100 Centre Street (2001–2002)
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It reminded me of European films, and even television, that delve deep into characters and themes and don't feel pressured to bang out action sequences for the A.D.D generation.
I so hope Mr. Lumet gives us more of exactly what this was -- one of the best dramas on television, ever. Lumet really amazes me.
In Australia we are showing it on our national TV broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, similar to the American Public Broadcasting System without the ads. This means, naturally, the audience is rather limited here which is, for me, a great shame. For if more non-Australians watched this insightful and mature drama where ordinary people are depicted as close as ordinary people are, they would get to know how flawed the most powerful country in human history is for those for lack the finance for the basic decencies of human needs, like sufficient nutrition, decent shelter, equal rights under the law, humane social welfare system, etc etc - and all this in a country which boasts the greatest number of billionaires on the planet. I cannot praise Alan Alder's acting enough though the rest of the cast deserve equal praise. But it is in the very conception and the great writing which has never faulted in its depiction of a courtroom environment that deserve the greatest praise.
I would imagine that a television drama which gives equal depiction to story and character would not be easy to sell to American and thus overseas networks. Whatever, it makes for compelling and intelligent television - a rarity from American networks.
It is such a shame that it doesn't have a wider audience.
Alan Arkin, who plays a judge, was and is an American acting gem. Lumet's concept and writing was real, smart, painful, revelatory, and ultimately satisfying as great tragedies are. Overall the ensemble was a delight and made us want to know how they and stories would develop or cope with their many very real challenges - challenges that were common to many of us, and not the extremes shown on 'Law & Order' or 'House'...
(100 Center St is the real address of the downtown NYC courthouse. The show followed the working and personal lives of the judges, prosecutors, and defenders and the struggles between law, justice, politics, true care, and personal ambition or desire around this common case inner-city court.)
It had an unusually large and diversified cast, headed by Academy Award winning actor Alan Arkin and the magnificent LaTanya Richardson as diametrically opposed, both judicially and politically, but sill close, New York City judges.
It seems to me producer Lumet sought to bring back some of the quality that occasionally surfaced in the early days of live TV drama. I think he succeeded brilliantly. While the series slightly lost focus in its' second season, due mainly to cast defections and resulting plot line changes, it was, IMHO, head and shoulders above most of what passes for dramatic TV these days.
It is always a joy to see artists the likes of Arkin, Richardson, et al, applying their craft in an obviously friendly environment.
So far as I know, this two season series is not available on DVD. It should be.
Something I have always hated about "Hollywood" is that any project is much more salable if it closes on an upbeat or has a "lived happily ever after" ending. Being real isn't always part of the criteria, substance much less important than if it looks good and is well polished.
Unfortunately, I have experienced first hand the very popular belief about a shows potential and it's success being not based on it's subject, content and the real often twisted nuances of life. Rather it seems to have more emphasis on whether or not that it is slick, highly promoted and has a good score, if it does then it must be good, it must be okay... (Now don't get me wrong, while I do have a special appreciation for the Mike Post's and Pete Carpenter's of the business, I find their contributions to be an added bonus to the production but not a critical must.)
And I just wanted to say that it's not all good, it's not always okay...
I think the point that Mr. Lumet is trying to make is that life sometimes is tedious, stereotypical and tarnished. Often the bottom line, end of story and/or real deal in life is that it doesn't always have a happy ending.
It accurately illustrates that sometimes more often than not, life is just not fair or even good and the outcome in general really does suck.
Honestly tells us a story about the human condition - the gist being you get sick, you get old and you die, and with this you make the best of it otherwise you don't.
100 Centre Street does just that and it is what I love about the show the most, it's simple approach to complicated issues, people and scenarios that are sometimes raw, sensitive and rude. Just puts it out there, like it or not, without all the extra bullsh... This I understand and appreciate very much... I do because I have lived it and know it all too well...
in love & light, shell
PS - Mr Lumet, if you read this, boy have I got a story for you... LOL
Gee, Mr. Lumet, how original... YAWN!