate in real life affect me the way the Deadwood characters did. Not to mention the sense of humor in that show.
I disagree with horse racing on principal (I lump it in the same category as dog fighting), but I imagine if anyone can turn something I despise into an interesting drama, it'd be Milch. Hopefully no animals get harmed in the making of the show.

filmcricket said...

Hoffman is one of the funniest guys in the business, and I completely trust him and Milch to make something compelling. Plus, Dennis Farina is always great news.

However, I do agree with Craig that it's a good thing this is on an HBO schedule rather than a network one.

Alex said...

It's about time HBO made another HBO drama. John from Cincinnati was the last true HBO drama and it scared everyone off. Cable is now littered with the half-hour cable show Sex and the City pioneered. Gotta respect TNT for doing Men of a Certain Age.

Oaktown Girl said...

The photo at the top of the post definitely looks like it's from Deadwood, and seeing that really makes me sad.

Yes, I'm still pissed that we didn't even get so much as the damn follow-up movies they told us were coming.

Bobert said...

Chalk me up as another fan of David Milch who thought that John From Cincinnati was massively underappreciated.

I would be the first to agree that the show could be incredibly inaccessible, but at the same time it was so clearly a work of Milch's singular vision that had a lot to say if you took the time to engage with it.

If you have the time I would recommend reading the official Deadwood companion book (Stories of the Black Hills) in which Milch expounds his personal philosophy about humanity and the ways in which people come together into communities like Deadwood and JFC's Imperial Beach.

As others have said, an interesting failure indeed. But I'm glad that challenging TV shows are being made and even if they don't always succeed, I'm glad that there's a place like HBO where they can be given a chance.

Now bring on Luck!

Craig Ranapia said...

Are you saying that Pacino and DeNiro have not been "dialing it in"?

Please spare my blushes -- my wonky syntax ended up saying exactly the opposite of what I intended. And I'd add Robin Williams to that list -- Insomnia is, IMO the under-rated stepchild in Christopher Nolan's filmography, not least because it was a reminder of how good Williams and Pacino used to be. Sigh...

But ITA with you -- if anyone is going to whip Hoffman into shape, the combo of Milch and Mann have a better chance than most.

Tiina said...

Forest Whitaker sure didn't get an Emmy or even nominated for his unbelievable stint in The Shield.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Forest Whitaker isn't remotely on the same level of "movie star" that Hoffman is (and he won his Oscar post-Shield). Hoffman played Benjamin Braddock, Ratso Rizzo, Raymond, etc., etc., etc. He almost single-handedly changed Hollywood and America's conception of what a leading man could look like, in the process making possible the careers of people like Pacino and DeNiro.

Whitaker's a very good character actor who on occasion has gotten bumped up close to the lead in a movie.

Bruce Reid said...

One concern I already had with Milch and Mann on board has now been magnified by Hoffman's addition: These aren't exactly men known for their humility and willingness to compromise. To echo Craig's comment, given Milch's improvisatory style and Hoffman's meticulous prep work, and both of their willingness to butt heads, I could see this thing flaming out big time. In which case we'd at least get some legendary backstage gossip.

But that's just a concern; obviously, I expect this combination can create something remarkable, and I'll hope for the best.

bstraub said...

Been watching horses run for years and I'll certainly watch, but I'd still trade it all in for another season of "Deadwood,'' I'll even take the two two-hour films they were talking about.