For some people, getting into the holiday spirit means spiking the eggnog with Jolt Cola or licking only the red parts of candy canes. For others, holiday spirit is only roused by smoky dramas about mobsters in the 1950s. So prepare to deck many a hall, others, because TNT is serving up a big-time gangster drama called Mob City just in time for Christmas break. But will the show be worth all the virtual second-hand smoke? Let's find out in another edition TV.com Tells You What to Watch!
I don't capiche Mob City. What the heck is it?
This is noir-as-all-heck drama straight out of the classic films that used to cost a nickel and a shoe shine for your grandpappy. Based on the ridiculously long-titled book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin, Mob City is set in the 1940s and 1950s and is knee-deep in mobsters and cops smoking cigarettes and wearing suits. The series' central focus is on John Teague, a former Marine who's now a cop, as he dances on the line between right and wrong.
Whose show is this, and who's in it?
The series made headlines as soon as it was announced because it's Frank Darabont's first project since The Walking Dead, which he was booted from by AMC. Darabont even poached some of his help from the zombie mega-hit in the form of Jon Bernthal (Shane) and Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale), and then bolstered them with Ed Burns (The Brothers McMullen), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Neal McDonough (Justified), and Robert Knepper (Prison Break).
When does Mob City materialize from a cloud of cigarette smoke and whiskey fumes?
Mob City premieres Wednesday, December 4 at 9pm on TNT. It's one of them new-fangled limited-event series, with Season 1 running only six episodes and airing over three weeks (two episodes per night). Is that TNT's way of burning it off or testing the waters to determine whether it's viable as a series? I'm not sure.
What wiseguys are gonna like Mob City?
Fans of dames and broads and square jaws and clichéd mobster speak will dig this. This is concentrated film noir, and it's bursting at the seams with nightclub acts backed by an orchestra of older gentlemen in all-white suits, gobs of cigarette-smoke clouds and clinky drinks, and dark alleys lit up by machine-gun fire. Though it's aesthetically similar to Boardwalk Empire, Mob City plays more like an entry-level course to gangster drama and film noir than a companion piece to the more advanced and intelligent (and bloody) HBO show
What about Mob City is good like-a mama's cannoli?
Call me crazy, but Darabont's preference for the direct and simple actually works in the world of noir. The genre is so constrained as it is, and rehashing it isn't a terrible thing, particularly for a network like TNT that isn't trying to be HBO or AMC. All Mob City needs to do is put guys in hats and ties, let them point guns at each other every once in a while, give them plenty of old-school quips that've been retired in the dialogue museum for decades, and throw a sharp-tongued and sexy-named lady—Jasmine Fontaine, in this case—their way so they can bounce barbs at each other, see? Is it innovative or fresh? Nope. But the premiere episode is an entertaining costume party and a fine hour of television. The cast is a collection of likable faces, with DeMunn, Bernthal, and Jeremy Strong (The Good Wife) putting on the best performances, and there's a pretty cool flashback system in place that shows us where these characters were in the '20s. Plus, the show looks great!
What about Mob City deserves to sleep with the fishes?
I mean, this is REALLY film noir, almost to the point where you might think it's a joke. And that's the question I have regarding Mob City: is this a respectful homage to the classics or a lazy rip-off? That'll be up for you to decide, but I get the feeling that the whole atmosphere of the show wouldn't hold its appeal for much longer than the six episodes that have been ordered. And maybe not even that long; the first episode was a lot better than the second (I've only seen the first two). A short run for Mob City might be beneficial, as it definitely seems better suited to being a one-off miniseries.
So, should I watch it?
I can't give it a hearty recommendation, but it's not a bad watch. If you can stick with it through the second episode, you'll probably make it through the whole series.
Let's take a look at a trailer!
Okay! And just in case you're super impatient, the entire first episode is available in little chunks via this weird Twitter experiment.
Mob City premieres Wednesday, December 4 at 9pm on TNT.
AIRED ON 12/18/2013
Season 1 : Episode 6