Bundle up tight – ’tis a frosty media blow:
First, an anecdote: According to IMDB, which never steers me wrong, NBC producer Brandon Tartikoff lamented, in the early 80s, about the poor acting chops of the leading males in the channel’s primetime slots. He and his assistant came up with a (joke) concept called “The Man of Six Words.” Each episode would start with the guy getting out of bed with a different woman (“Thank you”). He’d then get an assignment from his boss (“Okay”), get the drop on some bad guys (“Freeze!”) and save someone’s life (“You’re welcome”).
“What about all the rest of the dialogue?” his assistant asked.
“I don’t know,” came the reply. “We’ll give him a talking car or something.”
Knight Rider: This one wasn’t bad – and I’ve seen more bad TV in the last year than I normally watch in three – but it just reinforced the mediocrity of prime time television in every aspect. When we’re introduced to our hero, Mike Traceur (French for “the tracer”), he’s tooling up a drag racer for some mid-level thugs in Southern California. They demand $90,000, which he doesn’t have. “What, are you gonna break my legs?” Traceur asks.
“Are you kidding?” the boss exposits. “You’re an ex-Army Ranger. No, that’s what he’s here for.” He snaps his fingers at his big flunky, who proceeds to get beat up by ex-Army Ranger Mike Traceur. The boss then pulls a gun out and points it at the head of Traceur’s plucky roommate/sidekick. So … why bother trying to engage Traceur in fisticuffs when you’ve got a gun, and intend to threaten his pal, anyway? (I know why: to spice up the pacing and to show our hero as a badass. But is there a real-world reason?)
A bunch of forgettable soap opera vets, Sidney Poitier’s daughter and Bruce “I’m Not Harry Anderson” Davison round out the cast. Greg Ellis (“Michael Amador” from S3 of 24) plays the head of a team of mercenaries (how do you know he’s evil? because he’s British). David Hasselhoff has a cameo as a
half-filled duffel bag perched atop a suit stuffed with ham the original driver of KITT. Val Kilmer plays the voice of KITT, miraculously failing to impress me with what should be the easiest role in the show. You’re the sarcastic computer! Come on!
Breach: A remarkably accurate depiction of the Robert Hanssen takedown. Cooper’s portrayal of Hanssen is subtle but compelling. There’s a scene where Hanssen (a rigidly Catholic hardass) is being photographed for his service anniversary portrait. He loses his temper at being fussed over for twenty minutes by the homosexual photographer and stalks off. A lesser film would have made the photographer not just gay but fa-LA-ming, and had Hanssen not just walk off bitterly but throw a temper tantrum. The understated touch, however, pays off here.
The script impressed me with its intelligence. In addition to Cooper’s star turn, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert and Gary Cole also do some remarkable work, and Ryan Philippe doesn’t screw anything up too bad.
This Gun For Hire: One of Graham Greene’s early “entertainments.” A hitman assassinates a British minister in 1936, nearly kicking off another Great War. Betrayed by his employers, he scrambles for shelter one step ahead of the cops. Greene has a pretty remarkable ability to put us in the heads of all of the minor characters – their concerns about class and the petty mundanity of life, their fears, their history, etc. It’s not as rampantly Catholic as his later books (like The Power and the Glory) but still contains some philosophical divergences on the notion of sin and redemption. Good light reading.