COMEDY FAIL WITH “DESPERADOS;” CLASSIC TV WITH “PETER GUNN”
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“DESPERADOS” ON NETFLIX
With feature-length film options rather limited at the moment, the Netflix original movie “Desperados,” desperately hoping to be a romantic comedy with women acting badly, was hopefully going to be worth a look. If there’s a Stockholm syndrome for watching a movie where you feel like you have been taken hostage beholden to your captor, that might be the case if you keep vainly hoping the viewing experience of “Desperados” will somehow improve.Well, it doesn’t, but why no improvement? A neurotic central character in Wesley (Nasim Padrad), an unemployed guidance counselor, has a knack for undermining herself at every turn, whether at a job interview that goes horribly wrong or a blind date.Let’s move past the lewd humor during Wesley’s interview at a Catholic school with a benevolent nun solemnly listening to the applicant’s awkward blathering about sexual acts. A blind date with Sean (Lamorne Morris) lasts only a matter of seconds as Wesley lacks any filter for her small talk. But this is not the last we’ll see of the charming Sean. Upon leaving the restaurant, Wesley takes a sidewalk stumble, only to be assisted back on her feet by Jared (Robbie Arnell), a sports agent who becomes her next romantic interest.
Getting her act together this time, Wesley finds bliss in a relationship with Jared. All goes well until he takes off on a business trip to Mexico to help one of his clients. When days pass without hearing from Jared, Wesley joins her best friends Brooke (Anna Camp) and Kaylie (Sarah Burns) to send an appalling email to the boyfriend, and discover moments later he’s been in a coma.The three amigos head south of the border to a resort hotel with a misguided mission to erase the email before Jared gets out of the hospital. Not surprisingly, pointless hijinks ensue, with few hitting their mark. As a comedy, “Desperados” desperately fails at the task. Best to skip this one.
“PETER GUNN” CLASSIC TV ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Should new offerings on streaming services prove to be wanting, more satisfying options for viewing pleasure may be found in the abundance of classic television programs that are now available.The private detective series “Peter Gunn,” starring suave and nattily-dressed Craig Stevens in the titular role, began its three-season run in 1958, and now it is available on Amazon Prime Video. With a musical score by Henry Mancini, “Peter Gunn” established a film noir atmosphere where the gumshoe worked mostly at nights and was most often found at Mother’s nightclub enjoying jazz music and the songs of vocalist Edie Hart (Lola Albright).
The mood is appropriately set with all episodes in glorious black and white, underscoring a fitting environment in which someone like Humphrey Bogart’s private eye Sam Spade operated in “The Maltese Falcon.”This is not to compare Peter Gunn to Sam Spade, as these characters are vastly different. While Spade proved to a fast-talking antihero with a penchant for fast women, Gunn is cut from a different cloth. Stevens’ Peter Gunn is a polished person with sensible manners who usually speaks without bravado or impertinence. His smooth manner is reflected in the way he goes about the business of representing his client.
Every episode appears to start with someone getting killed or maimed in brutal acts of violence. The musical score sets a foreboding tone of whatever criminal acts set the program in motion.Invariably, Gunn will be found at Mother’s Jazz Club, where he’s friends with the proprietor (Hope Emerson) and much friendlier still with the singer Edie, who just happens to be his girlfriend.The first episode, “The Kill,” involves crime boss George Fallon (Gavin MacLeod “The Love Boat”) muscling out his competition and setting his sights on extorting Mother’s nightclub for protection money.When Mother’s is bombed by Fallon’s goons, Gunn does not take it kindly since the club also serves as his office where he fields calls from a client or his pal at the police department, Lt. Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi).
One could say that “Peter Gunn” follows the private sleuth formula that has worked over the years for many series. Gunn works alone with frequent assists from one source at the police department. James Garner’s Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” Mike Conners’ Joe Mannix in “Mannix,” and Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer in another eponymous series were also solo operators with their own go-to law enforcement contact.
In many episodes with Gunn spending so much time at Mother’s, a musical interlude leavens the rough-and-tumble criminal world with a pleasing jazz band set and Edie belting out a tune. The cool factor was Peter Gunn’s ability to mingle with all sorts of people, from upper-crust clients to shady underworld types to the occasional beatnik uttering period dialogue.“Peter Gunn” moves at a fast clip in its half-hour episodes. If only this stylish series had run more than three seasons, but at least there are 114 episodes to enjoy.