Criminal justice, Janet Reno has said, must “put away…the truly violent, what I call the ‘mean bads.’ ” But she faces administrative problems. (Viewer discretion advised: theatrical blood and some language.)
“I dislike being addressed as ‘Ma’am,’ ‘General,’ or ‘Madam Attorney General.’ I should have said so before. What counts is, I’m saying it now. ‘Guv’ is all right. So is ‘Top,’ ‘Honcho,’ or ‘Hitch.’ There’s a violent repeat felon in Dade who says he was put away by ‘Collar and Cuffs,’ and that’s one sobriquet I wouldn’t mind earning a thousand times over. Use the imagination the Lord gave you.”
She looks around the situation room. The boys stare down at their fingerprint kits and civil-rights injunctions. She knows they want to hold her at bay with professionally feigned politesse. But this isn’t the damn State Department. This is public television. A woman AG has to belt her trenchcoat and go to the mat on every tiny little thing, because there’s only one law her character can be 100 percent sure of: If a gun is introduced in the first act, it will go off in the third act.
The variables—misjudge those and the boys won’t let you forget it. She’s still being twitted with some maxim of Robert Towne’s about how a splashy action-packed start causes an almost mathematically inevitable sag or lull twenty minutes into the first reel. And she learned the hard way that a sag or lull should cue the entrance of the Special Prosecutor. (As Kenneth Tynan noted, the Special Prosecutor ranks with the Player King, the Gentleman Caller, the Fugitive, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. as one of the terrific classic parts just tailor-made to thrill an English-speaking audience.)
Hundreds of supporting players have yet to be cast—the elite Cuban Cigar Naturalization Service Flying Squad, the Hillary Rodham Clinton Pressure Tactics Counter-Tactical Unit, all the way down the line to the White Hat sidekicks, Bad Mommy, Judge Advocate for Casting Against Type, Brechtian ensemble of wiretap electricians, and Woman Gentleman Caller. In an early episode, the AG lost a tough policy fight to political higher-ups who want open casting (a procedural night-mare). What do they think this is, public television? This is the US Department of Justice. Recurring image: the AG in a darkened office, screening videotapes from all over the country. Her top priority is finding the right First Murderer. She murmurs, “Once you have your First Murderer, all else follows.”
Hi, I’ve done some regional, a couple bits on Vice, was a Ski Mask Spree Killer in JFK, and that’s about it. My scene is from Taxi Driver: “Are you talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to me? I’m the only one standing here. It’s your move. Are you—“
I studied Judicial Temperament with Sanford Meisner and now take classes in Erratic Breathing and Torts with Michael Moriarty. The Revenger’s Tragedy, by Cyril Tourneur, Act Three, Scene Five, Vendice speaks: “Now with thy dagger / Nail…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.