The gag-inducing "Family Values: The Mob and the Movies" glorifies life as a wise guy. 


"Family Values: The Mob and the Movies"
Tuesday, Aug. 24
8 p.m.
Repeats Aug. 27 and Sept. 4

How bizarre. And how appalling.

There's no better way to describe "Family Values: The Mob and the Movies," a cheesy fake-umentary designed — without shame, it would appear — by TNT not to educate anybody about anything, but as a way of keeping the commercials from bumping into one another. There's just no other explanation for it.

"Family Values" gathers together a handful of actors, if one can call them that, who have appeared in virtually every mob-related movie and TV series in the past two decades: Frank Adonis, Tony Darrow, Vincent Pastore, Dave Salerno, Ray Serra, Tony Sirico and Mike Squicciarini. They call themselves the G.A.G., the Gangsters Actors Guild. In reality, they're ego-tripping, overgrown children who like to pretend they're "made men" — characters they freely admit they — brace yourself — admire.

"The Mob to me is family," says actor Tony Darrow ("Goodfellas" and "The Sopranos"). "It's nice to be both [loved and feared]," says actor Chazz Palminteri ("A Bronx Tale" and "Analyze This"). "If I had my choice, I would rather be feared."

But after watching two hours of "Family Values," it's easy to see that what this immature group — most of whom grew up in Brooklyn's heavily Italian Bensonhurst neighborhood — would really like to be themselves is gangsters, if, and it's a big if, they weren't afraid of getting killed. Playing "Bang, you're dead" in the movies is a lot less challenging than playing "Bang, you're dead" in real life.

And so the G.A.G. members swagger their way through two hours of television, dressing like gangsters, talking like gangsters, visiting their old Italian neighborhoods and glorifying - that's right, glorifying — life in the mob. Yeah, right: This is exactly what's been missing from TV.

The only dose of reality that most of us can identify with in "Family Values" comes not from the two-bit actors who harbor a thwarted desire to be "in the life," but from men who've spent their professional lives trying to bring such despicable characters down — men like journalist Jerry Capeci, who offers the remarkable assertion that real wise guys have come to imitate what they see fake wise guys do in the movies, from the way they dress (sharp, like Jimmy Cagney) to the way they swagger (think George Raft) to the way they talk (picture Brando in "The Godfather"). Or from actual mob guys who have turned informants, such as Dominick (he never mentions his last name), a one-time member of the Gambino Family: "There is no trust and respect and honor. It's a killing business. That's all it is."

Funny, isn't it, how a former bad guy seems to be more familiar with reality and truth than the guys who play mobsters on the screen?

G.A.G. is an appropriate name for this bunch of infantile wannabes. Their fascination with and reverence for the mob will make you do just that: gag.

So when "Family Values" comes on, send a message about what "family" and "values" really mean. It's easy: just pick up the remote ... and punch the "off"

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