By Darren Johnson
Campus News and Nu2U.info
What makes Netflix shine are the long-form TV shows. Some of the shows on there, I have no clue where they appeared before and which network would even air them, but I try them out if they have more than 4 stars and hit “next” a good deal until they run out of episodes.
I’m currently in the middle of “Louie,” which is a bunch of shorts following comedian Louis C.K. around Lower Manhattan in a somewhat fictional world.
Just like “Seinfeld” had an episode for every possible situation – we all have encountered a “Soup Nazi” who runs a small restaurant, for example – “Louie” seems to operate in this same vein.
But the show is ultra-low budget. Shot with one camera, edited, written, produced and starring C.K., this proves that in this new era one doesn’t need a lot of money to make something decent that works on services like Netflix.
Researching this online, it appears that “Louie” is on the FX Channel. I guess that channel’s not on my radar, but I can’t see how that’s even possible considering how envelope-pushing the subject matter is. I guess a lot of people are not watching FX.
Like “Seinfeld,” the show usually starts with C.K. doing standup in a small club with a brick background. However, C.K.’s humor is much edgier. He even kids about pedophiles.
An episode I watched last night was very funny – and, like the Soup Nazi, perhaps we’ve all been there. C.K., who is a divorced dad, convinces his young daughters to go on a road trip to visit an ancient aunt who lives in the country. She is a throwback, he tells them, to a time when people road in horse carriages and street lamps were lit by fire. She doesn’t even have a phone and only communicates by snail mail. This would be a first-person history lesson for them. The kids buy in, and when they finally get there, they are introduced to a woman who looks to be 100. Turns out, she is a racist, dropping the N-word in every other sentence. C.K. then has to explain that to the kids, who are pretty aghast.
“Louie” is a very short show, only about 20 minutes after the “Louie, Louie, Louie” theme song, and is perfect for a quick laugh or two before you go on to do something else.
‘Rocky,’ The Series
Perhaps the FX Network just dumped all of its shows on Netflix. Another one recently hit: “Lights Out” is a 13-episode boxing drama that chronicles a 40-year-old heavyweight former champ who falls into financial trouble and makes a comeback.
The show was cancelled by FX after one season as ratings dipped each episode, but it has nearly 5-stars on Netflix. Maybe that will prompt another comeback.
Maybe the problem isn’t the series, but maybe FX itself just isn’t all that great at planning and marketing, because “Lights Out” is excellent. Maybe it’s a rung or two below the top hour-long dramas, such as “Breaking Bad,” “Walking Dead” or “Dexter,” but still better than any drama on the broadcast networks.
“Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany) was a champion and lost his last fight, five years prior, in a controversial decision, after getting bad ringside advice from his father/manager. Seeing him a bit dazed after the fight, his wife, Theresa (Catherine McCormack), convinces Leary to retire with his $11M purse. She has plans to go to medical school, anyway.
But five years later, Leary finds that his money had been mismanaged by his ethically challenged brother, and the IRS is closing in on him. At first, Leary takes some assignments from devious characters to be a bagman and break a guy’s arm who owes a debt.
Like “Rocky,” Leary is afraid of his wife, and willing to do whatever it takes to pay the bills. In fact, this film borrows a lot of ideas from “Rocky” and the Irish-tinted “The Fighter,” even a little bit from “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” The actual boxing scenes are weaker than those movies. Like in “Rocky I,” “Lights Out” had to black out the audience for its big fights. It’s hard to find 20,000 extras to sit in an audience on spec.
Midway through the series, Leary decides to get a new manager to replace his retiring father. He goes Upstate to find a spiritualistic guru, Ed Romeo (Eamonn Walker), who used to be known as the best in the business, but had a serious mental breakdown and was considered damaged goods. I guess this is similar to Rocky going to Apollo Creed to work out in an old-school ghetto gym and learn hunger and rhythm.
Romeo could have been a breakout character. The series definitely took a twist with his introduction, similar to the second to last season of “Dexter” where Dexter encounters junkyard spiritualist Brother Sam (Mos Def), and starts to see himself in a different light.
However, “Lights Out,” without much reason, gets rid of the intense Romeo after just a couple of episodes, and just brings back the father and brother to coach Leary. It must have been a ratings thing.
But, this series has closure. It has a beginning, middle and end, and is only 13 episodes; less than 13 hours in total. The whole “Rocky” series is only about 13 hours. So there you go.
McCallany is not 40; he is actually 48. I’m not sure what the producers were thinking, anyway. At best, they could have gotten a few years out of the actor as a believable champ. Add in that the character fears he has pugilistic dementia, and this plotline could only end poorly.
I know Sylvester Stallone’s ego likely wouldn’t allow it, but – as I really do love that series – if, like “Star Trek” did a few years ago, “Rocky” were recast, but instead of catching him at midlife, we can start from when Rocky and Mickey were younger and in their boxing and coaching primes. What went wrong for each that got them to the beginning of “Rocky I?”
Now that prequel would be a great, long-form TV series.