This is a perfect time to catch up on the best of television, since so many of us are watching more of it these days, particularly on Saturday nights. I’ve been assiduously avoiding all news for the last month or so and am faintly aware of the impeachment proceedings and Biden’s energy pipeline kill-shot only because they were mentioned by subscribers in the Rick’s Picks chat room. My self-imposed news blackout has been as tight as I, a lifelong news junkie and former newspaper editor, can make it. I canceled a subscription to the Wall Street Journal that had run for nearly 40 years, and I don’t even watch Tucker anymore, let alone network or local news.
Serious collateral damage from the red/blue color war still raging in America has so far amounted to the loss of two friendships, one of them stretching back 65 years. When I was scheduled for chemo and radiation, my good buddy came down to Florida to see me through a horrific first week that was to have included massive infusions of metal-heavy chemicals and enough X-ray exposure to kill just about any living thing. At the last minute, I opted instead for a so-far successful surgical treatment at M.D. Anderson Center in Houston. This allowed my friend and I to spend the week taking epic walks on the beach, enjoying South Florida’s great restaurants, and discovering the pleasures of Delray’s Asian massage parlors, a shadowy niche he has spent his adult life exploring. He is from the theater world, a founder of one of the country’s most successful non-profits. He is also a self-described anarchist, espousing political views that could not be further from mine.
‘A Killer of 450,000 Americans’
This was never a problem before Trump. In the end, though, with just a couple of condescending text messages from him, our friendship was over. No more dialogue, he admonished, until I “get things sorted out.” This was an allusion to my certitude that the election was stolen — an opinion that I had kept to myself in our emails over the last several months. No matter, it would seem. He was giving me an ultimatum to either see things his way of cease communication. And so I let the dialogue rest there rather than let fly with the kind of invective that would have killed any chance of reconciliation. I even gave him the last word when he texted the absurdity that “my guy” had “killed 450,000 people” with Covid. With that pfft of flatulence, one of the brightest, most articulate guys I know became a lame-brained horse’s ass, one more liberal so arrogantly certain of his moral superiority that he regards anyone who disagrees with him as literally crazy.
And now to the best on television. I stumbled upon Netflix’s Ozark last night after tiring quickly of the highly recommended but overrated Gomorrah. While polling an astounding ‘8.7’ stars on IMDB, Gomorrah is just a thinly plotted, garden variety shoot-’em-up involving warring mafia clans in Italy. Ozark, however, is a real class act. Its producer, director, writer and star is Jason Bateman, who brings a quirky kind of realism to every project he’s involved in. Here, Bateman’s character, a by-the-numbers financial planner, agrees to launder drug money in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, for a vicious Mexican cartel boss who’d marked him for death.
A ‘B&E Magician’
In episode two we meet the redneck Langmore clan, including teen daughter Ruth, whom the local sheriff describes as a “B and E magician.” The scene where Bateman tries to recover a pile of drug money from the Langmores ranks with the best television I’ve ever watched. Some other favorites include: Deadwood, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Queen’s Gambit, Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders, 24, Billions and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. All are way better than anything that has come to the theaters in recent years. Who needs AMC, Marvel comic-book heroes and imitation-buttered popcorn when you can get the real thing for practically nothing at home?