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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 9, 2022



LATELY, we’ve lost interest in watching mini-series because they are all padded. 

Padding is a technique to lengthen the running time of a show. Most series now consist of 6 to 10 episodes and the tendency is to include scenes that can easily be removed without affecting the plot or story significantly.  

In a lot of cases, such scenes distract from the plot development and perceptive viewers will surely find them irritating. 

Thank God you can always press the forward or skip button to avoid the boring scenes. 

Such scenes include characters walking and walking through long distances as a time filler. 

Also montages of flashback scenes in TV series to make the show last longer. 

Or in films, montages of various scenes accompanied by a “hugot” song that do not really help in advancing the plot.

The last TV mini-series we saw where every episode truly counts was “Mare of Easttown”. Wala ka talagang itatapon. 

Recently, we saw two mini-series, “The Staircase” (since it got a lot of Emmy nominations) and “Black Bird” (recommended by a friend.) 

“Staircase” has 8 episodes and “Black Bird” has 6 episodes. Both are heavily padded. 

Both shows are based on true stories and both can be told by a really astute director in a compact two hour movie. But here, they just needlessly go on and on. 

“Staircase” happened in 2001 in Durham, North Carolina. Michael Peterson, a novelist (played by Colin Firth), is arrested, and later convicted, for allegedly murdering his wife, Kathleen (Toni Collette), who is found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their well appointed home. 

A French TV company sends a crew to the U.S. to cover the trial and this was shown in 2004 as a documentary, on which the TV series is primarily based. 

The story is told in a non-linear manner, with so many flashbacks scenes involving the other characters that make the show so drawn out. 

Both Michael and Kathleen have children from previous marriages and also adopted ones, so it’s a big family. 

There are just too many characters and there’s an attempt to give them their own back stories that actually detract from the murder case the show is supposed to be examining. 

After so many inflated scenes involving the problematic children are shown, we already want to scream “enough already, we don’t care about them, just focus on the actual case.” 

There are also many twists in the story, like it turns out Michael is a homosexual who’s having affairs with different guys. 

One of the daughters turns out to be a lesbian. Another son is a drug addict. Ho-hum.

But the acting is really quite good, specially in the case of Toni Collette whose character is already dead when the series starts. 

She appears in many flashback scenes as an achiever wife who is already disgruntled with her jobless husband who depends on her. 

She is shown dying three times in the show, to dramatize the various theories about how she died. 

Can you imagine the agony of the relatives of the real Kathleen who are made to watch how she died several times? 

Which is why we refuse to watch “Dahmer”, whose notorious life of crime has been done several times. Doing it again as a mini-series is just sheer exploitation that ultimately glorifies a convicted serial killer.

“BLACK BIRD” is based on the true story of James Keene (Taron Egerton), a young drug dealer who is arrested and also charged for having illegal firearms. 

He is sentenced to ten years in prison without parole.  

He is given the chance to regain his freedom when he is asked to befriend a serial killer, Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), in another prison and make him admit that he killed 14 women and find out where he buried them.

The series is written by Dennis Lehane, who wrote the acclaimed novel and film, “Mystic River”, and also “Gone Baby Gone”.

Just like “Staircase”, this can be condensed into a two-hour film but they introduced so many other characters to lengthen the material and make it a mini-series. 

The show switches between various time periods that can be quite confusing.

Jimmy initially finds it hard to cultivate a friendship with the elusive Larry, but they become close when a bully suddenly changes the TV channel of a show Larry is watching. 

Jimmy beats up the bully and Larry warms up to him. 

Getting his needed information from Larry proves to be painstaking task for Jimmy. And also for us, viewers. 

Jimmy gets to know more of Larry. Larry has a twin brother, Gary. When they were foetuses inside their mom’s womb, Gary feeds on Larry so he was born with infirmities. 

As a boy, their dad would also take him to the cemetery to dig graves and rob dead people. No wonder he grew up so messed up. 

Jimmy’s life is put in danger when a guard recognizes him as the son of a cop (Ray Liotta, in his last performance), calls him a snitch and tries to blackmail him. He must now hasten his mission to coax a confession out of Larry.

What holds the movie is the superb performances of the two leads. 

Taron Egerton won the Golden Globe best actor award playing Elton John in “Rocketman” but was not even nominated in the Oscars, even if his performance was better than Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”. 

He’s now more buff and bulky as Jimmy, commanding the camera as he struts around to redeem his character by being an undercover agent for the cops. 

But it is Hauser’s embodiment of the deranged, delusional serial killer that will give you the creeps. 

Hauser is best remembered for his title role portrayal of “Richard Jewell”, the security guard who spotted the bomb at the Olympic Park bombing, but his performance here is even better, quite lowkey but terrifying. 

We won’t be surprised if he’d get an Emmy nomination.