Movies and TV shows are both satisfying in different ways. Movies tell a short concise story and often draw the biggest budgets, actors, and directors. TV shows flesh out characters over years and build up a main story arc with smaller ones mixed in underneath creating an enjoyable experience that can last several years. I believe the stand alone HBO mini-series has created a perfect hybrid between the movie and TV world which brings out the best elements of both.
Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Generation Kill, Show Me a Hero, True Detective (forgetting season 2), and now The Night Of are some of the most remarkable stories I have ever experienced. All of these receive movie sized budgets and critically acclaimed writers, directors, and actors. A universe explored in 6 to 12 episodes allows the viewer to get a more expansive experience without the show being stretched out diluting the product.
I watched The Night Of on a lazy rainy Saturday which set the perfect mood for the bleak and intense plot. The Night Of felt like a mix of The Wire and Oz with season one of the Serial podcast mixed in. A murder mystery that involves a young innocent Pakistani kid in prison being legally represented by a gritty low level attorney in New York is ripe for an intriguing drama.
Based on a BBC show called Criminal Justice that aired in 2008 across the pond, The Night Of was created by two dudes names Richard Price and Steven Zaillian. Price wrote every episode and Zaillian directed 7 of the 8 episodes. Price is an accomplished novelist who wrote for The Wire and wrote the screenplays for several movies including The Color of Money and Child 44. Zaillian also has an impressive resume which contains the screenplays for Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York, American Gangster, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball (with Aaron Sorkin), and The Irishman (the upcoming gangster Scorsese movie). James Marsh, the guy who directed the one episode Zaillian didn’t, directed the documentary Man on Wire and the academy award nominated movie for several awards, The Theory of Everything.
In addition to the loaded lineup of creators, the actors complemented the material well. John Turturro is the obvious stand out who fit the character of John Stone perfectly bringing a genuine serious tone with well incorporated comic relief. Before his death James Gandolfini was planned to play the lead, then Robert De Niro was cast, and then finally John Turturro.
Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) played Naz who underwent one of the most heartbreaking character transformations. Other stand out actors are Bill Camp, Michael K. Williams (The Wire), Amara Karan, along with cameos of recognizable faces from various other HBO series.
The horrors of prison life, the slow and ruthless wheels of justice, and the grittiness of policing combine to create a story that places several characters on all sides of the murder investigation in onerous situations testing their morale’s and inner demons.