Bryan Cranston is one of my favorite people. Not just because he’s such a talented actor, but because he’s a genuinely good guy.
Hey, I was complaining in print that he wasn’t winning much-deserved best actor in a comedy Emmys when he starred as the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle.” I was thrilled when he won four best actor in a drama Emmys for “Breaking Bad.”
Not only is he a great interview, he’s just plain entertaining. Cranston once showed up at my office to chat because he happened to be in town. Another time he stopped me at a hotel to say hi — and poke fun at my sweaty workout clothes. One year at the Television Critics Association Awards, we gossiped quietly into each other’s ears about other winners — and he went out of his way to be nice to my two daughters.
So, yeah, I love Bryan Cranston.
And that makes it particularly tough to tell you that his new Showtime series, “Your Honor,” isn’t good. OK, it’s pretty bad. Not just unremittingly grim, but often just plain dumb.
Cranston stars as New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, a good and ethical man whose world is turned upside down when his teenage son, Adam (Hunter Doohan) accidentally hits and kills a teenager in a car accident, then flees the scene. The victim, it turns out, is the beloved son of a mob boss — pretty much the last person you want to kill, accident or not.
The first act of the first episode (8 p.m. Sunday, Showtime) shows us the accident in excruciating detail. It’s so grim and bloody it’s almost impossible to watch. And, at least through the four episodes screened for critics, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
The judge instructs his son to keep his mouth shut and sets out to cover this up so that neither the authorities nor the mobster find out what happened. Cranston is just as good as we’ve come to expect from him — but the material is not up to his standards. Not up to viewers’ standards, either.
I won’t give away any plot points, but there’s a courtroom scene that’s just unbelievably dumb. Multiple characters do things that make zero sense. There’s a revelation about Adam’s personal life that’s both highly unlikely and highly offensive.
I remain a huge fan of Cranston, but “Your Honor” is one of the biggest TV disappointments of the year. And saying that in 2020 is pretty harsh.
“Godfather” finale is better but ...
The next time you hear a big-time actor or director say they don’t read reviews and don’t care what critics have to say, consider this: Francis Ford Coppola recently told “CBS This Morning” that he’s been left “heartbroken” by some bad reviews — and that he took it very personally when his daughter, Sofia, took a drubbing for her performance in “The Godfather, Part 3.”
“They went after what I loved the most — which was my kids,” he said.
Not that I blame him, but he’s reacting as a father. Sofia, then just 19, was woefully miscast as the daughter of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the 1990 movie — her father turned to her when Winona Ryder dropped out, and she wasn’t much of an actress. And that’s being nice about it.
To be fair, “Godfather III” was almost set up to fail. The first two movies each won best picture Oscars, and became cinema classics. So expectations were impossibly high when Francis Ford Coppola — who co-wrote the third film with Mario Puzo and once again directed — returned to the saga.
But, expectations or not, “Godfather III” was still muddled and, at times, unintentionally funny. People in theaters laughed at the final scene.
Three decades later, Coppola has re-edited and retitled it. And “The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone” — which will be released Tuesday on Blu-ray and digital — is an improvement. The convoluted plot involving the Vatican is easier to follow; the ending is better; and even Sofia Coppola’s shortcomings as an actress are somewhat camouflaged.
She’s still not good. No amount of editing could make that happen. And the romance between her character and her first cousin (Andy Garcia) is just irredeemable.
The third “Godfather” movie still isn’t great. It’s not in the same league as the first two. But it was worth Coppola’s re-editing effort.