Note to Paul Haggis, Oscar winning director intent on ruining his reputation by producing a TV show so cliched and hackneyed it will make his Walker Texas Ranger days seem like a time of ferocious artistic integrity:
You are not excused for indulging in an ethnic stereotype just because you've acknowledged you're indulging in an ethnic stereotype.
Five minutes into the first episode of The Black Donnellys tonight the Donnelly brothers get into a fistfight. In a bar. During a wake.
But just before all hell breaks loose, the narrator, a character named Joey Ice Cream, who is supposedly telling the story from his jail cell to a couple of cops, says something like, "The Irish are often stereotyped as drunks who like to get into fights. This is so unfair it makes you so mad that sometimes you just got to get drunk and punch somebody."
I should have turned it off right then.
Three of the four Donnelly brothers are stupid petty criminals. The fourth brother, Tommy, the smart, honest one, spends all his time trying to save his brothers from the consequences of their being stupid petty criminals, which undercuts the premise that he's the intelligent one.
The oldest brother, Jimmy, who's the angry one because he blames himself for their father's death---I should have turned it off right then---steals a truck and parks it in the alley behind the bar he owns.
Tommy and Jimmy's younger brother, Kevin, is a compulsive gambler who thinks of himself as lucky even though he would lose a bet with himself on what color socks he's wearing. He owes a bookie 4000 dollars he lost betting on a jai alai game---I should have turned it off right then---so he kidnaps the bookie and holds him for ransom, keeping him tied up in the storeroom of his brother's bar where the cops or the bookie's mobster uncle will never think to look for him.
The youngest brother, Sean---there had to be a brother named Sean or we wouldn't know the Donnellys are Irish, would we now? I almost turned it off right then.---so far hasn't done anything that stupid on his own. He's just gone along for the ride on both his older brothers' crimes. Sean's supposed to be the ladies' man of the family. This is apparently because, despite his looking like a blond Jack Black, only not as dashing, and having nothing to say for himself, women are irresistably magnetized to him and will, if left alone with him for five minutes, throw themselves into his arms and start making out with him passionately. I should have turned it off right then.
Come to think of it, I did. That was fifteen minutes in.
The four Donnelly brothers are played by the most forgettable and interchangeable set of sort of good looking but not really good looking young actors since the last time Kirk beamed down with four red shirts. They all talk through clenched teeth and swagger around like they prepared for their roles together by watching a James Cagney marathon on Turner Classic Movies the day before shooting began.
The Donnellys' bad tempers and boneheadedness are played for laughs. But not Can you believe these morons aren't dead already laugh out loud laughs. They're played for the Ah, the Irish, what a grand race of bold, reckless bastards they are laughing ruefully because you can't help admiring the boy-ohs even though it's up to no good they are and they'll come to a bad end and won't we all have a good cry then laughs. Jimmy, Tommy, Kevin, and Sean, we hardly knew ye laughs.
I miss Studio 60 already.