Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Kominsky Method

Okay, first off if Alan Arkin doesn’t win an Emmy they should just shut down the Academy. He is absolutely spectacular. Michael Douglas is no slouch either but Arkin steals every scene he’s in. When Arkin gives a eulogy early in the series it’s an absolute masterclass in acting. So between Douglas and especially Arkin you know you’re in for terrific performances when you watch THE KOMINKSY METHOD, now available on Netflix.

Second, who am I to review Chuck Lorre? He’s way more rich and successful than I am, and we’re supposed to be peers damnit! So this is less of a “review” and more of my general impressions.

THE KOMINSKY METHOD is way more nuanced and layered than his multi-camera mega hits. That said, I hope you like prostate jokes. Still, Lorre is stretching here and if not everything works I appreciate the effort.

The show is sometimes funny and frequently thoughtful. Douglas and Arkin play two aging men trying to deal with mortality, the consequences of mistakes in their lives, and a world that has passed them by. And prostate issues. Lots of prostate issues. They’re often angry, occasionally disillusioned, and many times depressed.

But what’s missing for me is a real drive. Let me compare THE KOMINSKY METHOD with BARRY for a moment. I chose BARRY because both deal with acting classes as a primary arena. But Barry is a hit man trying desperately to get out and battling life-and-death forces that are pulling him back in. There is real absurdity in the dark problems he faces vs. the rigors of trying to book a commercial.

THE KOMINSKY METHOD is just two aging men existing (and kvetching). Yes, they want things they can’t have. But it’s not a series about them striving to get them; it’s a series of learning to accept and adjust. And that’s valid and real and at times very interesting, but I just didn’t find it particularly compelling. Maybe if it were hilarious or set in a world I’ve never seen I could excuse all that, but I just kept hoping it would draw me in more.

But I have to say, it’s so refreshing to see a show not about Millennials. And it’s funnier than GRACE AND FRANKIE.

There’s also a mini-ALMOST PERFECT reunion going on. Both Nancy Travis and Lisa Edelstein are in it. As you know I’m huge fans of both and they can do no wrong. I’m sorry, but I do find it a little creepy that they have Nancy dating 75 year-old Michael Douglas. Maybe when I’m 75 I’ll have  no problem with it.

But all the pluses and minuses are minor. The main reason to watch this show is Alan Arkin. He’s beyond terrific. You may or may not agree with my opinions of THE KOMINSKY METHOD but I guarantee you will say I’m right about that.  See ya at the Emmys, Alan.

37 comments :

Lemuel said...

I've loved Alan Arkin since CATCH 22. "Where the hell's my parachute?"

McAlvie said...

Ken, thanks for your take on the show. I liked it and found it pretty funny, more so than some recent joke-a-thon sitcoms. Being old enough to remember Michael Douglas as a young man, I guess I'm part of the target audience, but I, too, found it refreshing. I agree with you regarding Arkin, who has always been a favorite of mine. The show was good enough that I was tempted to binge, but didn't because I know from experience that it spoils the fun for me. That may be why I wasn't bothered by the pacing.

Terrence Moss said...

it's on Netflix. the emmys will notice.

blinky said...

Ever since he did Catch 22 and Little Murders back to back in the 60's I have been a fan. Then he popped back up in 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine. Special talent there...

XMWolf said...

Between Kaminsky, Barry and Mrs. Mazel we are seeing an entirely new approach to TV comedy. And it works.

Milton the Momzer said...

For a long time I disliked Nancy Travis. I saw here as nothing more than the wife or girlfriend who existed to laugh at Tim Allen or Ted Danson's jokes. But after seeing her in Mr Mercedes and Komionsky, I am quite impressed with her.

ODJennings said...

Arkin is fantastic, but the real star is the old Mercedes Douglas drives. It inspired me to buy a Powerball ticket, and once I win that's the first thing I'm buying.

Don P said...

In the very first scene, there's a joke involving a waiter that's great to start with, and further enhanced by Arkin's perfect timing and delivery.

Rob D said...

Your review is totally spot-on. To the point of the age difference between Sandy (Michael Douglas) and his love interest---I'm somewhat bothered by that too, but perhaps its meant to speak to the immaturity and irresponsibility of his character, relative to the straight-laced and cynical Alan Arkin character. I assume the series will have a season 2, and I suspect that Sandy's prostrate problems might be foreshadowing for him having to face his mortality, forcing him to do a little growing up.

I definitely had a chuckle at Norman saying that The Big Bang Theory is "pablum, it's crap". Some nice self-deprecating humour from Chuck Lorre.

Anonymous said...

The great chemistry Arkin and Douglas share reminds of the film THE IN-LAWS - which they both did -- only with other people.

Pamela Atherton said...

I agree that Arkin is the true gem in this show. Edelstein is also incredible, but they give her no redeeming qualities. They don't give Nancy enough to do. And I agree with you -- WHY would she go out with Douglas? Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I didn't like the show at all, except for the times that Arkin is on the screen, and especially in the moments with his wife. Douglas just felt OLD, and the prostate jokes got old FAST. It's missing something. And although you, Ken, don't think it's as funny as Grace and Frankie, that may be a gender issue. I feel at least Grace and Frankie are fun and viable, even though they had "age" issues. With Kominsky -- I just felt Douglas was OLD. It has some good bits and pieces... but overall, I felt letdown.

Xmastime said...

The BBC has a ton of SITCOMS about very old people just hanging around; the most recent one I've discovered is "Still Game." Maybe shows about very old people are funny for the same reason baseball movies are - mostly, they're just standing around or looking for trouble so there's really nothing to do BUT be funny?

Jeffrey Graebner said...

While Nancy Travis does seem too young for Douglas' character, she is actually 8 years older than Michael Douglas' real-life wife.

I'm only a couple episodes into the series at this point, but I've enjoyed it so far. Most definitely, the acting is the main reason to watch. It's wonderful to see such seasoned professionals with fairly strong characters to work with.

TimWarp said...

Well, Nancy Travis is 8 years older than Michael Douglas' (or Douglas's, depending on which grammarian you believe) real-life wife Catherine Zeta Jones.

Don Graf said...

Agree your review, especially after watching all 8 episodes.Alan Arkin should be an Emmy lock. Great seeing Nancy and Lisa in a well written series. Michael Douglas should get credit for bringing other friends aboard, especially Danny DeVito, Ann-Margaret and Lainie Kazan. The theater class scenes are giving some "youngsters" a real chance to shine.Pacing slows down in spots, but the show is a treat compared to the commercial network pablum floating around.

A. Wayne said...

Concur totally. Douglas always looks like he's acting (which we will excuse here since he's an acting teacher), but Arkin... never. He just inhabits. Remarkable. And as someone who now approaches a urinal every time with... suspense, I am grateful for the prostate jokes.

Jon B. said...

I enjoyed The KM more than you, but agree that Arkin is terrific. In the context of the show, I have ZERO issues with Michael Douglas' character dating Nancy Travis'. She's 57 or so in real life and plays that general age in the show. For those who have not seen the show, please do not be turned off by Ken's comment.

Mike McCann said...

A couple of thoughts:
Is this THE role of Alan Arkin's life? Or has he always been that good -- just deeply underappreciated?

Time flies: Nancy Travis at 57 dating 75-year-old Michael Douglas is a bit of a clash. But not as awkward as if it were 22 year old Nancy and 40 year old Michael. That gap lessens over time. I found them to be an interesting and appealing pairing.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Another up-vote for Alan Arkin. He lifts every film/show he's in.

As for the age issue, anybody remember Grace Kelly? I can't think of a single film where she isn't married to/involved with an actor a generation older: Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Ray Milland, Bing Crosby, James Stewart. (Even in THE SWAN she loves Louis Jourdan but has to marry Alec Guinness.) It's a Hollywood convention. Whereas Gloria Swanson/William Holden is supposed to make us go "ick."


And now I'm off to Netflix. I love a good prostate joke.

SteveJayCanada said...

The only problem with the Kominsky Method is now having to wait for Season 2. Fantastic show. Nancy Travis owns the territory in every scene she appears.

Janet Ybarra said...

I was just rewatching ARGO, and even though as Lester Siegel Alan Arkin was one of the secondary, supporting cast, you never could tell from Arkin's performance.

He stole the scenes he was in and left you wanting more. But then, I've loved Arkin ever since he co-starred with Peter Falk in the IN-LAWS.

I'll be happy to check this one out.

Argo, F--- yourself, Alan Arkin!

Rob D said...

@Jeffrey Graebner, @TimWarp: Yes, Nancy Travis is older than Douglas' real life wife, but... why can't Sandy Kominsky be in a relationship with a more typical age difference? He's playing a character, not himself. (It could be rationalized if it speaks to his character's immaturity, but I don't really know if that is what they are going for).

Steve Weed said...

Maybe it’s because of that lack of drive you describe that I thought this show was a snore .. literally, I fell asleep halfway through the second episode. The humor felt forced and just a notch above Two and a Half Men. You are right about Alan Arkin, he is spectacular as always. I still think the Academy needs to go back and reconsider his performance in the original In-Laws!

YEKIMI said...

I second the comments about The In-Laws. Next year it will be 40 years old and it's still one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Alan Arkin, Peter Falk & Richard Libertini made that movie a treat and the serpentine scene still makes me laugh my ass off to this day.

Anonymous said...

I have loved Alan Atkin since I was 14 years old and I saw him in “Wait Until Dark”. It was back in 1969 before any movie ratings. It was the B movie paired with “Change of Habit”. That was the movie we really wanted to see. He scared us to death.

Pam, St. Louis.

sanford said...

I have only watched the first episode. I intend to watch the rest. We just haven't had time to watch it all. I don't think the age difference between Travis and Douglas is such a big deal. As a couple of other people of said Travis is older than Catherine Zeta Jones. As they say age is only a number.

Pidge said...

I think the point of the romance age disparity is that the Douglas character doesn’t see himself as old. As a former teacher, I can attest to the fact that spending your career around young people makes you feel you aren’t getting older.
He seems genuinely shocked when he goes to that bar at night and realizes he’s invisible to all the younger customers because of his age.
Remember that wonderful comment by Arkin that if Douglas is dating a woman half his age, she’s still an old woman!
And as a wife of a prostate survivor, we both had many laughs at that plot line.
Better than watching shows about acne and learning to drive.

ODJennings said...

Blogger Mike McCann said... Is this THE role of Alan Arkin's life? Or has he always been that good -- just deeply underappreciated?


He's always been that good. Go back to his first big film role, the junior submarine officer in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. He stole every scene he was in (except maybe the ones he was in with Theodore Bikel as the Captain).

Tony.T said...

Prostate problems are certainly funnier than Grace & Frankie.

Unknown said...

Love the show.Arkin is great

McAlvie said...

My issue with the Travis/Douglas pairing is not their age. Ken brought this up before, the frequency with which sitcoms pair a schlubby male and a hot female. Of course as has been mentioned, in real life Douglas is married to a hot young female, so I guess that's not so unlikely as it might seem.

TodBrowning said...

Yes, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Arkin was perfect as the Russian junior officer caught in a cold war mishap. The scene, where Arkin non-verbally portrays his frustration, blowing air out thru pursed lips. (A terrible description of what he does, but if you've seen the movie, you know exactly what I mean.)
And, of course, Whitaker Walt.

SeattleDan said...

I've reached the age when I find prostate jokes hilarious.

David G. Whitham said...

I have been a fan of Alan Arkin since the In-Laws, which is still one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

Gardner Broome said...

I enjoyed the series but my 82-year old father thought it was the best thing he had seen in years (and he watches a lot of TV). He especially loved the second episode with the campy funeral. I thought Arkin turned in the best performance of his already stellar career. The age gap between Douglas and Travis might have felt a bit uncomfortable, but it was not far-fetched. I know plenty of attractive women in their late 50s who date older men because men their age like to date women in their 40s. I thought Ann-Margret looked great on the show, but then again I’ve been crushing on her since I was a little kid and saw her on The Flinstones as Ann Margrock. One thing I did not enjoy was the treatment of Lisa Edelstein’s character. Addiction being played for laughs feels a bit tone deaf in 2018 given how many families are suffering from the fallout of the opioid epidemic, but I suppose for Chuck Lorre it was fairly restrained. To his credit, Lorre does a lot to put the spotlight on the impact of addiction every week on his series Mom and he’s come a long way since Two and A Half Men.

Unknown said...

Alan Arkin is not only playing an old man better than anybody, he's playing an aging agent, and it's perfect. I've known agents who seem to have no heart and that's what he's playing, but then they reveal their heart at odd times, in odd ways, and he's doing that, too. I don't know if I'm explaining this in a clear way, but yeah, Alan Arkin is his great old self in this show.

Tracy Newman said...

That last comment, about Alan Arkin playing agent so well was from me. I didn't follow directions properly, so I posted as "unknown." Sorry. I hope this fixes it.