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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Dylan McDermott Goes DARK BLUE Again




But Will This Series Kill Venice, CA? 

(Or Just a Become Another Hit for TNT)

By Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent


Once in a while a writer has to right a wrong; specifically last year's Summer set visit to the explosive Abbott-Kinney, Venice location of TNT's new series DARK BLUE that stars Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott.


Let's face it, writers are human; we sweat, get hungover, show up late... and sometimes, we face the star cast of a debut series without having watched the series. It happens.




TNT Publicist: "In this episode we're shooting, we blow up a car, remember? We told you that. That's why you're here, to see it first-hand."


Me: "Oh, yeah, right."


TNT Publicist: "You really should have worn short-sleeves; it looks like you're hot."


Me: "I used to be an athlete. I sweat. A lot."


TNT Publicist: "Did you party last night, or what?"


Me: "Uh, I'm a lightweight. Uh, I started as a print journalist. Nobody cares if you sweat like a pig when you're writing."


TNT Publicist: "Well, you'll be on camera for this. Wish we had a T-shirt for you. Sorry you're so hot."


Me: "Can you just shoot over my shoulder, like not show my face or armpits?"


TNT Publicist: "No problem. But. Next time, we should really have you watch the DVD BEFORE the interview."


Me: "Hey, I never got the mail, the package, the what-have-you, as they say in The Big Lebowski."


TNT Publicist: "We messengered it to your house."


Me: "My bad. Don't worry. I'll wing it." 


You can imagine the rest -- while the very prepared cast of DARK BLUE was busy blowing up a car in the 'hood of Venice, a certain writer was put on the spot for a video interview with Dylan, Nicki, and Omari, all without the benefit of seeing their promos. 


In the dark, but not the DARK BLUE, as it were.


Picture underarms drenched in tree rings, fresh off a 3x3 martini night. Asking questions like: "Dylan, is that your bike or a set bike? Red is your color. Is that a Schwinn?" 


Dylan: "It has 'Schwinn' written on it, doesn't it? And, yes, it is a set bike."


Me: "This character, Carter Shaw, is like the one you played with Clint Eastwood in LINE OF FIRE, right? I mean you were deep undercover in that too, right? Similar or not?"


Dylan: "I played a rookie in LINE; I'm a pro in this. No comparison. Next question?"


Me: "Do you like Venice?"


Dylan: "I love it here; I've been around here for years. Next?" 


Me: "Omari, how do you like your character?" 


Omari: "Have you seen the show?" 


Me: "Parts of it (read: a trailer on YouTube)."


Me: "Nicki, is this fun for you?" 


Nicki: "What do you mean? 'Fun'? We're a crack anti-gang unit!" 


Me: "Right. But is it fun to run around Venice --"




Me: "Omigod, you guys really get to blow shit up!"


Dylan: "Maybe you should watch the show sometime."


Me: "Hmm. Who's the Viking?"


TNT Publicist: "That's the DP. You think he's cute? He's married, and his kid is here."


DP Eagle Egilsson literally waves an arm for the crew to duck while gunshots are fired, followed by another take of the incendiary blast that KO's an SUV in the background.


Clearly a warrior from a past life, at 6' and change with a flowing blonde mane, Egilsson smiles after the ka-blooey as only a marauder, who's traded in his sword for a lens, can -- "How did you GUYS like that?!," he asks his kids. "That was way cool, Dad."


CUT BACK TO: Hapless writer who-never-appears-on-camera...


Me: "Uhm, Dylan, don't you live here, somewhere in Venice, now?" (Meaning: did he move out of the 'hood after his protracted divorce from wife Shiva Rose?) 


Dylan: "Nearby."


Me: "What's the best part about this location?"


Dylan: "The best part is I get to visit all my favorite restaurants." 


Me: "Which ones?" 


Dylan: "All of them."


TNT Publicist: "We have to move on to the guy from CNN. He's sitting in his car with the air conditioning on, would you believe. Did you get what you needed, anything?"


Me: "Sure. No problem. It was great."


"Great" in this case means my long-time editor, who's a legend in the writing trade, replaces me with another writer who doesn't even need a set visit to work over some transcripts from a roundtable interview the cast did a week before. And file a story.


In my defense, it turns out I had the flu, not actually a hangover. Three martini's never put me in a cold sweat before. It ultimately takes me about 3 weeks to recover. 


By the time I'm replaced on the DARK BLUE assignment, my above-mentioned editor gives me the cold shoulder for a week until the Joan Rivers' Comedy Central Roast. He assigns it; I agree to it -- and semi-botch it -- because, as mentioned, it takes a full three weeks to get over the flu, and Joan's thing is on week two. Apologies to Joan Rivers for that.


Ah, the perils of being a celebrity journalist.




Anyway, DARK BLUE, which launches its sophomore season August 4, actually rocks. I say this not because I dropped the ball, blew Joan Rivers' Roast, and got replaced over it -- I say this because, after watching 3 episodes back-to-back, I still wanted to see more.


And this is coming from someone who writes about movies usually, not TV (translation: does not willingly watch regular series television for love nor money).


Why is it good? Dylan McDermott is a very fine actor, surrounded by some very hot folks. 


Dean Bendis, played by the guy with the gratuitous hyphen, Logan Marshall-Green from OC, is smoking hot. Nicki Aycox is smart hot. Not to mention sizzling Omari Hardwick, whose name alone sounds racy enough. The addition of Tricia Helfer of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a killer move. Not just because she is like super hot, Cougar-ish but still young; Helfer does something Moonlighting-like in her shotgun partnership with Dylan McDermott. 


Meaning, even if you're female, gay, old, deaf, or underage, this woman does a few flirty things on screen that raise anybody's blood pressure. She's uber-stacked, but smart, chick-oriented but schtupp-able, whatever that gender-jumping mix of traits is called.


Naturally our testosterone-happy headliner rises to the occasion, pun intended. More to the point, Dylan looks almost comfortable in character. Which is tough considering he's playing a dude who is supposed to be uncomfortable in his own self-loathing skin. 


As Carter Shaw, McDermott seems to have set the bar on re-invigorating an acting turn through personal loss -- just like Nic Cage does lately in SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. 


In other words, Dylan McDermott has whipped up a breakout performance from the rubble of marital tragedy. Or maybe a long, hard-fought, bone-crushing divorce is good for the soul of a guy raised by the writer of the Vagina Monologues? (His step-mother is Eve Ensler, the hugely gifted wow-playwright of unfortunately often now-parodied cliche renown.)


Anyway, after having willingly seen the series BEFORE it airs, the verdict is in. It will last, maybe be classic TV if they don't screw up the plot too much or change the DP, LOL.


Basically it's the Jerry Bruckheimer formula of shoot-em-up, bang-her-on-the-desk, throw in a high-brow Goethe reference kind of story-telling. But it doesn't suck, surprisingly. And you don't feel like a chump watching the obvious coda of kiss and tangle.


Plus the writing is smart enough for a wide audience, and Jerry Bruckheimer knows how to juice TV with his 80's-flashback style to a time when all anyone cared about was greedy sex and sexy greed, but with a twenty-ten's eco-conscience -- as much as it's possible to combine the Decade of Greed with the Decade of Green of the Eco-Friendly Persuasion.


Here's a TNT-sourced quote/stat that should make the Bruckheimer team happy: "Jerry Bruckheimer Television shows have garnered 88 Emmy Award nominations and 18 Emmys." 


That said, all three advance DARK BLUE Season Two episodes are excellent, even if they expose the once-cool neighborhood of Venice to a mass viewership.


With DARK BLUE's peppered Venice references, borrowed ambiance and street shots, there is no chance the place will ever return to its once-hip-late-Dennis-Hopper mystique now.


Having lived in Venice for years, it is sad to think that the show will further gentrify the place, make it even more of the up-scale chic tourist spot it has morphed into in the economic yo-yo boom-and-bust real estate years since the Uprising/Riots of the Rodney King verdict that once tore the 90291 in half over race, politics, and social justice.


Times change and so do neighborhoods; but producers like Jerry Bruckheimer (with a little help from plastic surgeons) always stay the same. On top in the ratings, that is. Looks like Bruckheimer has gambled right again, on the winning blue chip DARK BLUE.


So, for the record: "Jerry, please accept my sincere apologies for attempting to get a quote from you at the Farrah Fawcett screening of her documentary at the Paley Center world premiere last year -- yes, it was in bad taste, your publicist friend was right." 


(Bruckheimer's pal, a pitt-bull PR veteran, ripped me a new airhole for that. Well, that, and an ill-conceived, off-the-cuff attempt to ask Melanie Griffith how she felt about Farrah. Thankfully, Ryan O'Neal was kind enough to call off the big bad dog and offer some very insightful heart-felt words about FF, who was still holding on to life then.)


DARK BLUE's second season premieres August 4 with "Urban Garden" at 9 pm, followed on the same night (an hour later at 10 pm), with "Liar's Poker." On August 11, again at 9 pm, is "Shelter of the Beast." Three other episodes are announced: "High Rollers" (Aug. 18); "Brother's Keeper" (Aug. 25); and "Jane Wayne" (Sept. 1). Watch Helfer break out in BLUE.


PS: Finally, to kill all the shame birds with one stone -- To my favorite long-term legendary editor: No more triple martini's at Hal's in Venice for this writer, promise, switching to Absolut.


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