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Paramount+'s The Offer is a soulless, vapid piece of content

  • "The Paramount+ limited series about the making of The Godfather isn’t actually about anything," says Ben Travers. "Its purpose is to reduce subscriber churn (via 10 inflated hour-long episodes), stretch Paramount’s intellectual property to the nth degree, and remind viewers they can watch all three Godfather films on the very same platform." Travers adds that The Offer has an "inescapable downfall: its hollow core. Within The Godfather’s production story, there’s plenty to be said about what’s happened to the movie business since 1970. There’s a humorous ode to the industry’s overlooked artisans. There’s a pitch-black satire about how capitalism and artistry don’t play nice. There’s a sincere tribute to the magic of movie-making built around a detailed admiration for the work (and luck) required to produce a perfect motion picture. The Offer is none of these. It’s not trying to be anything beyond an easy-to-follow, very long advertisement for The Godfather trilogy, Paramount, and more precious I.P. extensions already in the pipeline. It makes zero attempt to feed anyone’s soul — just the all-consuming content pipeline that’s drowning out great television."


    • If The Godfather took a schlocky Mario Puzo novel and elevated it to prestige, The Offer has taken a prestigious movie and lowered it back down to schlock: "Only rarely less than watchable — though the 64-minute finale is close to unwatchable — The Offer is an illustrated Wikipedia entry stretched illogically to 10 hours by pandering to cinema fans with endless winking and nudging, and with performances that range from likably cartoonish to Madame Tussauds in a heatwave. It’s bad, but never quite boring," says Daniel Fienberg, adding: "As best I can explain it, (creator Michael) Tolkin and company like the structural symmetry of organized crime and organized Hollywood, two parallel patronage systems with arcane languages, exaggerated expressions of loyalty and hierarchies of tyrannical leadership. This would come across better if the Mafia stuff weren’t unrelentingly generic, especially in the mobsters-only sequences that Ruddy couldn’t have been privy to and therefore are cobbled together, one must assume, from discarded old Sopranos spec scripts."
    • At its worst, The Offer is an incurious bit of mid-century nostalgia bait, regurgitating the past rather than analyzing it: "The Offer seems to think it can hold audiences’ attention for hour after hour by showing them characters whose names they recognize also doing things they recognize, like Marlon Brando putting cotton balls in his mouth to puff up Vito Corleone’s jaw, or Ali MacGraw cheating on Paramount vice-president Robert Evans with movie star Steve McQueen, or Frank Sinatra losing his shit at Godfather author Mario Puzo in a restaurant," says Roxana Hadadi. "How did Brando’s intuitively gonzo style of acting stick out in a changing Hollywood? Was the sexuality of Hollywood starlets pushing the boundaries of what was considered 'acceptable' by mainstream audiences? If Sinatra were really such an asshole, what level of work went into maintaining his suave public image? The Offer doesn’t dare wander into all that; it just wants you to hear names like Brando, McQueen, and Sinatra, nod in acknowledgment, and consider that entertainment."
    • The Offer is a total waste of time, but it works as a parody of Prestige TV: "The creators behind the Paramount+ limited series about the making of The Godfather have opted for a bargain-basement redo of the Mad Men opening score, which aims for a ring-a-ding sense of guys behaving badly tinged with vintage glamour," says David Fear. "In the spirit of truth in advertising, we wished they’d gone with something a little more sitcom-ish. A 10-episode megillah that charts the wild, crazy, stranger-than-fiction origin story of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) movies ever made, this Seventies flashback tries to hit a lot of marks at once: a biopic, a no-biz-like-showbiz tell-all, a backstage drama, a workplace farce, a meta-Mob epic, a 'difficult men' antihero saga, a female empowerment parable, and a scrappy triumph-of-the-underdog tale slathered in flop sweat and canned spaghetti sauce. The only way it genuinely works, however, is as a parody of prestige TV. If the story of The Godfather's tumultuous birth and subsequent blockbuster success teaches us anything, it’s that victory can somehow defy the odds and be snatched from the jaws of defeat. This misbegotten attempt to revisit that project proves that the opposite is just as true in equal measures. It begins streaming on April 28th. Don’t say you weren’t warned."
    • The Offer is hindered by being a celebration of Albert S. Ruddy and Paramount Studios: Ruddy, an executive producer on The Offer, "has helped make this ten-hour hagiography where he is played by a movie star, and it winds up being a little like being at the world's longest dinner party sitting next to a guy who can't stop telling you about all the times he was awesome," says Linda Holmes. "Even if he was awesome, his company will wear thin. But Ruddy isn't the only double-dipper when it comes to both making the series and being celebrated by it. The supporting hero of The Offer is none other than Paramount Pictures. You may recall hearing the word 'Paramount' a couple of paragraphs ago in the name of the streaming service, 'Paramount Plus.' So both the primary individual subject and the primary corporate subject are documenting their brave shepherding of a movie that has already been celebrated over and over again, that's been honored about as much as any film can be honored. Apparently not satisfied with the extraordinary reputation of the film, the series also feels obligated to embellish it, including in a final card that says, 'It is widely regarded as the greatest film of all time.' That simply isn't true. And the need to stretch is a shame, because it is absolutely fair to say it's widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time! That should be enough! But not only is The Godfather not "widely regarded" as the single greatest film of all time, it's not even 'widely regarded' as the best Godfather movie! (Ruddy, however, did not work on The Godfather: Part II.)"
    • The Offer is a bromance about making The Godfather -- and it's also BS: "Prepare yourself for several layers of hagiography and airbrushed nonsense — including moderately well-known actors doing impressions of world-famous filmmakers, actors and industry titans," says Tim Grierson. "Which is not to say that The Offer still can’t be very entertaining, albeit in a trashy way. But among the fantasies that it’s peddling, perhaps the one that’s most blatant is the notion that Hollywood was once ruled by a bunch of dick-swinging dudes who rolled the dice and bet big on themselves, refusing to be cowed by the suits and the number-crunchers. The Offer is total bullsh*t, but if you can see past its rose-colored portrait, you might still have a pretty fun time."
    • The Offer is so bad, it's criminal: The worst aspect is centering the limited series on producer Albert S. Ruddy, says Melanie McFarland. Creator Michael Tolkin and showrunner Nikki Toscano "don't sufficiently sculpt Ruddy to serve as a load-bearing centerpiece for the story beyond a few too many passages that explain a producer's importance instead of proving it," says McFarland. "And Teller, whose capabilities are showcased in better pieces, doesn't justify the story's focus on his producer." McFarland adds: "When taking on a story whose outcome is already established and universally known, the script had better be stellar and the performances dead-on. But from the moment the series opens with the millionth establishing shot of Little Italy's Feast of San Gennaro, and a goon instructs an underling passing a table of baked goods to 'leave the cannoli,' you know this thing of theirs is in trouble."
    • The Offer tries and fails to evoke The Godfather: "The Offer checks a few of the superficial boxes one would expect from a peak TV potential," says Jason Tabrys. "It looks fantastic with an obvious effort to feel of its era without overdoing it. There’s obvious attention to detail to make sure that certain settings, instantly recognizable to Godfather fans, also pop. The creative team brings appropriate gravitas with Dexter Fletcher (who has been involved with a number of high-profile biopics) and Michael Tolkin (who wrote The Player, among many other things). And the cast is stacked with familiar faces playing familiar names. But throughout, The Offer never lets you forget that this is, first and foremost, a celebration, which limits its appeal and audience. The irrepressible love for movies comes up a lot here as a unifying concept. Believers are lifted up by it, doubters might just become converts. They aren’t making a movie, they’re making magic. It can be a little hard to stomach at points, even though you and I surely have a touch of it within ourselves. Still, that and the overabundant reverence for The Godfather before it’s actually THE GODFATHER can take you out of the show, at times."
    • The Offer is a fascinating story about one of the greatest films of all time, but it's just not enough to sustain a 10-hour long miniseries: "Strange pacing and unnecessary subplots bog down The Offer's more enjoyable moments, turning what could have been a thrilling look at movie history into an uneven television show," says Belen Edwards, adding: "There's a fine line to walk between celebration and overindulgence, and it's a line that The Offer crosses often."
    • The Offer lacks the shrewd self-awareness of its source material: "Sure, it’s an unfair comparison, but the show itself necessarily invites it," says Daniel D'Addario. "Here, the gangsters never break free of formula. Puzo’s struggle to break out of classic mob-story techniques is drawn well; it’s ironic that the show barely even tries to do what the novelist and screenwriter did. Overlong and lacking the snap of tight editing, The Offer is a decent idea for a show stretched far past the point of reason."
    • At 10 episodes, The Offer is too long: "The whole exercise would be considerably stronger as a five- or six-part series that went lighter on both personal detours and the juxtaposition of organized crime figures with the struggles of Ruddy and director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to preserve their vision," says Brian Lowry. "Instead, The Offer goes deep not only into Ruddy and Evans’ lives but the former’s relationship with mobster Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), becoming far too enamored with the Mafia’s supposed concerns about how the film would depict them – egged on by Frank Sinatra, who is outraged by the thinly veiled character of Johnny Fontane and at one point directly confronted Puzo."
    • From a production standpoint, The Offer checks every box: "While the casting decisions are spot-on, it is the clothes that really take the series to the next level," says Maggie Lovitt. "From Bettye’s fabulous wardrobe, to Ali McGraw’s feathered premiere dress, to the gorgeously tailored suits in each episode, B.J. Rogers’ costume designs set the scene and pull the audiences into the bright colors and glamour of the early 1970s. Costuming is such an integral piece when it comes to creating a series set in a fixed point in time, but it’s even more paramount (ha!) when costuming highly publicized figures who wore iconic, memorable outfits during their heyday. Even the background performers are flawlessly outfitted in each scene, helping to flesh out each moment and convince audiences that they are right there when The Godfather was being made."
    • Despite The Offer's flaws, it's interesting to watch the sausage get made: "Ultimately, whether you’re a novice film buff or an accomplished critic, if you love movies then it’s likely you’ll find something relatable here in the dramatic monologues romanticizing cinema," says Kevin Fox, Jr. "In this telling, there’s something endearing about watching the sausage get made. It’s hard not to take those presentations with considerable salt, and yet, if you (like me) are the kind of schmuck who gets goosebumps watching other people excitedly watch The Godfather, this is for you. If you’ve got an irrational love of the very concept of filmmaking or a soft spot for longshots that feel like sure things in hindsight, this might be for you. Yet, if you’re looking for the next great prestige miniseries, The Offer probably isn’t it."
    • Yes, The Offer's depiction of Mario Puzo and Frank Sinatra having an altercation at a swanky Los Angeles restaurant is accurate
    • Mario Puzo actor Patrick Gallo says he didn't think the author's The Godfather novel was great: "I didn’t read the book until many years after seeing the film, which I think is probably true for a lot of people," says Gallo, who lived with fellow The Offer star Dan Fogler during the show's production. "But I always loved the film. I probably watch it twice a year. The book is good, I don’t think the book is great. And I don’t think Puzo thought the book was great either. He wrote it to pay off debts. I think the book was written so the film could be birthed. The film is just genius, and it’s just a spectacular example of filmmaking and true storytelling."
    • Francis Ford Coppola actor Dan Fogler got advice from The Godfather star James Caan: "It was really awesome because he's known him for a long, long time," says Fogler. "And he gave me some great little feedbacks. Like certain things, like he doesn't suffer fools and stuff like that. And little tidbits, little gems like that were really helpful."
    • The Offer showrunner Nikki Toscano insists the show is not a documentary: “Our North Star was Al Ruddy’s stories, this incredible sort of compilation of all of these different stories that had happened to Ruddy along the way in the making of this film,” says Toscano. “And then I think that we incorporated using other resources, you know, Robert Evans’ book, Peter Bart’s book, Nicholas Pileggi’s articles on The Godfather wars, a number of different resources to sort of gut check us along the way. That being said, this is not a documentary. We wanted to honor the creative integrity of the people who endeavored to make this film what it was, but not every choice that we made was governed by, ‘It happened exactly this way.’ Could it have happened exactly this way? That’s a question we ask ourselves a lot in the writers room.”
    • Executive producer and director Dexter Fletcher consulted with Al Pacino, who played his dad in the 1985 movie Revolution: "I sat with Pacino as well and talked with him. I have a relationship with him going back 30-odd years," says the Rocketman director. "Some of the others unfortunately are no longer with us." As an actor, Fletcher's own filmography features three notable gangster movies: The Long Good Friday, Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Fletcher's first ever film, 1976's Alan Parker-directed mob-musical Bugsy Malone
    • Miles Teller, who plays Albert S. Ruddy, got to hang out with the Oscar-winning Godfather producer: “We sat in his kitchen and we talked for a long time,” Teller recalls, adding: “One thing he did tell me is he said, ‘Just remember, Miles, a good producer will outsmart a good mafia every day of the effing week.’” 
    • Paramount Television boss Nicole Clemens kept refusing a Godfather TV series -- until Albert S. Ruddy walked into her office: Ruddy, who's now 92, has a quirky résumé -- he co-created Hogan's Heroes and Walker, Texas Ranger and won Best Picture Oscars for producing The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby. As Ruddy regaled her with his life story of breaking into show business as a computer programmer for Rand Corp, Clemens had an idea. “I thought we had this moment to do an event series that would honor the Godfather legacy but not walk into the challenge of continuing it,” says Clemens. “You don’t want to be the person that messes up The Godfather." Clemens contacted screenwriter Michael Tolkin, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing the 1992 Hollywood satire The Player, and he spent many hours with Ruddy, resulting in what Clemens calls "the perfect pitch."

    TOPICS: The Offer, Paramount+, Albert S. Ruddy, Dan Fogler, Dexter Fletcher, Michael Tolkin, Miles Teller, Nicole Clemens, Nikki Toscano, Patrick Gallo, The Godfather, Paramount Studios