Flipping Channels: Pacino and Mamet Scale the Wall of Sound for HBO's Phil Spector



The rise and fall of legendary music producer Phil Spector is epic, even by music business standards. Creator of the remarkable arrangement tapestry known as "the Wall of Sound," Spector was behind the board on magnificent tunes by such artists as the Crystals, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon, George Harrison and the Ramones.

But it was never any secret Spector's behavior in and out of the recording studio could range from suicidal to psychotic. There were numerous incredible incidents (some of which he maintained were exaggerated and/or fictional) before the tragic 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, whose body was discovered in Spector's mansion.

His first murder trial (which was televised) ended in a 2007 mistrial due to a hung jury. But the second (which was not) ended in a guilty verdict on April 13, 2009.

Spector's sentence of 19 years to life came May 29, 2009. Both the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court upheld the decision. The United States Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear his appeal. He will be 88 before becoming eligible for parole.

David Mamet's drama Phil Spector debuts 8 p.m. March 24 on HBO. Mamet has repeatedly said this is "not a biopic." He's also chosen not to put much focus on either trial, though the final portion is devoted to a mock trial held to prepare Spector for the first court proceeding.

Instead, he delves into the Spector persona, with Oscar winner Al Pacino in the title role. How much of the production will include those past notorious incidents remains to be seen, because there has been little disclosure about specific content besides the mock trial.

But that hair-trigger temper is one element Mamet does plan to explore, as well as Spector's penchant for lengthy philosophical monologues on numerous subjects.

Interestingly, Clarkson was among the extras in Pacino's famed Scarface, something he told TV Guide he didn't remember. Mamet wants the film to show how and why Spector ended up in prison, rather than tracing his career and recalling his exploits. Emmy winner Helen Mirren plays attorney Linda Kenney Baden.

Whatever the ratings' results, it's clear Phil Spector won't be a feel-good, celebratory vehicle. It will be intriguing to see how Pacino conveys Spector's personality, and whether he can avoid the manic showboating that sometimes overtakes his performances. But if any writer/director can accurately depict such a gifted, mercurial and bizarre figure, David Mamet seems up to the task.

Deception ends
If you're among the dwindling number who've stuck with NBC's continuing drama Deception since the beginning, the true killer of Vivian Bowers (Bree Williamson) will be revealed during tonight's finale (WSMV-4, 9 p.m.).

Joanna (Meagan Good) gets to solve the crime, despite behavior that even by the loosest of conduct codes for undercover cops would be problematic, and long ago would've gotten her tossed off the case.

NBC hasn't yet given the signal for the show's return, but there is a cliffhanger element in the finale. Whether that salvages anything is up in the air, because Deception has been badly losing a three-way battle with ABC's Castle and CBS' Hawaii Five-O. But at least it won't disappear without answering its main question, like some other serialized dramas have done.

Another CBS spinoff
Since CBS' most popular scripted show, NCIS, was a spin-off (from JAG), and they were also able to successfully clone it (NCIS: Los Angeles), the network's creative masterminds figure: why not keep doing the same thing?

So, the March 19 episode of NCIS: Los Angeles begins a two-parter that (if audiences approve) will be the precursor to a third version of the show. John Corbett plays independent analyst Roy Haines, who's called to aid a five-member mobile NCIS crew known as "The Red Team."

Their leader Paris Summerskill (Kim Raver) and Haines worked together before, and also had some interaction that went beyond crime scenes. Now, they're back together trying to solve a series of murders in Idaho and California.

As with all CBS' procedurals, the real lure is the technology. This time, the hook comes via a pair of conjoined trucks that serves as the Red Team's combination living quarters, lab and resource center. These trucks can quickly be assembled or broken down, then melded like one unit. If this sounds like Transformers, the resemblance is deliberate.

The last time CBS tried this, with Criminal Minds a couple of seasons ago, the results weren't productive. But at least NCIS: Los Angeles viewers get to see some different cast members for a couple of weeks, and the latest in high-tech trucks.

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