Sunday, 26 May 2024

‘Being the Ricardos’ TV Golden Age; ‘King’s Man’ prequel


Released theatrically, “Being the Ricardos” may now also be enjoyed from home on Amazon Prime Video. Watching this on television is fitting since this is the story of the production for the popular “I Love Lucy” series.

The Ricardos, of course, refer to the stars of the show, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), real-life married couple in the parts of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, respectively the quintessential dizzy redhead and the charismatic Cuban bandleader.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin as a behind-the-scenes drama, “Being the Ricardos” is structured to capture a single week of production from the Monday table read through the Friday live audience taping, interspersed with flashbacks of the couple’s fascinating history.

During the course of a week during a second season in 1952, Sorkin has crammed enough crises into the story that would under normal circumstances sink the careers and professional reputations of all parties involved.

As if the short window of producing one episode is not filled with enough predicaments, flashbacks and leaps into the future provide glimpses of the turbulent relationship of Lucy and Desi, from a whirlwind courtship to the burning ambition that made them leading television innovators.

Muckraking gossip columnist Walter Winchell drops a bombshell charge that Lucy’s past is linked to membership in the Communist party, while a tabloid spreads rumors of Desi’s alleged infidelity.

Meanwhile, Lucy reveals that she’s pregnant and Desi wants to incorporate her pending maternity into a storyline, but executives of Philip Morris, the show’s sponsor, object strenuously to changing the show’s formula.

Nevertheless, plenty of spectacle consumes the actual show, with J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda bringing humor and tension to the set as actors William Frawley and Vivian Vance in the roles of Fred and Ethel Metz, the comic foils as Lucy and Desi’s neighbors.

The behind the camera action in the writers’ room adds another enticing dimension to the “I Love Lucy” saga. Tony Hale shines as producer Jess Oppenheimer, and the writing team of Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll Jr. (Jake Lacy) have standout moments of competitive banter.

One drawback to “Being the Ricardos” might be how Sorkin unpacks the storyline with an overabundance of subplots, which in reality did not converge during the same week. Liberties have been taken with the chronology of events, as Sorkin shuffled the deck to make a better story.

To build the film’s narrative, Sorkin places obstacles in front of his characters with the end goal of informing and entertaining. As a result, there’s a case to be made here that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz get their due as Hollywood pioneers in the Golden Age of television.


As is the case with most sequels in a franchise, the question is whether the latest installment is unnecessary or inevitably forgettable or just maybe a combination of both.

Reflecting upon the latest James Bond film “No Time to Die,” I now ponder the notion that the beloved spy series enjoyed for so many decades has lost its impetus. At least, 007 had a good run, but the same may not prove true for the “Kingsman” franchise.

Set at the turn of the last century leading up to World War I, “The King’s Man” can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a war drama or espionage tale? Does it expose Britain’s brutal colonialism? How does pacifism coincide with its violent action?

However, “The King’s Man” is a prequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and the origin story for the autonomous intelligence agency designed to be cut loose from the bureaucracy of a government-run spy organization.

The leading character of the Kingsman organization, operating stylishly out of the eponymously-named gentleman’s tailor shop on London’s Savile Row, is Ralph Fiennes’ aristocratic Orlando, the Duke of Oxford.

For one running an elite espionage outfit, that the Duke of Oxford is so committed to pacifism in the face of the looming World War I seems incomprehensible without the knowledge of his past experiences and concern to keep his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from joining the Army.

As a trusted ally to King George (Tom Hollander, who also plays Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm), Oxford comes to realize that global conflict is inescapable and hence a clandestine group must be formed with the help of Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton).

Conrad defies his father’s wish and enlists with a desire to be sent to the front lines, ending up in fierce trench warfare that is as bleak and grim as anything seen in war movies such as “Saving Private Ryan” and more on point in “1917.”

For his part, the Duke of Oxford rises to the occasion for a mountaintop showdown with a Bond-like villain, parachuting from a plane and jostling with a mountain goat. “The Kingsman” allows for the erudite, polished Duke of Oxford to be a different yet rousing kind of hero.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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