…a show nobody I know has seen, even though it was on HBO (you can catch it “On Demand” now), even though it featured a tour de force performance by Frank Langella as one of those legendary charismatic, guru-like LA acting teachers, even though, in its portrait of the desperation of wannabe actors and actresses it captured some beautiful and bitter Day of the Locusts tone that you just never see in the LA of Entourage.
Langella is amazing. He walks the a tightrope between sonorous pseudo-Socratic wisdom, and sadistic manipulation of his students (for their own good, to get to their “honesty” of course). It’s hard to tell whether he’s helping them grow or self destruct. But the series echoes the theme of that other underrated HBO series, The Comeback, which I thought was very brave of Lisa Kudrow to undertake: humiliation. The humiliation being an actor entails for most who ply or try the trade. And the desperate struggle to extract some dignity from it.
Something you get a glimpse of in Entourage but only in the comic humiliation of the Kevin Dillon “Johnnny Drama” character who lacks any dignity to extract.
Langella is both dignified and ambiguously demonic in his role. Watching his acting teacher act may sound a little too meta for some, but every time I see the episodes I think I’m seeing something which is so good it transcends its insiderishness and makes Unscripted’s chronicle of the struggles of LA’s strivers into a Checkovian meditation on striving itself. On the way we are all unscripted actors looking for a dignified role in life.