Flipping Channels: Bonnie & Clyde, Mob City a Double-Barreled Gangster Blowout

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It has been almost eight decades since the violent deaths of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and yet they remain icons of outlaw Americana. That owes less to their bloody deeds, which weren't romantic or stylish, than to Arthur Penn's landmark 1967 film Bonnie & Clyde, which was.

Enormously popular in its day, and just as controversial, it featured Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty at the peak of their Hollywood glamour. To be sure, the movie uses their star power somewhat ironically: Beautiful Bonnie is a psycho thrill-seeker, handsome Clyde is an impotent braggart, and together they're fools for their own myth-making. Nevertheless, they cemented the bank-robbing couple in the popular imagination as a combination of Robin Hood and Nick and Nora Charles — so indelibly that few have even tried to challenge their claim on the roles.

The first major attempt in many years arrives next weekend, when three cable networks join forces for the two-night production Bonnie & Clyde. It airs 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Dec. 8-9, simultaneously on A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel. Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch take the roles immortalized by Dunaway and Beatty in a presentation that is reportedly bolder than its predecessor in terms of setting the killer couple's record straight. Despite their folk-hero images, they were hardened criminals who didn't hesitate to mow down anyone who got in their way, especially near the end of their run.

William Hurt portrays the retired Texas Ranger who picks his guns back up to catch them, and Elizabeth Reaser is a reporter whose excesses mirror the worst behavior of 21st century tabloid types. It will be intriguing to see whether viewers far too young to have seen the '67 production will be attracted to this grittier work. Likewise, will fans of the original want to see a different, updated version?

History Channel has enjoyed great success with similiar productions (e.g., the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries) that use famous figures and incidents as a foundation, then enliven them with detailed scripts and top actors. The channel has equally high hopes for Bonnie & Clyde, while Lifetime and A&E would also like to see this two-night epic pump some firepower into their nightime lineups.

TNT Mobs up
The tommy guns will be getting quite a workout this week on TV. The limited series Mob City — the new gangster spectacular from Frank Darabont, who made zombies all the rage in his stormy tenure at the helm of The Walking Dead — debuts 8 p.m. Wednesday on TNT, getting the jump on Bonnie & Clyde (albeit in a slightly later era).

The six-hour project spotlights 1940s Los Angeles through the exploits of Detective Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), a former soldier recruited by LAPD Capt. William Parker (Neal McDonough) to help wipe out the city's organized crime. Unfortunately, Teague's own hands aren't so clean: It's revealed early on that he's done a huge financial favor for racketeer Bugsy Siegel (Ed Burns) at the behest of a war buddy. Factor in his willingness to fight dirty, and there's little beyond his side of the law separating Teague from his targets.

The series is based on the real-life confrontation between Siegel and "Mickey" Cohen (Jeremy Luke) detailed in John Buntin's acclaimed 2009 best seller L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City. It's doubtful Darabont's production will be as thorough or accurate as Buntin's book in its vivid descriptions of corruption, political machinations and gangster/police encounters.

But Darabont promises Mob City won't be predictable, nor will it rely on violence and gore for impact. (Plus this year's Josh Brolin-Ryan Gosling stiff Gangster Squad set a pretty low bar to clear.) If it proves a hit, TNT may even ask for additional episodes or hours.

Arrow back with a Flash
The CW's Arrow is bringing back to broadcast TV a superhero who had a short-lived but memorable tenure on CBS in the 20th century. Police scientist Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), comes to Starling City and soon encounters Oliver Queen, the public face of the avenging Green Arrow (Stephen Arnell). He'll also work alongside Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggie (David Ramsey).

The Flash will be featured in shows airing the next two Wednesdays at 7 p.m. They're a lead-in to a potential Flash spinoff, according to Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg.

"We treated these two episodes as if they were the pilot," Kreisberg told TV Guide. "We hope audiences will fall in love with (Gustin) as much as we already have and will be on board by the time we get to the actual pilot."

Ratings news
The Country Music Association's awards show Nov. 6 finished third among all TV programs for the week. It had a live audience of nearly 17 million viewers (16.8) and an overall audience of 18 million when DVR watchers were included. It was ABC's highest rated show.

AMC's The Walking Dead topped all cable programs. Its Nov. 24 episode attracted 12.2 million viewers during its broadcast airing, and 16.3 overall adding DVR users. It finished fifth among all programs, broadcast or cable.

CBS, which had eight of the Top 15 shows, maintained its hold on the top spot among broadcast networks. Making the list: NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, Elementary and The Good Wife.

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