With the possible exception of Jack the Ripper, few murder cases have inspired more retellings than Los Angeles’ infamous Black Dahlia slaying.
Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Wonder Woman”) stars in “I Am the Night” (8 p.m., TBS, TNT, TV-MA), a story that begins in 1965, a decade and a half after the gruesome case.
India Eisley plays a placid and pretty high school student from Sparks, Nevada. Considered “mixed” by her adoptive mother and friends, she’s a white face in a black community. Her innocent high school days end when she discovers that she’s really the daughter of wealthy Los Angeles doctor George Hodel and that her real name is Fauna Hodel (whose true crime memoir inspired this series).
In a parallel plot, journalist Jay Singletary (Pine) is reduced to freelance gigs for gossip columns to maintain his apartment and casual drug habit. He’s a rattled Korean War veteran and a once-rising star whose career hit a wall when he wrote stories linking a famous man to a sordid murder. A man named George Hodel.
Fauna and Jay’s stories don’t converge until after a slow pilot and a more promising second episode.
Postwar Los Angeles tales of power and corruption have inspired a whole genre of films, from “Chinatown” to “The Black Dahlia.” Heck, even “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Big Lebowski” breathe in its poisoned, conspiratorial atmosphere.
So you can see why director Patty Jenkins might avoid imitating the look of “L.A. Confidential” and other similar films. But “Night” rattles on without much style. Despite a wealth of period clothes, furniture and automobiles, the camerawork seems perfunctory, the colors washed out. If it has a musical score, I didn’t notice.
A story with vast potential, “I Am the Night” remains an enigma and offers more questions than answers: Is it serene, mysterious or merely dull?
- The documentary “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” (7 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) recalls an era when newspaper columnists were considered heroes for speaking for the voiceles. The film revisits the 1984 story of Bernie Goetz and recalls how Jimmy Breslin stood almost alone in challenging the tabloid consensus that the vigilante was a “hero.”