Saturday, 10 November 2018 16:57

Who doesn’t like Tony Danza?

Come on, he’s affable, charming, and seems genuine, even when he appears to be showboating. He acts, and he sings, and he’s just enjoyable to watch.

And who doesn’t love Josh Groban. Like Danza, he’s affable, charming, and seems genuine. He acts, and he sings, and he’s just enjoyable to watch.

So the pairing of Danza and Groban should work a little better than it does in the enjoyable series The Good Cop. The first season of 10 episodes is now available on Netflix.

The two are an odd couple, father and son cops. Danza plays Tony Caruso Sr., a former cop who went to jail for crimes that he freely admitted he committed while on the force. Groban is Tony Caruso Jr., a self-righteous, always-by-the-book detective who takes being honest a little too far. (He doesn’t want to use napkins from a fast-food place, as that would be wrong.)

Needless to say, Tony Sr. is more freewheeling in everything than the rather priggish Tony Jr.

The Good Cop works as a slightly amusing, with-an-edge police procedural. The stories are just serious enough to elevate the procedural aspects with levity supplied by Groban's uptight personality and Danza’s laissez faire approach to life.

As part of Tony Sr.’s parole, he has to live with his son, thus setting up a perpetual odd-couple arrangement.

Despite their exasperation with each other, father and son genuinely love each other. Tony Jr. wants his dad to be more like a cop than a perpetual con man; Tony Sr. wants his son to have more fun in life.

They also are united in their grief over a tragedy. His wife/his mother was killed by a drunk driver while Tony Sr. was in prison and he wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral. The search for the driver—who is always almost in range—adds a subplot to each episode.

The Tonys get excellent support from Monica Barbaro, who plays Tony Sr.’s parole officer, Cora Vasquez. She soon becomes a detective reporting to Tony Jr., who definitely has a crush on her. The Wire veteran Isiah Whitlock Jr. steals every scene he is in as Tony Jr.’s partner, Burl Loomis, who is counting the days until retirement. When it comes to chasing a criminal, Burl makes it clear each time that he “doesn’t run.” Bill Kottkamp is the geeky CSI tech who would rather be at a toy show.

The chemistry between Danza and Groban works well. I can believe they are father and son. Danza makes the most of Tony Sr.’s need to be the center of attention. And, yes, he looks good.

Groban tamps down his charismatic personality for Tony Jr., who wants to be in the background, especially when he’s around his father. He wants to be liked but knows he can never be as hale and hearty as his father. And the handsome Groban looks very nebbish with his severe hair and thick glasses.

(By the way, Danza sings in The Good Cop’s first season—Groban doesn’t. For those who don't know, Danza has done many turns in Broadway musicals.)

It’s pretty clear from the first episode that both are the good cop, for different reasons. Tony Sr. has the street smarts and looks at crime differently than Tony Jr., who has a Sherlock Holmes-like approach to detective work, seeing and linking the unusual.

The problem is that Groban, as good an actor as he is, can’t make the uptight persona completely work.

Certainly not as well as Monk, which is The Good Cop’s creator Andy Breckman’s other series.

Monk’s secret weapon was, of course, actor Tony Shalhoub, who made the obsessive Monk endearing, annoying, frustrating and empathetic.

A couple of critics have mentioned how Shalhoub could convey everything with a look, the blink of an eye. Shalhoub knows the value of silence. That is so true. Shalhoub, who is one of my two favorite actors, showed every emotion on his face. Like the time he proved a friend’s girlfriend was a killer—just a look conveyed empathy and disgust. Or when he stood in front of a jet plane, stopping a killer—his silence showed he had found his courage, was proud of it and yet was also still afraid, punctuated by touching the plane, an obsession he couldn’t help.

All that actorly business is missing from Groban’s performance.

Despite these flaws, The Good Cop is an enjoyable series. Crisp dialogue, good episodes, and Tony Danza. It’s enough to make me want to see a second season.

(A personal aside—I have met Tony Danza twice and both times he was quite personable. During a theater critics’ event at Sardi’s a couple of years ago, he talked more about his fellow actors and friends at the event than himself. And yes, that’s my photo with him at Sardi’s.)

Photos: Top, Tony Danza, Josh Groban in The Good Cop. Photo courtesy Netflix; Bottom, Tony Danza, Oline Cogdill

“The Good Cop” Is Pretty Good
Oline H. Cogdill
Saturday, 06 October 2018 12:40

(Mystery Scene continues its ongoing series in which authors discuss their works or their lives.)

J.J. Hensley, left, is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, drawing on his law enforcement experience for his novels. Hensley’s debut, Resolve, was selected as a finalist for best first novel by the International Thriller Writers organization.

Hensley’s sixth novel, Record Scratch, follows private detective Trevor Galloway investigation into the life and career of a rock legend. Record Scratch will be published on October 22 by Down & Out Books.

In this essay, Hensley discusses music, an appropriate subject for his new novel.

The Writer’s Soundtrack
By J.J. Hensley

Every book has a soundtrack.

At least all of the books I write have a soundtrack.

You can’t download the full album on iTunes, but you could seek out some of the individual songs if you knew which ones were included. Which you don’t—because the soundtracks to my books are in my head and if you’re hearing them then we both have serious problems.

On some level, I blame Miami Vice.

Those of us who spent our formative years watching television in the ’80s were introduced to the concepts of both storytelling and coolness through the actions of Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. They cruised around South Florida in an incredibly expensive sports car, wore sweet threads (socks optional), and worked narcotics cases while inexplicably using the exact same undercover names they would fearlessly drop for five powerful seasons.

The producers didn’t waste any time letting you know how high they were setting the bar of awesomeness.

In the second part of the two-part pilot, Crockett and Tubbs motored down a Miami roadway under the streetlights while Phil Collins let us know there is something was definitely coming In the Air Tonight.

I can tell you, for a 10-year-old kid longing for identity and adventure it…looked…awesome. Yes, it did. Oh, lord.

While there may have been a few problems with the story line of Miami Vice—okay, a million problems—the creators were onto something.

There has always been a strong relationship between music and storytelling and the two feed off of each other. I don’t know how a writer can’t hear music playing in his or her mind when envisioning and writing scenes.

Now the song may be different from day to day, but the mood of music is likely appropriate to the action in the story.

For instance, if the protagonist having a particularly tender romantic moment with a love interest, the writer may be hearing a favorite love song and probably not Back in Black by AC/DC.

Or maybe they are.

We won’t judge.

Even when I’m plotting out my stories while going for a run or in the car, I’ll skip through my iPod or cell phone and search for songs similar to the mood of the scene to which I’m thinking of because I find it stimulates my creative process and helps with visualization.

Sometimes, I’ll even stumble across a key word or phrase within a song that leads me to take a story one direction or another.

In fact, the entire prologue of my novel Record Scratch was inspired by a song that I had heard one day while driving.

The power of music is something to behold and shouldn’t be underestimated. Musicians convey a massive amount of emotion in a three to four minutes period and those feelings, as well as the memories we associate with certain songs, can stick with us for decades.

Novelists spread those emotions out over hundreds of pages and often struggle to captivate the reader the way music entrances the listener.

But, the novel is the author’s album—the writer’s soundtrack.

The lyrics are plentiful and the pacing is deliberate. The desk is the studio and the rough cuts are drafts. Edits can be painful and not everything will end up being part of the final product. There will be cover art, marketing, reviews, and hopefully fans of the work.

There will also be detractors—critics who claim the latest album is lacking when compared to the previous ones. There are sure to be cancelled appearances due to unforeseen circumstances, disagreements with publicists or publishers, complaints about royalties, and a hundred other irritations that come with the business.

Those are all part of the price we pay to get an album out there in the public eye, whether it is in writing or song.

The good and bad of the writer’s journey will factor into that individual’s future works and although you may not realize it, you’ll learn about the ups and downs; the celebrations and struggles.

Those moments may not be overtly spelled-out by the actions of their characters or described in an essay or blog post.

However, the next time you’re reading your favorite author’s work—if you listen carefully—her entire journey may be laid out song by song.

J.J. Hensley on Music
Oline H. Cogdill
Sunday, 30 September 2018 08:59

William Landay’s 2012 novel Defending Jacob began as a typical legal thriller, then matured into a suspense-laden insider’s view of the law, ethics, and familial bonds. The end was a shocking twist that was as believable as it was surprising.

That is how I described Defending Jacob in my review of the novel that I compared to Scott Turow’s 1987 Presumed Innocent.

Defending Jacob made such an impact on me that I included it in my annual best-of-the-year list.

And I am pleased to know that Defending Jacob is getting a reboot by no less than Captain America.

Chris Evans is set to star and executive-produce Defending Jacob, which will be a limited drama series on Apple. The Imitation Game‘s Oscar-winning filmmaker Morten Tyldum will direct the series, according to several reports. No air date, though, has been set.

Defending Jacob will be Evans’ first major television role since 2000’s The Opposite of Sex miniseries. Evans will be appearing as Captain America in the fourth Avengers film, scheduled to come out next year.

Defending Jacob revolves around Andy Barber, whose priorities are his family—his psychologist wife, Laurie, and their 14-year-old son, Jacob—and the law. He is the first assistant district attorney in Newton, Massachusetts. But Andy’s worlds collide when Jacob is arrested for the murder of a classmate.

Andy refuses to believe that his quiet son could be a killer, insisting that the culprit is a local child molester. Andy firmly believes in his child, but also fears that Jacob may have inherited a family background that he’s kept secret.

In my review I said, “Landay intersects the past and the present with aplomb as Andy grapples with who he is as well as who his child is. Andy is stunned to learn, through social media, how little he knows Jacob, whose psychologist says the teenager has a ‘heart two sizes too small.’ But a lack of empathy doesn’t mean Jacob is a killer. Defending Jacob soars as Landay’s rich plot weaves in parenting skills, unconditional love, and the law.”

Apple is poised to be a competitor of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, and basic cable networks. According to reports, Evans is the latest to join Apple’s growing original series roster, joining Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Octavia Spencer, Jason Momoa, and Oprah, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Chris Evans to Star in “Defending Jacob”
Oline H. Cogdill