Showtime has never really interested me. With the exception of House of Lies, I can’t name a single show they have ever made that I found thoroughly entertaining. The issue, perhaps, is that the majority of their programs are grounded in reality (Homeland, Ray Donovan), yet feel so very far-fetched. Claire Danes would’ve been fired, and maybe even imprisoned, mid-way through season one, while Donovan would’ve been taken down as soon as he cursed out the FBI. The level of suspended disbelief required for most of Showtime’s shows is overwhelming…which leads me right to my issue with its most recent debut.
Roadies is about, uh, roadies. You know, the people who plug in things and twang the guitar for 20 minutes while the band takes its sweet ass time getting on stage. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know what I’m talking about. You also know what those people look like, that they sure as shit don’t look like this:
So that’s issue number one, though beautiful people playing “real” people on screen is a valid complaint for about 99% of movies and shows. The bigger issue with the whole suspended disbelief thing is wonderfully summed up in this NPR article. For the TL;DR crowd, real-life roadies think everything about Roadies is unrealistically dumb. Even its modest star power of Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino can’t hide that these beautiful white people are supposed to pass as hardened road warriors.
Roadies reminds me a lot of The Newsroom, HBO’s (basically) one-season wonder about beautiful white people that relied on witty, fast-paced dialogue to cover up its glaring holes. Most pilots are pretty lacking in the chemistry department, but the relationships in the Roadies felt particularly forced. At one point, some minor character tells Wilson and Gugino that they’re meant to be together, as if it wasn’t already painstakingly clear.
Roadies is just another drop in the bucket, a mediocre show if there ever was one. But now that Game of Thrones is done until next year, I suppose people need something to watch.
The Night Of
Maybe the reason HBO is so much better than Showtime is because it finds something it’s good at and doesn’t stray outside that comfort zone. Like The Wire, Oz, True Detective, The Jinx and many more, HBO once again finds success with a true crime story.
The Night Of is the brainchild of Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, who both have some serious writing credits to their name if you care to look them up. Unlike most crime tales, this one gives the viewer nearly all the information about what happened, as opposed to figuring it out with the investigators. The only thing not shown is the most important part — who killed the girl.
That perspective immediately makes the audience more sympathetic with Naz, the main character and main suspect. The audience sees his motivations and understands — or at least thinks — that he would never murder someone. Knowing so much information also makes watching Naz’s interaction with the police frustrating because you can second-guess all his decisions.
The Night Of shows everything through Naz’s eyes, so while it is still a police procedural you don’t automatically have faith that the cops are following protocol. In just the first episode there are a few instances of poor communication between officers and a break in the chain of evidence collection. With so much effort put into placing those tidbits in front of the audience, you get a real sense that anything happening now will very likely come into play down the road.
The biggest name in the cast is John Turturro, who plays Naz’s oddball lawyer. He shows up later in the first episode, but he gives of a “no one takes me seriously and that’s how I like it vibe.” He also brings some much needed levity into a very dark, heavy show.
HBO also deserves credit for casting someone other than a white dude for the lead role. It’s clear race relations will play a role in the story to some degree, but I can’t remember any show that tackled race other than with the black community. I’m interested to see how the Pakistani heritage of Naz and his family comes into play, if at all.
I don’t think The Night Of will become a super phenomenon like The Jinx or True Detective did, but it should be a solid addition to the long and growing list of HBO’s true crime catalogue.