Monday, November 04, 2013

#625. Seven artifacts of Boomtown

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Boomtown, which lasted about a season and a half, airing from September 2002 to December 2003.  The first season was widely hailed by critics at the time, but its innovative, immersive storytelling was a tough sell to viewers.  An attempt to broaden the appeal in its second season didn't fare too well, and may have even alienated existing fans.

Here are some of the things worth remembering about it:

  • Graham Yost and John Avnet.  Yost (primarily a writer) went on to create the Elmore Leonard-inspired Justified, which has enjoyed a modest cult following, where Avnet (primarily a director) has joined him.  Yost is perhaps best known for his hand in the Spielberg/Hanks mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific, all of which share Boomtown's flare for spotlighting expansive casts.  Avnet has less acclaim under his belt, although I've admired his work elsewhere in the film 88 Minutes (which is otherwise pretty much widely abhorred), and he was a producer in the innovative Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, as well as on the Mighty Ducks films.  He also directed Fried Green Tomatoes.  I imagine that if Boomtown had succeeded, their footprints in film would be wider and greater, and more easily appreciated.  
  • Neal McDonough.  Boomtown remains the highlight of McDonough's career.  I first noticed him in a small role from Star Trek: First Contact.  He's since appeared in such projects as Band of Brothers, Minority Report, Walking Tall, Medical Investigation (another TV series that lasted about as long as Boomtown), 88 Minutes, Tin Man, Desperate Housewives, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Justified.  He's best known for his piercing blue eyes, which can give him a steely, menacing look, which has more or less defined his career in Hollywood, where he gets either bit parts or villainous roles, because casting directors will either give him something small or the bad guy's part.  But he's brilliant, and never more brilliant than in Boomtown.  And so that's always been one of my favorite reasons to love Boomtown, because it's the one time where he's been given material worthy of him.
  • Donnie Wahlberg.  The second lead in Boomtown was Wahlberg, and he's easily gotten the most mileage out of his experience on the show.  He subsequently landed a similar role in Saw II, and then another in the excellent TV series Blue Bloods.  If you like him in either of those, you'll love him in Boomtown, where his performance in the pilot was its main calling card.  You may even thank Donnie for kid brother Mark Wahlberg's performances in The Departed and The Fighter (although to be fair Mark laid the groundwork for those in Three Kings, but the new aggression I argue comes from Donnie's turn here).
  • Mykelti Williamson.  The third lead was Williamson, who until that point was better known for playing Bubba in Forrest Gump (the guy who was obsessed with shrimp).  He'd previously starred in the short-lived TV remake of The Fugitive, which likely inspired his casting in Boomtown, and like McDonough has subsequently appeared in Yost's Justified.  If Boomtown had been a bigger hit, Williamson's career renaissance would have been more successful.  His work in the series was one of an endless series of highlights, but it was one of the highlights of those highlights.  By the way, his first name is pronounced "Michael T."
  • Lana Parrilla.  One of the supporting cast members in the show was Parrilla, who has gone on to much wider success in Once Upon a Time.  She was a highlight of Boomtown (along with everything else), so I tracked her career pretty much as closely as the three guys above her.  I elsewhere enjoyed Parrilla in 24 (where she appeared for half of the fourth season) and Windfall.
  • Sam Anderson.  Before showing up in Lost as Bernard, Anderson was a standout guest actor in Boomtown, bringing those trademark sad eyes with him to one of the rare instances in television where you actually care about the grieving parent.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he's also popped up in Justified.
  • The writing.  The writing was superb.  Each episode featured a crime covered from multiple vantage points, like Rashomon on a weekly basis, not just the lead characters in the show but the criminals and victims as well.  The best episodes, however, also explored the lead characters themselves, including a standout for Williamson's character ("Fearless") and the best episode of the series, "Blackout," which explores the full nuances of McDonough's, which didn't shy from his usual villainous tendencies, but found the human beneath them (need I say he was a lawyer?).  For this reason alone, Boomtown remains the standard by which I judge ever other TV series.  But then, it did everything else excellently as well.


Pat Dilloway said...

I vaguely remember hearing about that show at some point.

Tony Laplume said...

It's that vagueness I associate with pretty much everyone else in relation to this show. So I'm spreadin' the word!


I do remember, but never watched.
I guess you will force me to look for it to watch now! ;)

Tony Laplume said...

If you are disappointed, it's because you'll have inadvertently caught its evil twin, Booniestown. Which starred Carrot Top. And Vanilla Ice.

Mark Koopmans said...

Boomtown ROCKED, man!!!

I, too, was sad when it got cancelled - I loved the uniqueness of the show.

PS... your scheduling comments on my IWSG post today had me laughing. Nice one :)

The Armchair Squid said...

Another show I don't know. I'll add it to the list.

Tony Laplume said...

Mark, thanks! And glad to hear you're a fan of the show!

Squid, this *gasp* is entirely audible on my end. Correct this ASAP.


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