Modern television characters have too many dimensions and too many secret heartaches and not enough episodic adventures. When I was a kid, TV characters only had one or two traits and those were largely represented by intriguing costume choices. They also had new adventures every week and learned nothing from them.
Magnum PI, for example, had a mustache and shorts. It was also his personality. If he had a secret sorrow, maybe it was that he wished his shorts were shorter. But frankly, it was never really mentioned.
Simon and Simon were crime-solving brothers. One of them had a hat and the other didn’t. It was also the key to their personality. There were finger clicks on the soundtrack, but there were finger clicks on everything in the 1980s – songs, zoo visits, business highs. If Simon and Simon had a secret heartache, it was that they wished there were even more finger clicks on things.
The A-Team had four full props/personalities, which we thought was really generous. Hannibal wore a Safari jacket and smoked a cigar. The face had a face, which was a slim characterization even by 1980s standards. BA Baracus wore jewelry, took pity on fools, and had mysterious concussions that would have been emphasized in depth in a modern production.
Many “Golden Age of Television” dramas with more ambition are constantly strained for narrative and psychological complexity, but often end in loose, shapeless stories.
Murdoch had a baseball cap and serious mental health issues. Their group identity was that they had a van and fired machine guns without aiming them properly.
Murder She Wrote had a typewriter and was surrounded by dead people. His frown towards the murderers was also relevant. It’s a massive three-dimensional and makes her the best TV character of all time. Also, Murder She Wrote wasn’t his name. Her name was “Jessica Fletcher” and she was a legend but I prefer to call her Murder She Wrote and I think if they ever do it again her name should be Murder She Wrote.
All of those shows were great, but then the 2000s came along and people started saying shows like The Sopranos and The Wire were like “novels” and everyone forgot to do TV shows that sounded like television shows. When TV producers made episodic story-of-the-week crime shows like Criminal Minds or Law and Order, they added gruesome murders and stark suit sleuths who didn’t have the sense to walk around with lollipops or monocles or parrots on their epaulettes or tricorns.
Meanwhile, many “television’s golden age” dramas with more ambition constantly strained for narrative and psychological complexity, but often ended up with loose, formless stories and main characters who didn’t. only had one character trait (“it’s a bit sad”) and no interesting costume choices at all.
The reason I like The Lincoln Lawyer (Netflix) is because it has episodic elements and, also, the eponymous lawyer has a simple personality: he lawyers while owning a car. It’s his thing. At first I hoped Lincoln’s lawyer would be a lawyer who dresses like Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t know a Lincoln was a type of car) but now I see that would be overkill.
The Lincoln Lawyer knows we need to take a small step back to 1980s television perfection. Perhaps as the series progresses he’ll performatively start chewing on a toothpick or thread a eye patch, a cape or a cod. I’m just impressed that someone went on Netflix and put on “Lawyer Who Owns a Car” as a TV show.
(I know the reality here is that TV producers these days are doing everything from pre-existing IP because having new ideas is over and it’s actually based on a series of bestselling detective novels by Michael Connelly . It’s okay with me).
Lincoln’s attorney is Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Ruffo), who was kicked out of the attorney game due to an addiction to prescription pills, but inherited a practice from a colleague who died under circumstances. mysterious. Do not worry! He is sober now and his addiction only appears sporadically. His colleague is still dead, so don’t worry about him.
Mickey assembles a team – hairy badass, sassy office worker, quick-witted driver – and they set out to solve the mystery of his benefactor’s death while engaging in story-of-the-week shenanigans.
He comes with two ex-wives (one of whom is the sassy office worker) and a teenage daughter generally well-beyond her years, who, to a likely extent of why he’s divorced, doesn’t isn’t important enough to share the headliner with his car. Sporadically, people call him Lincoln’s lawyer.
“Lincoln’s lawyer, is that what they call you?” asks a judge at one point, which makes me wonder if having a car is really nickname-worthy in America. Would I be called the Nissan Micra reporter? I hope so. Over time, I become certain that Mickey Haller gave himself the nickname in an attempt to look cool after returning to school after summer vacation. “Lincoln’s lawyer, that’s what they call me, because I have a car.”
In early episodes, Mickey strives to help a tech tycoon accused of murder. When he meets the tycoon, he is playing basketball on the roof of his company building. This roof has no fence around it. If the murder victim had been found perched by a wayward basketball at the foot of this building, the case would be, excuse the pun, a slam dunk.
Luckily, for Lincoln’s attorney, the murder victims were the billionaire’s wife and her lover, both found dead in his marital bed with non-basketball-related injuries. Lincoln’s attorney is trying to secure the tech mogul’s acquittal, while helping other non-billionaire people who are all being sued by people less suave, knowledgeable, and car-focused than him.
The Lincoln Lawyer is energetic, hectic and fun. It has high levels of melodrama but low stakes. And frankly, it’s okay to start watching a TV show that doesn’t look like you’re taking out a long-term mortgage. Plus, every once in a while someone says, “Nice car, man,” and Lincoln’s attorney has to stop himself from turning to the camera and making guns. Hopefully by series two he will be wearing shorts.
If a TV show is going to take a big emotional commitment from me these days, it helps if it has short episodes and short seasons. So Barry, co-created by and starring Bill Hader, is perfect. The third season is currently on Sky Comedy and Now TV.
It’s a tragicomic story of a hitman who develops a love for the theater. It completely overturns the notion that engaging in art leads to moral improvement, with Barry’s desire to be an actor and a better person coinciding with his worst behavior.
And each episode oscillates between being very funny and being very unsettling. My only note, really, is that it should be called The Actor Hitman, but that’s probably because I watched The Lincoln Lawyer and my mind went literal.