Friday, August 29, 2008


Boy, this is some hiatus! I’ve been on “hiatus” now for two weekends, and with this entry I’ve posted as many times.

Well, I did say I’d “delurk” from time to time if a movie of interest came up.

Wouldn’t you know that this Sunday, Channel 7 is yet again playing a movie that’s of interest to me?

Well, maybe not the movie itself (the movies on this blog rarely are the subject of interest but rather the people who star in them). But I’d be terribly remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to laud a man you’ve seen mega-jillions of times and at this point may even be bloody well sick of or none too impressed with.

I’m speaking of Dabney Coleman. He stars in “Taken,” being shown this Sunday night on Channel 7. This one has all the Landfill hallmarks, but I won’t go into that – you’ll enjoy its heightened, cheesey, over-the-top intensity when you watch the trailer.

But first I want to remind some who may have forgotten of not only how consummate an actor Mr. Coleman is, but that he also appeared in two very significant television series. Like most shows that were ahead of their time, they had cult followings and critical acclaim but not enough ratings to stay on the air.

The first was “Buffalo Bill,” wherein Coleman played the title role. It’s significant as being one of the first, if not the first “edgy” sitcoms with a character who audiences couldn’t really embrace – one who would do and say outrageous things of the “I can’t believe he just…” variety, but without the occasional turns to pathos and sentimentality that predecessors like Archie Bunker, George Jefferson and Maude Findlay often lapsed into. And without the sometimes obvious, broad humor that sometimes infiltrated those shows. “Buffalo Bill” was very sharp, well-written material at a time where such shows were in short supply. It revolved around daytime talk-show host Bill Bittinger, whose name was probably inspired by his biting wit which could be not only caustic, but vitriolic as well. Bill truly was a viper.

And as an extra bonus, it featured a top-notch supporting cast with the likes of Joanna Cassidy, John Fieldler, Max Wright and a young, vivacious Geena Davis. Check out this scene:

The next important show Coleman was involved in was “The Slap Maxwell Story.” If you thought his Bill Bittinger character was hard to like, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The sports writer character Coleman essays in this show gives vultures a bad name. Again, great writing and supporting cast, with Coleman acting his heart out once again. And very significant as one of the first “dramady” programs, also known as “sitdrams,” where the comedy and drama are doled out in equal doses. There have been many such shows since, although the monikers above have faded from view. David E. Kelley in particular seems to have been inspired by the short lived “dramady/sitdram” trend, incorporating similar elements into his signature shows “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.”

Watch Coleman act his heart out in this rather dramatic and uncomfortable scene from “The Slap Maxwell Story,” which leads into the show’s opening credits:

Like most of the other actors we laud here on the Landfill, Coleman has worked continuously through the years, and he hasn’t always turned up in the best projects. But he always turns in a great performance. He is probably best remembered as the nasty boss in “9 to 5.” These days, the roles seem to be more tailored to his age, while the types of roles he used to get seem to be going to the equally brilliant Jeffrey Tambor.

So back to “Taken”: it looks totally like a by-the-numbers Landfill flick about true confessions and betrayals, but even in the trailer you can see that Coleman’s abilities elevate this tired hash higher than it has a right to be elevated.

View the trailer here:

Or watch the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 on Sunday, August 31st, 2008... if you dare!

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