Wednesday, 17 July 2024

‘Clipped’ campy melodrama; Lifetime crime movies continue


Donald Sterling, if remembered at all, was at the center of scandal that gripped the NBA when TMZ released the tape of a conversation between the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and his mistress/assistant V. Stiviano.

Despite Stiviano being part African-American herself, Sterling was recorded on a racist rant against black people when he’s quoted asking her why she was associating with minorities.

FX Network’s miniseries “Clipped” takes one back to 2014 when the private chat went viral, and the NBA, under the leadership of commissioner Adam Silver, banned Sterling from the league for life on top of a $2.5 million fine.

An entire series season could be devoted solely to the legal battles that Sterling had not just with the NBA but even with his wife Shelly, when in her position as a co-owner of the Clippers, tried to sell the team after the NBA-imposed ban.

Starting his career as an independent lawyer, Sterling soon became a real estate mogul buying up apartment buildings, before acquiring the San Diego Clippers in 1979 and then moving them to Los Angeles two years later.

Beyond the business squabbles, Sterling was subject to sexual harassment lawsuits from women who had worked in one capacity or another in property management for his apartment buildings. It’s obvious that Sterling was not exactly a person of “sterling” character.

More interesting in “Clipped” than Sterling (Ed O’Neill), an erratic miser and a bully, is the role of legendary coach Doc Rivers (Laurence Fishburne) taking the helm of the Clippers team with the notion of turning perennial losers into champions.

Abrasive and driven, Rivers arrives as the coach knowing that he has the building blocks to win the franchise’s first title, even if he knows that Sterling may be an impediment due in no small measure to his being oblivious to boundaries.

Knowing he’s dealing with a dysfunctional organization as well as even less functional marriage in which Sterling’s wife (Jacki Weaver) throws in her two cents, Rivers feels he can rise above the toxic environment until V Stiviano (Cleopatra Coleman) tosses the racist stink bomb.

For her part, Coleman’s V is somewhat enigmatic. How does she tolerate a boss who texts “Don’t Bring Black People to My Games?” When the scandal breaks, she seems to relish the attention, as if she strives to be an ersatz Kardashian.

What should be a short-hand description of “Clipped?” A sports drama rooting for an underdog team to succeed in the playoffs as a vindication for Doc Rivers? Yes, partially. Is it a grand soap opera of sleaze and duplicity? There’s that too.

Gina Welch, writer and executive producer, may have nailed it at the winter press tour, observing that the essence of the show is the “sort of costs of living and working and trying to thrive under the power of a racist incompetent buffoon who’s abusing the power.”

“Clipped” is a campy melodrama of deviation from societal norms, sometimes humorous and other times sordid.


Premiering on June 23rd, in the “Devil on Campus: The Larry Ray Story” ex-convict Larry Ray (Billy Zane) unexpectedly moves into his daughter’s (Tedra Rogers) dorm, enthralling her friends with talk of promises to help them with personal transformations by preying on their insecurities and fears.

Under Ray’s influence, the students recover false memories of childhood trauma that Ray uses to further alienate them from their families. As the students continue to fall under Ray’s control, he begins to target their friends and family.

Extending his reach of emotional, financial, sexual abuse and mental persuasion, Ray becomes increasingly manipulative. As the students get pulled deeper into the cult, Ray’s control moves form emotional and mental to sexual as well, creating a web of lies and deceit.

Interestingly, the story of Larry Ray was previously told by the Law & Crime Network in “Devil in the Dorm,” which chronicled the criminal’s sway over college girls at the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College.

“The Killer Inside: The Ruth Finley Story,” premiering on the last Saturday in June, is a truly bizarre case that occurred in Wichita, Kansas during the infamous BTK Strangler killing spree gripped with city with sheer sense of foreboding.

Middle-aged Ruth (Teri Hatcher) and her husband Ed (Tahmoh Penikett) found their tranquil life suddenly turned upside down when Ed suffered a heart attack. As Ed fights for his life in the hospital, Ruth starts to receive mysterious threats, leaving her in a state of panic.

With the city held hostage by the BTK killer’s reign of terror, Ruth finds herself enveloped in paranoia, convinced she will be the next victim, as the menacing phone calls escalate into chilling letters.

Amidst the frenzy of police pursuit of BTK, Ruth is abducted, sending shockwaves through the community. Yet her sudden reappearance leaves investigators baffled and scrambling for answers.

As suspicion mounts and new evidence comes to light, the authorities entertain the unsettling notion that the perpetrator may be someone intimately connected to Ruth.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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