Friday, November 3, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Good Behavior and Bad

Lusia Strus and Michele Dockery in "Good Behavior."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

“Good Behavior” — So Good It's Bad ... “A Bad Moms Christmas” ... Another Season A'Coming For “Ray Donovan”... The Coming End of “Fashion Police ” ... A Tale of Two Justins ... TV News No More.

“HONEY, the only thing you can really change about a man is his hair.”  
Words of wisdom from Lusia Strus, who plays Michele Dockery’s tougher-than-beef-jerky mom on TNT’s “Good Behavior.” 

The series, back for a so-far excellent second season, is still following the bad/good behavior of compulsive thief Letty (Dockery) and hit man (Juan Diego Botto).  I thought the show might be slowed down with the inclusion of Letty’s son (Nyles Steele), but he is a clever, attractive young actor, and not overused. 
Juan Diego Botto and Michele Dockery in season 2 of "Good Behavior."
Still love the chemistry between Dockery and Botto, and believe me, for those who have not yet caught this show, all memories of Dockery’s cherished Lady Mary of “Downton Abbey” are pretty much put to rest. (Although to be honest, I could have imagined a down-and-out Mary becoming a high-class jewel thief without too much trouble or moral compromise.)

Perhaps the best addition to the second season is the great Ann Dowd, playing an eccentric but highly focused FBI agent.  Dowd has been appearing on TV, in films and onstage since 1985. She is another one of those actors whom you have always “known” and recognized and who are always valuable to any production — it’s the name that can be elusive. 
Ann Dowd as FBI agent Rhonda Lashever in "Good Behavior." (Photo: TNT)
I suppose I truly became aware of Ms. Dowd during her run on HBO’s “The Leftovers” for which she was Emmy nominated and in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” an Emmy-winning turn. (A friend finally got tired of hearing me say I hadn’t seen “The Handmaid’s Tale” because I didn’t get Hulu. She provided me with a DVD of the show, which is everything the reviewers said it was.)  But she’d also made an impression in Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and another HBO winner, “Olive Kitteridge” starring the incredible Frances McDormand.
Dowd in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Now, suddenly, I can’t escape Ms. Dowd.  It seems she’s been in everything, including (of course!) all the various “Law & Orders.”

Anyway, she sure ain’t harming “Good Behavior” which remains a delicious, off-center, ambiguously engaging show.  (I mean, you’re not supposed to root for a thief and a killer, but ...)

... EVERYBODY is piling on “A Bad Moms Christmas” (sequel to the surprise success “Bad Moms”) and I’m not here to tell you it’s a good movie.  It’s not.  However, it is a hell of a lot of gratuitous, stupid, mindless fun that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. I love the three bad moms (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn) and the three bad moms of the moms (Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon).  Especially pleased to see our good friend Christine Baranski having such a hell of a good time.  Pay no attention to the reviews, all of which are pointing out the obvious flaws — please, who goes to such a film expecting a master class in cinema or political correctness?  Have a good time.
... SPEAKING of Susan Sarandon, she was so excellent on the fifth season of “Ray Donovan” as a chilly (to say the least!) studio exec. The best thing, really, in this hot mess of a show, which might be a mess that is comically intended. It’s hard to say.

I was particularly taken with one of  Sarandon’s final scenes with Ray D. in which she encourages him to try to come to grips with “forgiving” himself for his sins.  It’s impossible, she insists:  “I tried to forgive myself, I tried. L.A. is lousy with shrinks and shamans and charlatans. At  a certain point I realized I didn’t really want to forgive myself. We’re only alive for so long. We should take what we want and stop thinking about it all the time. Stop waiting for permission. Don’t you think?” Sarandon delivered this little manifesto on utter self-absorption with silky expertise — chilling and seductively sensual.
I caught the charming and sexy star of the series, Liev Schreiber, on Seth Myers recently.  Schreiber seemed so happy about a forthcoming sixth season, I almost felt bad that we’d written the show had entered the plumbing a few years ago.  But, the locale is being changed from L.A. to Manhattan, so, everybody’s excited.  Sarandon has said she wouldn’t mind returning.  She should.
... SO much good news last week in the coming end of E!’s “Fashion Police,” which was ghastly even when Joan Rivers was still with us, and the demise of Chelsea Handler’s Netflix chat series.  Handler was best — although she’d go to her grave screaming otherwise — on her E! show, in which she reported on/skewered celebs.  She says she wants to concentrate more on politics and women’s issues.  Please don’t. Democrats need help.
... SPEAKING of Democrats, Nancy Pelosi finally said something I agree with — that Dems need to hose themselves down from the fever dream of impeaching the 45th president, and concentrate on strengthening what is left of their party.  The president is here to stay, at least for one term, and possibly more.  Grow up, work to work against his policies — which are truly Republican policies, simply stated in a coarse manner — one that the GOP pretends not to embrace.  The GOP’s disingenuousness reminds me of MGM’s Joan Crawford, a tarty, cheaply dressed little thing who was groomed so efficiently by her studio that she came to believe that rolling her Rs and knowing where the forks went, meant she was a “lady.” 
... MEMO to John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff — there’s no “compromise” on slavery, no matter how you spin it.  Kelly’s outright lie about Congresswoman Frederica Williams (a woman I have little respect for, actually) and this latest untruth, are proof positive that Kelly is no more the “adult” in the room than that foul-mouthed clown Anthony Scaramucci.  
... A TALE of two Justins: Hard to believe people even remember or care about the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” of what seems to be a century ago, and that there are now complaints about his return to that venue. 

The whole thing was a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt, as was obvious from the pair’s behavior onstage, and the fact that Janet’s nipple was conveniently covered with a large metal pastie, saving her from complete exposure.  Move on, nothing to see here!
Our other Justin of note is Mr. Bieber, who has finally covered the entire front of his very nice body with a huge, ugly tattoo. I don’t understand massive, obsessive body art.  But he apparently likes it, and those who know him intimately will have to like it too.  From the neck up, he still reminds me of a young Elvis — really.  (Presley was actually a blond-ish — that ghastly shoe-polish black was a dye job, which got worse every year.) 
ENDQUOTE: “Turning on CNN and MSNBC is of no value to me.  Number one, I know all the tricks.  Number two, I know all the conflicts. Number three, I know all the self-interest. The structures of cable news and other networks are still: ‘How do we leverage this?  How do we position ourselves correctly?’ Rather than: ‘The country is on fire — what do we do?”  That’s Keith Olbermann in The Hollywood Reporter.

I could not agree more.  I simply cannot watch FOX.  That’s like injecting polonium directly into my veins.  But what I see and hear most of the time on MSNBC and CNN is disheartening and cringe-inducing.  We are in big trouble and not getting the help we need. 

And that’s why all we can do is go see “A Bad Moms Christmas!”
Contact Liz here.