“Tulsa King” ~ TV TALK with BILL CUSHING

By: Bill Cushing (10-23)

Yellowstone’ creator Taylor Sheridan has a whole slew of shows on TV these days. 3 different ‘Yellowstone’ series along with Jeremy Renner’s ‘Mayor of Kingstown,’ ‘Special Ops: Lioness,’ and ‘Lawman: Bass Reeves.’ But the one I’m recommending this month was released back in November 2022 and stars Sylvester Stallone in his first TV role, ‘Tulsa King.’

The series follows Stallone as Dwight Manfredi, a mob captain who just finished doing twenty-five years of hard time as the fall guy for his don. He kept his mouth shut in prison and now that he’s out he expects to be rewarded for his loyalty.

Unfortunately for Dwight, things have changed since he’s been gone, and his boss has a short memory. The only reward he gets is to be sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma to establish criminal operations for the family. Manfredi is not just a man out of time, needing to learn about iPhones and Uber and social media, but now he’s a man out of his territory. A true fish out of water.

Upon his arrival in Tulsa, after he encounters a cab driver named Tyson (Jay Will) who becomes his personal chauffeur, Dwight decides to stick with what he knows best. The drug trade. But even that comes with a twist since pot is now legal.

So, he uses another strength of his, intimidation. He walks into a dispensary and informs Bodhi, the owner, under the threat of bodily harm, that he will now be paying 20% of his profits to Dwight, and in return Dwight will protect the business. You might say that it’s an offer that Bodhi can’t refuse.

From there, Dwight goes to a local cowboy bar and ingratiates himself with the owner (Garrett Hedlund). He meets an attractive divorcée (Andrea Savage) and strikes up a romance with her. Even that gets complicated when it turns out she’s a federal agent.

But don’t worry, the action and tension in the show soon escalate when Dwight has a run in with a Tulsa motorcycle gang who think they run the town. Dwight doesn’t take kindly to the way they handle things and lets them know that things are going to change.

The showrunner is Terence Winter, an Emmy winner as a writer on ‘The Sopranos’ and was the creator of Boardwalk Empire. Along with Sheridan, that’s a solid pedigree, to build on. But some real star power doesn’t hurt. It’s not unreasonable to think that if ‘Tulsa King’ starred just about any other actor, it might not pack such a punch. Stallone is just the veteran heavyweight that the show needed.

He’s a star who has taken some knocks in his career but is still here. And he delivers big time, giving a terrific and charming performance as Dwight. He’s clearly having a great time playing this character.

Tulsa King’ doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s wild and fast moving and loaded with humor and amusing situations along with its violent serious side. It shows us a mobster contending with not just how the world has changed over the last 25 years, but a city whose understanding of the mob is entirely limited to gangster movies, while still never treating the New York or Tulsa characters as cliches or stereotypes.

If you’re a fan of Stallone, this show will not disappoint, It’s a total blast and a perfect binge watch on a rainy weekend.
‘Tulsa King’ has been renewed for a second season and all episodes are available to stream on Paramount +.

If you have any questions about TV, you can email me at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com. I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future Mailbag column. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @BillsTVTalk and on Facebook at BillsTVTalk for daily up-to-the-minute TV news and discussion. ◊