Tough Times In Appalachia , According To Television Series


Category:  Entertainment

By:  john-russell  •  3 years ago  •  5 comments

Tough Times In Appalachia , According To Television Series

Two new highly anticipated drama series , Dopesick on HULU , and American Rust on Showtime are casting a spotlight on the trials and tribulations of the downtrodden and neglected "middle America" people who inhabit the hills , mountains and coal mines of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia , and Ohio. 

Can tv do this right?  Last tv season Mare Of Easttown covered the same territory basically, and was one of the nest tv series of the year. 


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  author  JohnRussell    3 years ago

chicago.suntimes.com   /movies-and-tv/2021/9/10/22664775/american-rust-review-showtime-jeff-daniels-series-maura-tierney-pennsylvania

‘American Rust’ review: It gets very hard to stay with Showtime’s meandering steel-town drama

Richard Roeper 5-6 minutes   9/10/2021

Detective Sgt. Mare Sheehan from “Mare of Easttown” and Chief of Police Del Harris from “American Rust” mine different turf in Pennsylvania about five hours’ drive from one another, what with Sheehan working a small town near Philadelphia while Harris patrols an area in the Southwestern part of the state — but if they ever happened to run into each in a bar and exchanged pleasantries, they’d find out they had a lot in common. They’re both middle-aged, world-weary, emotionally damaged souls whose respective territories are rife with murder cases involving young people, complicated family relationships and combustible romances.

Oh, and neither is above bending the law if that’s what it will take to protect someone close to them.

Thing is, Mare is mixed up in a more compelling, more suspenseful and more colorful world than Chief Harris in “American Rust,” a Showtime limited series based on Philipp Meyer’s novel of the same name. Set in the bleak, economically depressed, seemingly always brown-and-gray fictional town of Buell, Pennsylvania, this is a sincere and sometimes effective but plodding portrayal of lower-middle-class despair and a town filled with residents who are either on the way down or struggling to stay on their feet after recovering from one hard punch after another. (The closed and rusted-out mills loom in the background as a haunting reminder of what once was.)

The always-watchable Daniels leads a wonderful ensemble cast in a story with occasional flashes of inspiration — but based on the first three episodes provided for review, “American Rust” too often gets bogged down in meandering subplots, and some truly clunky dialogue. (It’s never a good sign when a woman looks into the eyes of the conflicted antihero during a time of crisis and declares, “You’re a good man,” and then says his full name, as if we’re in a 1950s B-movie Western.)

Daniels’ Police Chief Del Harris is a stone-faced loner, Iraq War veteran and former Pittsburgh police detective who has moved to the town of Buell in the rural southwest section of Pennsylvania. Del is trying to wean himself from the cocktail of prescription drugs he takes to cope with his PTSD, so each morning he meticulously grinds the pills into a fine powder in increasingly smaller increments, weighing the pile on a scale and then scooping it into his drink. Then it’s off to make his rounds in a Rust Belt town where the unemployment rate has skyrocketed and even if you’re lucky enough to have a job tending bar or sewing wedding dresses in a local shop, it’s a struggle to make ends meet.

Del is in love with Grace Poe (Maura Tierney), but it’s complicated, as Grace is separated from but not yet entirely free from her no-good husband Virgil (Mark Pellegrino). There’s also the matter of Grace’s son Billy (Alex Nuestaedter), a high school football star who turned down a D-1 scholarship to help out his mom but is now lost and angry — especially after the love of his life, Lee (Julia Mayorga), fled for New York City. That left Lee’s troubled brother and Billy’s best friend Isaac (David Alvarez) to care for Lee’s and Isaac’s father Henry (Bill Camp), who was injured in a work accident and is in a wheelchair and spews bile at everyone and anyone at every opportunity.

This is one sunny bunch.

When Del discovers a body in an abandoned mill and it’s clear a murder has transpired, he has a pretty good idea of who did it — but he puts the investigation and his career into jeopardy when he has an impulsive reaction at the scene of the crime and hides a key piece of evidence before further law enforcement personnel arrive. We now have our murder mystery, our troublesome romantic triangles and our complex family dynamics, all intertwining as the case expands and Del somehow becomes even more glum than when we first met him, and what’s the deal with Isaac hopping on a train to escape town like he’s in a 1930s Depression movie?

There are times when “American Rust” gets things just right, e.g., an extended wedding sequence that feels authentic in every detail (of course everyone would hit the dance floor to Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”) and is like a miniaturized version of the greatest wedding reception sequence in movie history from “The Deer Hunter,” which of course was also set in western Pennsylvania. Too often, though, we’re mired in wheel-spinning storylines. The great Canadian poet Neil Young once told us rust never sleeps, but “American Rust” takes too many naps.

Professor Principal
2  author  JohnRussell    3 years ago

www.usatoday.com   /story/entertainment/tv/2021/10/13/dopesick-review-keatons-opioid-drama-harrowing-must-watch/6026669001/

Review: Michael Keaton's opioid drama 'Dopesick' is harrowing, horrifying and a must-watch

5-6 minutes

We all know the story of the opioid epidemic. Or maybe we just think we do. 

Much attention has been devoted to the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose in the U.S. – nearly 72,000 Americans  died of drug overdoses in 2019  – although the focus on where we are now in the battle against the epidemic can obscure how, exactly, we got here. 

Hulu's   "Dopesick"   (first three episodes premiering Wednesday, then streaming weekly, ★★★ out of four) aims to fill in the gaps by tracing the rise of one opioid drug:   Purdue Pharma's OxyContin . Inspired by the nonfiction book "Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America" by journalist Beth Macy, the miniseries is a fictionalized account of the epidemic, mixing real-life figures with composite characters whose lives were affected, and sometimes destroyed, by opioids.  

More: 'Dopesick': Michael Keaton, Kaitlyn Dever on Hulu's heartbreaking tale of crippling addiction


Created by Danny Strong ("Empire," "Game Change") and starring   Michael Keaton , "Dopesick" is a harsh rebuke of Big Pharma, the health care system and the American government's long inaction on opioids. Unrelenting in its tragedy, irony and criticism, the series spans the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s as the crisis intensifies across the nation. A devastating series that sometimes gets preachy and slow, "Dopesick" is a vivid, affecting portrait of an American tragedy that you can't look away from. 

The primary subjects in "Dopesick" are the billionaire Sacklers who own Purdue; DEA agent Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson), who's obsessed with getting Oxy under control; two U.S. attorneys (Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker) trying to build a case against Purdue;  Appalachian family doctor Samuel Finnix (Keaton) and the Purdue sales rep (Will Poulter) who's hounding him to prescribe Oxy; and one of his young patients, Betsy Mallum (Kaitlyn Dever), a Virginia coal miner who becomes addicted after taking the drug to help with a back injury. 


The overarching story is remarkably simple: Purdue introduces OxyContin, falsely  claiming that – unlike previous opioids – it isn't very addictive; egged on by aggressive reps, doctors start prescribing it; crime and deaths follow; and law enforcement officers try (but often fail) to do something about it. 

"Dopesick" is adept at bridging the line between the personal and the big picture, weaving its intimate stories among colder, broader scenes in corporate offices and on Capitol Hill. When Bridget appeals to unfeeling Purdue reps or defensive FDA employees to help her save addicts and families in danger, the audience knows how great the need is, having already seen Betsy's life devolve into chaos. 

The series unfortunately follows a recent TV trend of out-of-sequence timelines, jumping from the 1990s to the early 2000s to the mid-2000s repeatedly during each episode. In some instances, it serves to emphasize the points the writers are trying to make about the devastation of OxyContin and opioids in general. But in others, it muddles the narrative and becomes more confusing than emphatic. "Dopesick" is far from the only offender (and far from the worst), but more linear storytelling might have worked better here. 


The cast is excellent and empathetic, helping ground the series. Keaton is at his best, mastering a character who's a mess of contradictions and transformation. Dever helps prevent her character, a closeted lesbian stuck in a small town, from becoming stereotypical. The true star of the series, however, is Dawson, whose DEA agent is passionate and angry on behalf of the suffering she sees in the world but stymied at nearly every turn in her quest for justice, especially as a woman of color in law enforcement who's   often dismissed by her superiors. 

"Dopesick," as one might expect, turns its lens on the most tragic moments, and the grimmest settings, caused by addiction. But even when it isn't showing the death, illness and strife caused by opioids, it is brutal to watch. Scenes set in the sunlight are full of moments when I wanted to scream "don't take that pill!" at the TV, as if it's a predictable horror movie.

But it isn't a horror film with CGI monsters; it's based on a true story where the monsters were hidden behind lawyers, inside innocuous-looking pill bottles and in a disease we didn't understand. There are times when "Dopesick" moralizes its way into after-school special territory, but that can be overlooked for how effective it is at bringing the opioid epidemic – often relayed to the public as a series of statistics – to harrowing life. 

If great art reflects life, "Dopesick" is the kind that's meant to force us to stare into that reflection and find something better for the future. 

Professor Principal
3  author  JohnRussell    3 years ago

Hollywood rarely gets the tribulations of small town , poor and forgotten, white America right, but that may be changing in the last couple years. 

Professor Principal
4  Kavika     3 years ago

Dopstick I believe will be well worth watching. IMO, the Slackers got off with not much more than a slap on the wrist.

Professor Principal
4.1  author  JohnRussell  replied to  Kavika @4    3 years ago

www.msn.com   /en-us/news/politics/jake-tapper-blasts-sacklers-after-lawyers-complain-about-cnn-segment/ar-AAPxca5

Jake Tapper blasts Sacklers after lawyers complain about CNN segment

Dominick Mastrangelo 3 hrs ago 3-4 minutes


CNN anchor Jake Tapper blasted members of the Sackler family after their lawyers reportedly contacted the network and complained about how it covered the premier of a documentary series that accuses it of criminal behavior relative to the Opioid crisis in America.


"We here at CNN heard from attorneys representing the Sacklers. They took issue with a banner we ran that reflected this sentiment from writer Danny Strong about the purpose of the show Dopesick," Tapper said.

Tapper then played a clip of Strong, a showrunner on a new Hulu series focusing on the epidemic and the Sacklers alleged role in it from an appearance on his show on Wednesday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to block Purdue Pharma's controversial bankruptcy deal that shields members of the Sackler family from being sued in future opioid-related lawsuits. Under a proposed settlement, members of the Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and supply more than $4 billion in cash and charitable assets over nine years, The Hill previously   reported .

"We really wanted to show their crimes in many ways I wanted the show to be the trial that Purdue Pharma has not gotten," Strong said during the appearance on Tapper's show.

Tapper said the Sacklers' lawyers asked that the network make it clear that no members of the Sackler family have faced any criminal charges.

"The Sacklers haven't been charged," Tapper said. "And that's not to say that they won't be, or that they shouldn't be."

Tapper noted the company has pleaded guilty to several felonies including conspiracy to defraud the United States government as part of the scandal.

Prosecutors, Tapper noted, said the Sacklers admitted under oath that Purdue Pharma "admitted that it marketed and sold dangerous opioids to healthcare providers even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers."

Representatives for members of the Sackler family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The Sacklers have not been charged with any crime," Tapper concluded. "It is a fact critics find outrageous. We hope this clears up any misunderstandings. We're not going to stop covering this story."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated a portion of Tapper's remarks. Tapper in his segment said Purdue Pharma had pleaded guilty to several felonies and that the Sackler family had not been charged with any crimes.


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