Jeanne Jakle: TV takes on filthy rich and struggling poor
Two very different families, one headed by an eccentric billionaire, the other struggling to make ends meet, come to TV this week via a thriller from an Oscar-winning director and a comedy revival that features one of the small screen’s most famous matriarchs.
“Trust” starts rolling out its 10 episodes at 9 p.m. Sunday on FX. The drama brings us the strange, dark, decadent, at times amusing — yet essentially unhappy — tale of J. Paul Getty and his family, with an emphasis on the grisly 1973 abduction of the oil tycoon’s grandson.
It’s marked by big names on and off the screen. Donald Sutherland portrays Getty, Brendan Fraser is his colorful head of security, and two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank is his former daughter-in-law, the frantic mom of kidnapped teen J. Paul Getty III.
Danny Boyle, known for best picture winner “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Trainspotting,” is executive producer and the director of several episodes.
“Roseanne,” starring Roseanne Barr in the title role, also has a stellar pedigree, returning the likes of John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and Johnny Galecki to their former roles.
The reboot, which premieres at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ABC, is as raucous and rowdy as the original, thanks to its working-class feel, Barr’s grating laugh and the series’ abundant one-liners.
More on both:
Initially, it feels icky to invest in a family with such an abominable man at its head. Getty senior, as depicted by Sutherland, is a soulless skinflint who’ll lay down big bucks for a lion from Africa and penile injections so he can satisfy his multiple mistresses in the boudoir, yet he won’t pay, as he puts it, “a single solitary cent,” for the ransom demanded for his kidnapped grandson.
A good-hearted Texan, however, manages to save the show — and rekindle our interest.
Fraser portrays James Fletcher Chace, an ex-CIA operative from the Lone Star State charged with investigating young Paul’s disappearance in Italy.
He, unlike his boss, has a sense of humanity, following every lead he can with the sincere objective of returning the lad to his family, mom Gail (Swank), in particular.
Chace dominates the second episode — breaking the fourth wall with memorable insights.
Dressed in cowboy boots and a Stetson almost as expressive as his biblical quotes, Chace visits all the known haunts of the kid. His swagger may be easy, but his aim of uncovering the gangsters suspected of taking the boy is deadly serious.
Fraser made it clear at a recent session with TV critics how much he loved the nuanced role.
“He’s a man with a textured past. He’s on a journey of redemption,” he said. “He wants to rescue this kid for personal reasons outside of just being beholden to his boss, the richest man in the world. I approached this from the boots and belt and hat up.
“I wanted to show that he really cares. He cares about the family. He cares about Gail. He’s not just an employee of this Midas character.”
Although the episode was directed by Boyle, it’s so different from the first and third, which he also helmed, you’re left wondering exactly what direction he wants the drama to take.
No matter. If you can make it past the meandering pilot, you’re bound to be intrigued. A big plus is young actor Harris Dickinson, who, under a curly red mop of hair, brings a likable intensity to Paul.
Despite the teen’s heavy drug use and wild Italian escapades, Dickinson makes us believe that, down deep, Paul is a decent, creative and rather lovely soul who simply gets caught up in something that spirals tragically out of control.
For many, it may be tough to get past the pilot’s polarizing politics, dominated by Trump supporter Roseanne’s anti-Hillary ravings around liberal sister Jackie (Metcalf).
“Aunt Jackie thinks every girl should grow up and be president,” she quips, “even if they’re a liar, liar, pantsuit on fire.”
Warmer moments in ensuing episodes, however, are worth your patience.
For starters, it’s refreshing to see a family in varnished sitcom land so economically challenged. Explaining why the Conner home hasn’t changed much since her childhood, Darlene (Gilbert) deadpans: “It’s a decorating choice called poverty.”
So far, my favorite scenes are in episode three, when Roseanne turns into a lioness protective of one of her cubs.
Darlene, divorced and jobless, has moved back home with her two kids. The youngest, Mark (Ames McNamara), 9, makes it quite clear that he likes wearing skirts and “colors that pop.”
This causes Roseanne and Dan (Goodman) to worry he’ll be bullied at school.
Barr, in particular, is excellent in a quiet scene that have grandma quizzing the kid on his style choices. Satisfied with his answers, she takes him to school, and noticing the gawking and taunts, asks the teacher if she can address the class.
She begins tenderly enough, but ends on an ominous promise that’s bound to leave you smiling.
Jeanne Jakle’s column appears Thursdays and Sundays in mySA. Read more of her columns here. | firstname.lastname@example.org | @JakleJ