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October 31, 2014

Cane -- An early look

by Julia Ward, posted Sep 21st 2007 10:07AM
Cane Pilot
Rum, sex and scandal? What's not to love? I'm betting the pitch meeting went something like this:

"It's the Latino Godfather."
"Can we get Jimmy Smits?"
"Yes."
"Who do I make the check out to?"

What CBS has ended up with is a little less Godfather and a lot more Dallas, but it's still got TV heavyweight Jimmy Smits at its center. That may just be good enough to score CBS a hit.

Jimmy Smits is one of those actors that just belongs on TV. He's done film. He's done stage work, but he doesn't own any medium in the way he owns television. Smits brings just the right amount of gravitas to the sudsy Cane. Without Smits at its core, Cane might have gone the way of bloated melodrama. As it is, it's a by-the-book, watchable network drama that is, at least, more interesting than its timeslot competitors Law & Order: SVU and Boston Legal.

Smits has an all-star supporting crew. Hector Elizondo. Nestor Carbonell. Rita Moreno. Not that the ladies got much screentime in the pilot. For god's sake, you've got Rita-freaking-Morena on the set. Hopefully, Mama Duque will get a little more play as the series progresses. That's a minor quibble, however, with a stellar cast that's plainly up to the challenge of playing the sprawling, multi-generational Cuban-American Duque family.

In the pilot episode, the Duque family, which owns and operates a thriving rum and sugar business in South Florida, is offered a hefty sum to relinquish ownership of their sugar cane fields. The decision of whether or not to sell divides the family. To say more would be giving the plot away - something we try assiduously to avoid in these "early look" posts.

Needless to say, all manner of double-dealing ensues. There's jealously, sex, violence and all the trappings we've come to expect from a primetime soap. The major difference here is that all the stereotypical shenanigans are played out against a Miami backdrop by actors with real chops. Oh, and they just happen to be Latino actors. Fancy that. Someone over at CBS woke up and read the Census Report.

Cane just barely avoids the annoying "I'm going to eat some gumbo now because I'm in New Orleans" mistake that K-Ville made earlier this week. (K-Ville is shot on location in New Orleans, but in my opinion, the show failed to give you a real sense of city in its pilot episode.) Cane does a little bit of the same thing. Everyone drinks mojitos, and one of the Duque boys owns a nightclub in South Beach. (Perhaps, you "tasted" one care of crazy, stupid Marketing Ideas 101. Get the kids hooked on those non-alcoholic, calorie-free mojitos early!) But, the total sum of the environment is more compelling, the actors make it believable even at its cheesier moments and writer Cythnia Cidre comes from the "write what you know" school. Her father was a sugar chemist in Cuba.

If Cane has a weakness, it's that it is what it is. It's by-the-numbers. It's a Godfather knock-off. It's a primetime soap opera on network TV in a time when basic cable operations are turning out shows like Rescue Me, Damages and Mad Men. It's solid, and it's good for it is. It may even get great as the season continues. You just have to like what it is. It's like when you see a band, and you can recognize analytically that its members are excellent musicians but you just don't dig the style of music they're playing so you're never going to like it. That's how I feel about Cane. The players rock. The pitch is awesome. The setting is sexy. And, it's about damn time on the diversity front. But, will I ever want to watch a network version of The Godfather after HBO rewrote the playbook with The Sopranos? Probably not, but that doesn't mean you won't like it. And, it certainly doesn't mean that it won't be a hit. (Buy TVBigshots!) Between the heavy promotion and Jimmy Smits at its helm, the smart money's on Cane making it to season two.

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Larry Mendoza

Just finished watching the first episode,Well done Senor Smits.
My wife is Cuban-American and she could not think of any other actor better than Smits to play that role.
Garcia? Well he is (Like we say around here) a little too Shee-Shee Poo-Poo for his own good,
Ahhh I can here the Estabans and the Miami control freaks eating thier young!!! Yikes!

September 25 2007 at 11:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tess Capra

If we're going to complain about non-Cubans playing Cubans, can we also spend a second or two on non-Floridians playing Floridians -- i.e., what the heck is with the bad Southern accents (horrendous in Polly Walker's case) of the Samuels family? The only long-term residents of Florida with Southern accents live in the panhandle. Below that, the Samuels-like WASP population is as homogenized and accent-less as California. The Southern accent, nearly always fake and overdone, is the last bastion of representing ignorance and/or villainy and/or nymphomania as far as Hollywood is concerned.

September 24 2007 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott mclendon

Boy,CBS sure loves its Ca(i)nes....

September 23 2007 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kathy

jimmy smits is the bomb. he's one of today's very best actors and i can't wait for this show.

September 22 2007 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dwacon_com

Since Showtime cancelled Resurrection Blvd, I was wondering when another show would hit the airwaves that would give jobs to the great Latin actors in Hollywood. I hope this job has some solid writers on board.

September 21 2007 at 9:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Viv

If Jimmy Smits is in it, i am watching it.

September 21 2007 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pia

Why does Hollywood have such a hard time distinguishing people from 20 something different countries and call them all Latino? I am not certain, but I think that no one in the cast of this show about Cuban-Americans is Cuban, or Cuban-American. Hector, Rita and Jimmy have their roots in Puerto Rico, and I think there is a Brazilian acctress in it too. Look at what Andy Garcia did with Lost City - he actually had Cubans playing Cubans. Of course, this is not truly for the Hispanic audience - the non-Hispanics don't care, and everyone is Mexican to them anyhow.

September 21 2007 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
baby sea tuna

2 words: Bat Manuel.

September 21 2007 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JLTorrente

What about Paola Turbay? Was she good? bad? hot? well, she's always been hot so scratch that...

September 21 2007 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
evstok

I just want to say that I'm very, very disappointed in your review.

You had a perfect, nay GOLDEN, opportunity to say the following:

"In America... First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women."

You had it and you missed it. Chances like that don't come along every day and once they're gone, they're gone.

My weekend is now ruined. Thank you.

September 21 2007 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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