Sunday, April 08, 2007

Typecasting? FUGEDABOUTIT! More like, thank GOD for the work, says every, overweight, slick-headed ensemble member of Sopranos cast

It's going to be really hard for me to write a comprehensive post today because my mind is elsewhere thinking about the sacrifices my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made by rising from the dead for me, some 2000 years ago today.

Now that THAT Disclaimer is over...

About three weeks ago I went to a student filmmaker night at the Anthology Film Archives in the good old East Village. While all works there were amateur, one film featured stood out...not because it was good but because it wasn't some abstract attempt at depicting what would happen if a Quentin Terantino film took a Jean-Luc Godard film behind the middle school and got it pregnant.

This film was written by and starred two guys that I could have gone to high school with in that they were your typical, tri-state area Italian Americans. However, if I did go to high school with them they will have their asses kicked at our 10 year reunion since they are now both trying to make it as actors. Their film's thesis was that Italian American actors really have to struggle more than your average thespian to defy the typecast as a mobster. In the scene's climax, both actors are blatantly made fun of in a audition, which prompts them to wax poetic about the impact of Italian culture on America.

Okay, these goombas do have somewhat of a point; every time I channel surf and see Joe Pesci, he is usually talking about how he is going to bring someone to swim with the fishes (Or something like that, I automatically change the channel unless it turns out to be Home Alone, aka the greatest movie of all time).

But let's be honest. EVERY type of casting is type casting. Even if someone isn't looking for something as obvious as a greasy Italian, a drunk Irishman, or a subservient yet wacky black sidekick, they're still type casting. I for one think the typecasting of "hot people" is a much more widespread and grosser injustice than any Italian Stallion assumption.

Plus, if it weren't for typecasting, everyone's favorite television mob-sploitation show, The Sopranos, the reason we are all here today would be TOTALLY different. You all know Langlieb, our resident Sex and the City expert and hater of Polish people. However, while he doesn't like to talk about this much, Langlieb had a short lived career as a child actor. He actually auditioned for the role of Anthony Soprano, Jr. Among other things our loyal readers have learned about Langlieb is that he is a short, hairy Jew. (Please click the link for photographic evidence.) Can you imagine how these nine seasons would have gone if Langlieb was the legacy that Tony Soprano was working for?

Tony: (heavy breathing, followed by whispering) So, Big Pussy, we need a hit put on that spic before he dips in any more to (heavy breathing)
Tony: (heavy breathing) Keep it down, BP. Little Tony is upstairs memorizing all of the presidents and needs peace and quiet if he will ever move on to cabinet members!
Big Pussy: Sorry, boss. What's that smell?
Tony: (heavy breathing) I actually have a salami hero in at least three out of four pockets at all times.

Therefore, I do believe that all actors, including the aforementioned young, goomba filmmakers, should embrace their types. Stereotypes in the casting world are there fore a reason, that being to make entertainment more like the real world. Until we can live in peace and non-judging harmony in real life, color and creed blindness is not to be in TV or movie land! Don't go making stupid short films about how you are discriminated against just because you are angry that The Sopranos is ending before you had the chance to get cast as Italian Guy #3 oggling a stripper at Bada Bing. I guess you will have to find another in to get onto Celebrity Fit Club.

Welcome to the Mob-A-Thon

This post will be updated throughout the day. Mob-A-Thon entries so far:

Eddie On Film on his Top 10 favorite gangsters.

Johnny tells us why he thinks The Sopranos might be just a teensy bit overrated.

Alanna finds the mob in unlikely places.

SamuraiFrog on The Long Good Friday.

Lauren waxes poetic on the Yakuza from Kill Bill.

Jeanette superficially deals with the issue of Italian stereotypes in casting.

And don't forget that The Sopranos begins its swan song tonight at 9 pm on HBO.

The Sopranos Effect

My friend Josh has a theory that the plots of the films Donnie Brasco and Mean Girls are essentially the same. After all, what are mob families but grimmer versions of high school cliques? Many of the themes that run throughout the greatest mob stories can be found in unexpected places.

Love or hate The Sopranos (I'm looking at you, Johnny), there's no denying that it is a series that changed television. It altered the way that we perceive the rules for a TV series, what kind of content and characters we think are allowed to appear on the small screen. I've heard Tony Soprano compared to Archie Bunker, but Archie Bunker never strangled a man to death while visiting colleges with his daughter. Archie never cheated on his wife with a one-legged Russian. Having an antihero as a series' protagonist has been done, but criminals and sociopaths? Not so much. Say thank you, creators of Dexter, Weeds, Deadwood, The Riches, and House.

HBO certainly ran with the complex-baddie-as-main-character format. Deadwood's Al Swearengen and Rome's Lucius Vorenus are basically the Tony Sopranos of their respective historical periods. If you need confirmation, watch the "Gangs and Organized Crime" supplement to Rome on your HBO On Demand. The special outlines how the Mafia was born in ancient Rome's collegia, which were guilds run by powerful gangsters. Because there was no police force then, the collegia controlled the streets. Like the Mafia, collegia members protected local residents and gave charity to the poor, but they also were responsible for the brutal murders of those who resisted them.

And like Tony & Co., we see on Rome that the men of the collegia were deeply religious, though with less Jesus and more Janus. In fact, Vorenus is not taken seriously by rival collegia until he declares himself a "son of Hades." Then it becomes clear that he is not fucking around, because hey, the god of the underworld is the ultimate villain with whom to align yourself. Respect gained, Vorenus then saw visitors who would make requests of him, Don Corleone style.

I'm also convinced that on Lost, The Others are a kind of South Pacific mafia. Their name alone evokes several qualities associated with the mob: exclusivity, mystery, power. They are structured in a manner identical to mob families, that is, like a small dictatorship. Ben Linus (formerly Henry Gale) is the all knowing leader. His underlings secretly infiltrate and subvert the survivors, like in The Departed. They deem particular survivors as among "the good ones," presumably worthy of joining them. Locke is one of the chosen few and, based on the last episode, has come over to their side. Whether he will be made a capo remains to be seen.

Perhaps these shows are simply reflecting society in a funhouse mirror, offering exaggerated interpretations of our own tendencies to form insular posses in order to feel secure. What do you think, readers? What are other shows that are really mob stories?

Saturday, April 07, 2007


There's still plenty of time to participate in The Boob Tubers' very first blog-a-thon! Go here for details on how you can join in the mafia fun fest. Because nothing goes with commemorating the resurrection of the Lord than organized crime. Also, chocolate bunnies.

Just drop us an e-mail when your post goes up and we'll link to you, along with our many other dazzling participants. Check back here periodically tomorrow afternoon for updates and our own thoughts on mob-related films and TV shows. Rumor has it that even Vivian and Langlieb are gonna throw down. Good times!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

American TV Characters Outsourced to Great Britain

In the Times today, Bill Carter writes about how British people are better than us at everything, including acting for television. Firstly, I must retort that we Yanks are superior in three areas: cuisine, dental hygiene, and having emotions.

Carter discusses the coming influx of limeys into American programming, citing two actors from my current telegenic obsession, Rome. Ray Stevenson and Kevin McKidd will both be playing Americans on the proposed shows "Babylon Fields" and "Journeyman," respectively. Considering that the titles sound like SciFi Channel rejects, I'm thinking these blokes shouldn't buy property in Los Angeles quite yet. Their fellow former cast member, James Purefoy, whose Antony is way more fun than Charlton Heston's Antony, also will appear on a new program called "Manchild," which is a remake of a BBC series.

The article goes on to address other Britons invading the small screen, but I don't care about them because they don't look hot in ancient Roman man-skirts. I was led to question, though, if Brits really are better thespians than Americans. Considering the ratio of Us to Them, Them seems to have a much greater proportion of talent whenever awards season rolls around.

However, one anonymous TV exec claims Brits are being cast more frequently not because of their abilities, but because of their low hourly rates:

The executive said it is increasingly difficult to get an American actor in a lead role for less than $100,000 an episode. British actors work for considerably less, the executive said, though the figures vary.

In other words, their accents may sound high falutin', but they'll essentially become low-rent streetwalkers for a guest spot on 24. Ha! Take that, imperialists!

The article concludes, happily, with a mention of The Boob Tubers' favorite English TV whore:

So why are so many British actors so interested so suddenly in American television? Mainly it can be traced back to the most significant factor of all. “Hugh Laurie opened the door,” Ms. Buck said.

Monday, April 02, 2007

House 3/27/07: Don't Kiss Riley Finn Anytime Soon

I just... I can't ever forgive myself for forgetting to blog about this subject last Tuesday. Please consider this my penance, intended to hold you over until a new House airs at nine tomorrow.

Last week's episode would have been unextraordinary - that is, a standard-issue House, plus the bonus insinuation of a one-night stand between House and Cuddy - if it weren't for guest star Marc Blucas.

Blucas is known amongst Buffy obsessives as Riley Finn, Buffy's fourth and fifth season boyfriend, AKA the poor schmuck sandwiched between Buffy's two far more delicious vampire BFs. Think of Riley as some old liverwurst, and Angel and Spike as the homemade ciabatta slices that overpower the cold cut smushed between them. Riley started out sort of sympathetic - he was just an all-American boy who had no idea what he was getting into. But by the end of his run he was an intolerable meathead whose ego couldn't withstand a girlfriend with more brawn than he.

In fact, back in college my friend Lindsey and I used to scream at the television, "BLUCAS, YOU SUCK!" every time Riley appeared on screen. The refrain sounds obvious enough, but we came upon it browsing the Buffy forums on Television Without Pity. (Yes, it's been established that I include myself in the Buffy obsessives.) One poster was an alumnus of Wake Forest, a school for which Marc Blucas played basketball. And apparently, he sucked. Hard. So when this poster went to games, he would scream at him, "BLUCAS, YOU SUCK!" And continued to do so years later when Blucas appeared on Buffy as the character Spike once accurately nicknamed Captain Cardboard.

ANYWAY. I was glad to see Riley Finn go, but I'm always interested in seeing what Buffy veterans are up to these days. (Prognosis: not so good. Slayer. The voice of April in TMNT? Really?) So when Marc "BLUCAS, YOU SUCK!" Blucas appeared as Patient of the Week on last week's House, I was delighted. I was even more delighted when it turned out that his character had a genetic disease whose symptoms included, among other things, bacterial vaginosis in his mouth. Vagina Mouth. That seems like a generous ending for Riley Finn, no?