'Get Shorty' Season 2: TV Review

Worth the search.
8/12/2018

One of TV's best-kept (or hardest-to-find) secrets is back for another movies-and-mob romp.

It's impossible to get around the hurdles in front of Epix's truly engaging and sharply done Get Shorty, so let's just unload that really quickly right here: Epix is a subscription channel in a crowded world of offerings with a still young slate of originals that may or may not be enough to lure people to it. And if people wanted to see what was arguably one of television's best-kept drama secrets last season, they can't just find it conveniently on streaming platforms they already pay for, in a bid to catch up on the first season before the second starts.

Of course, Epix isn't the only content creator in this quandary, but having watched the first few episodes of the new season of Get Shorty and found them equal to last season's eye-opening coming-out party in the scripted arena, it would be nice if ease of use was a thing here. It's not. And you will have to work that out on your own.

But there's always hope, even in a crowded field where people can't get to all the series from the outlets they're already paying for. And so I hope that enough people take the leap to find Get Shorty to keep the whole enterprise running.

You're probably already familiar with the Elmore Leonard novel and the fact that a big-screen movie has already been made and you may have come to the same conclusion I did last year that loosely basing a brand-new drama series on such familiar (and in some circles holy) ground was maybe not the greatest idea on paper. But I will remind you that we all thought the same thing about Fargo on FX and now look.

For Get Shorty, you can catch up on my season one review to get a sense of what series creator and writer Davey Holmes has cooked up here, but the short of it is this: Chris O'Dowd and Ray Romano were the anchors who brought people into the updated origin story, each delivering an Emmy-worthy turn in that first season. But the delight of the series was finding other standout performers in a strong but less known cast, including Lidia Porto, Sean Bridgers, Megan Stevenson and Goya Robles. Their blossoming characters ended up making all the difference in the first season and naturally give added depth going into this next one.

The story from the first season was fairly straightforward and fans of the Leonard novel (and the movie) could see the conceit: O'Dowd plays Miles, an enforcer for a Nevada crime syndicate run by the dolled-up and vicious Amara (Porto). Despite his line of work, Miles is a thoughtful guy who loves movies and doesn't really want to spend his days in Las Vegas-adjacent environs putting bullets in bad people. Amara sends Miles and Louis (Bridgers) to Hollywood to collect a debt from a screenwriter and, well, things go hilariously and bloodily sideways not soon after, with Miles getting into the film business with a washed-up producer, Rick (Romano), with Amara's laundered money (and her insane demands) fueling the entire thing.

It is a fantastic sendup of Hollywood and certain people in it, with the main story being the clash of both worlds (movies and mob), while Miles trying to patch together a crumbling marriage and have his daughter be proud of him is most of the B-storyline.

Holmes (and Laura Jacqmin, who wrote a number of episodes, including one of my favorites from the early going in season two) do an exceptional job keeping the plot and character development trucking along. And it is so enjoyable to watch O'Dowd and Romano work their scenes, both together and separately. Meanwhile, directors like Allen Coulter, Adam Arkin, Dan Attias and Daisy von Scherler Mayer are consistently impressive bringing both the dusty but vibrant desert and gaudy Los Angeles to life on the visual side. Each episode ratchets up tension (Romano's Rick kind of hilariously falls slowly in love and worry with Porto's Amara, which gets complicated when the FBI fingers him to rat her out).

The second season looks to be cutting some of Miles' family baggage storyline and moving everyone forward to their next film project/money-laundering venture, with various mob and FBI problems tossed in (Felicity Huffman joins in as an FBI agent), but in no way does it lose the sublime sauce that lubricates everything here — how movies and movie-making, or just the allure of Hollywood, capture the imagination of those outside that world while warping those within it. That's where the best comedy comes from in Get Shorty and there's no letting up on that element in the early going of season two.

More people should be watching Get Shorty but that's something, unfortunately, that can be said about dozens of other scripted offerings these days. We are awash in greatness and while Peak TV has given viewers that bounty, nowhere in the rules does it say that getting to them all will be easy.

Created and written by: Davey Holmes, inspired by the Elmore Leonard book
Cast: Chris O'Dowd, Ray Romano, Sean Bridgers, Lidia Porto, Megan Stevenson, Goya Robles, Lucy Walters, Carolyn Dodd
Premieres: Sunday, 9 p.m. ET/PT (Epix)

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