Leaky Old Men


I watched this new Chuck Lorre show and kept wanting to make a joke about calling it "Two and a Half Hours," which is how long it takes to watch the entire 8-episode first season. Less time than to watch a football game.

Or the amount of time it feels like we spend watching Michael Douglas grimace as he tries to urinate, but now I'm getting a little offbase.

I enjoyed it immensely. Immensely. But I have no idea how to recommend it, or to whom, really.

It actually feels more like a web series, or a series of vignettes, even though the episodes seem to be standard (network) length, so it's easy to feel compelled to binge. The end credits of an episode just feel like a blackout, and of course Netflix pushes you quickly to the next.

But it's easy. These are easy actors to watch, and it's mostly them. Two men on the downslope of life couldn't be better cast--if you're trying to make something interesting, that is--than with Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas.

Arkin needs no explanation. If you haven't been watching him for 50 years, you should rectify that now. It's a complete characterization and feels so familiar at the same time, and the timing...it's Alan Arkin.

It's Douglas who surprises me, although now that I think of it, his Kominsky has a lot of echoes of his character in "Wonder Boys." An aging creative who never quite made it, he's full of blended flaws and sweetness, fighting the inevitable in a raspy, wry way that's just charming, really.

But these are old guys. Definitely not stereotypes, not Statler and Waldorf, not "The Sunshine Boys," but still. Nobody's playing young in this one. In a tiny moment, Arkin is checking out at a grocery store and gets...not confused, really, but uncomfortable, I guess, with the new chip reader. He eventually just hands his card to the young, obviously baffled checker, as Douglas stands in the background, being wry again.

"We've outlived swiping," he notes.

It's a nice touch, a subtle moment. Neither of these guys (Arkin in his 80s, Douglas a decade younger) is uncomfortable with technology. They're just irritated by the newness of everything, and the feeling that it's inevitable that they'll fall behind.

But if you're under 30, or maybe even 40, I dunno. The young people in this series are all idiots or worse, with only a couple of exceptions. Both men have daughters; Douglas's is a teeny bit bitter about having a thrice-married, absent father, but obviously loves him and runs his acting studio for him.

Phoebe, on the other hand, Arkin's daughter, played by Lisa Edelstein, seems to have dropped in from another, less interesting show, showing up to her mother's funeral stoned and spilling the contents of her suitcase, a scene we've seen variations of any number of times and this one isn't better. Edelstein's a wonderful actress and does a nice job of portraying a person with no apparent redeemable qualities, but she's not really a person, just a problem for her grieving father, who dumps her at a fancy rehab in the boonies.

Even the attempt to deal with the physical indignities of getting old, handled so nicely on "Grace and Frankie" (its female counter-programming on Netflix), aren't gruesome and are played mostly for laughs. Do you think Danny DeVito playing a urologist examining Michael Douglas's prostate gland is a funny idea? You're right.

But prostate problems in a 70-something man is like talking about hair loss. It works for comedy, not for reality. I'm thinking some dialogue between these two wonderful actors in which they can't remember the names of anything or anyone would be more accurate and probably much funnier that the grimaces at the urinal.

Although if you're an older man, and you've ever stood outside a bathroom door and listened to a younger man pee, you'll relate to Michael Douglas and his "Enjoy it while you can" comments. Getting old isn't for sissies.

Anyway, don't listen to me. It went by too fast, and sometimes I focus on performances so much I don't notice the overall quality actually sucks. I don't think it does in "The Kominsky Method," but I'm not sure I really care. It has Alan Arkin. I was always going to watch. Your results may vary, but I'm ready for season two.

Chuck SigarsComment