I’ve not been shy in airing my own personal quibbles with Peacock‘s Paul T. Goldman. It’s not that the show isn’t good. It’s honestly fantastic. But the longer I’ve stuck with the series, the more disturbed I’ve been by Paul T. Goldman‘s own descent into darkness. The bumbling sweetheart we met in Episode 1 had morphed into a vindictive bully who was using director Jason Woliner‘s project to dramatize his darkest revenge fantasies. After Episode 4, I was close to quitting the show. I didn’t want to see how much crueler Paul’s fantasies could become.
Then Frank Grillo arrived in Paul T. Goldman Episode 5 to literally and figuratively save the day. Grillo plays “Dan Hardwick,” a character Paul creates in his fanciful Paul T. Goldman Chronicles to teach the book version of himself how to be a James Bond-esque badass. Grillo doesn’t just add levity by being a completely chipper, professional actor on set with Paul, but he also shows just how far even Paul’s fantasy version of himself is from the reality of an alpha male.
Frank Grillo showed up right in the nick of time on Paul T. Goldman and his funniest scene with Paul has stuck with me for days.
Paul T. Goldman is a warped look at one man’s supposed real life story. After normal dude Paul Finkelman discovers that his second wife “Audrey” has been both cheating on him and conning him out of money, Finkelman embarks on a wild investigation that leads him to believe his ex is involved with an international crime cartel. Finkelman hacks into Audrey’s email, dumpster dives into her lover’s trash, and even consults a pet psychic to confirm his outlandish theories. When the F.B.I. declines to follow up on the case, Finkelman takes matters into his own hands. He pens a semi-autobiographical novel called Duplicity under the pseudonym Paul T. Goldman. The book makes the case for Audrey’s participation in a vast sex trafficking ring and presents “Paul T. Goldman” as an unlikely hero.
Paul’s fervor for justice leads him on a one-man crusade to promote Duplicity. He sets up websites, begs directors on Twitter to adapt his work, and even writes a sequel series under an additional pen name, Ryan Sinclair. The sequels, known as The Paul T. Goldman Chronicles, imagines a timeline where Paul is recruited by the mysterious Dan Hardwick to hunt down Audrey’s lover Royce Rocco and to save victims of his sex trafficking ring.
Peacock’s series follows director Jason Woliner as he grapples with both adapting Paul’s works for the screen and uncovering the truth about Paul’s claims. By the time Paul T. Goldman Episode 5 rolls around, it’s clear that while Audrey was a con artist, she wasn’t some nefarious criminal mastermind. Nevertheless, Woliner agrees to film action-packed sequences from The Paul T. Goldman Chronicles. Enter Frank Grillo as the real-life badass and professional action star who is tasked with showing Paul the ropes on and off-screen.
While Paul clearly has the dude version of a girl crush on Grillo, the most hilarious scene between them happens when they’re making small talk about their personal lives. Paul reveals he’s still looking for love on Match.com. Grillo says, “You and me, both.”
“I was married,” Grillo explains, “so now is the first time that I’ve ever been — that I’ve ever dated.”
“It’s the worst,” Paul says.
“Yeah,” Grillo says, before adding, “I mean, I’m having kind of a fun time.”
The disconnect between who Paul is determined to be and who he is in real life is never more obvious than when he’s side-by-side with Grillo. While Paul struggles to connect with people — mostly because he lacks empathy above all else — Grillo seems to be thriving. Sure, Frank Grillo is super fit, but he’s also incredibly polite and personable in a way Paul T. Goldman isn’t. The fact that Grillo even makes this kind of small talk with Paul shows his intent to put his co-star at ease. (He even is seen cheering them both on as “pros.”)
Frank Grillo’s presence injects Paul T. Goldman with a much-needed does of fun. There’s something joyful about watching him teach Paul how to fight onscreen and then buddying up to him “offscreen.” Basically, I was just thankful that Grillo was there to provide a template for self-assured masculinity that wasn’t about enacting vengeance. I was thankful a real man showed up in a show about an incredibly tortured attempt at masculinity.
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