The Week in TV: Fatty Arbuckle No Longer Just an Interesting Wikipedia Entry
Wrestling, death and my stubborn refusal to acknowledge the VMAs. This was the week in TV Land:
• Just in case you thought tabloid-fueled celebrity mayhem was a recent invention, HBO is going old-school with their adaptation of The Day the Laughter Stopped, a book about the downfall of silent film star Fatty Arbuckle. In September 1921, Arbuckle was partying with some friends and industry players, including 26-year-old actress Virginia Rappe, and when all was said and done, Rappe was dead and Arbuckle was charged with her rape. The details of the case morphed in the hands of the news media, and allegations that Arbuckle had used a piece of ice to stimulate her body became a rumor (that's still kicking around) and that he'd inserted a Coke bottle into her. Arbuckle was acquitted in three separate trials, but his career was essentially over. He made a brief comeback before his death in 1933 at age 46. Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet will play Arbuckle for HBO's TV movie, which will definitely make the whole Fizbo thing more terrifying, but aside from the body type, he's got the comedic chops and outsize personality that will bring the role home.
• Sad news out of New Orleans: Michael Showers, an actor on HBO's Treme, was found dead in the Mississippi River the other day. There's no word yet on the cause of death. Showers played Capt. John Guidry on the show, and he'd made a few other minor appearances on series like Breaking Bad and The Vampire Diaries. Creator David Simon offered this: "We enjoyed his work -- and working with him. Going forward, we're going to miss having him as part of our production. All of which seems of little import in light of the loss of a man's whole life, and what that loss truly means to him, his family, his friends. Our respect and condolences go to them, especially."
• Today's network execs grew up in the 1980s, which means it's a lot easier to get a series to air if it shamelessly trades on nostalgia for the era of shoulder pads and synth-pop. Case in point: NBC just bought a one-hour drama set in the world of pro wrestling in the 1980s, when real men wore yellow spandex. That decade was kind of a modern golden era for the sport (there are not enough ironic air quotes in the world to actually make that word make sense in this context, so just go with it), as personalities like Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage competed for the adoration of elementary-school boys across the country. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, former wrestler and star of The Tooth Fairy, is attached as an executive producer, and other producers and writers include Spartacus: Gods of the Arena duo Brent Fletcher and Seamus Kevin Fahey. So if you've been dreaming of writing a TV drama about slap bracelets, now's your chance.
• You can't keep a guy like Shawn Ryan down. The creator of The Shield had some bad luck last year with the quickly-canceled The Chicago Code, but he's bouncing back with two new series for next year. One of them sounds like a pretty typical procedural, albeit one with the potential for some gritty Ryanesque twists. It's an untitled drama for CBS based in part on the life of James Fallon, a neuroscientist at UC-Irvine who discovered that he had a similar genetic pattern to a number of infamous serial killers. (If they don't wind up calling this Hate Night With Jimmy Fallon, they're idiots.)
The other show sounds a lot more interesting. Titled The Last Resort, the ABC pilot is a near-future thriller about a U.S. nuclear submarine whose captain refuses an order to fire his missiles and finds himself hunted by his own country. The boat makes it to a NATO outpost and declares itself to be a sovereign nuclear nation. That's a fantastic, interesting pitch for a show that could combine elements of adventure, political strife and the general desert-island dynamic that's infused recent hits like Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Spoiler alert: Some of the good guys will actually be bad guys.
• Having made the proper sacrifices to the requisite pagan gods and desecrated the appropriate number of virgins, Christian Slater has been granted passage to the televisual realm once more. Fox is bringing back Breaking In for the second time, after previously passing on the pilot, then slotting it midseason and canceling it again. The comedy about a wacky team of misfits who contract out as security specialists willing to break into your building to find its flaws (yes, this is a ripoff of Sneakers) will return to Fox later this year, after which it will probably get canceled again because viewers will have forgotten what it's about or what night it's on, feeding Fox's cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies and ensuring that the only thing they ever air are singing shows that straddle the line between reality and scripted entertainment.
• Great pair of videos this week. First up, it's the latest 7 Minutes in Heaven, this time with Jason Sudeikis. There are a handful of web series worth watching. This is one, hence my constant promotion. Dig it:
• Next, the video for The Decemberists' "Calamity Song," from their awesome The King Is Dead. It counts as TV news because it was directed by Michael Schur, who co-created Parks and Recreation, plus it's based on David Foster Wallace's wonderful Infinite Jest. Really, just watch it already:
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