I Rish Black Donnellys Didn't Suck
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:
*DO NOT WATCH IF YOU DON'T WANT THE ENDING SPOILED*
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.