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Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Life in LA: Do-It-Ur-Self
While taking a walk one unemployed afternoon a while back, I came upon a Russian man -- white-haired and bare-chested -- working on a car. He was old, but had the stolid, sinewy, don't-fuck-with-me glare of a veteran who'd survived the Battle of Stalingrad.
Rather than the usual shade-tree mechanical chores, he wasn't changing a tire, replenishing the oil, or installing a new water pump, but building a new hood and front quarter panels for the car in the Really Old School mode, with a handsaw and lumber -- using what he had to make the necessary repairs. Working steadily in the summer heat, he finished the job in two days. If the resulting bodywork doesn't exactly match the factory specs (nor pass muster with the California Highway Patrol, I suspect), the car once again had a hood, bumper, and front quarter panels to keep out the rain.
Who knows what the story here really was, but this little two-door doesn't look like the sort of car an old Russian would buy for himself and his big fat wife. My guess is it belonged to a nephew, niece, or grandson who tore up the sheet metal in a traffic mishap. Rather than shell out three or four grand for repairs in a real body shop -- far more than the car was worth -- Grandpa Ivan volunteered to fix it for fifty bucks worth of materials.
Given that scenario, I'm trying to imagine the look on the kid's face when he came to pick up his "good as new" car... but hey, the price was right.
Last week’s “The Business” (on KCRW) featured an interview with Shawn Ryan, who rose to prominence on the small screen in his role as showrunner of FX’s ground breaking good-cops-gone-bad drama “The Shield.” Ryan doesn't always hit a commercial home run (his excellent but ill-fated show "Terriers" died after one season) but his shows are always interesting. The latest effort is a big budget Fox episodic called “The Chicago Code,” which looks good and tries hard... but maybe a bit too hard. Personally, I find the pretty and petite Jennifer Beals a hard sell as the top cop in the rough-tough "city of big shoulders." The setup feels very contrived, and this sense of manufactured drama taints the rest of the proceedings. More money and a much bigger production don't always make a better show.
It’s early, though – only two episodes in – and maybe the show will find a more natural pace and rhythm in telling the story of good people forced to work in a bad system.
“The Shield” was something else. Although I’m no fan of the “shakey-cam” shooting style, and found much of the show over the top, it was undeniably fascinating – once I started watching an episode, I could not turn it off. With a gritty, sweaty feel and excellent acting all around, “The Shield” was not a comfortable show to watch, but it was compelling. As the showrunner, Shawn Ryan deserves the credit -- and the story of how he made the pilot and survived the winnowing process to get a series pick-up is an object lesson in the value of taking risks and swinging for the fences in this town. That was a drama in itself. You can hear all that and more right here.
It’s a good one. Check it out...