business news in context, analysis with attitude

I've only seen five out of eight episodes - the last three haven't been released yet - but I'm finding "Dopesick," on Hulu, to be a harrowing viewing experience - scary, compelling, and riveting.

The series is based on a nonfiction book of the same name by Beth Macy, created and adapted by Danny Strong, that looks at the opioid crisis in America - specifically the development and sale of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma - and the deadly impact it had on people and families all over the country.

The screenplay largely focuses on three theaters - the boardroom at Purdue Pharma, where they plotted to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the highly addictive painkillers … small town West Virginia, where the use of OxyContin wreaked havoc on people's lives … and the federal prosecutors struggling to understand and make their case.

If there is a problem with "Dopesick," it is that story is told in non-linear fashion;  in the beginning, the movement between years can be confusing.  But with a little time, it becomes clear that the technique is there to give context and draw a thick line between precipitating events and their often tragic results.

The cast is sterling - Michael Keaton, Peter Sarsgaard, Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson are as good as they've ever been, and Michael Stuhlbarg is chilling and amoral as Richard Sackler, scion of the family that control Purdue Pharma, a company where the only bottom line is the bottom line.  (One note - at one point in the series someone mentions that Purdue is located at 201 Tresser Blvd. in Stamford, Connecticut - which is right next door to a building where I used to work, less than five miles from where I live, and housed in a distinctive glass building one can see driving on I-95.  I was, to be honest, floored.)

"Dopesick" can be excruciating to watch because of how it details the toll that OxyContin addiction took on so many people.  I was only mildly informed about the opioid crisis, and I was unfamiliar with the book on which the series is based.  But I am finding it to be heartbreaking and mesmerizing … and I really recommend it to you.

One quick note:  If you're like me, you'll start Googling Purdue Pharma and some of the players in the story as you watch "Dopesick," and you'll see how it all turned out for the Sackler family.  That alone should make you sick - those bastards should've gone to jail for a long, long time.)

A few other quick things…

•  If you've not watched any or all of "Only Murders In The Building," the Steve Martin-Martin Short-Selena Gomez mystery series on Hulu, I totally recommend it.  Clever writing and engaging performances kept this from being "Murder They Wrote," and there were enough red herrings thrown in to keep any mystery fan engaged.  Plus, they did some really innovative things, such as the episode that was shown from the perspective of a deaf character and had virtually no dialogue.  Smart, adult, and the television version of comfort food.

•  I continue to be impressed by the degree to which the powers that be in the Star Trek universe continue to expand their brand in smart ways.  The second season of the animated series, "Star Trek: Lower Decks," has just concluded, and it managed to be both respectful and a little subversive about some of the franchise's most familiar tropes while focusing largely on the "lower decks" personnel who do all the grunt work.  And the newest animated series, "Star Trek: Prodigy," debuted yesterday, and it is a gorgeously rendered show designed to appeal to kids, focusing on a band of young penal colony escapees who find themselves running an abandoned starship (guided by a hologram version of "Star Trek: Voyager" Captain Kathryn Janeway, voiced by Kate Mulgrew - a great touch).  This strikes me as smart branding, all designed to give new energy to a continuing Star Trek renaissance.

That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Stay safe.  Be healthy.