The HBO series had a long and successful run, and The Sopranos is selling well on DVD. Companies live for that, when they make money on the first go round and then make more on the spin-off products. The stars of the show became household names, the series was the talk of the water cooler meetings, and the re-runs, cleaned up for television, are as popular as ever.
What better idea than to copy what has been successful? How many DaVinci Code-like clones appeared after the success of Dan Brown's book? Even James Cameron is looking to make a buck off a tie-in, in spite of scholars telling him that his Discovery Channel documentary is a cod. But let's get back to the Irish.
Hot on the heels of an Oscar win for a movie about Irish mobsters, NBC unleashed their own Irish-scented opus. Titled The Black Donnellys, the show is nothing more than the Sopranos a-wearin' of the green. There could have been so much more done, with so many channels left unexplored.
Take the title. We all know about the black Irish, those who are said to be descended from men who survived the sinking of the Spanish Armada. Laugh if you like, but there's been genetic evidence of a Spanish link in some Irish people. The olive skin tones and dark brown eyes had to come from somewhere. In Chicago, the black Irish are also those of African-American origin who happen to have Gaelic surnames. Hence, LeKeisha Moore or DeJuan Riordan would, behind their backs of course, be identified as black Irish. So why not have some black character named Donnelley in the television program? A bit of racial diversity goes a long way in building a bigger audience.
And let's do away with the stereotypes. For the love of Christ, the four brothers in the NBC show own a feckin' bar. Look how well Dion O'Bannion did with his flower shop...until he ran afoul of Al Capone, the Italian mobster who drove the Irish mobsters out of town. Couldn't the Donnelleys own a butcher shop? Or be plumbers? Although, as a descendant of Irish cattle dealers, I'm partial to the meat cutters myself.
Having watched bits of the pilot last night, during commercial breaks in the basketball game, I don't think this show has legs, in spite of the esteemed Paul Haggis and his literary skills. One of the great appeals of Italian mobster shows is the fact that, no matter how ruthless the thug, he will take the time every day to call his mother. It's all about family, the almighty family, that is run by the women who let the men think they're in charge. As for the Irishman, he's off drinking with the lads, oblivious to his family, and after being inculcated by the priests and nuns, he's afraid of having sex and touching girls, and that makes for dull television viewing.
Maybe Mr. Haggis will include some Riverdance-type numbers in his show to sex it up a bit. Still, set dancing is nowhere near as sexually charged as the tarantella, which is arousal set to music. And you can't argue that Italian food is so far above a plate of boiled bacon and cabbage that scenes of a family gathered around the table for a meal just won't attract a wide audience.
The pilot is scheduled for a repeat somewhere down the line, with a couple of episodes lined up for airing. There might be more, if the ratings come through, or this could just be one of those shows that are put on for the sake of losing money, to ease pressure on the bottom line and reduce the tax load. The accountants are the ones who live for that.