‘Tulsa King’ In Search Of Its Crown

When I first heard that Taylor Sheridan, who had created Yellowstone and written scripts for Hell or High Water and Sicaro, was making a TV series about a Italian mobster relocating to Tulsa and starring Sylvester Stallone, I was very intriqued. Tulsa, despite being the second largest city in Oklahoma is no fairy tale of church picnics and rodeos. The Watchmen TV series brought the Tulsa Race Massacre from the dark pages of the history books to the forefront of social media. As a crime and courts reporter for a suburb of Tulsa, it was a very crime-ladden community.

I covered a quadruple murder at a Tulsa apartment complex that had a local connection with the victims being from the town I worked in. There was the infamous murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler and its connection to Boston mobster Whitey Bulger and corrupt FBI officials. There was the Semgroup scandal that came about during the 2008 financial crisis. There was the killing of Terrence Crutcher by former Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby that made international news. There was also the killing of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man, by Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Bob Bates that made international news. Feds busted up a nationwide catalystic converter theft ring with ties to the Tulsa area earlier this year. Earlier this year, there was a mass shooting at a Tulsa area doctor’s office. And just this past Thanksgiving weekend, there was a shooting that came about due to an argument over the board game Monopoly.

There was so much for Sheridan and Terrence Winter, as co-showrunners, to have as material. Winter also worked on The Sopranos. But if you’re expecting The Sopranos meets Ozark, it’s more like a gritty My Cousin Vinny with the occasional drive-by shooting. There’s too much OKBoomer to Stallone’s character, Dwight “The General” Manfredi. He’s been in prison for 25 years for a murder and did his time for the crime family never taking a plea to roll or rat on another associate. But in this time did he ever read a newspaper, magazine or even ask a guard about his cell phone? It’s not like he was in the Hanoi Hilton. I don’t know what Manfredi’s internet privileges would have been, but if he knows about the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing on Jan. 15, 2009, then surely he knows about Google and social media.

But Manfredi, for three episodes so far, seems to be wandering around not realizing how much has changed in 25 years and acting like everyone’s foolish for using Uber or some businesses going cashless. Even Stallone’s character in Demolition Man was able to assimilate to the changed world and he was frozen for almost four decades. There’s too much of Manfredi wondering around Tulsa not believing this is this or that is that. Worse, Sheridan and Winter seem to think Tulsa is like the town in Northern Exposure. Instead of a moose wondering the street, we have a white horse.

Manfredi goes into a Tulsa car dealership where the owner makes Roy Rogers look like Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name with his outfit. He only frequents a honkytonk bar because I guess that’s all they think is here. He could have very easily gone to any bar in downtown Tulsa or surrounding areas to get a chianti by doing a quick Google search. Or just asking someone. When he gets freaked out by a grasshopper and says it’s bigger than his member, a religious woman sprays holy water on him. As if there aren’t religious people in NYC. There are 2000 churches with about 300 of them being Catholic parishes, for God’s sake. Every stereotype about Tulsa and Oklahoma is thrown in here. Watchmen, even though set in an alternative 2019 and filmed in the metro Atlanta area was a better representation of the city.

Also, Manfredi just decides to walk into a medical cannabis dispensary to offer protection. There’s a gazillion medical dispensaries in the Tulsa area alone. Most of them have armed guards since the state became open carry in 2019. Manfredi’s brains would’ve been sprayed across the halls the minute he got hostile. And that’s the problem, the character isn’t too likable. Tony Soprano was a gangster and a killer, but James Gandolfini (may he rest in peace) had this cool uncle likeability about him where you figured as long as you don’t rub Tony the wrong way, he’ll be your friend just like anyone else. And Walter White (may he rest in peace) was a drug manufacturer/dealer, but he was dying and was trying to make money to treat his cancer. So you sympathized with his plight.

So far, Manfredi hasn’t really shown any reason to be sympathic except he doesn’t take guff off any younger people. From the beginning, he’s fighting with fello capo mobster Armand Truisi (Max Casella a long way from his Doogie Howser days) leading to Armand wanting him dead. Almost immediately, you wonder why there is a beef between these two and the series just makes them rivals because Manfredi is old and Truisi is younger. At the dispensary, he meets Bodhi (Martin Starr phoning it in as badly as he did in the Spider-Man movies) who has amassed a huge sum of money but is repeatedly threatened with violence by Manfredi taking money from him “for protection.”

And I’m wondering, protection from what? Yes, dispensaries can’t put their money in some banks because they’re federal and this is a state issue. But I really haven’t been hearing too much about the medical cannabis crime wave these last four years. In fact, the state is trying to reign it in better because even abandoned Dollar Generals are turning into dispensaries overnight. It seems Sheridan and Winter are making up so much it’s almost comical. Most scenes of Tulsa are usually scarce but it’s a very populated and booming town. Maybe it’s because they filmed so much in the Oklahoma City area, they’re trying to keep scenery as minimum as possible. But Oklahoma, like many states, offers good tax incentives.

They also have Manfredi getting it on with an ATF agent Stacy Beale (Andrea Salvage) who freaks out when she realizes he’s 75 instead of the hard 55 she thought. It must not be too bad because she’s already been knocking boots with him again by the third episode and they are just about ready to get married as they tell more about them. Apparently, Stacy was working in NYC but something happened during the Miracle on the Hudson that resulted in her getting exiled to Tulsa too.

About the only character who seems original is Tyson (Jay Will), a lowly cab driver who meets Manfredi at the Tulsa airport and then becomes his personal driver. Tyson seems to be the only person wo can tolerate Manfredi and doesn’t act like they’ve never seen someone like him before.

This show might get better as the season goes on. There’s a hint that we might get to see “Irish Mafia” of Oklahoma which is mostly a prison gang of rough people. It seems to have some legs but so far it’s hobbling like Bambi trying to find its footing. It would be best if they move beyound the whole “fish out of water/you’re not from around here” element and get down to business. Both The Sorpanos and Ozark shot out the gate like Seabiscuit. By the end of their respective third episodes, you were wanting more. Here, you’re just wondering why they’re not giving us more. I mean, the epsiodes aren’t even 40 minutes long with credits. It’s streaming on Paramount-Plus. There’s no time limits restricted to the old network system.

And that’s another thing, this movie is too tame. For a series about a man who’s commanding every room and business he’s in, the show seems to be standing peacefully in the corner waiting for everyone else to speak but it says anything. A drive-by shooting that results in a car chase has the action this series should have done by the end of the first epsiode.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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