Following an acrimonious exit from The Walking Dead (litigation has ensued) revered filmmaker Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Mist, Shawshank Redemption) took his bat and ball and went to TNT to develop Mob City (formerly LA Noir), a look back into the corruption and glamour of the Los Angeles police department in the 1940s.
Based off of John Buntin’s non-fiction book, L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City, Mob City had the benefit of telling a story that featured infamous crime figures like Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen as well as a strong cast that featured Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, and Edward Burns. Unfortunately, though, the series never really took off, earning lukewarm ratings and now cancellation.
Here’s a brief statement (via Deadline) from a TNT spokesperson abut the decision to rub out Mob City:
“Although the ratings of the limited series haven’t warranted more hours we are eager to work with Frank Darabont again and were delighted to bring the vibrant world of Mob City to life.”
The “limited series” term is the one that might stick in the ear if you’re a Darabont loyalist. While there doesn’t seem to be an oncoming storm on the level of what came out following Darabont’s Walking Dead separation (though, it is still early and we haven’t yet heard Darabont’s response to the decision), it could be argued that TNT somewhat stacked the deck on Mob City. Originally developed as a series, TNT started throwing the “limited series” and “event series” moniker around as it promoted the series back in August. They also did the show no favors, stacking two episodes at a time to burn the show off in early December over the course of three successive Wednesdays.
Why the initial lack of faith? That’s an open question, but perhaps TNT just didn’t like what they saw from the series. Though it got fair to middling reviews, the show did seem to have this glossy sheen of in-authenticity over it.
It’s an unfair comparison and a different era, but if you compare the feel of the dialogue in Mob City to something like Mad Men (which takes on the 1960s), the latter feels more honest in its portrayals. Those characters feel relatable, like people that we would recognize who are shaped by the ideals that were prevalent at that time. They aren’t preciously old timey, uttering “golly”, “shucks”, and “groovy” as they embody an ill formed caricature of the 60s. They don’t feel nearly as fictional as they should.
There are cinematic moments where Don Draper comes off like a larger than life movie star of that era, but as someone who has spent his adult life portraying a character to everyone around him, Draper’s grandeur makes sense because it is part of his shtick. He’s projecting this character as a shield (and as a reflex). When the characters in Mob City mug or riff, it feels like Darabont’s ear for the sound of the 1940s is too heavily influenced by the films and noir novels of that time.
As for what Frank Darabont will do now that his latest series has fallen down by the wayside, that’s anybody’s guess. He could surely get another project on television, but at this point, one has to wonder if the process has exhausted him. After seven years away from theaters and a lot of time developing TV shows that ultimately broke his heart, maybe it’s time for Frank Darabont to return to the relative autonomy of film. Maybe make a movie about zombies, I hear they’re big right now.