Judge Patrick Bromley just couldn't care about Showtime's boxing family series.
One family fighting for the American dream.
If my overpriced cable subscription has taught me anything, it is that I have tremendous faith in the long-form television drama. I say this, however, having only been exposed to the shows on HBO—and, overhyped or not, The Sopranos is still hands-down the best show on television. I am a virtual stranger, however, to the world of Showtime's dramatic series; I've not yet seen a single episode of Queer as Folk or The "L" Word.
Prior to delving into the decidedly non-gay-themed boxed set of Showtime's Resurrection Blvd.:The Complete First Season, my spirits were hardly lifted nor my doubts reassured by cover art boasting, "Boxing scenes coordinated by fighter and stunt coordinator Jimmy Nicholson (Rocky, Rocky II)." It's not that I have anything against boxing, it's just that fight choreography is not traditionally how you sell drama. It's how you sell The Musketeer.
Facts of the Case
Resurrection Blvd. follows the East LA-based Santiago family: the father, Roberto; sons Carlos, Miguel, and Alex; daughters Yolanda and Victoria; uncle Ruben; Aunt Bibi; and cousin Tommy. Picking up just less than a year after the death of Roberto's wife and mother of his children, the show details the Santiagos's lives in the cutthroat world of professional boxing, and their struggle to remain a family despite numerous obstacles.
• "El Baile"
• "El Regreso de Paco"
• "Negro Y Moreno"
• "Dos Padres"
• "Comenzando de Nuevo"
• "La Manos de Piedra"
• "No Te Muevas"
• "Lagrimas en el Cielo"
• "La Visita"
• "Un Pacto con el Diablo"
Resurrection Blvd. is not The Sopranos. It's not even Oz. What it is is a fairly average, WB-grade drama with some decent performances and occasional flashes of "Look, Ma, we're on cable" sex and cursing.
Part of the problem is that the show becomes repetitive, both in its narrative content and in its characters. These are people that do not change—at least, not in any way beyond the traditional revelatory moments required by most series television. Patriarch Roberto is stubborn and insulated, Alex is defiant, Yolanda is the peacemaker, and so on—the characters are each given one note to play for the entire 20-episode run. Their inevitable epiphanies arrive conveniently at the end of the season, when they are required to see the error of their ways and make amends in time for the emotional finale—which, by the way, wraps things up so tightly that there is simply no incentive to come back for a second season.
There are those (the unfortunate and feeble-minded) that complain after any given episode of The Sopranos that "nothing happened." Such is the genius of the show—13 individual episodes can pass by where seemingly little of any consequence has occurred, yet when taken as a whole it becomes apparent that a great deal has transpired. Better yet, the events of the show grow organically out of the characters; they aren't simply the result of the machination of the plot, as is the case with Resurrection Blvd.. The show also fails to take advantage of its long-form format. Rather than allowing plotlines to develop over the course of a season, the producers wrap things up neatly in the span of one or two episodes. For all of Resurrection Blvd.'s coveted edginess, it resolves the Santiagos's problems as though they were the Huxtables.
The show never fully involved me the way that the best season-length box sets have (like 24, or any season of Buffy). At about the halfway point, I came to the realization that any emotional stake I had in the characters had less to do with the series's dramatic elements than with sheer repetition of episode viewing; I had become involved solely as a byproduct of the amount of time spent with the show. Unfortunately, I can't even say that prolonged proximity to the characters allowed me to develop any kind of affection for them. The longer the series went on, the more the characters became slaves to the predictability of the script.
Michael DeLorenzo, as Carlos, fares the best of all the actors, especially considering the borderline absurdity of his character arc. He begins as a champion boxer, becomes an embittered alcoholic, gets mixed up with shady cops, rescues a stripper, takes off to Tijuana to participate in underground fights, is hospitalized and recovers from potential paralysis not once but twice, becomes a surrogate father and trains his brother for the title—all in the span of one season of television. That his later episodes have the levity and sweetness of romantic comedy is a kind of small miracle. Though all of the actors should be commended for approaching their characters with sincerity, only DeLorenzo (and Elizabeth Peña, to some extent) exhibits any kind of likability, ingratiating himself and garnering our sympathy in the process.
The shows themselves appear to be pretty cheaply made. Not only are the production values pretty obviously low—more than once the boxing arena is clearly a high school gymnasium with only about 40 seats visible—but the show's producers consistently make choices that give the show an overall feeling of tackiness. Most of the between-scene transitions are comprised of quick-cutting shots of LA, a trick cribbed from even the most substandard network cop show. The "love scenes" peppered throughout the season, have all the tone and nuance of late night softcore: the slow-mo photography, the wailing sax solo…for a show that strives for realism, the scenes are stylized to the point of exploitation. Budget constraints do not automatically insure the downfall of a show, as long as it makes up for a lack in production value with content; Resurrection Blvd. simply doesn't seem up to the task.
Paramount has released the first season in a five-disc boxed set. The pilot episode runs around two hours, which is entirely too long for this particular series to sustain a narrative. When you consider that that's the running time of most feature-length films, which are able to introduce, develop, and resolve their story lines with a reasonable amount of depth and grace, the pilot episode's shortcomings become even more apparent. The other episodes in the set generally run around forty-eight minutes each, though several of them increase in length as the season reaches its conclusion. The picture is passable, basically resembling an average cable broadcast—haven't we come to expect more from DVD? The audio presentation is comparable, giving us both English and Spanish language tracks; at times, the transitional music cues are considerably louder than the dialogue, forcing the viewer to constantly adjust the volume setting. Despite the large percentage of Spanish dialogue used throughout the show, there are no subtitles—the show instead develops an annoying habit of having characters repeat back Spanish dialogue in English (Victoria: "Donde esta mi perro?" Alex: "Where is your dog? In the yard.")
I can't really recommend the first season of Resurrection Blvd.—especially considering that Showtime has already cancelled the series, so the viewer wouldn't even be able to use this box set to play catch-up. It's dramatically messy and ultimately too conventional to compete with the kind of challenging, cinematic series being offered on that other network (ahem).
The Court will have to declare a mistrial here, as it simply does not care enough to hand down any kind of sentencing. Resurrection Blvd. is free to go—and hopefully be ignored—as a result of the Court's painful indifference. Case dismissed.
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