Thursday, October 8, 2020



These notes from a warm island have more than one outlet. For the most part, the editors of these varied venues are friendly and benign…. for the most part, but not always. Politics is something some of them want me to avoid. It seems that even on a bad day our President has a 40% approval rating and what conscientious editor is willing to offend nearly half of their readers? So, no politics.

Some of my editors want me to stick to television, theatre, movie reviews and show business commentary. Not all together a bad instruction except, since the corona virus hit, movie production has ground to a halt and Broadway has simply shut down. Some theatre is going on in London’s West End, but I ain’t getting on a plane during sequestration to check it out. Some even say there is no better theatre anywhere than right now in our nation’s capital. Don’t even tempt me. I am not going there.

That leaves us with television, replete with a veritable plethora of series and specials, old and new. There is also a 24/7 onslaught of cable news from Fox to MSNBC and then back again to CNN. These colorful newscasts can be hypnotic, and the strangeness of at least two alternate universes only adds to their addictive qualities. Nothing for me to write about there… too political.

So, when I am not channel hopping between newscasts my thoughts turn to the readers of this piece and I am guilted into watching something on which I can actually report.

Enter Fargo… season four.  This, I was sure would be worthy fodder for at least one entire column. After all, the Coen Brother’s movie of the same name was nothing short of brilliant and for three years, Warren Littlefield’s productions of Noah Hawley’s version for television, have been every bit as good. That is until now.

Add to this mix the show being on FX, whose executive corps has helped develop such bonafide super series as Justified and The Americans. There is no way to deny the collective pedigree of this production. Impressive is a word that comes quickly to mind.

I have only seen the first three episodes of this season, but pedigree aside, I assure you that is enough for me to tell you to stick with your addiction to Fox or MSNBC. Fargo, season four, stars Chris Rock, one of my favorite performers, albeit not someone on my list of fine thespians. Mr. Rock’s acting has improved, but not enough to save this exercise which has not one single character worthy of your concern. True, there are the usual collection of Coen Brother’s bizarre types and a happy cameo by Justified’s Timothy Oliphant---again as a FX US Marshall. These things promise hope this will all work out. Except it doesn’t.

Here is the problem: three episodes in and there is not one individual whose name you remember… let alone cheer for. Believe me, you can miss it… unless long ago you made a pledge to see everything in which the Brothers Coen are involved… no matter how peripherally.

I am keeping hope alive by revisiting the entire Aaron Sorkin oeuvre. I did it backwards starting with Newsroom on HBO-GO, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Prime Video) and now on Netflix I am on episode 80something, beginning season five of The West Wing. Great television, ladies and gentlemen. I commend all three of these shows to you even if this last series is all about politics.

Oh, and Jeff Daniels star turn in The Comey Rule is also worthy, despite a slow start. But this warning is attached: if you are one of the 40% mentioned above, you probably won’t like it. That said, with a tip of my hat to my editorial betters, nothing more will be said.

And then there is virtual TV. Some good, some not so much. The Republican convention, staged at the White House, was very good TV… The Emmy Awards show was not. The Emmys did get me to watch Schitt’s Creek, which in its seventh season won every award they were handing out in the comedy category. I turned on season one, believing (silly me) that these things should be seen from the beginning. I found it to be unwatchable. I cannot imagine what happened in those intervening years, between what I saw and what made the TV Academy swoon. Frankly, I am not curious enough to find out.

I am going to leave out commentary on the first televised Presidential Debate altogether. I don’t “do” train wrecks.

I leave you with this: Long ago someone defined the rhinoceros as an animal with no apparent interest in politics and skin two feet thick.  That author’s conclusion: “what a waste.”


 Barney Rosenzweig


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