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Chasing down The Fugitive is well worth the marked-down Complete Series DVD price

the fugitive

Dr. Richard Kimble & his dogged nemesis, Lt. Philip Gerard.

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Prime-time TV’s original running man, Dr. Richard Kimble, spent four seasons and 120 episodes under the cloak of numerous aliases and in the arms of women he couldn’t have.

Meanwhile, an obsessed Lt. Philip Gerard pursued him in fine grim-faced form while Kimble himself sought to apprehend the “One-Armed Man” he believed had murdered his wife in Stafford, Indiana on the very fateful night of Sept. 19, 1961. Two years later, after exhausting all appeals, the convicted Kimble was aboard a train and en route to the death chamber while handcuffed to Gerard. Un-billed, all-business narrator William Conrad, TV’s future Cannon, put it this way in the pilot episode: “Richard Kimble ponders his fate as he looks at the world for the last time and sees only darkness. But in that darkness, fate moves its huge hand.”

It was my favorite TV drama as a high school kid. And now the complete series, on 32 discs, is newly available via CBS DVD -- even though the series originally aired on ABC.

You won’t have to pay an arm -- or a leg -- for it. Although retailing for $79.99, it’s currently available for $46.00 on Amazon.com. There’s no explanatory booklet or any “Extras” of any import. But you can bask in the beautifully remastered, crystal-clear episodes back when an hour of TV, minus commercials, had more than 50 minutes of actual program content. Subtract 8-to-10 of those minutes from today’s dramas.

The Fugitive, with David Janssen as Kimble and Barry Morse as Lt. Gerard, premiered on Sept. 17, 1963 and ended on Aug. 29, 1967 with a very satisfying and still pulsating resolution of the case. The denouement ranked as the most-watched series episode ever, and held that position until the Feb. 28, 1983 two-and-a-half-hour finale of M*A*S*H.

A big-screen version of The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones as the two principals, became an even bigger success in 1993, with seven Oscar nominations and a win for Jones as Gerard. A 2000 CBS version, with Tim Daly and Mykelti Williamson, ended up as one of that season’s biggest flops.

As “A Quinn Martin Production” -- which a booming voiceover made very clear -- black-and-white episodes of The Fugitive first joined ABC’s Tuesday night lineup in tandem with the network’s The Greatest Show On Earth and opposite two variety series (CBS’ The Garry Moore Show and NBC’s The Bell Telephone Hour). At the height of its ratings powers, The Fugitive rose to No. 5 on the Nielsen charts in Season 2. It never moved from its original 9 p.m. (central) Tuesday slot. Imagine that.

Networks increasingly were going to color by the time of The Fugitive’s premiere. But The Fugitive stuck to b&w until its final 1966-’67 season. And the vivid visual crispness of those 90 pre-color episodes makes one wish they had stayed the course.

Episode 1 took its time, with Conrad’s narrative voice escorting viewers through the train derailment that freed Kimble, his first on-camera fake identity (James Lincoln), a lonely bus ride after six months on the lam, etc., etc.

“Another journey, another place,” Conrad intones. “Walk neither too fast nor too slow. Beware the eyes of strangers. Keep moving.”

This time it was Tucson, where Kimble ends up working as a bartender at “The Branding Iron.” But Conrad keeps talking: “Look closely. Be sure of this. They’ll never stop looking. He’ll never stop. Not Lt. Gerard.”

Morse, as Gerard, finally gets the first words from a character. But it’s not until the 4 minute, 32 second mark, when he says after circling a map, “Somewhere in there. I’m sure of it.”

Janssen, as Kimble, doesn’t get to speak until the 7:16 mark. He’s at the Branding Iron now, with guest star Vera Miles mournfully playing “I’ll Never Smile Again” on the piano. Fellow guest star Brian Keith quickly comes into view and looks extra-menacing in black-and-white as a surly, heavy-drinking, insanely jealous wife-beater named Ed Welles. His estranged spouse, Monica Welles (Miles), has been trying to escape him in tow with their young son. As was inevitably the case with The Fugitive, Kimble gets caught in the middle while also racking up his first of many heartfelt smooches.

The episode still holds up well, even when Kimble stays in his sport coat, dress shirt and tie while joining Monica and her son at the dusty Wonderland amusement park. The kid turns out to be quite a slugger, winning a baseball bobble head doll that today would be very collectable. But my wandering eye also noticed a bigger carnival game prize -- a miniature Willie Mays figure among others from the Wisconsin-based Hartland Co. It’s now worth several hundred dollars. I still have my Ernie Banks statue from more than 50 years ago.

Anyway, Kimble eventually spills out his past to Monica, who nonetheless wants to run off with him. But it’s not meant to be. Longing looks are exchanged before the weekly “Epilog” finds Kimble on the run again, stopping only to pick up and pet a stray kitty cat before walking off into the nighttime mist while the horn music swells to the size of a 30-foot wave. Whatever the caliber of individual episodes, it’s impossible to fall asleep for long. One of those big, brassy soundtrack bursts will make you wide-eyed again in a hurry.

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Guest stars Brian Keith (in 1st episode) and Robert Duvall (eps. 4-5).

The Fugitive’s guest star contingent, some of them largely unknown at the time, also included Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell (as Gerard’s son), Beau Bridges, Charles Bronson, Ossie Davis, Mickey Rooney, William Shatner, Tuesday Weld, Carroll O’Connor and Robert Duvall.

Duvall, used to much better effect as a heroin addict in an episode of the 1960s series Route 66, is somewhat peripheral in the two-part “Never Wave Goodbye” story that consumed episodes 4 and 5 of The Fugitive. He dons a Norwegian accent to play the distrustful, guilt-ridden half-brother of Karen (Susan Oliver), the latest comely woman to fall under Kimble’s spell (this time he’s Jeff Cooper) after he drops in to work for a Santa Barbara sail maker.

Meanwhile, Gerard again is disappointing his young son, “Flip,” who yearns to go camping and fishing with his dad. But a planned trip again is waylaid after Gerard gets a new lead.

These episodes mark the closest encounter between Gerard and his prey since they sat shackled together in each episode’s introduction. They first re-glimpse each other at the Hall of Justice after Kimble comes to believe that the one-armed man he seeks is incarcerated there.

Part Two of “Never Wave Goodbye” finds Kimble and Karen striving to fake their deaths during a big dinghy race while Gerard again closes in. “If it works, Karen, we’ll see if Gerard will chase a ghost,” Kimble tells her.

But the single-minded Gerard will go to the ends of the earth to capture Kimble. He’ll also get into a flimsy raft, which capsizes near some rocks and leaves him in danger of drowning. Witnessing this, will Kimble do the right thing? Yes, things get more than a bit far-fetched. But no, the episodes do not entirely sink or stink dramatically, even if the expectations of a bravura performance by Duvall go unmet in the end.

Episode 14 of Season One, “The Girl From Little Egypt,” turns out to be pivotal in flashing back to some of what happened before and during the night when Kimble drove home after arguing with his besotted wife. Helen and Richard again had clashed over her refusal to adopt a child after she delivered a still-born boy and learned she couldn’t conceive again. Kimble spotted a fleeing one-armed man up-close before he found Helen dead and eventually took the rap for it.

The flashbacks are from a semi-conscious, sweat-drenched Kimble, who finds himself in a hospital after a bereft young flight attendant accidentally runs him down. By the end of the hour, he’s convinced her that the married guy she had fallen for is nothing but a promise-breaking heel. After a last supper with her at a Mexican eatery, Kimble’s again aboard a bus with “his only companion -- hope.”

By the way, this time he had masqueraded as George Browning. The aliases were always pretty generic and nothing on the order of Herbert Kluffenberg or Giancarlo Esperanza. Other false identities throughout the long run of the series included Jim Fowler, Ray Miller, Al Fleming, Bill Carter, Harry Carson, Joseph Walker, Larry Talman, George Porter, George Paxton and George Norton. (Yeah, he did seem to have a jones for George.)

He’s Nick Peters in the Season 2 finale, a rousing tale in which Steve Forrest plays the amoral owner of the crumbling, nearly bankrupt Jungle Land zoo. Kimble takes on a job cleaning animal cages and eventually finds himself in one. Will Gerard capture him as well? Or will an old tiger tamer with a wishy-washy conscience come to his aid before the cops close in?

The Season 3 finale has Kimble, as Tony Carter, working on a derrick barge off the California coast. Guest star Murray Hamilton is the bossman and Antoinette Bauer plays the fetching lady of interest, Coralee. A ship “accident” leaves a crew member dead and Coralee again branded a “Jonah” who has a history of causing bad things to happen.

Kimble commiserates with her, of course, stealing kisses and embraces while also taking a hard sucker punch to the head from a dense crew member. Authorities eventually close in, this time without Gerard, before another last-ditch escape puts Kimble on another bus out of town. Watch for a virtually unrecognizable Dabney Coleman, without a mustache, as a well-meaning cop named George Graham.

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The series finale & the climactic girlfriend, played by Diane Baker.

All of these close calls and cut-short romances led to the denouement that viewers wanted and that ABC finally was persuaded to give them after The Fugitive was canceled.

“The Judgment,” Parts 1 & 2, spread over two weeks in late August, 1967, provide Kimble with his last alias (Frank Davis), his last girlfriend (a keeper named Jean Carlyle) and the closure he’d so desperately sought through four years of trademark mouth twitches and crushing angst.

It’s perhaps a little weird to hold back on “spoilers” more than four-and-a-half decades after the finale aired. But several new generations have no clue what happened. And even those who were eyewitnesses at the time have likely forgotten many of the details. Myself included.

So suffice it to say that this is no David Chase open-ended goodbye to The Sopranos. Nor does it have the full-blown ridiculosity of the Dexter finale. The Fugitive instead pays back the faithful with a genuinely thrilling action sequence followed by a heartening Epilog. Its venues range from a strip bar featuring “Topless Watusi Dancers” to the Los Angeles Zoo to an abandoned amusement park that once urged one and all to “Be A Real Swinger! Ride the Imported South Sea Thrill, the Fantastic MAHIMAHI.”

Epilog: The late Janssen, who died in 1980 at the age of 48, never won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Richard Kimble but was nominated three times. Morse, a British actor who lived to be 89, was never nominated for the role of Gerard. But the series itself won the 1966 Emmy as “Outstanding Dramatic Series.”

All these years later, it rates as an “Outstanding Bargain” for those who want to revisit The Fugitive or discover it for the first time.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Animals on edge in CBS' Zoo

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Zoo’s human contingent is headed by James Wolk (second from left). CBS photo

Premiering: Tuesday, June 30th at 8 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: James Wolk, Kristen Connolly, Billy Burke, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arnezeder
Produced by: Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, James Patterson, Michael Katleman, James Mangold, Cathy Konrad, Bill Robinson, Leopoldo Gout, Steve Bowen

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
“Zebras are reactionaries, antelopes are missionaries, pigeons plot in secrecy and hamsters turn on frequently . . .”

All right, the animals aren’t gonna take that anymore -- not even those gentle pokes from Simon & Garfunkel. They’re earned their rights to be short-fused, pissed off and fed up -- but not yet on human flesh. CBS’ Zoo, based on the James Patterson page-turner, gives the animal kingdom an opportunity to address all grievances in the interests of also providing summertime “popcorn” entertainment for humanoids out of harm’s reach.

Those cheaply exploitative 1990s When Animals Attack! specials on Fox give way to a more handsomely produced 13-episode series whose premiere episode nonetheless could use a little more bite. CBS’ Under the Dome and Extant, respectively returning on Thursday, June 25th and Monday, July 1st, got off to stronger starts with their opening hours. But it’s how you finish that counts. So maybe Zoo will gain steam rather than start falling apart like its predecessors. It has 11 executive producers -- in reality at least six too many -- to gang-steer the course.

Resilient James Wolk, the principal star, craves a long-term TV hit after the failures of Fox’s Lone Star and CBS’ The Crazy Ones. In the interim he was written in and out of Mad Men as mysterious ad man Bob Benson.

Zoo returns Wolk to leading man status as zoologist Jackson Oz, who’s been running African safaris with his jocular best pal, Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anozie). But the lions have become uncommonly antagonistic to humans of late, prompting Oz to wonder aloud whether the oft-abused animal kingdom at large is finally ready to rumble. “What if across the globe, the animals decided ‘no more’?“ he asks himself. “What if they decided to fight back?”

Back in Los Angeles, a pair of lions have staged a jail break and left three humans dead and five wounded. But there’s more. What if even kitties banded together and formed a street gang? On a personal note, our normally super-purry cat Snickers went nuts the other night when a feline drifter popped up outside a front window. So anything’s possible, even if the kitties of Zoo appear to have human prey in mind.

The two-legged L.A. contingent is headed by newspaper reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), whose boss finds out she’s secretly blogging as the crusading “Girl with the Genie Tattoo.” This is not good, particularly because the Los Angeles Telegraph is beholden to a conglomerate owner with holdings that include a sinister agro-chemical company with a new contract to feed L.A.’s zoo-confined animals crappy, pesticide-laced food. Jamie has been on the attack with her blog, wondering if the lions in particular are now retaliating. This gets her fired and leads to an alliance with Mitch Morgan (Revolution refugee Billy Burke), an off-beat veterinarian who’s grown disgusted with the human rat race.

Expect other sparks to fly between Jamie and Mitch in future episodes of Zoo. Wolk’s Oz also gets a potential love mate in Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder). In Patterson’s book she was an ecologist. In the CBS adaptation, Chloe is a Parisian on a “honeymoon” safari by herself after being jilted by a philandering fiancé. Wandering in the bush after lions attacked her camp, she’s rescued by Oz and encouraged to drink a few shots of calming Kentucky bourbon. C’est manifique.

As for Abraham, he’s seemingly done in by lions just before Oz manages to drive off with Chloe after they’ve also been under attack. But the actor who plays Abraham is listed among the five series regulars, so take his “death” under advisement.

Zoo very much spares the gore in its less than scintillating but better than lackluster opening hour. Other than a briefly seen rhino hunter, there are no real villains for the animals to vent their furies on. But an evil corporate mercenary could always be injected at any moment.

Don’t expect anything in the vicinity of the special effects thrills of Jurassic World, where dinosaurs devouring terrified humans is still a very popular spectator sport. Zoo’s up-close shots of lions growling is about as good as it gets in the lone episode made available for review. But plenty of possibilities exist, including rampaging giraffes, bloodthirsty macaws and even revenge-bent koala bears. So let the fur and the feathers fly -- maybe with even a little extra firepower when needed from Saturday Night Live’s laser cats.

GRADE: C+

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

USA network gets the edge it's looking for with distinctly different Mr. Robot

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Rami Malek, Christian Slater star in Mr. Robot. USA photo

Premiering: Wednesday, June 24th at 9 p.m. (central) on USA
Starring: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Gloria Reuben, Michael Gill
Produced by: Sam Esmail, Chad Hamilton, Steve Golin, Carly Chalkin, Niels Arden Oplev

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
USA, heretofore the home of bouncy, bantering dramas, dribbles well out of its comfort zone with Mr. Robot.

A growing number of basic cable networks are looking for an edge this year, with TNT, Lifetime and even TV Land hoping to move into the same risqué neighborhoods as FX and AMC. Mr. Robot, a sharp departure from the likes of USA’s Royal Pains, Psych and Suits, embodies disaffected, damaged youth in the person of vigilante hacker Elliot (Rami Malek). His haunted eyes and black hoodies, coupled with a blunt, abrasive take on humankind, propel Mr. Robot through a world of deep discontent and covert villainy.

“I’m good at reading people,” Elliot says in of his many narratives. “My Secret. I look for the worst in them.”

He works for Allsafe Cybersecurity, whose clients include E Corp, dubbed “Evil Corp.” The idea is to protect multi-national giants from hacking and other forms of cyber terrorism. Elliot is very good at protecting and serving. But bowing to a “conglomerate of evil” knocks his psyche for a loop. It doesn’t help that E Corp’s CEO is “not a techie” in Elliot’s view. “He’s a moron. An arrogant moron. The worst kind.”

Malek, excellent in HBO’s The Pacific as a sardonic, emotionally constipated corporal, dominates Mr. Robot with a commanding minimalist performance. But he’s not the title character, who instead is embodied by co-star Christian Slater. He recruits Elliot to help take Evil Corp down as part of “the largest revolution the world has ever seen.” But Elliot questions whether his mind is playing tricks on him again. Do Mr. Robot and his underground organization really exist?

When out of the office, Elliot hacks into other wrongdoers’ cyber trails and then threatens them with exposure if they don’t immediately cease and desist. He’s also seeing a therapist named Krista Gordon (Gloria Reuben). “There’s pain underneath,” she tells him. “That’s where our work needs to go.”

But Krista also is being duped by a boyfriend who’s not at all what he seems to be. Elliot handles that for her, figuratively bringing the guy to his knees in a no-nonsense confrontation. It might be hard to stifle a “YES!”

Mr. Robert is unafraid to name names. A co-worker named Ollie Parker (Ben Rappaport) is romancing Elliot’s childhood friend and co-worker, Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday). A little research shows that Ollie lists George W. Bush’s Decision Points as one of his favorite books. For these and other reasons, Elliot has no use for him.

In an earlier scene, Elliot says that all heroes are counterfeit. Mr. Robot illustrates what he’s talking about with video snippets of Steve Jobs, Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson.

Mr. Robot also makes terrific use of Neil Diamond’s version of “If You Go Away” during a sequence in which Elliot tries to puzzle things out. The only thing this series may have going against it is the ubiquitous Slater, who has starred in a slew of failed series during the last several years. Roll call: NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy, ABC’s The Forgotten, Fox’s Breaking In and ABC’s Mind Games.

Maybe the fifth time’s a charm for Slater. And Mr. Robot belongs to Rami Malek anyway. His Elliot is a magnetic force field of quiet desperation, fighting the demons within him and the despots within his reach. A skinny, pale superhero with way too much on his mind potentially gives the USA network its first big buzz, social media sensation.

By the way, though, Elliot emphatically is “not on Facebook. ‘Cause I hate Facebook.” His views are his own.

GRADE: B+

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Reviewing Orange is the New Black after viewing all 13 Season 3 episodes

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Just a few of the many principals from Orange is the New Black. Netflix photo

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
More comedic, less filling, Orange is the New Black’s main storyline in Season 3 ends up being the illicit sales of ripe inmate panties to a bull market of avid, mostly male sniffers.

Whatever your fetishes, this turns out to be far less compelling than Season 2’s reign of terror by Yvonne “Vee” Parker or the inaugural year’s immersion of tenderfoot Piper Chapman (primary series star Taylor Schilling) into an intimidating, unnerving new world.

Netflix began streaming all 13 episodes earlier this month. Watching a season in full before rendering a verdict has been the policy in these spaces. So without being unduly specific on the “spoiler” front, here’s a thumbs up -- but only at a 45 degree angle -- for this latest look at life mostly inside the fences of fictional Litchfield Penitentiary.

This is a season in which two main characters are rather abruptly dispatched in early episodes -- and never seen again. Another prominent co-star from the first two seasons, Jason Biggs as Piper’s ex-fiancee Larry Bloom, is entirely left out of the new mix.

An overriding sense of jeopardy or menace is mostly missing as well. OITNB instead devotes multiple episodes to Piper’s burgeoning panty ring; a run on long-frozen, tasty Kosher meals by phonily Jewish inmates; and a devoted religious cult that forms around the silently manipulative Norma Romano (Anna Golden).

Those first two plot threads quickly run out of steam while continuing to run their course. And the overall plausibility of Piper increasingly going gangsta is stretched thinner than the panties being clandestinely worn by Sumo-sized Carrie “Big Boo” Black (Lea DeLaria).

All of the purloined pink undies come from a maiden prison enterprise, Whispers lingerie, instituted by the new private owners of Litchfield, which had been in danger of closing. A select group of inmates are paid $1 an hour for the “privilege” of making them. While at her sewing machine, Piper makes a new and increasingly intimate friend, the mega-tattooed Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose). Meawhile, Piper’s incumbent lover, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon reinstated as a regular), is increasingly succumbing to fears that a dotty new inmate named Lolly (Lori Petty) is a hit woman dispatched by a betrayed drug-runner.

Season 3 also introduces several new prison guards, one of whom is actually qualified. She’s Berdie Rogers (Martha Stephanie Blake), who joins the force before Litchfield’s new owners begin cutting costs and hiring incompetents such as former donut shop worker Charlie Coates (James McMenamin).

The redoubtable Mary Steenburgen also drops in for several episodes as Delia Mendez-Powell, who believes that her now incarcerated son, George “Pornstache” Mendez (Pablo Schreiber), is the father of pregnant inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz’s (Dascha Polanco) baby. The scenes between the two are well-played, particularly during a truth-telling Episode 8. Schreiber has moved on to co-star in the new HBO comedy series The Brink, but does find time, in Episode 10, for a cameo with Steenburgen.

This is otherwise a season where assistant warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) comes to the fore more than any other regular character. His backstory is revelatory while his efforts to save Litchfield border on selfless heroism. But how much longer can he continue to be a patsy while others sup at the trough?

Among the inmates, Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning) emerges in full as more than a one-note crazy hick. Both her flashback life and current situation invite newfound empathy. Episode 10 in particular, the most dramatic of Season 3, dials up the pain and degradation she’s suffered -- both then and now.

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba) also gets ample time in her new vocation as an author of a pornographic page-turner that has several inmates begging for more. This particular subplot fares considerably better than the “Church of Norma” stuff. Aduba continues to be OITNB’s most expressive performer, whether harried into churning out new chapters of her tome or inching toward the possibility of intimacy with a fellow inmate. That would be a first for “Crazy Eyes,” who joins “Pennsatucky” as an appreciably more realized character in Season 3.

Still, the season as a whole runs in place more than it should while also straining credulity and dangling too many red herrings. Its extended 90 minute conclusion is a full-blown, arguably overreaching effort to be both love- and life-affirming. One major character’s fate hangs in the balance -- but in a tacked-on way -- while Piper remains intent on being a “bad ass.” They’re left out of sync with an otherwise hug-happy, blissed-out prison population immersed in a prolonged closing sequence. The hows and the whys won’t be divulged here. But it’s all done to the closing strains of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Some true-blue fans of OITNB may well be overjoyed with how Season 3 ends. But I suspect that more might be cringing at least a little. This is still a quality, provocative series that’s unlike any other and has already been renewed for Season 4. But much work needs to be done during the off-season -- beginning with restoring an ominous sense of disorder and peril in a place that’s gone more than a little too soft and soapy.

GRADE: B

Email comments or questions to; unclebarky@verizon.net

Da bomb: HBO's The Brink follows smartly in step with Dr. Strangelove

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Tim Robbins is a cocksure Secretary of State in The Brink. HBO photo

Premiering: Sunday, June 21st at 9:30 p.m. (central) on HBO
Starring: Tim Robbins, Jack Black, Pablo Schreiber, Aasif Mandvi, Maribeth Monroe, Eric Ladin, Esai Morales, Geoff Pierson, Carla Gugino, John Larroquette
Produced by: Jerry Weintraub, Roberto Benabib, Jay Roach

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Inspired lunacy on an international scale is a tough nutty to crack.

HBO’s The Brink pulls it off despite being in the long shadow of Dr. Strangelove, the 1964 classic on which it’s very much modeled.

Armageddon again looms after a crazed rogue general heists Pakistan and its nuclear weaponry from the country’s democratically elected leader. He’s convinced himself that U.S. drones have been spreading electro-magnetic energy that will make his people sterile. In Dr. Strangelove, an unhinged U.S. general believed that the Soviets were behind a plot to fluoridate America’s water system and thereby contaminate the citizenry’s bodily fluids.

George C. Scott and Peter Sellers (in multiple roles) headed the cast of Dr. Strangelove. In The Brink, it’s a threesome of Tim Robbins, Jack Black and Pablo Schreiber, each of whom play one part apiece.

Robbins is Secretary of State Walter Larson, a profane, short-tempered womanizer with the lone redeeming quality of trying to prevent nuclear annilhation by any scheme necessary. His avowed nemesis is Secretary of Defense Pierce Gray (Geoff Pierson), a war monger who vies for the ear of President Julian Navarro (Esai Morales).

Caught in the middle is low-level foreign service officer Alex Talbot (Black), who’s stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan when the military coup occurs. He’s soon off on a series of manic misadventures, often in the company of fellow embassy underling Rafiq Massoud (Aasif Mandvi).

Schreiber, best known for his Season 1 portrayal of crooked corrections officer “Porn Stache” in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, is high in the sky -- and often on the ground, too -- as drug-smuggling bomber pilot Zeke “Z-Pak” Tilson. His secret missions are subject to change while commanders cover up the messes he’s made in tandem with co-pilot Glenn “Jammer” Taylor (Eric Ladin).

The Brink is studiously and deliciously nonsensical through the first five half-hour episodes made available for review. It takes a little time for the show to get its bearings. But both Robbins and Black are soon up to speed and off the rails. At the height of his circuitous efforts, Larson’s bout with a kidney stone is low comedy at a high level. Maribeth Monroe also excels in these sequences as devoted aide Kendra Peterson, who’s become expert at cleaning up her boss’s messes on a daily basis -- even when his urinary tract is A-OK.

Black’s Talbot can be a bit too cartoonish in the early going, even for the purposes of this storyline. But his quips and demeanor quickly kick in, with some nice thrust and parry from the oft-exasperated Massoud.

John Larroquette drops in as the ineffectual U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, whose Bible-belting belief system bedevils both Talbot and Larson. And Carla Gugino continues what’s been a very gainful year for her as Larson’s savvy, sexy wife, Joanne. Fox’s ongoing Wayward Pines and the smash feature film San Andreas are also on Gugino’s resumé this summer.

Closing credits for the initial five episodes are rich with rock classics. Sequentially listen for Creedence Clearwater’s “Fortunate Son”; John Lennon’s “Instant Karma”; Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”; Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”; and The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”

The Brink’s Father Day premiere is the caboose following debuts of HBO’s True Detective 2 and the comedy series, Ballers, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

“The Rock’s” solid gold star power makes it the favorite to be the most-watched of the three while the second coming of True Detective is sure to be sampled if not eventually savored. But The Brink gets my highest grade as an explosively funny satirical descendant that can hit home without being even slightly preachy about it. Mostly, though, have fun with both the madcap characters and the notion that one of the Pakistani demands in play is a full membership with the Augusta National Golf Club.

GRADE: A-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net