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Hein’s TV Picks: FX’s The Old Man Is Typecasting Done Right

PLUS: Jerry and Marge Go Large , You Don't Know Me and Hotel Portofino.
  • John Lithgow and Jeff Bridges in The Old Man. (Photos: FX)
    John Lithgow and Jeff Bridges in The Old Man. (Photos: FX)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    Here's the familiar plot of The Old Man, the new FX drama premiering this Thursday at 10pm…

    Dan Chase leaves the CIA and lives off the grid until the agency hunt commences for the older, wiser elusive operative who's forced out of hiding following an assassination attempt.

    Sounds like any other bestselling government insider action novel, so the casting is all that matters.

    Let's see. An old guy… gonna need more than that.

    Aging former government employee who's living off the grid. Okay.

    Wise sage on the run but always one step ahead of the agency… we've drifted into veteran action hero territory.

    It's TV, not a movie. So that eliminates Liam Neeson.

    FX, right? That makes it easy. It's a veteran actor named Jeff. Daniels or Bridges?

    Jeff Daniels was busy with American Rust, so Jeff Bridges portrays Dan Chase in a tailor-made part for the award-winning actor. What parts haven't been tailor-made for this guy?

    Oscar winner for Crazy Heart. Kidnapped in Starman. The Dude in Lebowski. The bad guy in Iron Man. The list goes on.

    Back to the plot of The Old Man. Chase is being tracked down by an FBI assistant director of counterintelligence with whom he shares a "complicated history."

    The worthy adversary is a short list too… Malkovich? Patinkin? Jeff Daniels?!

    Even better. It's John Lithgow playing the foil to an adversary just as smart, experienced, and old as he is. They don't make villains better than Lithgow. Just ask Dexter Morgan.

    If it's Bridges vs. Lithgow, does the plot really matter? This is typecasting done right, and Thomas Perry's thriller novel provides quite the backdrop for these two acting greats.

    Jeff Bridges’ roles have taken a nastier turn late in his career. In The Old Man, he goes full John Wick with the skills and arsenal to make life miserable for anyone in pursuit of him. The CIA is all over Dan Chase, but Chase wrote the playbook and is ready for whatever comes at him.

    Bridges' villains have been virtually unstoppable since Glenn Close found that typewriter in The Jagged Edge. He recently overcame a personal brush with death beating leukemia, and production waited for his return. This is one tough dude.

    That's why Lithgow works so well as an archrival. It's a chess match, but the elder statesmen get weapons to play with across the board. There's plenty of action to go around with Bridges going full Richard Kimble as he evades his former co-workers.

    A little bit of plot and a lot of great acting is enough to make The Old Man work. The title says it all, but this old man is a force to be reckoned with and behold.

    Here's what else is worth watching this week…

    SEASON PREMIERES

    Jerry and Marge Go Large (Netflix)
    Friday, June 18th

    I don’t frequently recommend movies here, but this true story is too fascinating to ignore. Jerry is a retired factory worker with a knack for numbers, and he finds a loophole in the lottery to legally exploit. Conservative Jerry and his wife Marge bring their small Michigan town along for the lucrative ride and revitalize the community with their winnings.

    Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening shine as Jerry and Marge in this lottery tale brought to life. It's nice to see a feel-good flick these days.

    You Don't Know Me (Netflix)
    Friday, June 18th

    A young black man in South London is accused of murder. All evidence points to his guilt, but he ignores the barrister and pleads innocence telling the story of the woman he loves and all he did to save her.

    This British courtroom drama features an excellent cast and its twists and turns will have you second-guessing whether or not you believe the defendant's tale. The four-part series is adapted from the bestselling novel of a former barrister, so break out your wig and enjoy.

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS

    Hotel Portofino (PBS)
    Sunday, June 15th at 8:00 PM ET

    A rich British family opens a first-class hotel on the Italian coast in the 1920's in this six-episode series.

    THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
    (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

    30 for 30: Dream On (ESPN) – Quality time with the 1996 USA Women's Olympic basketball team. Wednesday at 8:00 PM ET.

    God's Favorite Idiot (Netflix) – Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone play co-workers, and Ben gets the Oh God! treatment and spreads the message of the Lord to the staff. Wednesday.

    Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend (Netflix) – The OG culinary competition series returns with Alton Brown hosting. Wednesday.

    Players (Paramount+) – A mockumentary series from the team behind American Vandal set in the world of eSports. Thursday.

    GREATEST HITS
    (Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

    This Week's Pick: Party Down (Starz) – A catering staff with big Hollywood dreams work big L.A. events in white shirts and pink bowties. Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch and Martin Starr had yet to become household names, but each shine in their snarky element in this comedy. A revival is coming soon.

    Previous Picks:
    Dexter (Showtime)
    Alias (Hulu/Disney+)
    The Great (Hulu)
    Atypical (Netflix)
    Sherlock (PBS)
    Magic City (Peacock)
    Imposters (Netflix)
    Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
    For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
    Abbott Elementary (ABC)
    Damages (Hulu)
    Luther (HBO Max)
    Downton Abbey (Netflix)
    Justified (Hulu)
    The Good Wife (Paramount+)
    Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
    Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
    Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
    The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
    Bordertown (Netflix)
    Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

    ---

    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: The Old Man, FX, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow