Tuned In: 'The Company' slow to hit its stride
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Starring: Chris O'Donnell, Michael Keaton
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- TNT's attempt at a Cold War spy drama, the three-episode series "The Company," starts slowly and somewhat confused, but eventually it chugs its way to coherence as it becomes a decent little drama in its first two-hour installment tonight.
So what's wrong with the beginning? Structurally, it's a little messy. It starts out with veteran spy Harvey (Alfred Molina) and young Jack (Chris O'Donnell) on a stakeout in Berlin, then flashes back to Jack on a crew team at Yale. Only later is it clear that we're supposed to care about two of Jack's Yale buddies who play the other two prongs in what turns out to be the show's primary story.
Yevgeny (Rory Cochrane, "CSI: Miami") gets plenty of screen time as a KGB asset, but in tonight's premiere, CIA recruit and Jack's best friend Leo Kritzky (Alessandro Nivola) parachutes in too infrequently to be effective. It appears Kritzky will take on a more significant role next week.
Based on a historical novel of the same name by Robert Littell, "The Company" comes together in the second half of tonight's premiere, which will air with limited commercial interruptions. By this point, Harvey is convinced he knows the identity of a KGB mole within the CIA, even as counter intelligence division chief James Jesus Angleton (Coraopolis native Michael Keaton) insists Harvey's prime suspect is innocent.
Keaton makes quite an impression as a chain-smoking, distrustful CIA boss, a role that was more challenging because it was based on a real-life person.
"I always write a back story for my character, and this, for me, was a tad more difficult because while you might think it would be easier because there is an actual back story, I found it more difficult because I had to stay somewhat true to him," Keaton said at a press conference last month. "He was a person who was massively complex."
It's a rare TV role for the film actor, and he had to get used to the production speed.
"You just have to be ready to go at any moment, which is not the most pleasant experience," Keaton said. "Normally you have a lot of preparation time and a lot of boring time sitting around a movie set, and you get kind of a rhythm going. And then this thing, it was so difficult to keep that pace up, but I kind of like that. I kind of like the challenge of trying to see if I can figure it out and be ready to go."
Growing up in Coraopolis in the 1950s and 1960s, Keaton said he wasn't particularly aware of the Cold War and has no memories of hiding under his desk during a disaster drill.
"I went to Catholic school, so I was hiding under my desk most of the time anyway," he quipped.
Keaton said he thinks the immigrant influence helped give Pittsburghers a connection to their homelands that might have deflected some Cold War fears.
"They knew from where they came, and I think that was passed on to my generation to be appreciative of what you have," he said. "And honestly, as a kid, I was more interested in going out and playing in the woods. I was really unaware and na???. I had a really nice upbringing."
First Published August 5, 2007 3:11 am