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What I Watched Last Night

Who needs a whole Soprano family of Italians when we now have the Irish on NBC's The Black Donnellys doing enough hijackin', whackin' and body disposin' on Monday nights to cover all those mooks across the river in Jersey? And even better - if you can keep up with the show's pace, because life moves quick in Hell's Kitchen --they don't waste a whole mess of our viewing time on people's family and personal problems because they deal with problems in this neighborhood very simply: by shooting it, killing it, bashing in its head like an over-ripe pumpkin, or chopping its feet off with an ax.

Or, as one of the lads put it, "The only way for two guys to keep a secret is if one of 'em is dead."

The Black Donnellys follows four brothers somewhere in their late 20s or early 30s: Tommy, a hothead with an affinity for recreational barstool-throwing to blow off some anger; Jimmy, an even bigger hothead junkie who answers questions in the stir by bashing heads in with a telephone receiver; Kevin, a somewhat simpler sort who spends most of his time bailing Jimmy out of trouble; and Sean, who spent Monday night's episode lying in a hospital bed after he was beaten to a pulp by some unsavory local Italians in retaliation for something one of his brothers had done.

Their story is narrated at different points by a neighborhood weasel known only by the highly creative nickname of Joey Ice Cream. He reminds me a lot of the Bob character on Becker, and I liked Bob. Joey's looking to strike a deal for better accommodations in the stir, so his ever-changing story is told from the standpoint of a jailhouse interview with a city detective. And he materializes everywhere out of nowhere, like some sort of lowlife ghost, which makes his stories all the more suspect.

The big trouble Monday night centered around the disappearance of Lou, a low-level Italian bookie kidnapped by Jimmy as a brotherly-love solution to erase Tommy's gambling debt. Compounding the problem is a $50,000 ransom paid by the Italians, except Jimmy whacked Lou after getting the money and dumped his body in an alley Dumpster behind the Donnelly bar. Unfortunately, he hadn't gotten around to getting rid of Lou because he's now in jail for hijacking a truckload of Hawaiian shirts. So now, Lou's a bit ripe when Tommy and Kevin find him in the Dumpster, which leaves the business of disposal up to them. And which also leads to a lot of dark, sarcastic humor between the two brothers, making for an even more enjoyable show to watch because if there's anything funnier than a TV version of a drunk Irishman before he gets all violent, it's a TV version of an Irishman with a brother who's just a mite slow on the uptake.

They settle on a swamp in jersey where Tommy used to drag race "with no one around for miles." They wrap stinky Lou in a carpet and make the drive only to find the swamp is now occupied by a parking lot and a big-box hardware store. "It was [a swamp] the last time I was here," says Kevin.

Things are further complicated when the boys find out that all of stinky Lou doesn't fit in a 55-gallon drum they intend to dump into the river. Apparently lacking the funds or common sense to buy a good gas-powered chainsaw, Tommy buys a sledgehammer from the big box and removes Lou's legs the hard way.

Meanwhile, back at the Donnelly bar, Tommy's girlfriend Jenny Reilly happens upon Lou's blood on the stairs leading to the basement, and she dutifully scrubs the stairs clean. Because that's what good Irish girlfriends do in Hell's Kitchen.

After dropping stinky Lou off a vacant riverside dock to swim with the fishes - because really, what's the sense in letting a perfectly good Jersey dock go unused - Tommy returns the 50 grand in ransom money to the Italians because the Italians "know who they gave it to." And while they won't miss Lou much, they'll certainly miss 50 grand. Unappreciative swine they are, the Italians tell Tommy they're going to charge Jimmy $1,000 a week until Lou resurfaces, "for disruption of business, you know." If Tommy has one thing, it's cajones the size of Texas. "The money makes us even," he says. "You got a lost bookie, that's your problem."

One person who does miss stinky Lou is his brother, a creepy Eric Roberts lookalike who does all his negotiating and information-gathering with an ax. He sees Tommy walking down the street:

"Get in," says creepy ax guy.
"I sooner walk," replies Tommy.
"Put him in the trunk," says creepy ax guy to his driver.
"I'm getting in," says Tommy.

The two have a rather uncomfortable discussion of stinky Lou's whereabouts, and Tommy plays dumb. "If I hear anything, I'll let you know," he tells creepy ax guy.

The Black Donnellys is Monday night TV's saving grace. I recommend you should watch it, you know, so something very misfortunate doesn't happen to your feet or something.


See what else we've been watching, in the What I Watched Last Night archive.


Posted on March 6, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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