Friday, 31 March 2023

‘Christmas’ classic revived; ‘East New York’ cop show on TV


One look at Peter Billingsley as the now adult Ralphie Parker and he’s immediately recognizable as the kid wanting a Red Ryder BB gun in 1983’s “A Christmas Story.”

Streaming on HBO MAX, “A Christmas Story Christmas” is a sequel nearly forty years later, and Billingsley’s Ralphie has nearly the same hairstyle and horn-rimmed glasses. Based on imagery alone, this holiday film is definitely steeped in nostalgia.

A wall calendar informs that the setting is December 1973, and Ralphie has taken a year off to pen his first novel, a complex science-fiction tome that’s been rejected by almost every major publisher in Chicago.

Married to the supportive Sandy (Erinn Hayes), Ralphie is the father to two young children, Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne), both of whom are excited for a Christmas filled with gifts and holiday joy.

Family plans for celebrating Christmas at home in Chicago get derailed when Ralphie gets a phone call about the passing of his father and the need to return to his hometown of Hohman, Indiana to help his mom (Julie Hagerty).

With the Old Man gone, the task of delivering a traditional Christmas falls upon Ralphie, who is also assigned the job of writing his father’s obituary, which is initially hindered by writer’s block.

Ralphie reconnects with some of his old childhood pals, notably Schwartz (R.D. Robb) and Flick (Scott Schwartz), the latter having inherited Flick’s Tavern, where Schwartz runs a tab with seemingly no plans to settle his account.

Now that these old chums are in their Forties, would one of them be so foolish as to take up a “triple dog dare” challenge? In the original, Flick got his tongue stuck on a frozen flagpole. The challenge this time turns out to be even more daunting.

An old nemesis turns up in Scut Farkas (Zack Ward), and some things never change with bullies terrorizing the neighborhood on a snowmobile. New adventures include a snowball fight staged like a Western shootout.

What better way to celebrate Christmas than a visit to Higbee’s department store with its dazzling displays and a Santa Claus in a scene reminiscent of the one where kids are dispatched down a chute after making their wishes.

Will “A Christmas Story Christmas” turn out to be a cherished Yuletide classic like its 1983 predecessor? After all, it’s a sweet-natured, family-friendly film but probably not as memorable. That could change if it ends up as a holiday staple on cable television.

A case can be made for “A Christmas Story Christmas,” giving a nod to sentimentality but coming up with new gags and silly moments, deserving to be in an annual rotation of holiday movies to be savored.


The Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York is a community that might be ripe for gentrification, but that may not seem to be the case in the new CBS series “East New York,” at least when one of the storylines has a rookie cop volunteering to live in a risky housing project.

This new CBS police procedural may bring to mind the network’s long-running series “Blue Bloods,” with Tom Selleck as the New York Police Commissioner, and ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” which included Jimmy Smits, who’s now in the role of Chief John Suarez.

That the working-class neighborhood in “East New York” has a crime problem is evident on Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood’s (Amanda Warren) first day in her new job as commander of the NYPD’s 74th Precinct.

Witnessing a deadly attempted carjacking of a service van, Haywood takes off on a foot chase of a masked robber who has killed a German tourist and a security guard.

What looks like the beginning of a traditional police drama is a case of first impression being somewhat deceptive. Haywood’s notion of policing bumps up against the conventional approach of other cop shows.

It’s worth noting that in a precinct where even many of the officers are a diverse bunch, Haywood is perceived by some to be nothing more than a “diversity hire” to run a station where many residents are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

On one of her first items of business, Haywood wants officers to deal less with traffic ticket quotas and strike a balance in policing a community where many appear to distrust law enforcement.

Haywood also wants some officers to live in public housing to connect with the neighborhood, and white Officer Brandy Quinlan (Olivia Luccardi) volunteers for an assignment that proves to be very challenging.

Standout performances come from Richard Kind’s Captain Yenko, Haywood’s eager assistant, and the effective detective team of Tommy Killian (Kevin Rankin) and Crystal Morales (Elizabeth Rodriguez).

Veteran cop Marvin Sandeford (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) is a great mentor to his rookie partner Andre Bentley (Lavel Schley), while the brilliant Jimmy Smits’ Chief is underused.

It will be interesting to see if “East New York” catches on with a CBS audience accustomed to conventional police dramas.

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

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