Monday night after the interminable Home Run Derby, ESPN premiered The Bronx is Burning, its new miniseries adaptation of Johnathan Mahler's 2005 book revisiting the tumultuous summer of 1977 in New York City. As the Yankees were engulfed by Bronx Zoo in-fighting and tabloid exploitation, the city dealt with racial politics, the Son of Sam, the mayoral race and a blackout.
My Pinstripes reviewed the first episode, and I'll chime in with my thoughts, too.
I had no idea what to expect from the miniseries given that it's airing on ESPN, though I did find Playmakers mildly amusing, but I was looking forward to John Turturro's portrayal of Billy Martin.
Well, the rest of the episodes might be better, but the premiere flat sucked.
For Yankees fans, there's nothing new here at all, just limp recreations of famous moments in Yankees history and stilted attempts to work well-known quotes into conversations and context. Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles and others have already covered this ground in their biographies, and the quips they attrbute to Mickey Rivers simply don't work in this obvious, forced, fabricated dialogue.
For anyone, Yankees fan or not, watching for some sort of cultural context, there was none to be found in the premiere. There were a few awkward scenes, apropos of nothing, of the Son of Sam shooting people we don't care about. Maybe future episodes will offer more on Berkowitz and the foibles of the times. Unfortunately, the first hour came across as nothing more than a C-level '70s Yankees documentary, with a few random murder scenes thrown in for no effect.
Turturro isn't bad as Billy Martin, but this isn't new territory for him. Oliver Platt hams it up as Steinbrenner, and gives us no insight into the man. Daniel Sunjata is fair as Reggie Jackson, but certainly isn't reason enough to watch. Though only given a couple lines so far, Erik Jensen steals the show as Thurman Munson, thanks to a strong physical resemblance and a subtlety the rest of the cast severely lacks.
Or maybe the whole thing was fantastic, and I was just in a horrible mood from the disastrous home run derby, and having to witness Kenny Mayne in a kayak.