Can The Night Of Solve HBO’s Drama Problem?

By  · Published on June 29th, 2016

The early buzz is good. Can it fill the hole left by True Detective?

Last week, HBO premiered online the first episode of The Night Of, an upcoming series about a Pakistani-American man who is (wrongfully?) accused of murder. While most of the reception thus far can be described as “whispers,” they’re very positive whispers. Having seen the first episode, I can report that the rumors are true – this has the potential to be one of the best shows of the year.

When the full show premieres on TV and online on July 10th, the coverage will undoubtedly focus on the following areas.

Solving HBO’s Drama Problem

Ever since HBO canceled Vinyl, hyperbolic stories of HBO’s drama problem have been circulating, pointing out a string of recent failures (Vinyl, The Brink, True Detective Season 2, etcetera) by the once-dominant premium network. Should the whispers of The Night Of continue to be positive and grow into thunderous roars, HBO will finally have what it needs to put this story to bed.

Of course, if we’re baited and switched by The Night Of into something mediocre or flat-out bad, the stories will continue, and HBO (or Game of Thrones Network, as it’s becoming pejoratively known) will have some serious explaining to do.

True Detective Comparisons

Despite a fringe network of apologists, the second season of True Detective was a disaster. While it’s tempting to make the edgy claim that it never should have happened in the first place, there’s no reason that another installment in this anthology shouldn’t work.

Enter The Night Of, another eight-episode crime show with the reins of each episode handed over to one creative team, and one that appears to be very good. Part of me wonders what the landscape of HBO would look like if The Night Of simply was the second season of Cary Fukunaga’s masterpiece.

These stories are already being written (just google “The Night Of, True Detective” and see for yourself), and they will only grow more fierce in the weeks following its premiere. The fundamental question is and will be: can this be done well?

Riz Ahmed’s Rise

Riz Ahmed was first put on the cinematic map with his underrated role opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Soon after that, he landed roles in the upcoming, high-profile releases Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Jason Bourne. But neither of those gigs are starring roles, which makes The Night Of our first real look at what Riz Ahmed can do in the spotlight.

He was certainly the best part of the first episode, operating without an ounce of insincerity as a scared person in way over his head, and he sells it in such a way that even his actions that we can call stupid or misguided are believable.

We’ll see how much of his spotlight is also taken up by John Turturro, who plays opposite Ahmed as his lawyer. Speaking of which …

John Turturro’s comeback

Matthew McConaughey famously used his appearance on an HBO crime show to bolster what was affectionately called “The McConaissance.” It appears McConaughey’s publicist is far better than Turturro’s, because the story of the latter’s comeback has not yet made it to print.

Let’s face it, the Emmy-winning Turturro hasn’t had a real success in the last decade, preferring instead to spend his time in Adam Sandler and Transformers movies, with a few indies sprinkled in between. But anyone who has seen Barton Fink can tell you he has a lot more talent than the projects he chooses.

Maybe The Night Of is his opportunity to show it.

It’s safe to say the The Night Of can do a lot of good for a lot of people, but more may be riding on its success than meets the eye. Keep a look out for how these stories develop going forward, after The Night Of premieres on July 10.

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