Sunday, August 08, 2010

TNT's "HawthoRNe" is growing on me, while TBS's "My Boys" and AMC's "Mad Men" continue to shine


On TNT's HawthoRNe, Christina and Camille Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith, Hannah Hodson) are seen here in a happier moment than last week, when widowed Mom finally had to deal with catching daughter and boyfriend in a compromising moment -- the kind of scene you instinctively dread, which turned out to be strikingly powerful.

by Ken

I missed the first season of HawthoRNe, created by John Masius (a writer-producer with an impressive track record; surely he's not the one who thought this would be a clever title), but slipped in at the start of Season 2, with Christina's hospital losing the battle to maintain patient care in the face of economic duress and being closed and merged into a farther-gone but more bottom-line-aware hospital. The show is really growing on me.

Last week's episode, "Final Curtain," had a central plot line in which the hospital's onetime medical director (played by the long-ubiquitous Lawrence Pressman, now looking very old indeed), having nothing closer to a home, returned to the hospital to die. And I was like to overwhelmed by the final scene of this past week's episode, "Hidden Truths," as you might guess an episode in which most everyone is sitting on secrets, in which Christina -- while carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders at work while being paralyzed in her numbed personal life -- had to deal with the situation described in the caption above.

As I noted above, it's a mother-daughter confrontation you just dreaded, knowing how clich├ęd and melodramatic it's bound to be. Only this wasn't, as poor Christina struggled so hard with her own emotions, doubting that she could make Camille understand what she was trying to communicate about this stage in her young but dramatically changing life. How to make her understand that the fact that Marcus, the boyfriend (who works for Christina at the hospital), is a really good guy and would never want to hurt her really doesn't make it all safe? This line of hers, and Jada Pinkett Smith's halting delivery of it, struck me as unforgettable:
CHRISTINA: The thing is . . . the people who care about us the most have the most power to hurt us.

I was also much moved by the smartly and sensitively handled plot line that had bubbly young nurse Kelly (Vanessa Lengies) rousing the wrath of a patient's parents by extending support -- for reasons you won't have difficulty guessing -- to the teenage daughter tormented by people's reaction to her increasingly unmistakable same-sex attraction.


As I mentioned in a comment to my season-opener post, it's been astonishing seeing online folk talking about the Mad Men Season 4 offering some sort of "fresh start." In reality, these characters are carrying a world's worth of baggage that there seems to be no way of shedding.

It may be that the secrets Dan Draper (Jon Hamm) is sitting on are too dangerous to let slip to more people than already know them, but Dan still doesn't see the practical perils of his compulsive privacy. And it's certainly been an ugly ride watching Betty Draper (January Jones) deteriorate into Monster Mom -- all utterly understandable humanly in terms of her life experiences, but no less frightening for that.

As for My Boys (of which, I might note, Jamie Tarses, an executive producer of HawthoRNe, is also an executive producer), I just watched all three episodes to date again via On Demand. In addition to worrying about having episode ends possibly clipped off by my DVR, I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed too much in a show that's so tightly written and packed. Actually, I had missed a fair amount, and really enjoyed re-viewing the stuff I hadn't missed. The writing is amazingly alert to the characters' specific realities, and much as I miss the departed-to-China Andy (Jim Gaffigan), his departure has enabled the writers to focus more closely on P.J. (Jordana Spiro) and Bobby (Kyle Howard), the now-coupled Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) and Kenny (Michael Bunin), and uncouplable Brendan (Reid Scott) and Mike (Jamie Kaler), or "Michael," as he insisted on being called when he and Brendan donned suits to pretend to be grown-ups, "classy."

I thought it was exactly right that Kenny saw through the spaced-out, phony-baloney Hollywood producer negotiating to turn Stephanie's best-selling book, You're a Great Guy, But . . ., into a movie. Kenny easily guessed that Josh the scummy producer (a hilariously repulsive performance by Ethan Sandler, who has written for the show) hadn't even read the book he was proposing to make gibberish of. This subsequent dinner-table exchange was as much fun to watch as I expect it was to write and perform:
STEPHANIE: Josh, can I ask you something?
STEPHANIE: Did you ever read the book?
SCUMMY PRODUCER: I guess I don't, uh . . . I'm not sure what kind of question that is . . . I don't understand the question.
Which was probably an uncommon moment of candor for the scummy Josh. It's not really that complex a question, did he read the damned book? But he really and truly doesn't understand the question. And why should he? He's only proposing to make a movie of the damned thing.

My Boys' Mike (or is it Michael?), Kenny, P.J.,
Brendan, Bobby, and Stephanie

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At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Brendan S. said...

Thanks for the kind words re: "My Boys". Keep your fingers crossed, please. We'd love to keep going...

At 5:47 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Hi, Brendan! Thanks for stopping in and saying hello -- I'm honored. "My Boys" is a great show, and everyone involved should be proud. I hope there's lots more to come.


At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am disappointed in jada no black men ,she dating nothing but white and the only black guy got accused of battery,i am very upset .welcome to tv


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