The Booth at the End (2011–2012)
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"The Booth at the End" is a thought-provoking, unbelievably engaging, and convincingly performed series of short episodes, all filmed at a booth in a diner. I read in one of the comments how the person thought this setting could never achieve the level of engagement it did, but was (fortunately!) mistaken. This might be the first science-fiction film/series in which I truly did not want to find out the 'secret' behind the story. It is an allegory of life, of flawed human nature, but also of occasional glimpses at divinity in ourselves, and it is as such that it ought to remain. Honestly a wonderful piece, both with respect to writing and production.
Also, I would like to commend Xander Berkeley for his brilliant performance. So heartfelt, on the verge between reality and fantasy, hell and heaven.
I do hope I will have the opportunity to come across more projects of this kind in the future.
Not only is this an engrossing series, but a masterful accomplishment of screen writing. The entire show is filmed from a booth in a diner. If someone had simply told me about this show I'd be convinced it couldn't work, but the concept of storytelling is given new life in this small screen format. Each contracted party returns to the diner to update the scorer of their progress and through their updates we learn how deals have gone horribly wrong or transformed into unforeseen joy. I cannot recommend this enough. I hope for more.
The show is filmed entirely in one location and the episodes last less than 4 minutes each. Yet every time an episode ends it feels like a cliff hanger. The impressive thing may be in how the script is laid out and how tightly it is written. 'The Man' whether he's in control of the conversation or not is interested in the finer details and we therefore get into the real mindset of the characters and are taken to a level that we may never of thought about asking ourselves. The really impressive thing is that each episode is never shot the same way twice, its not that they don't use the same camera angle in different episodes, its more about the style and how each new piece of the puzzle comes to affect the way you look at the show as a whole.
To fully understand the genius of the show I can only recommend that you watch it. It needs patience and an open mind to start with. If you are willing to give it that, then be prepared to be intrigued!
Every now and then (and it's more thin-on-the-ground than not), there's a show which comes along that meets and exceeds all expectations. This is one of them.
Absolutely David Lynch-ian in its construction, "The Booth At The End" is that rare piece of television which makes you *think*.
In the event you've not seen it, the show revolves around The Man in the Booth; an enigmatic fellow with a well-worn leather-bound notebook; from it, he extracts 'deals' to be done with the patrons who seek him out. Each patron wants something. The Man gives them a task. Completion guarantees fulfillment.
This is the best piece of allegoric TV since 'Twin Peaks'. Do yourself a favor. See this.
And remember that the pastrami sandwich is quite good....
Xander Berkeley is the man and his acting is master class. Intense, Honest, Intimidating, Sincere, Discontent etc. He was able to portray all these subtleties excellently and this elevates the show much more than I expected. Some times you can see some overacting by other actors but as soon as The Man talks you immediately forget it and are involved in what the has to say.
Each episode is maybe 3 minutes long then the credits roll and the logos are displayed. After that the next episode comes up.
Imagine a bunch of adults meeting Santa Clause in a diner to make their wish except this Santa is evil and requires something for whatever he will grant you. So episode after episode you get people making wishes and then reporting back on their progress. I mean over and over with people whining and nothing happening. The narrative stays in one place there is no development there is no motion forward.
At the end of a half hour of episode one, I was exactly where I was at the beginning of episode one: nowhere.
Xander Berkeley is decent as "the man", but sometimes it feels like the show would benefit if he played the character with a little more force and mystery. Put simply, it addresses the struggles of everyday life and what it means to be human. The wants, the inadequacies, the randomness, morality and the moments that define who we are- explored through this seemingly random group of people. Effortless to watch and worth checking out. Cannot wait for season three. Oh, and while you're there, try the pastrami sandwich.
Not only is this premise interesting and has a lot of potential to go into a lot of different directions, it also allows for all of the story to take place at one single location (even if he sits in a different restaurant in season 2). I am a sucker for this kind of show, especially if it is dialogue- and character-driven, which 'The Booth At The End" is.
The dialogue is well-written for the most part and the characters are decently portrayed and mostly interesting. I enjoyed watching the short episodes, which consist of the man talking to about half a dozen characters, who take centre-stage for only 1-2 minutes before the scene cuts to another conversation.
However, I felt there wasn't really enough pay-off in the end to consider it a really good show. I don't think the underlying mystery needs to be resolved, as I can accept a supernatural premise and suspend my disbelief for it, but in the end I think there's next to nothing the show is really telling us. It's entertaining to get to know the different characters and their motivations, but if the point of the show is to show us how far people are willing to go to get what they want, it fails, because we simply don't get to know the characters for long enough to make them really life-like. They are just there in order to trade something in to get what they want, so there's no way for the viewer to relate to the characters and how they got to the point of doing something more or less horrible to get something else. As far as I'm concerned, that's the major flaw with the show, and that makes it merely entertaining instead of outstanding.
That's the (lack of) production value and it could be forgiven if this show were well written. It's not. It is haphazard storytelling pretending to be high brow and important.
The acting is awful. Even Xander Berkeley, who is normally wonderful, is nothing more than an eclectic collection of facial expressions. He isn't playing a character and it is clear he doesn't know what he's doing anymore than the rest of this sad cast. You can almost hear the director in the background yelling "Okay, now do this line ANGRY. No, be SAD. Now try it again and be CONFUSED." Nothing is emotionally coherent.
Your time is better spent scrubbing a toilet with a toothbrush than watching this terrible, terrible show.
As for the TV program, its pretty interesting; woven story lines, single location. I can think of worse ways to spend 23 minutes. Xander Berkeley is also a relatively solid choice as a lead. My only issue with "The Booth at The End" is conceptually I don't see it having enough flavor to work over multiple series. This is often an issue with American Television, programs are pushed beyond their limits for overstretched season lengths and because of this they ultimately fall to pieces.