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Out of Order

“Out of Order” Cast List
Mark = Eric Stoltz
Lorna = Felicity Huffman
Danni = Kim Dickens
Walter = Dyllan Christopher
Annie = Justine Bateman
Steven = William H. Macy
Zach = Peter Bogdanovich
Frank = Lane Smith
Carrie = Celia Weston
Brock = Adam Harrington
Boston = Aaron Douglas
Liz = Sarah Deakins
Brad = Kirby Morrow
Mary = Karen Holness

We begin with Mark, fantasizing about a beautiful woman in his pool. He explains to us, the audience (yep, this is a “talk to the camera” show) that he’s always felt his life is a movie. Cut to his real life, as Mark feeds the remaining goldfish, flushes the no-longer-living goldfish, feeds the hamsters, feeds the cat and waters the plants, all the while hearing the animals and plants talk to him (yep, it’s also has flashes of fantasy). Mark continues to the kitchen where his son is eating cereal, and he sees his wife Lorna’s discarded drink and joint from the night before. He gets son Walter ready for school and takes him there, comes back home and heads to his office where he writes until he hears faint piano music. Following the sound, he sees his wife is now up and playing the piano. She’s clearly depressed, and Mark ends up holding her as she talks about something terrible that happened to her when she was seven, the same age as their son.

Mark picks up Walt from school and takes him to soccer practice. It’s clear that he must do all the parenting himself. He fantasizes about all the women there, until his eye falls upon a navel ring. He’s lost and goes over to sit next to belly ring soccer mom. Her name is Danni, and they flirt a bit and watch their kids play. I don’t think you need me to tell you where this is going, do your

We get another scene of Mark and Lorna’s home life, as he again comforts her during a depressive episode. We also get a flashback to a happier day, so we can see what their marriage used to be, before Lorna’s depression. Next, we get a few soccer practice scenes, so we can compare and contrast Lorna and Danni, and Mark can compare and contrast himself with Danni’s husband. Nice filler, and thankfully brief.

The next section brings together all of our gimmicks. As we have found out that Mark and Lorna are screenwriters, our fantasy flashes will now be themed to films. And, Mark will talk to the camera to help us all see the film-themed elements, in case there are audience members that aren’t movie people. It’s a family Thanksgiving that begins with “Raging Bullsh*t”, a black and white fight between Lorna and her stepfather. This gimmick actually works well, as the fight announcer fills us in on family history as he calls the fight. We cut between this and the dinner table, where Lorna confronts her stepfather about his years of abusing her, and also tells of how her older brother’s friend raped her when she was a little girl. The fight ends with Lorna in triumph: a K.O.

The night of the dinner also involves extensive fantasy sequences, as Mark continues to imagine how the movie of his and Lorna’s life would play out. He writes several alternate scenes that we see, as does Lorna, none of which are what really happens or happened. It’s here that we truly get a sense of the structure of the show, and how their being screenwriters effects how they think and what we the audience will see. Mark’s addresses to the camera, the classic movie moment fantasies, and the alternate “takes” are all the ways that the audience are being shown the characters’ inner workings. The dialogue is also filled with movie references. Sometimes this can be a little too “clever clever”, but in this media-soaked society, who doesn’t have moments when they think this wayr Who doesn’t play out scenes in their head, complete with camera angles and background musicr When these scenes are exposed as fantasies, it makes what happens in the reality of the show more true to life.

Next we meet the neighbors, Steven and Annie. Steven and Lorna are paired up, having a few drinks and smoking pot. Annie comes onto Mark in the kitchen. Mark’s imaginary film crew holds up a cue card saying “Mark Kisses The Neighbor,” but Mark doesn’t. More scenes follow that show Steven and Lorna bonding over drugs and alcohol, Lorna defending herself saying it’s the first time she’s felt good in ages. We also get to suffer as Mark makes a terribly awkward call to Danni.

Lest we forget that our characters have jobs, Mark meets with a stereotypical director (Bogdanovich) about a script. Lorna is at home sick, well depressed and hung over, in bed. Mark comes home and tells her about the meeting and a suggestion that the producer made that their character should do ecstasy. Mark says that he wants to try X for his birthday, so he can understand the character better. Amy thinks, “didn’t I see this in Anniversary Partyr,” but maybe this is another film reference, as the party turns out just like the film with the partygoers swimming naked in Mark’s pool. Mark finally makes it with Danni, but only for a second, as guilt wins out.

But it doesn’t for long, as Mark and Danni end up in a hotel room after Lorna again stays out all night drinking with Steven. They swear it will be the one and only time, as Mark goes home and tries to continue to be a good dad and husband. The final scene shows Mark, Lorna and Walt on the beach. A voiceover has Mark asking the audience to forgive him as he was only guilty “of being human.” The camera pans over the beach and we see all the show’s characters and hear them say “of being human.”

Despite all the gimmicks, and the over playing of the movie insider card, I really liked this script. There’s a lot of potential in the characters’ dynamics, and the casting is wonderful. So much of what is done has a truth to it, especially the interactions between Mark and his son (which I purposefully left out of this review, as I wanted them to be fresh for you as viewers.) The pets do talk in Mark’s head, he does have his imaginary film crew, there really was an entire section that referenced “Raging Bull,” but on the whole this is a great drama with tons of potential. It’s almost enough to get me to pony up for Showtime.

Rating: B+

Carnivale (Pilot)

The pilot opens with escaped convict Ben Hawkins, sitting with his dying mother in their home, as a dust storm rages outside, and bulldozers wait to tear down the house which has been repossessed by the bank. The storm winds down, and Ben begins to dig his mother’s grave while the construction workers try and force him to move out of their way. The situation is saved by Jones, a former baseball player who now travels with the carnival whose caravan is parked nearby. The carnies get together an impromptu funeral for Ben’s mom, and this provides us with a meet and greet for our characters.

There are Siamese twins, a bearded lady, a retarded strong man, gypsies, snake charmers, a blind seer and a lizard man, complete with tail. As the funeral ends, the bulldozers crush Ben’s home and the carnival decides to take Ben in, just for a few stops.

Cut to a church, where Brother Justin Crowe demonstrates unusual powers in dealing with a member of his flock who steals from the collection plate.

Back to the carnival, where Jones and Samson, the day to day managers of the circus, have a brief conversation about the real “Manager” of Carnivale. This mysterious Management is never seen, and no one but Samson and Jones are allowed into his trailer, but when told of Ben’s arrival and asked how the cash poor carnival is going to feed this extra mouth, the Management only replies, “he was expected”.

Ben is sharing a trailer with blind Lodz and bearded lady Lila. Ben is asleep and clearly dreaming. Lila begs Lodz to read Ben’s dream, and he can and does, seeing a WWI battlefield and someone who Lodz recognizes. Lodz panics and runs to Samson, begging him to speak to Management about what he saw in Ben’s dream. He’s told that if Management wants to know something, Management will ask.

We move to beautiful Sophie the gypsy’s trailer, where she is having a conversation with her mother. All is well and good, except her mother is in a coma. We get more scenes of the carnival oddities, and we get to see Ben absolutely freak out as he realizes that this is one very strange traveling circus. Ben wanders away from the carnival to get a little peace, and ends up at a nearby hobo camp. Poor Ben, there’s no peace there for him, only more tragedy.

As Ben keeps walking and wanders into town, so does Sophie. She stops at a gas station to get a soda, and ends up getting attacked. Of course, Ben saves her. They return to camp and there Ben works with the carnies to set up for the night’s show. We meet more of the carnies, and get to see their acts as Ben wanders through the show at night. Sophie’s attackers show up to get revenge, but Ben is bailed out by Jones and Gabriel, the strong man. All this further cements Ben to the Carnivale.

We then get another scene of Brother Justin, who has an epiphany when strolling through Chinatown. Methinks Brother Justin may become very interesting to Management as the show goes on. Or, will it be the other way aroundr Will the powers of the Carnivale’s freaks attract Brother Justinr

The final scene shows the carnival packing up and moving on. Sophie reads Ben’s tarot and he has a disturbing flashback. He runs away in terror as we finally understand why Management is interested in Ben. If the Carnivale is a gathering of people with true powers, then Ben certainly belongs there.

As a pilot, this sets things up very well. While I feel Sophie’s attack was very contrived, and that Ben perhaps has a few too many tragedies piled on him for one day, as a whole this sets up the course of the show nicely, while leaving many, many questions to be answered in future episodes. The premise is so unusual, and has the potential to be truly creepy. The weakest element is the dialogue, which is merely purposeful and plain, although, with a plot this baroque, simplicity is probably the best way to go. I’m looking forward to this show, and can’t wait to see how the plot elements entwine in future episodes. While I don’t see this as being a water cooler show, or a huge ratings success, I do envision this as having a strong and loyal cult following which hopefully will be what HBO expected when it green lighted a show about a dust bowl carnival full of freaks with superpowers.

Rating: B

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