Stanley Tucci and Daniel Benzali in it Murder One (Photo: ABC)
Stanley Tucci is back on TV this month with a Netflix/BBC collaboration Lake Man. Tucci is a killer on death row who tries to use his criminal expertise to help other murders. That’s the kind of role you give Stanley Tucci — someone who needs the kind of genius to play exciting, clever but hidden, dangerous but with a twinkle in his eye.
It’s not a register that Tucci is actually in; He is very good at playing loving husbands, steady business partners, generous lovers and playing bad guys. Instead Lake Man It takes some time to remember the last time Tucci played a morally responsible (if any) assassin on television, after his first big break on screen in in the short but highly anticipated ABC legal drama. Murder One. The country series gave Tucci his first taste of real acclaim, demonstrated his great talent as a performer, and put him at the center of the show ahead of his time.
First in the fall of 1995, Murder One The new series from uber TV producer Steven Bochco, who helped redefine television drama in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Hill Street Blues, LA Lawa NYPD Blue. It only lasted two years, however Murder One will catch fire, especially for its first year. Upon Bochco’s death in 2018, The Guardian wrote that “The legal system of the 1990s, murdering someone, is like competing for a place in the Bochco pantheon, especially in our age-long religion.”
The show was unique at the time, especially on network television, for following a murder trial as it unfolded in 23 episodes. At this point in the box office’s history mirror, the division between the kinds of stories told in episodic dramas and the long stories told in ministry. The Hill Street Blues has the power to help integrate the storylines that took place in multiple episodes, a trend seen in mid-’90s shows like ERhowever Murder One moved beyond that. In doing so, it helped build a bridge to 21st century television shows, from The Sopranos to It’s goneall the way to our current country is almost all dramas and mini-series.
Murder OneIt’s a daring feat — and a big challenge — to tell a small story over the course of a 23-episode network television drama. This encouraged all kinds of wandering. The kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old girl catches the heart of Hollywood villain Neil Avedon (Jason Gedrick), and it’s up to his powerful attorney Ted Hoffman (Daniel Benzali) to free him. . But in the early stages, the accusations were strongly based on Richard Cross, a wealthy and well-connected businessman, whose fraud and relationship with the victim’s brother made him a suspect.
Tucci played Cross, who kept viewers guessing with his expensive shoes and blasé attitude to cheat on his wife Annie, played by Broadway legend Donna Murphy. It was just one of many breakout hits on the show, which included debuts for Mary McCormack, Dylan Baker, Anna Gunn, Adam Scott, and Patricia Clarkson (years before she and Tucci co-parented Emma Stone Easy A). Tucci, even at the beginning, Cross’s play is insincere – no one chooses their words innocently – but not over the top. In the New York TimesJohn J. O’Connor’s review praised Tucci, saying that he “brings a charming sleaze to the role of Cross, the rich man who never quite kills.” The Los Angeles TimesHoward Rosenberg was just as effusive as he was on the show at the end of the season, saying that Tucci was “very interesting to the guy who made all the rage. Murder One.”
Until Murder OneTucci did mostly theater work, as well as a number of small film roles, most memorable being Murder alongside Julia Roberts in The Short Pelican. Murder One It marked a turning point in his career, especially when the acclaim for that work was combined with the impressive publicity for Big Nightthe film he co-directed with his childhood friend Campbell Scott and also starred in. Big Night It premiered at Sundance in January 1996 and won the Waldo Salt Screenplay Award. By the end of ’96, Tucci was beginning to reap the first signs of his career. Along with Barbara Bosson, who played lawyer Miriam Grosso (and is married to Bochco), Tucci was one of two actresses to receive Emmy awards for Murder One (even though he missed it Picket fenceRay Walston). That same year, he collected a Special Spirit Award for Best Original Screenplay Big Night, with nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. The New York Film Critics Circle also awarded Tucci and Scott Best First Film honors.
Tucci’s big success in 1996 didn’t last long Murder One overall, despite a lot of press and attention for trying to do something different with its long story-telling concept, the show couldn’t make it in the ratings. Three things were often seen as the reasons for the failure of the show, the least of which was Benzali’s performance in the main role, which was divisive. He cut an unusual figure as the host of the network drama, and reviews praised his bald appearance (“think Patrick Stewart crossed with Robert Shapiro”) and delivery of unusual lines. Some described it as a “whispering, Brando-level intensity” while others compared it to a “rushed pace through most of the episode and an incoherent speech that suggests a bad smell has irritated his proud nose.”
The show’s battle in the ratings, however, came down to two spoilers with four letters: OJ and ER. Murder One heavily inspired by the OJ Simpson trial, it’s clear from watching five minutes of the show. Emphasis on the relationship between celebrity and the judiciary, the entertainment industry of television court images and on-air personalities, the concept of a high-priced legal team focused on views of who sits in the vice chair — all right from the Simpson trial. . Basically, it cuts both ways. A nation obsessed with OJ is troubled by a legal drama that speaks the same language, but also has an OJ trial to investigate. The verdict in the Simpson case came the same day Murder OneThe third part of the episode aired, an even worse version of the incident that helped turn off the audience in droves.
After sending three episodes in NYPD BlueSunday night zone, Murder One scheduled to air on Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. on NBC ERin its second season the juggernaut was already in good shape. ER all competition was eliminated in 1994 and 1995, including CBS’s hospital programs. Chicago Hope. The decision to place ABC’s legal drama in the lion’s den of Thursday nights was highly controversial among entertainment writers at the time. ABC entertainment president Ted Harbert wringed his hands when asked about the strategy, saying, “We don’t have the guts to let ER run empty.” ER Executive producer John Wells, for his part, seems unfazed by his assessment Murder One‘s chances to challenge his show, saying “To introduce a show that has the same demographics of what’s already been done would be suicidal.”
Wells was right on the money, and Murder One floundered in the ratings and failed to attract a critical community willing to follow a critically acclaimed show. Despite the number of “best new shows of the year” he collected, viewers were not. It’s easy to look at Murder One and is thought to be more at home in the current climate of limited serials and anthologies. Alas, after ratings struggles in Season 1, ABC renewed the show for Season 2, pulling back the all-time pilot and replacing Benzali with Anthony LaPaglia as the main actor of the show. (The most beautiful aspect of Benzali’s dismissal, which Bochco described many years later, was that Benzali was fired for taking so long to set up because he could not leave the his Malibu home without using the bathroom, something he didn’t want to do on set. .)
Murder One remains a footnote in ’90s television history and an impressive stepping stone on the way to our current understanding of what TV is. Stanley Tucci is one of the most gifted shows ever given to the entertainment industry, and getting him back on television playing a villain is a great reminder of that. It’s time to revisit (and if you have twelve hours to spare, Murder One available for purchase on iTunes and Prime Video).
Joe Reid is the main author i Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The AV Club and more.