Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Rish Black Donnellys Didn't Suck

Wow. That was a horrible pun. Was that even a pun? I don't think so.

I finally watched The Black Donnellys pilot. And my first reaction: I still don't care for Paul Haggis. But that's more of a personal problem I've carried over from Crash and The Last Kiss.

I REALLY wanted to like this show. Love that it took Studio 60's spot. Was anyone still watching? Love Olivia Wilde. So hot as Alex on The OC. Love mob stories. Goodfellas is one of the best movies ever.

Yet, I just couldn't get on board.

Now, I'm all about suspending disbelief for the sake of entertainment. Veronica Mars? No problem. The OC? Sure. But here, I could not. The show, much like Studio 60, seems to take itself way too seriously. You can hear them telling you in every line, every scene, "We think this is gripping television, are you on the edge of your seat? We bet you are." I wouldn't be surprised if that line was actually uttered in a deleted scene.

But let's even put aside my perception of pretentiousness for a moment. Why am I supposed to root for these brothers in this pilot? In a full-length feature, like Goodfellas, you have plenty of time to show a lot of backstory, so we can understand and relate to a character as the plot thickens. Here, they try to give you some backstory, but there's only so much you can fit into 45 minutes before it starts to seem contrived. Before I could even begin to match each name to the right Donnelly brother (not sure if I ever got that down), the story was off to the races, and I wasn't sure why I should care, or who I should care for.

And when is this story supposed to be taking place? Are we really expected to believe that this is modern day Hell's Kitchen? I lived in Hell's Kitchen, and it's nothing but high-rise luxury buildings filled with investment bankers and a few tasty Thai places (if you're in NY, go to Pam Real Thai on 49th b/w 9th & 10th and order the Pad See Ew. Tell them Sonny sent you. They'll probably stare at you blankly).

Another gripe. Isn't the term "Black Irish" supposed to describe persons of Irish descent with dark hair? Three of the four brothers have light brown hair. Maybe I'm missing something.

Lastly, the VO. God Almighty. This wasn't Last Kiss bad, Haggis at least used the device of Joey "Ice Cream" telling the story to the cops to put the VO in motion, but it still hurt my soul. How does Joey know everything? How does he know what every character is feeling? A few times, he admits that he's lying or that he was mistaken, which was funny. But if our main narrator isn't a trustworthy source, how do we trust him when he's telling us about scenarios he never witnessed, moreover, other people's thoughts he could in no way possibly know?

Alright, I'm probably pissing some of you off with all this whining. So, I will say that I enjoyed the chemistry between Tommy and Jenny. The last ten minutes had some nice "twists" as well. Twists that could've made the ride somewhat entertaining had I ever hopped on to begin with.

All that being said, I'll probably still watch another episode or two. Pilots are tough, and it took me a few episodes to get into some of my favorite shows this year (Friday Night Lights, Heroes). Watch for yourself online, or download for free on iTunes, and let me know what you think in the comments!

P.S. According to Stereogum, the last scene was supposed to have Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" playing, but Arcade Fire repeatedly rejected Haggis, so they had to opt for Snow Patrol's "Open Eyes" instead. Here's the original scene with the Arcade Fire song intact:

God, I love that song. If you don't already, you should too:
"Rebellion (Lies)" - Arcade Fire [buy album]

P.P.S. You can stream Arcade Fire's new album on NME.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you care to elaborate on why exactly you do not like Studio 60?

4:17 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

It's a shame the Arcade Fire didn't let them use that song. I freakin' love them. I actually enjoyed the pilot, but I'm a sucker for mob stories, especially when there are so many hot guys involved. Young Al Pacino in Godfather...delicious.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous katie said...

SONNY ! You're breaking my heart ! Maybe because I was blinded by my love for Jonathan Tucker, but I loved the show. (I was also the one who emailed you about it on Monday!) I hope that you get into it !

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Piney said...

I only watched half of it. It is so hard to get used to a new show when it is easier to watch the ones you are already obsessed about. I'll try it again next week.
Thanks for the song. It IS great, but Snow Patrol is one of my favorites. Can you post that one if you have it?
Did you see VM? What the frak is going on there? ZZZZ for an arc finale. I know it's crazy, but I love to see her in danger! (even if it is her own fault)

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did somebody say Al Pacino??

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Piney said...

Oops, Nevermind...found "Open Your Eyes". Thanks

2:51 PM  
Blogger Life Insomniac said...

Sonny, I agree with you regarding the Black Donnellys. By the time I'd managed to place each brother with the right name, I was too tired to follow the plot. But perhaps I'm just lazy?

I'm kind of glad they ended up having to use the Snow Patrol song. It makes the scene more melancholy, which I feel is a more appropriate tone for what's going on. I end up concentrating more on the fall of Tommy when "Open Your Eyes" is playing as opposed to "Rebellion (Lies)" which makes me concentrate more on the hit that's going on. But having said that, "Rebellion (Lies)" is one of the greatest songs ever.

PS: Randomly, I like how Arcade Fire talks about closing eyes in their song while Snow Patrol talks about opening eyes. Just something I noticed. Was there a theme here that the writers were trying to maintain?

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah i was just going to say that rebellion is such an amazing song but its ties to the band are so strong that i would have trouble concentrating on the tv show happening at the same time.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Melina said...

first time caller, first time listener.
i agree with katie, hot irish guys (tommy),with a propensity for violence and drinking make me hot. don't worry, koreans do the same. if the show were about hot violent koreans maybe we could both enjoy it.
if it were another show about italians and racketeering i would not care. the irish bit is a bit strained- and yes, hell's kitchen is so gentrified (almost)
and i like studio 60.. now that i finally have time to watch t.v. - it's not even the same stuff you like. damn!
ps i saw mc hammer today

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Maria said...

This is off topic posted on here - you can swear at me later - but here it is: March 2nd, your TOP ELEVEN MUSICAL MOMENTS on The O.C. gets references on THE 9 on Yahoo!
Not sure if it's a big deal but Way to go!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Deanna Shumaker said...

studio 60 is my favorite show this season so im sad that i cant watch it right now, but i was really excited about the black donnellys too. i have to say that for the most part i agreed with you. i was just kinda bored through the whole episode and didn't feel like anything really different was being done. but in that last scene i was just blown away. i CANT WAIT until next week. and i didnt have trouble telling the brothers apart (although i think if i had been in charge or casting, young jimmy and young tommy would have changed places)

12:22 PM  
Anonymous jayne said...

That's what I thought Black Irish meant, but I think Joey said (right before he gets to the bar for the wake) the Black Irish were a race of people in Ireland before the Celts, and had never been fully conquered (or something like that).

I liked the ending with the Snow Patrol song, but I think the original ending was so much better. I think the Arcade Fire song gave the scenes a completely different feel.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, definitely enough to tune in again.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I have to say, I'm glad Arcade Fire didn't let them use the song. There's nothing with being a little elitist and not wanting to risk overexposure. "Open Your Eyes" was a decent substitute.

I couldn't really get on it either. It's the Irish Godfather. While I enjoyed the cinematic way that the pilot was filmed, the cinematic style of storytelling just wasn't compelling. I didn't get why I should be caring about the brothers.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you actually saved this pilot episode for me. I had it on Tivo (greatest invention ever) but hadn't watched it yet. Read your review and it lowered my expectations.

Finally got around to watching it, not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't wonderful but nothing to make me stop watching it.

So thanks!

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Kate L. said...

I'm sad you don't like it, because the music kills and I neeeeed someone who knows what it is to hook me up. Woe!

(Thanking you again for Kelley McRae awesomeness.)

12:22 PM  
Anonymous fb said...

That's what I thought Black Irish meant, but I think Joey said (right before he gets to the bar for the wake) the Black Irish were a race of people in Ireland before the Celts, and had never been fully conquered

not quite. :) i'm irish, and the expression 'black irish' having to do with hair and eye colour is not at all how we use it -- that is an american interpretation.

'black irish' to an actual irish person refers to the time when the rich english protestants during oliver cromwell's time came to ireland to conquer the poor irish catholics -- the english took over the land that the irish had been living on for centuries and forced the irish to pay them rent. they also tried to establish protestantism as the dominant religion, something which caused a tremendous amount of resentment amongst the irish catholics. however, the irish catholics who were willing to give up their religion in order to keep living on their land and submit to the protestant conversion were labelled 'black irish' as a term of contempt by those who did not.


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