Okay, it’s June. It’s hot and sticky outside and it’s going to stay that way for a few more months. There’s probably a little sweat forming on your lower back right now as you’re reading this. You can be forgiven if, while you’re trying to watch Chernobyl or some other very heavy and bleak television show that feels like the visual equivalent of February, your mind starts to wander a bit. Maybe you’re thinking about hot dogs. I usually am. Or maybe it goes something like this…
Man, you know what I could go for right now? A show about a thief. But, like, not just any thief. A master thief. One who just got out of jail and is trying to go straight but gets roped back in — one last job, “because you’re the best, that’s why,” etc. — by some sort of crime boss, preferably played by Gus Fring from Breaking Bad. And it all spirals from there, with the fallout from one theft requiring an immediate second theft, and the crossing of one shady character resulting in the double-crossing of one or more other shady characters.
Oh! And everything should be very steamy, too. So steamy. All the characters should be glistening as often as possible. Maybe there’s a safecracking in Cuba and a heist in a fancy nightclub and at least one of them is set to funky 70s bow-chicka-wowow music. I’m talking about the kind of show where everyone has the perfect one-liner and knows each other’s very elaborate drink order and everything — sex, violence, dialogue — is dialed up so high that the needle on the Too Much Meter has swung way over into the red and is starting to shake. And the thief is very cool and always knows the right move in the moment and is played by… by… Carla Gugino! Hell yeah, Carla Gugino. I could go for a show like that right now. It’s June, after all.
Great news, my friend. This hyper-specific idea of a show that you dreamed-up now exists. It’s called Jett and the first episode aired last weekend on Cinemax. Look at that. You did it.
Jett is the brainchild of writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez, who writes the series as though he just read a bunch of Elmore Leonard novels and directs like he just binged all three John Wick movies. Gugino — Gutierrez’s real-life partner and frequent collaborator — plays Daisy “Jett” Kowalski, the aforementioned recently-imprisoned master thief. Jett has a young daughter and a mysterious live-in friend named Maria who is not her lover or nanny. She is planning — trying — to go straight. Giancarlo Esposito, the aforementioned crime boss who ropes her back into a life of crime, uh, ropes her back into a life of crime. He has a violent and ambitious son who appears to be framing Jett for something and is also the subject of an investigation by a detective who is Jett’s former lover, much to the chagrin of his new partner on the force, who is his current lover. By the end of the first episode, Jett has stolen a ring from a Havana mansion and slept with a few people and a couple of guys have been shot in the head, some while nude. Jett is very much that type of show.
Which is fine! And fun! I am admittedly predisposed to liking a show like this because I will watch literally any show or movie about attractive people stealing things from each other but, even with that caveat, I think the show plays. Part of that is the June/July of it all, where you’re willing to accept a little messy timeline-hopping and dicey dialogue and too-slick characters as long as the show keeps pounding the accelerator into the floor. Jett cannot be credibly accused of anything less.
A bigger part is Gugino. She appears to be having a total blast as Jett, the coolest character in the room in whatever room she’s in, as tough as the tough guys and as sultry as all the vixens in the world. It’s the sort of perfect actor-character combination that makes you furious it didn’t exist prior to today. Of course, Carla Gugino should play a thief and seductress who uses wigs and a brilliant mind to navigate the underworld. It’s so obvious now. Everyone in Hollywood should be ashamed of themselves retroactively from about 2006 until this past weekend when the show premiered.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made here that, with the wigs and accents and the jobs leading to more jobs, Jett has a “What if Burn Notice but Cinemax?” vibe to it. To which I would reply… so? That show sounds cool. People put a lot of energy into knocking those old Characters Welcome USA shows at the time but there has always been a time and a place for shows like that. That time is “June” and that place is “preferably in a room with air conditioning.” Please do not overthink any of this. You’ll miss things if you overthink. You don’t want to miss anything becau-… aaaaaand Jett just shoved a bunch of gold bars into her trenchcoat. That’s why.
Jett is darker than any of those USA shows, to be sure. There are a few too many headshots and threats of sexual violence floating around in the first few episodes to claim otherwise. But the feeling is there, the breezy attitude and pace and bad guys who are very bad and not all that conflicted about it. Jett knows exactly what it is selling and sells the hell out of it. It’s not a perfect show by any means. It still might be the perfect show for you this summer. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for. That and maybe a glass of iced tea. It’s very warm.
‘Jett’ airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.