After giving coach West carte blanche with the Lakers roster, Buss attempts to charm Red Auerbach; Earvin’s efforts to impress the women in his life fall flat; Claire’s mandate to get creative brings conflict with Buss’ daughter, Jeanie.
JASON CLARKE- In my little circle of Laker-loving friends that are now watching this show and talking about it endlessly, the topic of Jerry West came up last week in response to the first episode. Yes, he seemed annoying. Yes, he appeared diva-like in his demeanor. Yes, he did somewhat come off as an antagonist of this series, and he may well be the foremost recipient of the “Modified for dramatic purposes” treatment for the sake of some of these episodes. Maybe. Those who are too young to really know about Jerry West and his history may view him as absolutely unlikable based on how they portray him in this show. And I hope after watching this episode, they see some of the reasons behind his ways. Jerry West is such a revered figure in the world of sports, and it’s kind of a miracle that he didn’t turn into an absolute psychopath given his tragic, tragic, upbringing.
I say all this because what Jason Clarke has done in the portrayal of the man is absolutely top-notch stuff. Through the whirling dervish of loud outbursts that Jerry West continues to have on this show, you can see the pain in West’s eyes every time. And you can especially see it in the very last scene of this episode. Clarke has done magnificent work so far.
AUERBACH VS BUSS- After watching the first episode of the show, I wondered how they would introduce the somewhat indomitable evil empire that was the Boston Celtics. Many people think the Lakers/Celtics rivalry started with Magic versus Bird, and that certainly wasn’t the case.
Red Auerbach vs. Jerry Buss may not have had the history of that rivalry. But it was notable. As many people already know, Michael Chiklis is a fantastic actor from his work on THE SHIELD all those years ago. And here, he kind of presents a different sort of menace. He almost has a Darth Sidious of basketball in the way he plays Red Auerbach. (Which is what he kind of was to us Celtics despising Laker fans) The showdowns in this episode between him and Buss are absolutely wonderful, and helps to present the true underdog story that the 1980s Showtime Lakers actually were at the time.
(CAUTION: If you are a Celtic fan and you’re watching this show, you had to have seen an outright villainization of your team (and possibly your city) coming from a mile away. It will more than likely only get rougher from here. So you guys should brace yourselves)
ROB MORGAN- Rob Morgan has mastered the art of being very under the radar, even though these days I’m not too sure of how much longer that can last. His performance as Magic Johnson’s father in the show continues to impress me with how much gravitas he can bring to every single solitary scene he’s in. Whether it be taking the cocky and somewhat aggravating personality of a young Magic Johnson and taking it down a peg, trash talking as well as anybody on this show while recapping his glory days as a basketball player, or charming the love of his life with a very sweet romantic gesture to brighten her spirits, Morgan is the right guy in the right place to pick up the pace of this show or to change it for the good temporarily. He is what they would refer to in the sports world as a glue guy.
He is the glue guy amidst a cast of actors that have made their careers being glue guys themselves.
LINE OF THE WEEK
“Oh, yes I do. And I’m going to beat your ass with it. This year, next year, every other year, and every other YOU…. until nobody even remembers Boston or the Celtics, or that the great Red Auerbach ever won a goddamn thing.
-Jerry Buss to Red Auerbach in response to Red saying that Buss doesn’t have the ability to”tear his heart out” competitively in their final exchange of the episode.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
MAGIC JOHNSON…THE BULLY- Look, Magic Johnson’s come out himself and said that he was a bit of a cocky and arrogant kid when he first got drafted into the league. How could you not be? I understand that the Jeff Perlman book of which this is based upon may have been a little bit too open about the excesses of NBA players and the attitudes that came with getting that much influence and power at such a young age. I get it. I truly do.
However, in the PREVIOUS EPISODE of the show, a big part of that running time was spent on Magic Johnson being so discouraged by losing a pickup game that he almost quits the Lakers, and goes back to college. ONE EPISODE LATER we’re supposed to believe that although he hasn’t played a single game in his rookie season as of this point in the show, he is now so AGGRESSIVELY antagonistic, that he’s become nothing short of a bully. Not saying that it couldn’t have ended up that way, but narratively it’s a little bit of a stretch. It does go against who we are seeing in literally every other interaction with anyone he has with in the show. Magic is the franchise. He knows it. He’s the number one pick. He is the golden child. He does not show the arrogance that comes with that in any way towards the people in his circle, any of the lakers, or the former owner who called him boy in front of his dad. But we are now to believe that he becomes a tyrannical bully every now and again?
Ultimately, this episode isn’t too much of a drop off from what there was last week. If my knowledge of this era of the Lakers is correct the show is going to look a lot more different in terms of the next couple of episodes with the introduction of characters like Jerry Tarkanian, Paul Westhead, Spencer Haywood and Pat Riley. And we really haven’t gotten into the Boston Celtic stuff quite yet so there’s a lot more to get into. This felt kind of like a swan song as far as making Jerry West a central focus of the show, and to that I feel they closed out strong. I might be wrong about all of that of course, but we will soon see.
WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY is now playing on HBO MAX