Seven Seconds


You’ve got to watch this for the Jersey City/east coast feel.

Would I put “Seven Seconds” at the top of your list? Absolutely not. First check off “Borgen,” “The Bureau” and “Spiral,” not to mention many others. But we’re starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

I’m sick of genre shows. And movies. You know, someone is kidnapped/killed and the rest of the show is about uncovering who did it. Seems like this is the only trope that works on TV, it’s so much harder to do comedy or family/relationship drama, and those are what I like best.

Having seen most of the A level television, and please don’t recommend your favorites unless you check online and find that they have in excess of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, maybe 78%, because if you’re a party of one…chances are I’m not in your party.

And yesterday I learned I was a highbrow. In the seventies you could be both a highbrow and a lowbrow, I like to get down in the gutter, if it’s AC/DC or earthy…if it’s just plain trash, appealing to the lowest common denominator, I’m not interested, I don’t want to waste my time, and time is all we’ve got, it’s our most precious resource, you realize it’s going to run out and that’s scary, you don’t want to dribble it away unconsciously. I don’t want to be entertained, I want to be MOVED!

Kind of like “Putney Swope.” You probably saw that Robert Downey, Sr. died. I don’t think he would have gotten such prominent obits if it weren’t for his son. But Sr. was quite the innovative filmmaker back in the sixties and seventies, when that was still a thing. You could be innovative and still get distribution, your movies could still be seen. And “Putney Swope” had an indelible effect on me. First and foremost it was rated X, and my older sister had to buy tickets for me. Second, I went on a bad set-up date in Boston where I was visiting said sister at college. This woman couldn’t stop saying she needed ice cream, I think it was a way to deal with her anxiety. Anyway, I was wowed by “Putney Swope,” I couldn’t stop talking about it. And I saw it again about four years later and I’d like to tell you it held up, but it didn’t quite, then again maybe I was self-conscious because I dragged all my friends to see it. And I saw Downey’s “Greaser’s Palace” first run too, I was a fan. But I don’t think you could make “Putney Swope” today, they’d picket, you’d be instantly canceled, but back then the cutting edge was part of society, today it’s so far off on the fringe no one knows about it, no one knows about that which is supposedly mainstream! I haven’t seen a single network TV show in at least a decade. I’m stunned they’re still on. As for movies…

I watched Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” on HBO Max. It could be the most complicated/hardest to follow film I’ve ever seen. No, that’s not true, how about “Memento”? But, you can’t multitask while you’re watching “No Sudden Move,” you’ll miss something. As for whether you should watch it… Sure, just don’t expect too much. As for the casting, does anybody believe Matt Damon in this role? He’s so clearly Matt Damon, it’s a disservice to the picture. Don Cheadle is better, but Benicio del Toro is somewhat superfluous and…if this is what they’re selling as Hollywood great, count me out.

So, yesterday, having watched so many TV series, I decided to go to the movies, on my iPad. I watched “There Will Be Blood.” This is one of the best pictures of the past two decades, that’s what my research said… It’s a circle jerk of criticism. It’s more about image and feeling than story, and that can work for Terence Malick, but not Paul Thomas Anderson. I loved “Boogie Nights,” but “There Will Be Blood” was almost an endurance test, like “The Master.”

And then I started “Mystic River” and they kidnapped the kid and I was out. Ergo that genre/highbrow reference above. So I looked for Oscar-winning foreign films and found “Ida,” which I liked in theory but also turned into an endurance test. Black and white Polish film about Holocaust survivors…well, that gives the wrong feel, this isn’t about the disenfranchised underclass, but if you hate foreign flicks don’t watch it, it’ll make you hate them more.

Which had me looking at foreign TV shows again. I was combing through the websites, I’m stunned how many I’ve seen, kinda like the Top 100 greatest movies of all time (I don’t waste my time, I do research before I dive in), I’d seen 95, so there were slim pickings there. All of which is to say my opinion of “Seven Seconds” went up.

Now “Seven Seconds” is a commitment. It’s ten one hour episodes, a couple are even longer. Could it have been shorter, more compact? Yes. Then again, what you think will happen in episode nine or ten happens in episode four, the plot keeps superseding itself. You think it’s about one thing, then that is solved and it’s really about another thing and then over and over again, and this is a good thing.

And it’s about race in Jersey City and… Have you ever lived on the east coast? It’s old, and dirty. In the west, the south, so much is so new, there’s little grunge, but it’s baked in on the east coast, it’s part of the character. And you can live ten miles away and have a completely different accent. And life is hard and nobody’s complaining about it, it’s seen as your duty to endure the weather and the hardships, the competition, the belief is that you’re superior and the challenges breed character. And to a good degree that’s true. East coast people are talkative, they’re in the mix, which is the opposite of native Californians. They want to know you, mix it up, you’ve got to be aware, east coasters are not laid back.

And Jersey City is a hole. Across the river from New York, you live there if you can’t afford the greatest city in the world. And unlike in Los Angeles, the races are all mixed in together, they’re not geographically separated and…so much of what is in this series is representative of the cause of white flight. People don’t want to live with other races, ethnicities… Sure, some do, but most don’t, they want to circle the wagons of their own, like the cops in this show.

So, on one side you’ve got the abused presumed guilty Blacks, and on the other you’ve got the establishment, the police, who judge a human life based on its place in the economic ladder. It’s a job, not a cause, the people come and go, the police remain, don’t get too hung up on the individuals.

So what you’ve got here is a post-Ferguson story. Black Lives Matter before George Floyd. And you’ve got sex and loyalty and drinking and abuse and…

There’s some great acting in “Seven Seconds.” Regina King won an Emmy for her role, but I found Clare-Hope Ashitey just as good. And I love Michael Mosley, you know, the preacher in “Ozark.” And all the cops are good. Especially David Lyons as Mike DiAngelo. The funny thing is he’s Australian, he fooled me, he acted so well he seemed to be from the heart of the city.

So you’ve got the snow and the cold and the grit and it’s not like everybody is involved in outdoor sports, they’re just enduring the weather until it gets better.

And you’ve got duplicity and lies and the question is can you ever get justice? I don’t think you can. Seems like everybody lies on the stand these days and family is more important than the law, your loyalties are to the tribe, not society, and that’s scary.

Yes, I winced a couple of times, when the cops were suddenly right outside the rehab center…why?

Then again, Messiah, the dope king, is so smart and so right. He’s playing the hand dealt him, and he does this well.

And at one point the father of the dead boy, and I’m giving nothing away, this is in the opening segment, has a speech wherein he says he thought he was different.

I thought so too.

And then you realize you’re not.

It’s kind of like Bob Dylan saying “for them that think death’s honesty won’t fall upon them naturally life sometimes must get lonely.”

You’re gonna die, I guarantee it. And chances are it won’t be smooth sailing up to that point. You’ll get cancer, maybe you’ll survive it, maybe you won’t. You’ll lose a family member. Life is about enduring loss. You’re optimistic when you’re young, but it’s hard to keep that upbeat outlook. You have dreams and the truth is you don’t know how hard or even how to reach your dream until you’re too old to get it, assuming you try to begin with, too many punt so they won’t fail.

These are the questions that interest me, these are the issues I want to see depicted.

And “Mare of Easttown” has a global star as its lead, but the story of “Seven Seconds” means more and sticks with you.

So, if you’ve got ten hours for a slightly flawed American show…

Oh, I didn’t mention Gretchen Mol! One of the greatest disappointments in acting history. She was on the cover of “Vanity Fair” billed as the next big thing and then she wasn’t but when you see her here you think she deserved to be, she wows without appearing phony, like she’s acting at all.

So we live for art. I couldn’t wait to sit in front of the flat screen to watch episodes of “Seven Seconds.”

Maybe you’ll feel the same.

Oh, for the wankers who’ve never heard of Google, it’s on Netflix.

Comments are closed