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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    HBO’s newest “The Night Of” aims for TV’s title belt

    John Turturro in HBO’s The Night Of premiering on Sunday, July 10.

    It’s tough to be the champ — everyone strives for the pinnacle, but none can remain at the top forever. In the realm of the small screen, HBO has reigned as king since the turn of the millennium.

    With its current flagship program and pop culture omnipresence “Game of Thrones” wrapping up its sixth season, the TV championship belt is free for the taking. HBO’s number one contender for the throne? Crime drama, “The Night Of”, which offers a fresh take on crime procedurals.

    The true crime resurgence, born on the backs of “Serial” and “Making a Murderer,” has shifted the attention from the act of a heinous crime to the legal aftermath that follows.

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    “The Night Of” understands this shift and tees up for an engaging first season with a tightly written pilot that follows the unfortunate Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) on a titular night of poor decisions which ends at a police station in conjunction with the murder of Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D’Elia).

    Rather than examine the crime through a 20/20 hindsight investigation, “The Night Of” hands out 90 percent of the puzzle to viewers in the pilot. The tension will come as the legal system attempts to put it all back together before our eyes. We are asked to fill in the largest blank ourselves (“Did Naz do it?”), but do not have to sweat the minor details that must be answered before the big question — what led to this incident?

    In a sense, the pilot acts as Naz’s trial, with the audience as his jurors. You alone decide his guilt or innocence. This shows a keen awareness of what “The Night Of” strives to be and plays a key part in the overall success of the pilot.

    To summarize the theme of the show — no good deed goes unpunished. Nasir Khan is a nice young man, and we see that in his slightly on-the-nose backstory as a college student studying math while living with his parents in New York.

    Ahmad imbues Naz with a natural likability as the kid who’s so nervous to go to a college party that he practices introducing himself several times over. Unfortunately, Naz’s attempt to finally have fun for once ends in handcuffs.

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    Much like a scary movie where the audience knows far more than the unwitting protagonist, we watch in silent horror as Naz makes poor decision after poor decision. By my count, Naz makes 23 bad decisions in a row. After 10 or so, you would expect a combo meter would appear in the corner of the screen.

    Naz can’t shake his bad luck, but you’d hope he would read a Life 101 brochure that goes over some simple do’s and don’ts.

    Don’t steal your father’s cab to go to a party. Don’t take drugs from strangers. Don’t go home with possibly mentally unstable strangers. Don’t play five finger fillet drunk. Don’t flee a crime scene. Don’t talk to the popo. Common sense, really.

    The pilot builds tension throughout as the police investigate the murder while perpetually being just one step away from cornering Naz. The captain of Team Policeis detective Dennis Box, played with steely resolve by Bill Camp. Box exudes the aura of a lawman who has seen it all before and is in no mood for surprises. His greatest foe in putting away Naz comes from Jack Stone, played by John Turturro, a lawyer who takes the case out of pity for the overmatched Naz. The clash between the two will likely fuel the episodes to come.

    HBO knows what’s its doing with “The Night Of.” As always with Home Box Office, the show looks and feels top notch compared to network television. New York comes to life in the bodegas, cabs and New York Police Department percolating throughout the pilot. The details of the setting drop seeds of evidence will no doubt come to fruition in later episodes, such as a toll bridge camera capturing Naz’s car at a specific time and place.

    Despite clocking in at well over an hour, the premiere episode suffers no pacing problems and flies by. On the whole, just what you would expect from HBO at this point.

    There’s a reason why we watch thrillers, horror movies and crime procedurals like “The Night Of.” To see Murphy’s Law in action reminds us all that we really do enjoy our quiet lives and should be grateful for our small potatoes of problems. “The Night Of” succeeds in this regard, and does so with such style and panache that it builds a strong case for taking TV’s throne. Tune in and give your own verdict.


    Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter. 

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