Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

WISEGUY Dead Dog Records Arc

Tim Curry as the diabolical Winston Newquay
WISEGUY. The "Dead Dog Records" arc. 1989.

Because the cost of acquiring the music rights would have been too prohibitive, the "Dead Dog Records" arc from season two of Wiseguy was not included in the official DVD release, more's the pity. In this story undercover agent Vinnie Terranova (Ken Wahl) is assigned to investigate corruption in the recording industry by using federal money to buy the dying Dead Dog Records, which does not sit well with certain government officials who get no thrill out of being record moguls like Vinnie does. Deborah Harry plays a washed-up singer, Diana, who is working in a cocktail lounge when Vinnie decides to engineer her comeback, but he has to reckon with the schemes of near-psychotic music bigwig Winston Newquay (Tim Curry), the former Sam Fishbine, who is also Diana's former lover, a fact that does not sit well with his wife, Claudia (Deidre Hall). Vinnie gets assistance from the enthusiastic Bobby Travis (Glenn Frey), as well as from husband-and-wife record company owners Amber (Patti D'Arbanville) and Isaac Twine (Paul Winfield). Vinnie's producer is a coke-snorting "genius" named Johnny Medley (Paul McCrane), who is difficult to work with, to say the least, and has a sixteen-year-old wife (Pamela Segall Adlon) who is more mature than he is. [This last business is kind of creepy, frankly, but fits into the weird tone of the episodes.] With more humor and craziness than most episodes of this show, the Dead Dog arc was atypical Wiseguy -- for one thing, Vinnie seems more interested in having a hit record than in putting anyone in jail -- but it is marvelously entertaining, and the scripts by David J. Burke and Stephen Kronish, among others, probably influenced the more outrageous serial dramas of today. Highlights include a dress-tearing catfight at a fancy party, a couple making passionate love who wind up crashing through a skylight, and a certain someone who's pissed off Winston being thrown off a rooftop by thugs. The acting from the entire cast is excellent, with McCrane, Frey and Winfield taking top honors, but even they take a back seat to Tim Curry, who gives an absolutely mesmerizing and ferocious portrayal of the devilish, always sleek and sophisticated, Winston Newquay, a fascinating character -- but not one you'd want to know personally. Jonathan Banks and Jim Byrnes also appear and are as good as ever. The song Harry sings, "Brite Side" was recorded by her, but only in a version that has none of the impact of the original.

Verdict: Deliriously entertaining and sharply acted. ***1/2.

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