TV Review: ‘The Making Of the Mob: New York’

Making of the Mob Renewed Season
Courtesy of AMC

Stephen David Entertainment is certainly having its moment, but it’s one motivated more by economics than creativity — or history. The company has mastered producing a form of docu-hybrid that mixes heavily produced historical reenactments with expert commentary — not a TV movie, exactly, but enough of one to not scare off the documentary-phobic. The latest example: “The Making of the Mob: New York,” an eight-part series for AMC, which will merely remind fans of quality drama how much they miss “Boardwalk Empire.” Many of the names are the same, but everything else about this production screams of an excuse to trot out mob movie reruns.

Narrated by Ray Liotta (whose breakthrough role in “Goodfellas” will be the first movie the channel pairs with the program), “Making of the Mob” begins in 1905 and proceeds through decades of mob history. As with David’s “The World Wars” and another eight-part series currently airing on National Geographic Channel, “American Genius,” actors play out scenes that portray actual historical figures, here involving the likes of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, but the dialogue is generally muted underneath the narration and a positively abusive musical score, which never approximates anything less than a swelling crescendo.

Much as they did in “World Wars” and “The Men Who Built America,” the producers add a pandering quality to their panoply of talking heads, augmenting the requisite historians with luminaries from other fields. In “Making of the Mob,” that means enlisting the likes of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, singer Frankie Valli and actors who have played mobsters in movies — among them Chazz Palminteri and Joe Mantegna, and Drea de Matteo and Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos.” Because, seriously, why muck up a historical discussion by turning to more than a couple of people with an academic degree in it, especially if they’re not immediately recognizable?

There’s no mystery why networks have been drawn to this formula, which approximates drama at a relative fraction of the cost, and benefits from a kind of shorthand among those who have seen actual movies, or (gasp) documentaries, related to the subject matter. Even that rationale, though, hardly justifies the dumbing down associated with the process, which might have yielded reasonable returns — hence the popularity of the format — but exhibits minimal respect for the audience.

A lot of notorious names are shown doing bad things during “The Making of the Mob,” but sitting through the first few hours, it’s that stoop-to-conquer mentality, more than anything else, that really seems criminal.

TV Review: 'The Making Of the Mob: New York'

(Series; AMC, Mon. June 15, 10 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Stephen David Entertainment and distributed by Entertainment One.

Crew

Executive producer, Stephen David; co-executive producers, Tim W. Kelly, Shirley Escott; director, John Ealer; production designer, Ernesto Soto. 60 MIN.

Cast

Narrator: Ray Liotta

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  1. Rosario Caputo says:

    Don’t know who did the research on this show but watched episodes one to three and watched two major flaws. As a ten or twelve year old arriving in the US he was not Charles Luciano his name was and still is Salvatore Lucania. Two Alphonse Capone did not spend the rest of his life in Alcatraz. He was released after eight years and died in 1947 I believe in Florida. This after only three episodes.

  2. James Coles says:

    Yet another Hollywood production that glorifies and romanticizes the most brutal, violent animals in American history. The list of mafia cronies in Hollywood grows yearly — evidently it’s an offer they can’t refuse — or just don’t have the guts to refuse. The directors: Coppola (the first), Scorsese (the worst), Di Palma, throw in Ben Affleck and Spike Lee. The delusional, in-denial actors: DeNiro, Pacino, too many others to name. Now with AMC’s “Mob” throw in Giuliani, who was supposed to be a G-man, but is shown in the promos talking about the “genius” of the mob. The mob was not built on genius or guts it was built on animalistic, remorseless violence. Oh, and an army of gutless cronies who would rather leave the fight against crime to their children.

  3. Patti Jones says:

    AMC included in their NYC gangs an erroneous photo. It was actually a photo of the Cairo gang the best spies of Great Britain during the Irish War of Independence. Irish Intelligence took out all of them but two. Someone didn’t do their research.

  4. Jason Levi says:

    Horrible. My parents and I knew some of these people, including Frank Costello, and this is farce of a movie that has them all sounding like something from :”The Sopranos.” These, Luciano, Costello, Genovese spoke with very heavy Italian accents. Luciano and Costello were not Sicilian. Costello was born Francesco Castiglione in Calabria.

  5. Smirnoff Bruce says:

    It’s HORRIBLE I thought I was watching “Days of Our Lives.” who cast this Mattel toys?????????

  6. G says:

    Just saw the first episode,the show is pretty inaccurate. How can Bugsy Siegel who was born in 1906 be running with Meyer and luciano in 1912 as there muscle. The show portrays Bugsy as their peer but in reality he was 10 to 11 years younger than luciano.

  7. louise Connors says:

    Who cast this abomination? They actors have no resemblance whatsoever to their real life counterparts. The actor playing Luciano did not have the rugged Italian look of Lucky. Arnold Rothstein was only 41 when he died which was 10 years after this period shown. The actor cast in the part looked more like a 60 year old than a man in his 30s. This docudrama is a real disappointment. Don’t waste your time on it.

    • The desired audience is ignorant of the facts, and watches shows like this for thrills, not truth. They will often accept it as truth, if asked. Producers know this, they want to have the largest audience, not gain the respect of historians. Why not read a book?

      • You’re right this show is stupid, just stupid, so many mistakes, here’s one they say the commission was the 5 NY families, but the original was 7 families, 5 Ny the other two were Buffalo, NY, and Chicago , Capones outfit, this crap is just that crap it’s stupid just stupid!

      • Louise Connors says:

        I watched this because it was hyped on AMC for months. My nephew, who has read probably every mob biography ever written, watched in disbelief. Every few minutes he pointed out inaccuracies in the information being presented. I guess we were both spoiled by “Boardwalk Empire”, which was very well done. This docudrama was just a letdown.

        I had watched “The Men Who Built America” and found it very interesting. I can’t believe this was produced by the same producer.

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