TV currently abounds with ‘I thought they were dead’ revival projects: series in which your favourite 1980s movie stars are given a new lease of life and you are reminded – with luck – how much you loved them. Kevin Costner is doing very well in Yellowstone; Ralph Macchio is milking the Karate Kid legacy for all it’s worth in Cobra Kai; Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow had a decent run in The Old Man. Now it’s the turn of Sylvester Stallone in Tulsa King.
But I shan’t be hanging around for the second episode. My main problem with it is the flawed premise. Stallone’s character –Dwight ‘The General’ Manfredi – is a New York mafiosi who has just done 25 years in prison. He would have got out earlier but he resolutely refused to betray his lumpen, caricature bosses. So now, not unreasonably, he expects to be showered with rewards.
Instead, what he gets is Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is no mob presence there, apparently, so he can go and make it his own. This invites at least two awkward questions: first, how can this city – known to most of us, if at all, as the never-to-be-reached destination in a Bacharach/David song first covered by Gene Pitney and Dusty Springfield – possibly be in the gift of the New York mob? And second, how morally warped does an audience have to be to root for a character whose primary goal is to transform somewhere relatively sweet and innocent into yet another urban cesspit?
One of the running jokes, naturally enough, is just how much the world has changed since Manfredi was put behind bars. This is supposed to lend him an archaic, fish-out-of-water charm, which it does to a degree.