Why is The Offer recommended viewing?
He’s so good as longtime producer and Paramount Studios head Robert Evans that you cannot take your eyes off of him, and anything that doesn’t work about The Offer is swept under the rug.
Goode’s performance is brilliant as he transforms from the actor we’ve known from The Crown, A Discovery of Witches, Downton Abbey, and The Good Wife into Evans so entirely that it seems as if The Offer was always intended to be his vehicle.
Miles Teller might disagree, as he portrays The Godfather’s sole producer, Al Ruddy, and the man from whose book The Offer is adapted.
And to be fair, Teller does a decent job with the material. He makes quite the show of Ruddy’s unlikely tale about the mob being as entrenched in The Godfather’s production as Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) and Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler).
But is watching that concept play out entertaining enough? And what does it do to The Godfather’s legacy?
The Offer toys with the magic and the majesty of film. Time and again, the series mentions the notion that TV will never catch up with the grand spectacle found on the big screen.
As we know, time works wonders, and technology has ensured that we get as much wonder from the small screen as we do from movies. We’ve got stars now, not just movie stars.
It’s also kind of ironic since Ruddy, who left an office job as an engineer at Rand Corporation to get into the entertainment business, did so by co-creating Hogan’s Heroes using a formula he’d noticed on television, and later Walker, Texas Ranger, both long-standing highly regarded episodic television series.
An achievement of producing The Godfather would have been interesting enough, but this story stops short of focusing its energy in that direction.
Although Ruddy, the character, wants nothing more than to be a movie producer, he seems to spend more time wrangling the mob, led by Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), than actually solving problems on his own.
Supposedly, Frank Sinatra (Frank John Hughes) called in Colombo and his American-Italian Civil Rights League to shut down The Godfather because he didn’t like a character modeled after him.
Under the guise of it being offensive to all Italians, all hell broke loose against the production. To get anything accomplished at all, Ruddy had to connect with Colombo to make deals and compromises to move forward.
It feels more like a tall tale trying to connect the production to the movie’s story than reality.
My friend is an expert on the mafia, and she assures me that the story has been exaggerated beyond measure. Even others involved don’t have the same recollections that Ruddy used to craft this tale. But this is one man’s recollection, so who am I to argue with it?
As long as Goode’s Evans is in the forefront of The Offer, it doesn’t matter.
As Ruddy deals with the criminal underworld with his trusty assistant Bettye (Juno Temple) at his side, Evans is trying to save Paramount Studios.
Then owned by Gulf & Western, its chairman, Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman), tried, again and again, to make life miserable for Evans. Evans, though, had already had success with Rosemary’s Baby. That film beat expectations. His gift was to recognize the next best thing.
He’d done that with early options on novels that hit the cultural zeitgeist.
As Bluhdorn threatened to close the door on Evan’s right as Paramount head with their ninth-place studio ranking, Evans never lost his optimism or charismatic way of gathering the troops with his rallying cry of big money makers lying in the wings.
Love Story and The Godfather had to pay off, and Evans was willing to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
Those are the moving parts of The Offer. Series creator Nikki Toscano and executive producer and her good friend, Russell Rothberg, hold it all together by balancing two stories — that of Ruddy, the producer and mafia wrangler, and of Evans as he battles for the fate of the studio he loves.
One is more successful than the other, evoking passion and determination as Goode’s colorful performance lights up the screen like old movie stars once did.
He’s not just Matthew Goode as Robert Evans. He becomes Robert Evans, body and soul. Whether he’s emulating Evans’s vocal gait or working a crowded party with all of the ’70s panache one can muster, Goode is having a hell of a time, something that seems to be missing from other performances in The Offer.
His is a mesmerizing performance, and if they announced they were snapping up rights to another series that followed Evans after his Paramount Studios tenure, there’s nobody else I’d want more in the role.
Evans’s love story with Love Story star Ali MacGraw (Meredith Garretson) is initially glossed over early on, but it outshines Ruddy’s less passionate affair with Francoise Glazer (Nora Arnezeder).
Ruddy and Glazer don’t connect well in life, and Teller and Arnezeder aren’t any better at making it work on screen.
Evans was larger than life, and Goode makes sure we know it. That’s even standing alongside such superstars as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers), and Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito).
Hughes, Chambers, and Ippolito have huge shoes to fill, playing some of the best-known celebrities in many generations. Their material doesn’t offer a lot to help them stand out, but they hold their own.
Gorman effortlessly steps into Bluhdorn’s shoes, and Gallo and Fogler make quite a show of Puzo and Coppola.
Ribisi’s Colombo is affable and entertaining, easily the standout among the mafioso characters. Other mafia characters lean too heavily into the mobster trope to be entertaining. That’s one area you’d think would have had more depth given The Godfather’s careful handling of its characters.
That caveat is why it’s hard not to compare The Offer to The Godfather. If you can pull away from that similarity and see it from the studio and production standpoint, it’s more fun. But the very nature of Ruddy’s story doesn’t allow it.
Although it’s hard to imagine everything Ruddy recalls could be taken as gospel, and The Offer lingers a little too long on the mob connection, it introduces a new generation to raking and charismatic Robert Evans, a talent with whom everyone should be acquainted.
He was the real deal, a true Hollywood success story, and Goode’s performance seals that deal handily.
Despite the saying, everyone isn’t a critic, and The Offer will prove entertaining to many no matter what the critics say.
The Godfather’s legacy is secure. There’s not much that can taint it, and here, we see how hard the key players fought to get it made and ensure its greatness. It’s not a perfect telling, but if The Offer was made with even a sliver of the love of the craft that brought us The Godfather, it’s worth the effort.
The first three episodes of The Offer premiere on Paramount Plus on Thursday, April 28, with a new episode dropping each subsequent week.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.
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