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The Bronx is Burning


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#1

dreamy

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 2:37 PM

Adapted from espn:

The Bronx is Burning is an eight-hour miniseries about the tumultuous summer of 1977 and the New York Yankees.


Premiere episode: Monday, July 9th at 10 pm on ESPN.

The cast is certainly stellar: Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson, Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner, John Turturro as Billy Martin (check out those ears!). And NYC in 1977 is a great historic period, given the Son of Sam shooting spree, the blackout and the fiscal crisis. I think this was a couple of years after that infamous New York Daily News headline, Ford to NYC: Drop Dead.

I think that the concept is great, but will it get lost in the shuffle given that itís summer and itís being shown on ESPN, a channel not known for original dramatic programming?

#2

Mia Nina

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 8:16 PM

I've been a Yankees fan since I was 1 second old, but I was born in '83 so I'm always up for some Yankee history. I already know the story but it's going to be cool watching it dramatized.

#3

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 8:42 PM

It's official: John Turtorro has to be in every movie about New York now right? ;)

I think that the concept is great, but will it get lost in the shuffle given that itís summer and itís being shown on ESPN, a channel not known for original dramatic programming?

The only place I've seen previews for the show is ESPN and they promoted the hell out of it. I'm thinking they'll get a holdover from the Home Run Derby which will help out tonight, but what will the rest of the seven episodes do for a lead-in?

#4

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:12 PM

I grew up in the Bronx and was home on summer break in 1977. Times were not good--Son of Sam, nasty subways (the subway today is paradise in comparison), the blackout (scariest thing I've ever experienced and I didn't even leave the house that night)-- so I'll pass up this trip down memory lane.

#5

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:32 PM

runcible spoon, I grew up in Brooklyn in 1977, and I remember it well, too. (My family actually knew, in a very passing way, one of the victims of Son of Sam)

RoxieVelma, I think continuing to show the Home Run challenge was a bad idea, given how you never know when it's going to end. How is one's DVR supposed to work? (I think it's replaying tomorrow night, late on ESPN 2, so I'm trying again then). Strike One.

#6

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:41 PM

How often can you say Oliver Platt is too good looking for a role? I'm sure he'll be good, but he's actually got to ugly himself up for the part.

#7

dreamy

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:45 PM

He must be heartily sick of plaid. I seem to remember many, many, many plaid suits that Steinbrenner wore. With those ubiquitous turtlenecks.

#8

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:48 PM

This going to start at least an hour behind schedule...11 pm on the East Coast, where the majority of the people most interetsed in watching will be. I wonder what this will do for the ratings?

I'm psyched to see it, but I am concerned that it's a few too many episodes for something that could probably just as easily be done in two hours a la 61*.

#9

dreamy

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Posted Jul 9, 2007 @ 9:55 PM

11 pm on the East Coast, where the majority of the people most interetsed in watching will be.

Hey, are you saying that there are no Yankee fans outside of New York? :-)

#10

socoman9

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 9:25 AM

It is also going to be shown on ESPN Wednesday night at 10. But you're right it totally blew having to wait until the HR Derby was over for it start late.

#11

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 10:00 AM

Hey, are you saying that there are no Yankee fans outside of New York? :-)


Count me as a Yankees fan outside of NY. The Yankees of the late 70's were an awesome team that I rooted for. And Reggie Jackson was (and still clearly is) my idol.

Daniel Sunjata's performance, so far, is spot on and he really nails that air of confidence/arrogance that made Reggie the superstar he was.

John Turturro's as Billy Martin is also exceptional. The ears are distracting at first, but they blend in after a while and it is his performance that stands out.

Oliver Platt does well with a role that could easily turn into parody.

My only complaint right now is that the non-baseball stuff seems to be kind of forced into the story. Hopefully future episodes tie it together.

And we need more Munson, Piniella and Nettles.

#12

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 11:04 AM

Daniel Sunjata's performance, so far, is spot on and he really nails that air of confidence/arrogance that made Reggie the superstar he was.


I thought he did a good job, too. He really added a lot of nuance to show how Reggie's lack of self-awareness failed him, especially in the famous "straw that stirs the drink" interview.

So far, I think Turturro is doing a great job as Martin, and Oliver Platt is doing more than just an "impression" of Steinbrenner. So far, so good... we'll see how the rest goes.

#13

Energiya Buran

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 11:42 AM

And we need more Munson, Piniella and Nettles.


NYY fan from '76 and I have been inked with pinstripes since '98. So, while I was pissed I had to wait until 11 to see it, it was a pretty good job. I was shocked though how much the Munson character looked like him...it was a bit creepy to me. Especially when Thurm was crouched down and Reggie came up to him, just eery.

I too would like to see more fiery Pinella and Nettles. I think, to this day, Graig still despises Reggie. And, I didn't think Turturro was that small a guy?

#14

dreamy

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 1:42 PM

Argh. So annoyed that I have to wait until Wednesday to see this, but enjoying the feedback so far.

For me, Thurman Munson dying was one of those moments of childhood that you never forget. I don't remember it specifically as much as I remember the reactions of adults around me.

By the way, Energiya Buran, as far as I know, Turturro is over 6 ft.

Here's an article I tracked from NY Daily News sports section from several weeks ago.

#15

Energiya Buran

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 2:02 PM

By the way, Energiya Buran, as far as I know, Turturro is over 6 ft.

That is why it puzzled me so! I thought he was tall, and somehow, in this show, he looked small. I was perplexed.

Me too on Thurman's death...I remember it well as I was in camp at the time. I think that is when I realized that death means not coming back. I was just a kid too; 28 years sure passes damn quick.

#16

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 3:00 PM

I thought this was really well done...Turtorro was/is great as Martin...I had forgotten Martin had sort of a "southern drawl"...did that come from hanging around with the Mick all those years??

The interspersing of the political fights/Son of Sam etc. felt a little forced but just a minor quibble.

#17

Nutjob

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 3:04 PM

Thanks for the article, dreamy. I forwarded it to my hubby, who practically bleeds Yankee blue.

#18

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Posted Jul 10, 2007 @ 4:48 PM

From the article linked to above:

Reggie was always a conceited braggart, sure. But there was also a nobility to the man and his remarkable feats.


I was only 5 at the time, but what I do remember of the season, and of Reggie in general, is that he was a smart guy, and there is an idiocy to this portrayal that I'm not happy about. We looked up to Reggie for a reason, and yes, the hits were a huge part of that, but I think there was more to it than just that.

#19

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 6:31 AM

Reggie was simply being Reggie in those days:

I was 11, turning 12 in September in 1977, and Reggie coming to the Yankees was a big deal back then. The first part for me was re-living my childhood as I grew up in New York, and I remember much of what actually happened back then (if you missed part one, in addition to the ESPN airing tonight (Wednesday) at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT, ESPN Classic is airing it at 11:00 PM ET/8:00 PM PT).

I agree they should been more careful, but whoever did the schedule probably forgot the Home Run Derby almost always overruns its time slot (if ESPN really wanted the show to premiere at 10:00 PM, they should have started the Home Run Derby an hour earlier at 7:00).

Speaking of this series, the New York Daily News has a special section in conjunction that is also called The Bronx Is Burning that is well worth reading. That includes an extensive sub-section on the Bushwick Section of Brooklyn, which suffered by far the worst from the blackout for a long time afterwards.

Edited by Wallyhorse, Jul 11, 2007 @ 3:09 PM.


#20

dreamy

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 1:01 PM

Thanks for the link, Wallyhorse. And check this one out from tvguide.com. Apparently I wasn't the only one cursing ESPN on Monday night.

#21

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 4:26 PM

Turtorro was/is great as Martin...I had forgotten Martin had sort of a "southern drawl"...did that come from hanging around with the Mick all those years??


It is possible some of that drawl came from hanging with Mantle, but Martin, who was an Italian kid from the Bay Area, adopted the drawl during his stint managing in Texas. Martin was always fascinated with cowboys and the wild west and during his time in Texas he took on the persona quite a bit, complete with a drawl. I think Turturro might be laying it on a bit thick, but it is accurate to who Martin was. I think it might sound off because Martin's voice was much more nasally than Turturro's. Still, a pretty accurate portrayal by Turturro.

And Turturro is kind of tall, but I am sure he is being filmed to appear shorter as Martin himself was kind of short. Certainly shorter than Reggie and Steinbrenner.

I was only 5 at the time, but what I do remember of the season, and of Reggie in general, is that he was a smart guy, and there is an idiocy to this portrayal that I'm not happy about. We looked up to Reggie for a reason, and yes, the hits were a huge part of that, but I think there was more to it than just that.


I don't think they are shorting Reggie on his intellect. It is just that it is being portrayed as coming from a more egotistical place. Reggie was (and still is) a very articulate and intelligent person in regular life, but he comes off as Einstein compared to his baseball peers. The reactions of his peers makes it seem as if Reggie is full of it, but it is really Reggie leaving his teammates in the dust, intellectually. Like the scene in the batting cage that ends with Mickey Rivers (who is no mental giant) wondering what the hell Reggie is talking about. The fact that Reggie has a deeper intellect than his teammates makes it seem like he is a know it all, rather than a thoughtful and insightful person.

Edited by reggiejax, Jul 11, 2007 @ 4:36 PM.


#22

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 5:56 PM

The 1977 and 1978 Yankees were really important to my parents (and that summer was a huge deal, even though they lived in New Jersey and not New York because of everything that is going on), so I'm loving the miniseries so far. The "Son of Sam" stuff is really terrifying, but the baseball stuff is really interesting. Steinbrenner, the Billy Martin/Yogi Berra hirings/firings, Reggie, etc. Loved the explanation of the famous "the straw that stirs the drink" quote.

So far, so good. It's not quite as crisp as Billy Crystal's 61*, but considering it's 8 hours long, I didn't really expect it to be. Apparently they're going to release the whole thing on DVD in September, so hopefully there will be some great commentary.

ETA: On Thurman's death. My dad still remembers the day too. He was a huge fan of Munson because Thurman was from Ohio just like his father.

Edited by keg411, Jul 11, 2007 @ 6:00 PM.


#23

StaceyRosie

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 6:50 PM

The guy playing Munson looks so much like him. It's eerie.

#24

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Posted Jul 11, 2007 @ 10:50 PM

I was a huge Yankee fan back in the day (no longer; there's only so much Steinbrenner one can take), so I was really looking forward to this. I just finally watched it (stupid Home Run Derby messing up my tape Monday night), and I really liked it. I agree with those who say the murder stuff seems forced in (though Michael Ripsoli is great as Jimmy Breslin), but maybe it'll mix in better as the series progresses.

I think all three principal actors are great so far. Platt certainly has the bluster and the insecurity in Steinbrenner down pat, and I'm glad they didn't soften him up in the scene where he confronts Martin when he's crying after losing the Series and getting thrown out of the game.

Martin's height, or lack theirof, was a massive part of his insecurity; in his autobiography, he complained that he wouldn't have gotten half the shit he got if he was taller. It's nice to see while Turturro is too tall, he's stooping like Martin, and he has the hunger and the vulnerability down pat.

And while Reggie Jackson is probably the toughest role to play, because you can't fake charisma, I think Sunjata is doing a fine job so far. He also looks convincing as an athlete.

I also want more Nettles and Pinella, and agree the guy playing Munson is eerie, the resemblance is that close.

#25

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Posted Jul 12, 2007 @ 1:21 PM

I agree with everything ethanvahlere posted above (hi, by the way!). Turturro is trying his hardest to seem smaller, but when I first saw him I felt that his upper body was way too big, his arms too long, to resemble Martin. And those ears continue to distract me. I don't think I ever noticed Billy Martin's ears - maybe because I always saw him wearing a baseball cap. But from a certain angle you can see the thickness of the back of the prosthetic ear and it looked like solid rubber.

Mickey Rivers and his wife in the yellow car cracked me up. I hope that actor has Mickey Rivers' bowlegged running style down.

I had a Bronx is Burning era moment on my morning commute this morning. For the first time in years, the subway car I got on had black spray painted graffiti on the outside, and when I walked into the car, there was no a/c. I felt transported back in time, but switched cars at the next stop and had a clean cool car for the rest of my commute.

#26

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Posted Jul 12, 2007 @ 3:36 PM

As a long-time (26 years) Yankee fan, I had high hopes for this mini-series. If the first episode serves as any indication, the Bronx is Burning may not fare any better than the Bronx Bombers current, sub-.500 season. Some wonderful concepts (e.g., linking the Summer of Sam and NY Budget Crisis to the 1977 season) were great, but were undermined by poor writing and inconsistent line delivery on behalf of the actors. Some of the dialogue seems so incredibly ham-handed and forced. The best/worst example of that is the recruiting scene where Reggie and George walk through Central Park:

George (paraphrasing here): Reggie, a world championship is what I really need to be happy. What would it take to make you happy?

Reggie: A Rolls Royce.

George: Then a Rolls Royce you shall have!

Really, really brutal folks. Someone actually got paid to write that dreck?

Best part of that scene was a cameo from current Yankee Jason Giambi as the cab driver who tells Reggie how much New York really needs him.

I'm hoping the remaining seven episodes bring better scripts and improved acting.

Edited by King of Wakanda, Jul 12, 2007 @ 5:39 PM.


#27

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Posted Jul 12, 2007 @ 10:38 PM

The one thing that struck me was how much Jackson seemed to crave Martin's respect and how, underneath the bravado, he seemed to be hurt by the way Martin gave him the cold shoulder. I wonder if that part was accurate.

#28

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Posted Jul 13, 2007 @ 6:24 PM

The '78 Yankees were my team but I did see Reggie hit those 3 homers in '77. Therefore, when I heard about this show, I was really excited.

I was very impressed with the actual program but could have done without all of the Son of Sam violence. A sports show about the '77 Yanks certainly could have held its own on ESPN.

I read the Jonathan Mahler book and know that he discussed the Son of Sam in it. And I was a teenager in NY at the time and news about the Son of Sam was everywhere. So I suppose it makes sense to include it here. It provides a historic perspective on NY at the time.

As a sequel, I'd love to see a story about the '78 team. I can't believe it has been almost 30 years(!) since that great season (Great if you're a Yankee fan, of course).

Thurman Munson's death was indeed a shock and I will always remember where I was when I heard about it.

Reggie was quite intellectual and I don't remember anyone else quite like him (in baseball) before or since - although to be fair, I haven't watched baseball closely in around 15 years or so. He had the sense of what he was supposed to represent as one of the premier black athletes of the time.

I like how the program interspersed actual gameplay with the acted scenes.

Oliver Platt is a great Steinbrenner. And wow, Turturro as Billy is pretty convincing.

Edited by meowing, Jul 13, 2007 @ 6:27 PM.


#29

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Posted Jul 13, 2007 @ 9:08 PM

The New York Times has a special online section about The '77 Blackout (free, but registration required).

Having finally seen the first episode, I see what you all mean about Reggie not really standing out (yet), though the relationship between Steinbrenner and Martin is quite compelling. Equally arresting for me are the images of New York 30 years ago; I was 11 in 1977, and though I may not remember all of those news items specifically, the visuals, of Times Square, of the clothes, of the El, the graffiti, and the like is bringing up a lot of unnameable memories of my childhood.

meowing, I see your point about the Son of Sam, though it didn't jar me. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, and those shootings were a bigger part of life than the Yankees in some ways (in a several persons removed way, I know someone who was maimed by David Berkowitz then) It will be interesting to see how much more natural (or unnatural) it feels as the episodes go on and more about the context of Yankees in 1977 is shown (the blackout, for example).

eta: nutjob, have you (or your Yankees obsessed husband) seen New York magazine this week? They have a special section on NYC baseball parks. If you would like, I'll PM you the link.

Edited by dreamy, Jul 13, 2007 @ 9:11 PM.


#30

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Posted Jul 13, 2007 @ 10:08 PM

The fact that the NYC blackout was 30 years ago is mind-boggling to me.

Has that much time passed? Incredible.

Edited by meowing, Jul 13, 2007 @ 10:26 PM.