It's no secret that major studio films by-and-large suck these days. I've come around to the belief that it's the writing, stupid. And the reason that movie screen-writing has gotten worse is that the best are all doing episodic television. It's rather obvious, but in terms of creating and developing compelling characters and stories, would you rather have 120 minutes of movie time wherein you must fit 3 fights, a car chase and a sex-scene to ensure 'marketability' or would you rather have 20+ 42 minute+commercial installments?
And with the HBO-led rise of shows on cable, you aren't even impinged by the stultifying content regulation of the FCC. 7 years on, it's clear that the Sopranos has ushered in a new era. Of the ten best hour-long original shows on TV over that time, at most 3 would be network (Lost, West Wing and perhaps 24), whereas with HBO leading the way (Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Oz) cable makes up the lions share, with FX in particular getting in on the act (The Shield, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck.)
It strikes me that even cable's failures are more ambitious than anything the focus-group drenched hacks at a network would try. (Would a network have even made the effort with Playmakers, Tilt or Over There?)
All this is a roundabout way of bringing me around to talking about FX's latest effort, Thief, and why it is disappointing to me. My expecatations are simply too high.
I mean, a gritty crime drama from the network that is 3.5 for 4 in my book (The Shield, Resue Me, and Nip/Tuck, which I don't watch for squeemishness reasons, but sister Pooh says is excellent. And Over There was at worst, certainly watchable.) Starring Andre Braugher, who'd I'd find compelling in a toothpaste commercial. What's not to like?
Well, it tries to do too much, that's what. The strongest part of the show, Braugher's relationship with his white step-daughter, is the most peripheral to the Thievary. The other members of his merry band are not really given much of a chance to develop beyond broad strokes- there's the family man, the playboy, and the nervously religious guy. They're all played by quality actors, but they don't get a chance to do much. Similarly, the involvement a corrupt local cop and Chinese gangsters on the rampage only serve to add further underdeveloped story points.
Did I mention that the show is based in post-Katrina New Orleans? Talk about an elephant in the room going unmentioned.
And the "big score" itself, which occured in this week's episode seemed rushed and poorly exposited. I strongly feel that the show would have been far superior had FX given it perhaps two more episodes to develop at a more leisurely pace.
All that said, a decent show, based largely on the strength of Braugher and Mae Whitman as the step-daughter. Probably worth netflixing when it is released, but certainly not essential.