HBO’s The Night Of

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I’m not always good at predicting what is going to be popular. When the first episode of Survivor debuted, I thought that it wouldn’t last because who wants to watch a bunch of people on a “deserted” island? That’s nonsense. 33 seasons later, I can accept that I was wrong on that. But for the most part, I do have a decent eye for pop culture trends; I’ve gotten better at reading the tea leaves as to what is going to be the next big thing that we’re all going to be talking about. That’s one of the reasons that I was able to see Hamilton as early as I did during its Broadway run; I heard enough chatter about the show before it opened to know that this was going to be the next big thing. I watched Breaking Bad from its very first episode. I correctly predicted that Serial and Making a Murderer would become cultural phenomena.

I think HBO’s The Night Of is going to be the next big thing.

The Night Of is a crime drama that is based on the BBC series Criminal Justice. Naz (Riz Ahmed), a young Pakistani-American college student, “borrows” his father’s taxi cab to attend a party and winds up in jail as the prime suspect in a murder with a bargain-basement attorney Jack Stone (John Turtorro) to wage his defense. The series is less a “whodunit” and more an examination of the judicial system and what happens to the people that are caught up in it; Naz’s guilt or innocence is less the focus than what happens to him once he is arrested.

I’ve only seen the first episode of the limited series, but it totally and completely sucked me in. The cast is uniformly excellent, the story compelling, and the show cultivates mood and tension perfectly. The whole first episode, I was basically holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop; I knew what was coming based on the premise of the series, but the anticipation of when everything was going to fall into place was so fraught that it actually made me a little uncomfortable. As doe-eyed Naz makes mistake after mistake, you just want to yell at him through the screen. The characters feel very real and there is an authenticity to The Night Of that only heightens it success in storytelling.

The Night Of has been a long-gestating project at HBO; if you look closely at the opening credits you’ll see the late great James Gandolfini listed as an executive producer. Gandolfini was a champion of this series during its development and was slated to star in it as defense lawyer Jack Stone before his sudden death (he had filmed the pilot prior to his passing). It’s kind of fascinating to contemplate what he would have done with the role, though that is not any slight to John Turturro. Turturro and Ahmed both turn in mesmerizing performances in the pilot, which only further heightens my expectation for the rest of the series. Knowing that Michael K. Williams will also eventually turn up is the icing on the cake. The writing on the series is excellent, which is no surprise when you know that it comes from the pen of author Richard Price, who also worked on The Wire. The Night Of is a throwback to the glory days of HBO, back when their dramas were the epitome of prestige television.

The best compliment that I can pay The Night Of is that I’m optimistic that it will lessen the pain of losing Game of Thrones on Sunday nights. I had considered giving up HBO for the summer once Thrones ends, but I’ve reconsidered that based on how strong the first episode of The Night Of was. If, as I predict, this is going to be a show that people are talking about, I don’t want to miss out on the conversation. It has actually been a mixed blessing that I saw the first episode prior to its official debut; on the one hand, I’m glad to know how great the show is so that I can encourage others to watch it, but on the other, it means that I have to wait longer for a new episode than normal and patience is not necessarily one of my strengths. Based on the hour that I’ve seen so far, I can’t wait to continue on this journey.

The Night Of debuts Sunday July 10th at 9 pm on HBO.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – A.B.B. (After Breaking Bad) edition

I’m still adjusting to life in a world where Breaking Bad is over. I find that I’m having trouble getting into my Fall TV shows – I’ve already dropped Once Upon a Time, Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family from sheer lack of interest and I’m pretty meh on the new pilots (more on that later this week). Episodes of Sons of Anarchy are beginning to pile up as well and I haven’t bothered to watch the premieres of Revenge or Homeland yet, so their days with a season pass may be numbered. The good news is that this general apathy means that I have a lot more time to surf the web in search of pop culture goodness to share. So really, my loss is your gain. Kick back and enjoy the fruits of my labor in this week’s edition of my pop culture round up

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  • The cover for the upcoming Ron Burgundy memoir has been released.

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  • Peter Dinklage made a stop by Sesame Street:

 

  • Usher and Dinklage’s GoT co-star Lena Headey also recently made appearances.
  • I am not super impressed with Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, Volume 2. It just sounds like a lot of songs that were (rightfully) scrapped from the first album.
  • Who doesn’t love a Halloween themed programing? TV Tango has rounded up 360 of them airing this month. That seems a little excessive.

 

  • The opening credits for American Horror Story: Coven has been released and they are unsurprisingly terrifying.

 

  • Game shows are becoming sticklers for pronunciation – contestants on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune were both penalized recently.
  • A new film starring Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard and…..Taylor Swift? Be afraid, Skarsgard. Be very afraid.
  • It’s been far too long since we’ve had a new Britney Spears video. The wait is over:

 

  • Construction has resumed on the monstrosity of a home that was featured in the documentary Queen of Versailles. Excellent film if you haven’t seen it.
  • I was a big fan of ALF back in the day. Watch him sing “Berzerk” by Eminem:

 

  • The Avett Brothers played some Metal on Fallon:

 

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Breaking Bad in over *sob* but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have some links

  • Sadly, I did not win tickets to the Breaking Bad finale viewing party. These photos from the event make it look like I missed a hell of a time.
  • This one is for my friend Brigette:

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  • Aaron Paul lends his vocal talents – and his catchphrase – to the single “Dance Bitch”

 

  • I would totally read this book:

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  • My pals over at Grantland put together an In Memoriam video for BB’s fallen:

 

  • See how you do on the Breaking Bad superfan quiz (I got 43/50).
  • A Breaking Bad tribute set to Green Day’s “Good Riddance”

 

  • Glee’s Naya Rivera was a proud sister when her brother scored his first touchdown in the NFL:

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  • You can read an edited excerpt from Dave Eggers’ upcoming new novel, The Circle.
  • Watching Conan play Grand Theft Auto V had me literally laughing out loud.

 

  • The Atlanta Braves did a “Blurred Lines” parody:

I enjoyed it, but I’m still not rooting for you in the playoffs. #TeamDodgers

  • For those of you who don’t normally watch baseball but want to get into the playoffs, GQ compares playoff teams to pop culture to help. Ha – the Red Sox are the Lannisters!
  • I may have to buy this Friday Night Lights fanzine just for the Tim Riggins paper doll.
  • Kelly Clarkson lost her fight for the Jane Austen ring that she won at an auction.
  • Watch The Hound from Game of Thrones sing the Rolling Stones. Wait – what??

 

  • The new Sleigh Bells album is streaming over at Rolling Stone.
  • Characters from Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad got Simpsonized:

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Stop! Trailer Time!

  • HBO’s new comedy, Getting On:

 

  • A new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:

 

  • The latest from Chris Lilley, Ja’mie King: Private School Girl (I can’t wait!!):

 

  • Aziz Ansari has a special coming out soon on Netflix:

 

  • A Case of You with Justin Long, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage:

 

  • This guy at a Willie Nelson concert apparent subscribes to “dance like no one is watching”

 

  • Guillermo del Toro made the couch gag for this year’s The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.

As always, we wrap up with the mashups and supercuts

  • A mashup of MacGyver and Archer:

 

  • A mashup of Breaking Bad and Need for Speed:

 

  • Who can resist a Sesame Street mashup? Certainly not me.

 

  • “Get Lucky Wit It”

 

  • And finally – the cast of Breaking Bad sings the N’Sync classic, “Bye, Bye, Bye”

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – No A/C Edition

So as I mentioned yesterday, I’m spending the week in training for my job. It somehow feels longer than a day at work, which may have something to do with the fact that we are trapped in a second floor classroom that doesn’t have any air conditioning. You read that right – 9 hours a day the second week of July in a room that doesn’t have a/c. The room doesn’t even have screens on the windows, which at least means some semblance of a breeze is generated when people swat flies away. It’s hard to concentrate on the finer points of project management when you are ready to pass out. I may just have to roll a cooler into class with me tomorrow.

While I consider options for beating the heat, enjoy your bi-weekly roundup of pop culture stories.

  • Jenny McCarthy is a possible new host on The View. There are multiple hosting seats available – Elizabeth Hasselbeck is headed to Fox News, Joy Behar is also leaving and Barbara Walters is retiring.
  • Ha! An Arrested Development fan put George Michal’s internal clock to the test:

Well played Arrested Development. Well played.

  • Dane Cook is going out on a stand-up tour, his first in four years. I saw him on his last tour; here’s to hoping he improved over the hiatus.
  • Chris Pratt is getting seriously ripped for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • I’m still sad that no one would take me to the Phish concerts last weekend; they did a first time ever cover of “Energy” by The Apples in Stereo:

 

  • Jay-Z’s domination continues – not only did he singlehandedly get the RIAA to change how they count sales, but the MTV movie awards are getting a special statue for their Brooklyn debut. I have no proof that Jay-Z had anything to do with the Moonman remodel; let’s just call it a hunch.
  • Speaking of Mr. Carter, turns out we share a cereal preference:

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  • Jerry Seinfeld did a Q&A with Jimmy Fallon’s audience:

 

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Universal theme park for Halloween, but now that they are doing a Cabin in the Woods themed maze I REALLY want to go. As you may recall, I was a fan of that movie.
  • Chucky’s back – a new Child’s Play film will come out this fall:

 

  • A new poster for Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake has been released:

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I’m still not totally on board with this project.

Firth deserves better. This Mr. Darcy is CREEEPPPPPYYYY

Firth deserves better. This Mr. Darcy is CREEEPPPPPYYYY

 

  • This slowed down version of the Seinfeld theme is kind of terrifying:

 

  • Pearl Jam announced a North American tour this fall. In other news, I will be traveling to Buffalo, Worchester, Brooklyn, Philly, Hartford or Baltimore this fall on “unrelated” business.
  • James Gandolfini’s legendary generosity continues after his passing; the actor left $500,000 to a friend with an autistic son.
  • David Beckham’s career recreated in LEGOs is impressive:

 

  • The Flintstones and Hong Kong Phooey may get revamps. My childhood continues to get ravaged.
  • Tumblr of the week: Icorns (celebrities as corn on the cob)
  • Anchorman gets the 8 bit treatment:

 

  • Spongebob makes everything better:

 

  • Turns out that I’m not the only person that noticed the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show “curated” by Usher featured…..well, a lot of Usher.
  • These Game of Thrones mini LEGO figures would look nice to my Walter White and Omar Little figure on my desk. It is really amazing that they give me any responsibility at work – between the bobbleheads, Yankee paraphernalia and other toys, my office doesn’t exactly scream professionalism.
  • I can’t decide if this maid of honor toast is fantastic or terrible. One the positive side, it is original and memorable. Negatives are that it takes attention away from the bride and it is hard to understand. You decide.

 

  • Businessweek (of all places) has an infographic comparing how much money rappers say they have vs. how much money they actually have. Pitbull – your pants might be on fire.
  • Set your DVRs everyone – SyFy debutes Sharknado tomorrow night ( and who doesn’t love a tornado comprised of sharks?).
  •  Is it plagiarism if you steal from yourself? Aaron Sorkin likes to recycle his own dialogue:

 

  • Tomorrow (Thursday) is 7/11 day – head to your local franchise of the convenience store for a free Slurpee.
  • I’m bummed that there is a rift between the band members of The Civil Wars. I like them.
  • Jessica Simpson gave birth to a baby boy, her second child in 14 months. If a celebrity gives birth and no one cares, did it really happen?

And, as always, we end with the supercuts and mashups

  • All the coffee and pie scenes from Twin Peaks

 

  • Johnny Depp does enjoy making weird faces:

 

  • Kevin James sure does fall down a lot:

 

  • A supercut of movie trailers that use the cliché “one man” reference:

 

When does the “in a world” supercut come out?

  • You thought I was out of “Get Lucky” mashups? You would be wrong:

 

  • Actually you would be doubly wrong:

 

  • A Game of Thrones/Gotye mashup (includes major spoilers if you haven’t watched season one yet)

 

  • I totally love this Kanye West/Depeche Mode mashup:

 

  • This Ginuwine/Kill Paris/Daft Punk mashup ain’t bad either:

 

  • This is outstanding – a mashup of The Lumineers “Ho Hey” and Will Ferrell’s Harry Caray impersonation:

 

  • And finally, this may be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen: a “Blurred Lines”/The Cosby Show mashup:

 

 

Stay cool, my friends.