SundanceTV’s HAP AND LEONARD is a criminally underrated gem
Following the recent conclusion of HAP AND LEONARD: THE TWO BEAR MAMBO, SundanceTV has yet to announce a fourth season of the acclaimed series based on Joe R. Lansdale’s popular series. There is much discussion throughout the web.
At DEN OF GEEK:
Considering each season is only six episodes, it’s a wonder that the writers are able to deliver so much story in so little time. The narrative is tight, economical; the dialogue, colorful and truthful.
To say Hap and Leonard is a critical darling is not an understatement (I myself have repeatedly given the series high marks). But the show is absolutely adored by fans, too. A quick search of #HapAndLeonard reveals an active community that includes viewers, actors and producers, all advocating for a series they vehemently believe in.
As of this writing, Hap and Leonard Season 4 has yet to be renewed. With several more of Joe R. Lansdale’s books to adapt, there certainly isn’t a dearth of source material to draw from. And having delivered another strong season with “The Two-Bear Mambo,” Hap and Leonard still has plenty of gas left in the tank. With the season finale, “Monsoon Mambo,” viewers were left wanting more. That’s not a bad thing, of course. But another season of a show filled with so many emotional highs and lows, with so much joy and sorrow, and with so much empathy for the disenfranchised, another season isn’t a bad thing, either.
After finishing a devastating and yet strangely timely third season, SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard again finds itself on the renewal bubble — even though its rating are up from Season 2. The show is a Peak TV gem, one that has gotten (perhaps understandably) lost among the noise of shows with bigger budgets on bigger networks. But as I’ve written about many times before, Hap and Leonard deserves more attention. It’s unusual in a number of ways, including its unique 1980s East Texas setting, but mostly in the friendship between its leads. Hap Collins (James Purefoy) is white, a hippie, and a hopeless romantic, while Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) is a conservative, black, gay Vietnam veteran. They bridge that ideological divide through trust and respect, a lesson that — again — feels timely in a very modern sense.
For those who have been watching the show, you know all of this. You know that the series has always walked a fine line between chaos and deep, emotional authenticity. You know that there aren’t friendships between two middle-aged working class men like this on TV. And forget Roseanne — Hap and Leonard may be TV’s most blue-collar series, one that isn’t afraid to engage with racial politics in a way that never feels ham-fisted. This third season, “Two-Bear Mambo,” has been the most overt so far in that regard, yet it broached the topic of the disappearance of a young black woman — and a Klan-infested town’s reaction to that — with nuance and emotion, especially in the way it gave Florida (Tiffany Mack) a voice with an episode devoted entirely to her truth.
If Season 4 were to happen, it makes sense to follow the next book in Lansdale’s series (as they have done so far), which puts the focus on Leonard being framed for a crime. But the following book, which incorperates the Dixie Mafia, could also be a heck of a lot of fun. Either way, with only six episodes to work with each season, the show is finely crafted and purely distilled, making every single moment count. It’s not a huge investment for Sundance’s parent company AMC to take on, especially since what this series is doing is important. Not to mention it would also be incredibly sad to leave things as they were to close “Two-Bear Mambo,” with the death of Florida and Hap’s dream of them dancing on the water. It’s as positive of a coda as we could ask for after such an intense and hard story, but it would also be a shame to not explore the further adventures of these two smart, soulful, and chaos-prone friends into a new chapter.
The third season of Hap and Leonard: The Two-Bear Mambo ended last week with a finale that erupted the Twitterverse and dominated Instagram. A whole new audience found the show, and others who left after season one CAME BACK. Do you know how monumental that is? Of course you do. So why haven’t you announced a fourth season?
Seriously, why not? The show has had the best season yet. A show couldn’t buy this sort of word-of-mouth.
It’s already started. Look up #hapandleonard and read the entries. You’ll see. Hap and Leonard have not only started conversations, the show is allowing fans of all ages to converse about some hard topics they never would have before. Look at the tweets. 20-somethings are talking to 50-somethings about social injustice and no one is fighting.
Consider how important this show is in a time when our Commander in Chief is trying to tweet us into WWIII every morning. When Starbucks is getting black professionals arrested for doing the thing one does at Starbucks—meetup and hang. When 50 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have real live Grovetowns still dotting the country. Your show’s importance, its newfound audience (and those who found the show again), along with the energy and engagement of the crew with the fans will only roll over into an even more successful run in the fourth season.
So why haven’t you renewed yet?
In other Lansdale media news, Chris Bumbray on JOBLO declares COLD IN JULY as The Best Movie You NEVER Saw.
THE HISTORY: I first saw COLD IN JULY back at Sundance in 2014. I was lucky enough to attend the premiere, and funny enough, I was seated directly in front of the great Don Johnson. And I mean DIRECTLY, in that I could feel his knees against the back of my seat the entire film (the Library theater rows are tight). Just as crazy, Sam Shepard was directly in front of me. HE could probably feel MY knees against HIS seat the whole film. Before the flick started Johnson and Shepard were chatting over me, and none other than Kurt Russell (there supporting his son Wyatt Russell) came over to say hi to them. Then Goldie Hawn came and told Kurt they had to take their seats. I was literally in the crossfires of cool. Trying to not come across as a nerd, I kept my head down and didn’t make my presence known. Truth be told I was shitting bricks. They probably would have been nice enough though, as years later I interviewed Johnson and he was a great guy.
“When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you kind of get a sense for directors that have film sense and those that don’t… and sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. [Laughs.] But I was pretty dead on with Jim Mickle. He’s gifted. I usually don’t even watch my movies, but I’ve seen this one a couple of times!” – Don Johnson – AV Club Random Roles Interview
But back to the movie. COLD IN JULY got some pretty great reviews out of Sundance and got picked up by IFC Films, who opened it theatrically to not great box office. I imagine ancillary sales have been brisk though, and it was enough of a hit that Sundance greenlit a series from Mickle, “Hap & Leonard”, that further explores the Joe R. Lansdale universe, and just started its third season. However, the film itself is, in my opinion, totally underappreciated, and deserves to be held up as one of the better genre films of the decade.
WHY IT’S GREAT: I loved COLD IN JULY when I saw it at Sundance, but often it’s very easy to get caught-up in the festival atmosphere and overpraise a film. I watch so many movies for JoBlo (and on my own) that I rarely revisit anything unless I have a compelling reason, and before watching it again this weekend, I hadn’t seen it since the Sundance premiere. Happily, the film holds up extremely well, and I may have actually liked it even more on a second viewing, as by knowing how it plays out I was able to better appreciate Mickle’s style.
What’s cool about the film is that it plays out as a triptych, with each third occupying a different genre. The first third is near horror, as Sam Shepard’s grieving dad stalks Michael C. Hall and his family, while the middle third is a mystery, as they try to piece together who the man Hall killed really was. The final third is the best of all, being an explosive action film, where Hall, Shepard, and Don Johnson, in an iconic performance as Texas P.I Jim Bob Luke, team-up to wreak vengeance on a gang of serial killer/pornographers on the run from the Dixie Mafia.
For more info about COLD IN JULY, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story