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Costner Back in 'Upside of Anger'

Film critic David Edelstein reviews The Upside of Anger starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner.


Other segments from the episode on March 11, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 11, 2005: Interview with Dick Wolfe; Interview with David Milch; Review of two Jazz box sets "The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions" and "The Complete Argo…


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Dick Wolf discusses the TV series "Law & Order"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for The New York Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Law & Order: Trial by Jury")

Unidentified Actress: I want to see your badges.

Mr. JERRY ORBACH: (As Lennie Briscoe) We don't need no stinking badges.

Unidentified Actress: What? What did you say?

Mr. ORBACH: (As Briscoe): I said, `Yeah, people need to see our badges.'

BIANCULLI: That's Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, whose ironic
one-liners became one of the pleasures of prime-time police dramas. Orbach
played Briscoe for 12 years on NBC's "Law & Order" and was playing the same
character on the new "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" when he died of cancer in
December. The scene you just heard was from his final appearance, broadcast
last week on NBC.

Dick Wolf, who created "Law & Order" and all its spin-off shows, accomplished
something last week that was unprecedented in TV history. Because of the
multiple-night launch of the new "Trial by Jury," as well as NBC broadcasts of
sister shows "Special Victims Unit," "Criminal Intent" and the original "Law &
Order," 12 hours of NBC's prime-time lineup that week were devoted to the same
Dick Wolf franchise. That's 12 out of 22 prime-time hours, more than half of
NBC's nighttime schedule, devoted to a single franchise series from the same

Earlier in his career, Dick Wolf worked as a writer and/or producer on such
shows as "Hill Street Blues," "Miami Vice" and "New York Undercover." More
recently, he also produced "Crime and Punishment" and an updated version of
"Dragnet." But his "Law & Order" franchise is what made Wolf a major player
in Hollywood. Terry spoke with Dick Wolf in 2003.

Here's a scene from the first episode of the original "Law & Order." Jerry
Orbach hadn't joined the show yet. The detectives were played by George
Dzundza and Chris Noth, who later played the character Big on "Sex and the
City." The guest star was John Spencer, now famous as Leo on "The West Wing."

(Soundbite of "Law & Order")

Unidentified Detective #1: Where was she murdered?

Mr. JOHN SPENCER (Actor): (As Mr. Warner) I told you, Urban Medical Center?

Unidentified Detective #1: I'm sorry, Mr. Warner, I'm a little confused.
Your daughter was killed at the hospital?

Mr. SPENCER: (As Mr. Warner) Yeah, in the emergency room, and I want to swear
out a murder complaint against the resident in charge of it.

Unidentified Detective #2: This resident was treating her?

Mr. SPENCER: (As Mr. Warner) No, killing her.

Unidentified Detective #1: But she was at the hospital for treatment?

Mr. SPENCER: (As Mr. Warner) Yeah, a sore throat, muscle aches. She only
went in to get a prescription for some antibiotics.

Unidentified Detective #2: Well, sometimes people are a lot sicker than they

Mr. SPENCER: (As Mr. Warner) Listen to me. I was a medic in Vietnam. I know
who's dying and who isn't. My daughter was not that sick! Somebody in that
emergency room did something that killed her.

TERRY GROSS: One of the things that's pretty consistent in the writing,
stylistically and contentwise, is that you don't find out much about the
private lives of the detectives or the prosecutors. It's really driven by the
story. Why did you make that decision?

Mr. DICK WOLF (Producer): The wonderful thing about procedurals is that it
does away with the necessity for soap opera. In other words, when you're not
dealing with the personal lives of the characters, you can concentrate on the
story, you can tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and an end, and
it's quite efficient in terms of dealing with complicated issues, dealing with
moral issues that--you know, we've been saying the same thing for years, that
the first half is a murder mystery and the second half is a moral mystery. So
it's how do you keep those elements unpolluted by the sex lives of the
characters or going home with them? They're workplace shows, and I think that
there is a fascination of just watching people at work without those sideline
distractions of their personal lives.

GROSS: And, you know, another thing the shows have in common, you've tried to
do away with, you know, the establishing shots. You say you don't really want
to spend a lot of time with the characters, kind of getting from one scene to
another, getting in and out of rooms. What are some of those things that you
wanted to kind of streamline or just take out altogether and...

Mr. WOLF: Well...

GROSS: ...just keep the action going?

Mr. WOLF:'ve annotated several of them already, that I think that one
of the realities is that there is enough information in either side of the
show to make a completely satisfying hour cop show or a completely satisfying
hour legal show. The fact that you have to give what, in many cases, is twice
as much information in the same 43:20--you know, 43 minutes that you have--in
a character-driven show, to tell this much story, you don't have time to go
home with the characters. I mean, the pace of the show--the average hour show
has about 26 scenes per episode. "Law & Order" usually has between 40 and 42.
So that's a huge differential in terms of the pacing and in terms of the way
scenes are structured on the shows.

GROSS: Now I know you worked in advertising before you started working
television. You worked doing advertising mostly for Procter & Gamble products
like Crest and Scope.

Mr. WOLF: Mm-hmm, yep.

GROSS: Are there things you learned in advertising that you were able to
apply to television?

Mr. WOLF: Yeah, you learn the same thing that you learn in the military,
that, you know, you should really go through life with a KISS attitude which
is Keep It Simple, Stupid. You know, it's one of those things that you do
want direct and kind of unfiltered communication.

GROSS: Would we know any of the campaigns you did for Crest or Scope? Did
you write any of the jingles...

Mr. WOLF: Oh, sure.

GROSS: ...or slogans?

Mr. WOLF: `Scope fights bad breath without giving you medicine breath.'
There's one of the undying lines of...

GROSS: Oh, medicine breath. That was yours?

Mr. WOLF: Yeah. And one of my favorites was, `You can't beat Crest for
fighting cavities,' which is a wonderfully neutral statement, that it's a
parity statement as opposed to a competitive advantage that--there can be 400
other toothpastes that are as good but nothing's better than Crest. And that
lasted a long time.

GROSS: That's great. No one can sue you over that one.

Mr. WOLF: Nobody--no. There's, `Yes, sir, you can use whatever toothpaste
you want, but none of them are any better.' And then National Airlines, which
was probably the most controversial campaign that I was ever involved with,
and I'm sure you're too young to remember but it outraged...

GROSS: Oh, try me.

Mr. WOLF: Try me? `Fly me. I'm Cheryl, fly me.' Remember National

GROSS: Well, that was--`Fly me' was yours?

Mr. WOLF: Yep. That's a long time ago. That's over 30 years ago now.

GROSS: Oh. That was controversial because of--for feminist reasons.

Mr. WOLF: Yes, it was.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. WOLF: That was the beginning of...

GROSS: It sounded like a sexual innuendo.

Mr. WOLF: Well, it was. (Laughs)

GROSS: As so much of advertising was then. I mean, a lot of advertising...

Mr. WOLF: Well, no, but they were...

GROSS: ...still is, but it was all more innuendo than overt, yeah.

Mr. WOLF: It was very, very direct innuendo because they had a very specific
goal in mind. National Airlines had, by far, the highest percentage of
business travelers in the early '70s going to Florida, and the reason was the
stewardesses. That was the age of miniskirts that were so short that the
stewardesses were not allowed to bend over in the cabin. They had to sort of
do a semicurtsey when they were serving people. And National really wanted a
campaign directed at businessmen about the stewardesses, so it may have lacked
some subtlety but it did get talked about.

GROSS: Oh, and I just have to ask you, the medicine breath--with no
disrespect to Listerine--was it Listerine that you were thinking of there?

Mr. WOLF: Yes.


Mr. WOLF: Absolutely.

GROSS: One of the things you have to do every week is cast a dead body.

Mr. WOLF: Ah.

GROSS: You know, actors like to come in and show you their stuff. How do you
audition to be dead?

Mr. WOLF: It's a very, very complex process because everybody wants to be the
dead body. It's the only thing that I'm constantly getting requests to be
from people that--you know, `Can I be the dead body?' And it's highly sought
after because you can't be cut out. So it's a great gig for extras.

GROSS: Yeah, but you can't--you don't get to emote or anything.

Mr. WOLF: No, but, you know, then you also--nobody can comment on your bad
acting, either.

GROSS: I guess. So what is the audition process like for the bodies?

Mr. WOLF: Well, it's usually kind of direct, that there's a description of
the body in the script and then they try to find an extra who looks like that
description. And, in many instances, people who have wanted to be the dead
body will come in and something has changed to reflect that, in terms of some
of the people who have played dead bodies over the years.

GROSS: Have you become--I don't know if there's a word for this--somebody who
hangs out at crime scenes and--I mean, do you...

Mr. WOLF: No, I don't. That's a level of, I guess, buf--no, I've spent an
inordinate amount of time with cops but not really at that many crime scenes
in the last 15 or 18 years. I used to go to them a lot when I was starting
out writing this stuff.

GROSS: How would you go? Did you have a police band radio?

Mr. WOLF: No, I had a couple of homicide cops in LA and one of the aims was
to see one of every kind of crime or one of every kind of murder, you know,
it was an open call. If there was a shooting, stabbing, garotting, something
that was a little unique, Stan White(ph) or his partner would call and we'd go
out and see it.

And I think the strangest crime scene I ever went to was on Super Bowl Sunday
about 15 years ago and I got a call from Stanley to meet him in Bell(ph),
which is one of the worst sections of LA. And I walked in and it was this
apartment that was in kind of a motel complex, and there were three uniformed
cops sitting on the sofa in this apartment watching the Super Bowl. And I was
thinking, `God, this doesn't look like a crime scene.' And then I walked two
feet further in and there was a body inside the closet, upside down, wrapped
up in telephone cord with his eyes open watching the game along with the cops.
It was these three cops sitting there, absolutely no interest in this body two
feet away from them, but they were into the game.

GROSS: Did you go to these crime scenes with two different mind-sets, one
being `This is really horrible, this is tragic, this is the end of a life,'
and other being, `This is really interesting; let me study what it looks like
so I can, you know, accurately render it in my series'?

Mr. WOLF: Unfortunately, I wish I had had the former thought occasionally.
It was always the latter. `This is kind of interesting.' There's no personal
involvement. It's how cops do it. You know, it's almost like coming
in--you're almost seeing a movie when you go to these things because they can
be so horrific, but there is--if you're a writer, certainly, and you're
interested, the attraction far outweighs any kind of moral quandaries that you
might find yourself in.

GROSS: So you didn't ask yourself, `What's wrong with me, I'm not having an
emotional reaction?'

Mr. WOLF: Not really. It was kind of like, wow, look at that! (Laughs) It
was--no, there is--it's not stuff you see ordinarily. I mean, and some of the
stuff that happens in police work is so bizarre that--I remember we went to a
crime scene. There had been a shootout between two drug dealers inside an
apartment--they had managed to kill each other. And there were--it looked
like there had been a third person there. And there had been 96 rounds fired
in this apartment in the middle of West Hollywood. And it was about a 16-unit
building. And we went around and started interrogating all the tenants 'cause
the shooting had taken place, like, four in the morning. And nobody had heard

GROSS: Right.

Mr. WOLF: Nope, didn't hear a thing. Ninety-six shots? That's, you know, a
lot of gunfire.

GROSS: Did cops interpret that as the tenants didn't want to play ball with
the cops or the tenants were afraid?

Mr. WOLF: I...

GROSS: I mean, were they afraid of retribution, or did they just hate the

Mr. WOLF: No, I don't think they hated the cops. I think that there is
a--especially in the middle of that neighborhood, there is a disinclination to
become involved.

GROSS: Right. Right.

Mr. WOLF: I think that it wasn't massive fear; it was just, like, `Hey,
they're dead. Who cares? You know, they were drug dealers.' And that
attitude does kind of permeate certain neighborhoods.

BIANCULLI: Dick Wolf speaking to Terry Gross in 2003. More after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2003 interview with TV producer Dick
Wolf. He now has four "Law & Order" series on NBC: the original show,
"Criminal Intent," "Special Victims Unit," and the new "Trial by Jury," which
premiered last week.

GROSS: I'm sure you'd seen a lot of crime in movies and television and read a
lot of books with crime. Were there some things that just really astonished
you about how real murder looks?

Mr. WOLF: Yeah, it's a lot bloodier than we show it on television. I mean,
one of the things that probably unfortunately most people tell you that have
gone to a crime scene is it's surprising how much blood there is in a human
body. It's much worse than we've ever shown on the show.

GROSS: And why don't you show that much blood on the show?

Mr. WOLF: Because I think it's one of those things that--because if my
reaction going to a crime scene is, `Wow, that's a lot of blood,' I think that
if you put that amount on television in a totally realistic way every week,
it's kind of upsetting.

GROSS: And when you actually saw these real murders, was there anything that
surprised you about the faces, the expressions on the victims' faces?

Mr. WOLF: Well, the guy in the closet looked quite surprised. But he was
upside down, so I don't know, you know, what lividity has to do with that.
But there are...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. WOLF: I would say that people kind of--if there was one expression, it
wasn't pain, it was kind of like, `What happened?' It's, you know--surprise.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. WOLF: I don't think people usually expect to get shot. It's also one of
the things that--most cops will tell you that the most common thing is never
ask to be shot because a lot of drunken altercations and a lot of street
confrontations, somebody pulls a gun and somebody else says, `Oh, yeah, you're
so tough, go ahead and shoot.' `OK.' And the homicide cops will tell you the
number of people--the number of killers that they've arrested that say, `Well,
he told me to shoot him.'

GROSS: That's really interesting...

Mr. WOLF: Yeah.

GROSS: ...because in a lot of crime movies and TV shows, somebody who is kind
of tough and challenging and sometimes the hero himself or herself will say,
`Yeah, go ahead and shoot me' and then the person gets really weak...

Mr. WOLF: Yeah.

GROSS: ...because the hero is wise enough to know that the person doesn't
have the courage to do it. And that's re...

Mr. WOLF: Yeah. One homicide detective told me it is the single most common
line in homicides.


Mr. WOLF: `Go ahead and shoot.'

GROSS: That's really, really interesting. And that makes me think, too,
about the kind of wise-guy language that a lot of people use in TV shows and
in movies, smart-aleck stuff, or somebody's got a gun on you and you're
quipping. Bad idea in real life?

Mr. WOLF: No, it's not a smart thing to do. The best solution to anybody
having--if you ever have a gun pointed at you, give them whatever they ask for

GROSS: Including some respect?

Mr. WOLF: I'd be polite.

GROSS: Right. Right.

How does this affect the dialogue that you write and the dialogue that you
edit for "Law & Order"?

Mr. WOLF: Well, you see it's not really much of a problem because by the
time the show starts, they're already dead.

GROSS: Yeah. But there's still other--you know, the cops, the detectives...

Mr. WOLF: Oh...

GROSS: ...are hunting for the killer and they sometimes get in tough
situations and friends of the victims sometimes get in tough situations, too.

Mr. WOLF: Yeah, I think it's much more--I mean, the hallmark of--and Jerry
is the one who said this, that "Law & Order" is kind of...

GROSS: Jerry Orbach?

Mr. WOLF: Jerry Orbach--is kind of like a Catholic High Mass, that it's a
rite, that the audience knows what's going to happen, not in terms of the
storytelling but that there is a rhythm to the show. And I'd say one of the
rhythms that is now part and parcel of it is Jerry's kind of mordantly acerbic
comment at the end of the teaser which has become part of the--you know, just
sort of the "Law & Order" mantra, that there is a set-up line and then Jerry
gets to get the last line in the teaser, which invariably is kind of an either
acerbic, sarcastic or insightful comment about the stupidity of murder.

GROSS: "Law & Order," one of the things it's known for is that a lot of the
shows are, you know, kind of, quote, "ripped from the headlines" type of shows
where they're based on actual news stories.

Mr. WOLF: No, they're not based on; they're--we steal the headline but not
the body copy.

GROSS: Oh, really?

Mr. WOLF: Yeah. No, I mean, if you actually have knowledge of any of the
cases as they unroll, you go `Oh, that's that case.' It never is. The
headline, the top-of-mind awareness is what we're after and then, you know,
the reality is most real-life murders take a very predictable road to
fruition; that they--you know, most murders are solved within the first 48
hours and most people are convicted. That does not give you the twists and
turns that make for an entertaining hour of television.

GROSS: Well, we're out of time, regretfully. I want to thank you very much
for talking with us.

Mr. WOLF: My pleasure.

GROSS: And how can I get so many shows on television?

Mr. WOLF: Well, you're on radio.

GROSS: Oh, that's right.

Mr. WOLF: Thanks.

GROSS: Well, thank you and congratulations on your many shows and I thank you
very much.

Mr. WOLF: My pleasure.

BIANCULLI: Dick Wolf, speaking to Terry Gross in 2003. His latest "Law &
Order" series, "Trial by Jury," premiered last week.

Jerry Orbach, who played Detective Lennie Briscoe on "Law & Order" for 12
years died of cancer in December. A memorial service is being held later this
month at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. That's where Orbach met his
future wife, Elaine, while the both were appearing in the musical "Chicago."
Here's Orbach's big number from that show from the original 1975 cast
recording. I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

(Excerpt from "Chicago" cast recording)

Mr. JERRY ORBACH: Is everybody here? Is everybody ready? Hit it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ORBACH: (Singing) I don't care about expensive things. Cashmere coats,
diamond rings don't mean a thing. All I care about is love.

Mr. ORBACH and Chorus: (Singing in unison) That's what I'm here for.

Mr. ORBACH: (Singing) I don't care for wearing silk cravats. Ruby studs,
satin spats don't mean a thing. All I care about is love.

Chorus: (Singing) All he cares about is love.

Mr. ORBACH: (Singing) Give me two eyes of blue softly saying, `I need you.
Let me see her standing there, and honest, mister, I'm a millionaire. I don't
care for any fine attire Vanderbilts might admire. No, no, not me. All I
care about is love.

Chorus: (Singing) All he cares about is love.

(Soundbite of whistling)

Mr. ORBACH: (Singing) It may sound odd, but all I care about is love.

Chorus: (Singing) That's what he's here for.

Mr. ORBACH: (Singing) Bah-pah-pah-bah-bah-booh-booh-booh, bah-bah-bah...


(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Music from the new Mosaic box set featuring the "Jazztet Sessions"
with Art Farmer and Benny Golson. Coming up, Kevin Whitehead reviews that box
set and another one featuring Dinah Washington. David Milch tells us about
"Deadwood," his outlaw Western series which began its second season on HBO
this week. And David Edelstein reviews the new film "The Upside of Anger."

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: David Milch discusses his series "Deadwood"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

They say that the cop show replaced the Western on TV and in the movies, but
David Milch headed the other way. After writing for "Hill Street Blues" and
co-creating "NYPD Blue," Milch created the Western series "Deadwood." That
daringly different HBO show began it second season last Sunday, a few days
after the series Milch had co-created, "NYPD Blue," broadcast its final

Set in the lawless town of the same name in the Black Hills of South Dakota,
"Deadwood" combines fictional characters with historical ones, like Wild Bill
Hickok and Calamity Jane. Calamity Jane survived the first season of random
violence on "Deadwood." Wild Bill did not.

Milch is famous for his colorful, hard-boiled dialogue, and there's plenty of
it in "Deadwood." That pattern was established in the opening episode when
Seth Bullock, a Montana marshal played by Timothy Olyphant, resigns and heads
for Deadwood with his business partner, Sol Storm, played by John Hawkes.
They hope to open a hardware business. But the town is run by a corrupt,
foul-mouthed and brutal saloon and brothel owner, Al Swearengen, played by Ian
McShane. In this scene, Bullock and Storm have just arrived in town. They're
trying to make a business deal with the man behind the bar.

(Soundbite of "Deadwood")

Mr. TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: (As Seth Bullock) We'd like to make an offer on that
lot we're renting.

Mr. IAN McSHANE: (As Al Swearengen) Sell my back teeth for the right money.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) Six hundred get the job done?

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) I guess before I made a price I'd want to know
if you boys have unnamed partners?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) Why?

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) I think specifically Wild Bill Hickok. Didn't
you and Hickok act together in the street this morning?

Mr. JOHN HAWKES: (As Sol Star) We just met Wild Bill Hickok.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) What business of that is his?

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) You mean what business of mine is that?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) Don't tell me what the (censored) I mean.

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) Not a tone could get a deal done.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) Can't we sort it out another time? Thirsty people

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) Sure. Yeah, and you and me will find our
proper stride, huh?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (As Bullock) All right.

Mr. HAWKES: (As Star) Good luck on the day's trade.

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) Well, I won't wish you luck because I can tell
you ain't the type that needs it. Sol Star--Right? That's a Jewish name.
Mine isn't, but nice to meet you, son, huh?

Mr. HAWKES: (As Star) Pleasure.

Mr. McSHANE: (As Swearengen) Yeah, yeah. Marked you for an earner the minute
you come in my sight, Jew bastard.

BIANCULLI: A scene from the first episode of "Deadwood," which began its
second season last Sunday. Terry spoke with "Deadwood" creator David Milch
last year.


David Milch, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to do a Western? I
mean, let's face it. There aren't a lot of successful Westerns in the movies
or on television anymore.

Mr. DAVID MILCH: You know, I didn't really have a particular interest in the
genre, but I was interested in certain themes which originally I had hoped to
engage in a series about the city cops in Rome at the time of Nero. They were
called the urban cohorts. And what I wanted to examine was how forms of order
are imposed or discovered in the absence of law. But HBO was doing another
show set in Rome; it's like the old joke about the ostentatious Jewish family
that goes to Kenya to have their kid bar mitzvahed and they have to wait
because there's another bar mitzvah ahead of them. Anyway, they were doing a
show about Rome and so Chris Albrecht and Carolyn Strauss suggested that I
try and find another venue in which I could engage the same themes. And
that's how I came to "Deadwood."

GROSS: I can't believe there were two series about Rome. That just--anyways,
well, "Deadwood" is a lawless spot. Would you describe why?

Mr. MILCH: There was no law in Deadwood because it was an illegal settlement.
It was on land that had been stolen from the Indians and there was a concern
by the thieves, i.e., the white prospectors, that if they passed laws, they
would be perceived as setting themselves up as a government and ultimately
they wanted to be annexed to the United States, and they wanted their claims
verified by the United States. So they agreed that there would be no laws
whatsoever. In fact, when murders took place, bodies were disposed of rather
than buried so that there would be no evidence, so that there could be no
trials, so that nobody could say that they had set up a government.

GROSS: Now one of the main characters in "Deadwood" is a Montana marshal who
quits his position as marshal and then, you know, travels to Deadwood in the
hopes of starting a hardware business with his partner. So this is an
interesting character to write about, someone who had been a lawman and is now
in this place that is totally lacking in law.

Mr. MILCH: Yeah. He was a real guy, Seth Bullock. Bullock was drawn to the
idea of a lawless settlement because his--he had such a radical ambivalence
toward the idea of law. He was a guy who was kind of cursed by conscience,
and he had a preternatural sense of responsibility and from which he was
all--part of him was always in flight. And for him the appeal of Deadwood was
there would be no opportunity to be a marshal. There would be no opportunity
to generate the kinds of obligations which would distract him from the pursuit
of his private goals. And of course, as alcoholics find out, you always take
your problems with you. And he took his and, sure enough, within four months,
he was a marshal again.

GROSS: Now everyone who's written about "Deadwood" has noted that the
language, the dialogue, is really filled with obscenities. Now I remember in
the old Westerns, instead of an expletive, you know, somebody might cry,
`Tarnation!' or say...

Mr. MILCH: Yes, `Consarn it!'

GROSS: Yeah, `Consarn it!' or `Why, you'--but of course, they couldn't--you
know, you couldn't get away with using real expletives in the movies or on
television. Are you overdoing it with the expletives, or do you think people
actually used them in such abundance in the Old West?

Mr. MILCH: I have to tell you that in the course of a long time spent in
research, more than a year, which was one of the blessings of working for HBO,
that they gave me that kind of time, the one thing about which there is
uniform agreement is the language that was used in these communities. The
extremity of the language became paradoxically one of the few alternatives to
law. And what I mean by that is that in the same way that an ape may beat his
chest as a way of signifying his willingness to do something which, if he had
to do it every time he signified his willingness to do it, he'd be in fights
all the time and fights to the death. The obscenity was one alternative, and
it was a crucial alternative for me to portray, in the absence of these other
ordering mechanisms. And the obscenity is not indiscriminate. It's
calibrated according to the given personality and the given environment. But
the obscenity is meant to do a lot of different things by these characters.

GROSS: Since we've been talking a lot about language, I'm wondering if you
found a lot of interesting slang from the late 1800s in your research for
"Deadwood," slang that you're now using on the show.

Mr. MILCH: Oh, sure. And you'll find that, for example, in the first episode
that aired the other evening, there's a moment when they're describing a
dilettante, and one of the characters says, `Well, it won't take long to
discourage him. He ain't got much sand.' And sand, in that regard, means
perseverance or gumption. If color, for--if you say, `Did you find any
color?' that's a way of asking whether someone found gold.

There are all sorts of specialized locutions that develop in any environment
which is isolated or where the people tend to deal only with each other, and
that's the way the language grows and complicates and stays rich. And what I
hope the viewers will feel as they spend more time with the show, what I hope
they'll recognize is the combination of locutions, obscenity and otherwise,
with which they're familiar and locutions which, as over the course of time,
become familiar to them, and it will be a measure of their kind of bonding
with that world, that they do understand them in context.

You know, there is an expression that cops used, `reaching out,' which, in one
way or another, has become some small part of the American lexicon because of
"NYPD Blue." And what you do with expressions like that is just let the
characters be themselves. And ultimately, if you're portraying an imaginative
reality which is credible and engages the spirit, the audience will come along
and will even invest with a kind of pride in the appropriation of that
language. So I hope--I think "Deadwood" is a wonderful world, and however
off-putting it may seem initially, if an audience spends a little bit of time
in that world, I think, at a minimum, the viewer will experience its
complication and its variety. And for me, it's been a very uplifting
experience. I guess maybe my view of things is warped, but I like those
people a lot.

GROSS: Well, David Milch, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. MILCH: It's been my pleasure.

BIANCULLI: David Milch speaking with Terry Gross in 2004. The second episode
of "Deadwood's" second season airs Sunday on HBO.

And later this year, HBO finally will present "Rome," its version of the
period Roman drama Milch was describing. HBO's teaser promo for the show is a
written message featuring a clever mix of initials and Roman numerals. Shown
on the screen in the title "Rome," followed by six letters: HBO MMV.

Coming up, Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on two new box sets from Mosaic. This

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Box sets "The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions"
and "The Complete Argo/Mercury Art Farmer/Benny Golson/Jazztet

In the early '60s, jazz was on the cusp of change, with young audiences
draining off to folk and rock music and the avant-garde challenging the status
quo, but there were lots of good mainstream jazz acts still around. By way of
example, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two new reissues of early '60s
jazz: one by singer Dinah Washington, the other from trumpeter Art Farmer and
saxophonist Benny Golson.

(Soundbite of "Destination Moon")

Ms. DINAH WASHINGTON: (Singing) Come and take a trip in my rocket ship. We'll
have a lovely afternoon. Kiss the world goodbye, and away we'll fly,
destination moon. We'll travel fast as light till we're out of sight. The
Earth will be like a toy balloon. What a thrill you'll get riding on my jet,
destination moon. We'll go up, up, up, up...


"Destination Moon" from "The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions," a
reissue from Mosaic. Washington had a rich port wine vocal tambour, and her
fastidious diction and dramatic accents stamped next-generation singers like
Nancy Wilson and Dionne Warwick.

Washington could sell pretty much any old song and was rewarded with plenty of
weak ones to sing. That was true even before 1962, when she moved to
Roulette, a label hoping to connect her with a bigger audience. That scheme
often involved two-and-a-half-minute jukebox fare, middle-of-the-road ballads,
background singers and strings, none of which distracted her a bit.

(Soundbite of music)

Background Singers: I love you.

Ms. WASHINGTON: (Singing) Won't you fly me to the moon and let me play among
the stars? Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other
words, hold my hand. Ooh! In other words, darling, kiss me.

WHITEHEAD: Dinah Washington grew up singing Gospel before switching to jump
blues and smoky barroom ballads, so she knew how to shift gears to accommodate
her material. At Roulette, she recorded eight LPs' worth of venerable
standards, old blues, a silly soul tune and songs associated with other
singers from Tony Bennett to Bessie Smith. She testified to the idea the
singer makes the song, but sometimes the arrangements could help. There are
moments when everything flows together, when jazz, blues, pop and Gospel all
become one thing.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. WASHINGTON: (Singing) I'm leaving here on a southbound train this
morning. Oh, I'm leaving here on a southbound train this morning. I'm
leaving here on a southbound train. Nothing's gonna bring your sweet baby back
here again, 'cause nobody knows the way I feel this morning.

WHITEHEAD: Another recent box from Mosaic comes from the same early '60s
period: "The Complete Argo/Mercury Art Farmer/Benny Golson/Jazztet Sessions,"
Art Farmer being the mellifluous trumpeter and flugelhorn player; Golson an
equally suave tenor saxophonist and composer; and the Jazztet, the hard-bop
sextet they led starting in 1959, bluesy, soulful and highly polished.

(Soundbite of "Five Spot After Dark")

WHITEHEAD: The Jazztet on "Five Spot After Dark." It's one of a few Benny
Golson tunes in their book that became jazz standards, including "Whisper
Not," "I Remember Clifford" and drummer Art Blakey's standby, "Blues March."
The Jazztet wasn't as flashy as Blakey's Jazz Messengers, but Golson's
handsomely crafted tunes and arrangements were more subtle.

The Jazztet were easy to overlook alongside more sensational groups. They
played the "Five Spot" opposite Ornette Coleman, but their recordings wear
very well. The players who pass through include Spark Plug drummer Tootie
Heath, trombonists Curtis Fuller and Grachan Moncur, and pianist McCoy Tyner
before he joined John Coltrane.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: The Art Farmer/Benny Golson box also contains four albums the
leaders recorded separately with small and large groups. Golson kicked off
one LP solo, then kept adding players one per track till he had a `tentet.'
The first numbers with his foggy tenor sax out front are especially fun, like
a cool school take on "The Best Thing For You Is Me."

(Soundbite of "The Best Thing For Your Is Me")

WHITEHEAD: Benny Golson sounded great then, like he does now. He and Art
Farmer blended so beautifully, they reunited the Jazztet decades later, when
the old tunes still sounded modern, a tribute to getting it right the first

Mosaic's Jazztet box runs to seven CDs. The Dinah Washington has five. These
LP-sized black and white boxes are pricey and only sold by mail, and they're
worth it. But happily, some of their contents are also out on single discs
found in stores, like "The Jazztet at Birdhouse" and "Dinah '62" and her "Back
to the Blues." If those give you an understandable yen for more, you know
what to do.

BIANCULLI: Kevin Whitehead teaches English and American studies at the
University of Kansas, and he's a jazz columnist for He reviewed
two new boxes, featuring Dinah Washington and Art Farmer and Benny Golson from
the mail-order house Mosaic.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, a review of the new film, "The Upside of Anger,"
starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New film "The Upside of Anger," starring Joan Allen and
Kevin Costner

Writer, director and actor Mike Binder is probably best known for the
short-lived HBO series, "The Mind of the Married Man." His new movie comedy,
"The Upside of Anger," stars Joan Allen as a suddenly single mother with four
daughters, and Kevin Costner as a down-and-out ex-baseball player. Film
critic David Edelstein has a review.


When I first saw Joan Allen in the late '80s, in the Wendy Wasserstein play,
"The Heidi Chronicles," I thought she was very intelligent, which is my
euphemism for `good but sort of boring.' She's tall and handsome and knows
how to move, but she's a little starchy. She seems like the wonky girl in
high school who goes on stage to get wild, but can't fully shed her

Compare Allen to another tall actress of her generation, Sigourney Weaver.
Now Weaver is out there. A lot of times, she looks crazed and downright
foolish, but she turns every performance into a thrilling high-wire act. Joan
Allen is too cautious, too sane, maybe too nice to be thrilling, at least
until now. She's absolutely sensational in "The Upside of Anger," and the
reason can be found in that title. She plays a nice, starchy woman who is
royally pissed off.

Terry Wolfmeyer is the mother of four daughters in an affluent suburb of
Detroit, who one day discovers that her husband has left, apparently run off
to Sweden with his secretary after getting fired. The blonde, red-headed and
reddish-blonde daughters who range in age from 15 to 22, are not used to
seeing their mom as a disheveled drunk with an acid tongue. They're suddenly
living in a rudderless matriarchal universe, or they would be if a
semipatriarchal figure didn't amble by on cue.

Kevin Costner plays a neighbor named Denny Davies, a former baseball star and
current rambling radio host and alcoholic. Denny has been trying to convince
Terry's husband to sell a parcel of land in back of their house to a
development group he's fronting. But when he finds Terry alone, he offers up
his services as a drinking buddy, and plants himself and his bottle of Bud
down on her sofa. It isn't long before he puts the moves on Terry, whose
attitude is, like, `Oh, please.' But then she decides to call the question,
waking him up out a drunken stupor.

(Soundbite of "The Upside of Anger")

Ms. JOAN ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) I mean, are you looking for another
notch in your belt, or I don't know, whatever it is you super sports heroes
call it. I mean, are you looking to get lucky with me, to get me into bed?

Mr. KEVIN COSTNER: (As Denny Davies) Who's calling?

Ms. ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) Be straight with me, Denny. Be straight.
Now Grey always thought you had an eye for me, and I need you to be really
straight with me now.

Mr. COSTNER: (As Denny Davies) OK, I do like you. I always have.

Ms. ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) You want to have sex with me, is that it?

Mr. COSTNER: (As Denny Davies) No, no. I mean. Well, yeah, if you're
offering, I guess.

Ms. ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) OK then. I'll be right there. Give me 10

Mr. COSTNER: (As Denny Davies) Excuse me?

Ms. ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) Give me 10 minutes. I'm not going to do much
with my face, though, so don't expect much. In fact, keep the drapes shut. I
don't like a lot of light. It's not very light in there, is it?

Mr. COSTNER: (As Denny Davies) No, there's not a lot of light here.

Ms. ALLEN: (As Terry Wolfmeyer) OK. Well, have a drink. Have a couple. I
don't want you to have a real clear memory of this when it's over, OK? I'll
see you soon.

EDELSTEIN: Costner clearly hopes this will relaunch his career as a character
actor, the way "Terms of Endearment" added luster to Jack Nicholson's. And
he's funny and likeable. His timing is great. But Denny is a little too
sweet and solicitous and selfless. The part doesn't quite add up. In fact, a
lot in this film has you scratching your head or, in the case of the cutesy
piano score, plugging your ears.

The daughters, played by Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood and
Alicia Witt, seem weirdly unfazed by their father's exit and his total lack of
contact. The movie is framed by the youngest girl's term paper on anger. But
when she drew her conclusions in her closing narration about what we just
witnessed, I had no idea what she was talking about. That came after a twist
that's among the stupidest I've ever seen, almost up there with another
Costner movie, "No Way Out."

That's the downside of "The Upside of Anger." Fortunately, the writer and
director, Mike Binder, knows how to capture the discourse of bright neurotic
people, how they snipe before they think and self-dramatize and make
compulsive masochistic jokes. He knows when to make drunken abrasiveness a
riot and when to make it sad and depressing.

As an actor, he plays a grubby, on-the-make radio producer who dates Terry's
second daughter, and his scenes with Allen are haymakers. He stands there
with his lewd asymmetrical eyebrows and handlebar moustache and his arm around
this cherubic young blonde, and Allen slits her eyes and incinerates him with
a stare. Binder unlocks something primal in her. In one scene, she weeps and
hits notes I've never heard from her. The tears were pouring down my own
face. For once, I didn't even wish she were Sigourney Weaver. Seeing Weaver
in a part like that would have been deja vu, whereas with Allen, it's a

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.


BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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