The Watchman: Showtime Rethinks Classic Noir ‘Gigolo’ Film; ‘La Brea’ Digs Deep in Season Two
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
American Gigolo, an update of the 1980 film with Jon Bernthal in the lead role, premieres on Showtime Sept. 9. Bernthal plays Julian, who spends 15 years in prison following a wrongful conviction, gets sprung, and aims to fix tattered relationships with his former lover, played by Gretchen Mol, his mother and those who betrayed him.
Jerry Bruckheimer produced the film, which had Richard Gere in the title role. He’s an executive producer on the series. “He was very eager to see if we could infuse a modern take into his iconic film,” Jessie Dicovitsky, Showtime senior VP of original programming, said.
Dicovitsky raves about Bernthal’s performance. “We really wanted to find someone who has raw sex appeal, and can give that emotional intimacy,” she said, “and give the character rich nuance.”
The series offers a certain relevance four-plus decades after the film that inspired it. COVID-19 pushed many to rethink their job, their relationship or their life, and Julian is similarly reassessing his purpose on Earth. “A lot of people are looking for happiness, looking for hope, looking for themselves,” Dicovitsky said. “That’s a powerful message today.”
Rosie O’Donnell portrays the detective who put Julian in prison. Her other Showtime series include The L Word and SMILF. “She’s been a longtime friend of the network,” Dicovitsky said. “We love her over here.”
Season two of La Brea, about a massive sinkhole in Los Angeles that tears apart a family, premieres on NBC Sept. 27. The second season begins the day after season one ended. Teen Josh has gone through a portal to 1988, Gavin and daughter Izzy jumped into a sinkhole that kicks them back to 10,000 B.C., and mother Eve is trying to get everyone back to L.A.
The producers took considerable pains to deliver a convincing prehistoric world. “We track their quest to navigate the dangers of 10,000 B.C.,” said creator, showrunner and executive producer David Appelbaum, “including new animals.”
Asked about influences, Appelbaum offered up Jurassic Park. “The Spielberg-esque idea of storytelling with a big backdrop,” he explained, “but at the heart of it is a family story.”
There are a number of big sci-fi shows out there, said Appelbaum, but they’re mostly on pay TV. “The blend of a big adventure-action show set against an intimate family drama with deeply emotional stories,” he said, “is something that’s unique in the landscape.”
Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda and Nicholas Gonzalez are in the cast.
Appelbaum feels La Brea can stick around. “We think the show has a lot of legs,” he said. “It’s a big ensemble cast and they all have their own unique stories.” ￭
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.