Lucky Hank

We’re watching “Farzi (“Fakes” in English), on Amazon Prime. It’s really good. A reader hipped me to it, otherwise I doubt I’d ever find it. Distribution is king. As a matter of fact, they point that out in “Farzi”! There’s a plethora of business wisdom in “Farzi.” It might have gotten more traction on Netflix, but it’s lost on Amazon Prime. Just like regular Amazon, the homepage is cluttered and hard to decipher. And don’t get me started on the HBO Max app…talk about slow. What’s going on over there? Sure, aged people watch HBO, not on Max, but younger people? They’re not addicted. What’s the plan? Write it all down, sell it? Did you see that string of “Forbes” covers with the head of Silicon Valley Bank and Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried? You’re a hero until you’re a zero. Is this the same story with David Zaslav? Portrayed as a genius because he did well with the the peripheral Discovery channels, with their ultra-low budget shows, like the Food Network and TLC, we see that he cannot play in the big leagues. And he’s turned CNN into a disaster. Bring back Jeff Zucker. At least he understood television.

But Amazon is even worse. Scott Galloway expects Bezos to come back. Andy Jassy is floundering. He canceled the Smile program saying every charity wasn’t getting enough money. Isn’t any money enough? And it’s not like he said he was going to redirect the monies to another charitable effort, no, that money was just going to fall straight to the company’s bottom line. You’ve got to know when not to nickel and dime. You may nickel and dime on the inside, but never on the outside, it’s a bad look. As for the inside, Jassy’s not doing that well there either. Not a surprise, given that he made his bones in AWS (Amazon Web Services). What has that got to do with broad vision, retailing and managing a large corporation, never mind its employees? Very little. So, Jassy earned the position, by building the super-profitable AWS, but to promote him to the top Amazon gig is the Peter Principle in action. As for Amazon Prime… Couldn’t he hire an interface expert, maybe even bring back Marissa Mayer, who oversaw that at Google, that was the only thing she was good at, and she was very good at it.

I mean didn’t Steve Jobs focus on two things…the look and ease of use? Those should be baked into each and every streaming app. And just because it works, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop innovating. You’ve got to give Spotify credit here, they keep pushing the envelope while their competitors rest on their laurels. Innovate or die. And that comes to programming too. What we’ve learned over a hundred plus years is that you can never be sure what will resonate with the public. Therefore you have to make a lot of product, of different stripes, or you will never catch fire. Quick, name a hit show on HBO Max, that is not on the cable channel. I bet you can’t. One show can go a long way, but it isn’t easy finding that show. The streaming landscape is littered with product that looked dead on arrival but got blockbuster viewing time. Like “The Tiger King.” Or “Squid Game.” And the latter is important, because the key to art is conception. What the studios are providing to the theatres is me-too product, just endless sequels, mostly of comic book productions. There’s nothing new to drag outsiders in, that’s why the buzz is gone. Same deal in music. All the innovation, all the interesting stuff is happening on the fringe. But the titans of the industry will only invest in and promote what sells, or has raised its head on social media. There’s no vision, only commerce. This is why streaming television is king, because it’s the number one outlet for artistic creativity. At least for the professional class. Go on TikTok and view the amateur productions, you’ll be stunned how good some of them are.

Did you read in yesterday’s NYT Style section about Sabrina Brier?

“Your Annoying Roommate Is Slaying on TikTok – Sabrina Brier is finding success online in the role of a 20-something in New York who’s trying to she her basic suburban past.”:

Check her out on TikTok: @sabrina.cinoman.brier

You can start here:

“Girl who does NOT want to hang out”:

Once again, it doesn’t matter if you get it, if you love it, although I think most of you will. Think about the target demo, the twentysomethings in the city, trying to figure it all out. Lena Dunham built a whole career on this. And every Sunday in the Style section there’s a hype article, and the product usually immediately sinks. But Sabrina is different. Then again, read to the end and you see she’s signed to CAA. Most musicians can’t make that deal, you need to be innovative. Creativity is hard. However, now Sabrina is tied into corporations. Hyping Bumble in her clips. Sure, there’s money there, but this kind of commerciality is old school, as in last decade. This decade is all about trust and credibility. Wasn’t that the point of the SVB crash, that you can’t trust anybody? That’s the power of an artist, to be trusted. The art comes first, the money second, if you go for the money first your audience feels ripped-off, people don’t think they are first, but that you’re beholden to the corporations.

As for you boomers pooh-poohing TikTok and social media… The joke is on you, time is passing you by. They should give digital literacy lessons to oldsters. I heard Bill Maher brag on his podcast that he doesn’t spend that much time on his phone. Then you’re out of it. This is why Bill is so often wrong when it comes to the younger generation and the digital world. Remove yourself at your peril. And believe me, there’s great stuff on social media. But there is no manual, you have to dive in and figure it out for yourself. There’s no live help, that’s the world we live in. If you don’t risk frustration, you don’t progress.

ANYWAY, “Farzi” is an Indian (South Asian?) series. You can listen in English if you want, that’s actually the default. And some of the dialogue is actually in English. But you have to get people over the hurdle, you’ve got to get them interested. More on “Farzi” when we finish, which we haven’t yet, but so far it’s a pretty big thumbs-up. At times things work out too easily for the characters, but don’t look at the show through an American lens.

So I never would have watched “Lucky Hank” if Felice didn’t want to. Because I hate the week by week drip. And I told her I was not going to watch it in real time, I abhor commercials, so I DVR’ed it…and it was pretty good!

Turns out Bob Odenkirk is now an A-level actor in his own realm. I can’t think of anybody else who inhabits the space. Most actors are two-dimensional, they read lines, whereas Bob was a writer, a comedian first. And therefore he’s comfortable uttering the lines, they seem to come right from him.

And Odenkirk in “Lucky Hank” is irreverent in a way we were in the sixties, but is lost to the sands of time. Come on, most of life is b.s., why pretend to take it so seriously? And Hank calls b.s. at the beginning of the show, and it wakes you right up. Can you handle the truth? Turns out students at Railton College cannot.

And it is a college town, a backwater. That Hank protests against, but his wife knows he can’t leave. Mireille Enos as Hank’s wife radiates intelligence and can give as good as she gets.

I must admit, most of the English teachers are two-dimensional, played too broadly, but the students are good. As for Diedrich Bader…he was a doofus on “The Drew Carey Show” so I’m reserving judgment, but he was good in the first episode. You know, the competitor who always has an excuse. Also, when he and Hank converse at the end of their game of racquetball…that’s how men talk. Not most guys you see in the movies, not the famous people, but the regular people. They’re not bullies and they’re not macho and they certainly aren’t bros. And therefore the conversation is deeper, about life, pondering its meaning and your choices and…that rang true.

I actually read “Straight Man,” the Richard Russo book “Lucky Hank” is based upon, but years ago, it came out in 1997. I only remember it vaguely. But the series is adding more and…

Bob Odenkirk can carry a show. It’s fun just to watch him. Some of the broad comedy in “Lucky Hank” does not work, but the more serious jokes, the questions of life underneath the surface, do hit, and demonstrate more depth than the average sitcom.

So check it out.

But really, I’d watch “Farzi” first.

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