We’re ready for our close-up, Mr. Ridley.
What’s that? We’re not doing a close-up? Oh, you prefer to admire us from afar. So we’ll just smile, look natural and try not to blink.
If you do blink, you’ll miss the very, very tiny role Modesto plays in the new television show “American Crime,” which debuts Thursday (ABC, 10 p.m.).
Acclaimed director John Ridley assures us the 11-episode serial drama is about more than just Modesto. In fact, it’s hardly about Modesto at all. It could be set in any small- to medium-size city seething with racial unrest, home-invasion robberies, gang infestation, family pathos, drug addiction and sex.
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From that list, try to pick one you don’t object to. The rest are tailor made to make Modesto look like every small- to medium-size city in America – that you want to avoid.
The Academy Award-winning director told The Bee’s Marijke Rowland he wanted to portray an “everytown” and felt Modesto was the best at projecting that. Not as big and uncaring as L.A. or New York, not as trendy as Seattle or as steamy as New Orleans.
Besides, Modesto has a long history of being “everytown.”
George Lucas cast the city in much the same light with his autobiographical “American Graffiti” 42 years ago. He didn’t film here, either. By the time he made his Modesto homage, Petaluma looked more like the Modesto he remembered than the Modesto that existed.
Maybe Austin, Texas, looks more like the Modesto that Ridley envisions – seething with all that crime and steamy stuff – than does Modesto.
For those who tune in – and that will be most of us – the key will be not to take it personally.
Those “difficult” plot lines he promised to “explore” are not meant as an insult. But they’re certainly not going to be complimentary.
We’re more irritated that so little of the production was done in Modesto than we are about how our city will be portrayed. If you’re going to call your location Modesto, then film it in Modesto. We understand the tax incentives that Hollywood types feel entitled to. And since late last year, they’re going to get them. The governor handed the studios $330 million in tax breaks. That’s $330 million that won’t be spent on dealing with racial problems, drug addiction, gang infestation and crime – not to mention education, roads, high-speed Internet facilities, etc.
In reality, any perceived insult is nothing to get upset about. It’s not as if we’re a top destination for tourists. And those who do visit come for our blossoms (even Hollywood can’t compete with those), our fresh food (we’ll bet some of it was imported and served on set) and our many festivals, shows at the Gallo, fine restaurants and other humble attractions. Those who truly know won’t be dissuaded by a TV show.
It’s doubtful this will create anything other than a little eye-rolling. But we’ve dealt with that before.
After all, close up and in person, Modesto looks better than it ever could as a cameo on TV.