You can’t remake The Godfather. This much Paramount knows. But while The Offer—a ten-part limited series set behind the scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 triumph—doesn’t strictly speaking break that rule, its opportunistic premise and poor execution disrespect what some have called a “perfect film” at almost laughable levels. If The Godfather was masterful and precise despite its famously harrowed production, The Offer is amateurish and messy because of the way it uses its sure-fire assets. They’re well-produced, yes, but bungled by clumsy presentation, unceasing pandering, and an otherwise underbaked plot that’s insulting when you ask yourself, “This is a legacy for The Godfather?”
Based on executive producer “Albert S. Ruddy’s experience” making the film (so how one guy remembers one very complicated thing, to be clear), this hourlong drama stars Miles Teller as the maverick Godfather producer among the film’s biggest champions. Ruddy broke into Hollywood with the World War II-set sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, co-created by Bernard Fein (Kyle S. More) in 1965. Then, when Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) debuted his 1969 hit novel about a mob boss and his heir apparent, Ruddy made his case to helm the screen adaptation under Paramount boss Robert Evans (Matthew Goode)—and won.
But with a tight budget and the actual mafia to contend with (turns out, real mobsters don’t like stories that make the mob seem…well, real), the street-smart producer faced an uphill battle steeper than most. It’s an interesting true story with various versions known to hardcore fans that could have been dramatized well, albeit always at a shorter length. But instead of rising to its own lofty challenge, The Offer breaks The Godfather’s making-of saga into chunky disconnected parts that never add up to compelling television.
With assistant Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple) as his right hand, Ruddy spends much of the series brokering for The Godfather’s always squabbling creative team with its untrusting Gulf+Western exec Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman). Bluhdorn, who serves as a secondary antagonist in the show, really did oversee Paramount during The Godfather’s production. But as the series tells it, the only “bad guy” who worked for Paramount was “Barry Lapidus,” a fictional character played by a seriously bored-looking Colin Hanks. (Yeah, okay.)
Between managing the divisive Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers), breaking up a fight between Coppola (Dan Fogler) and Frank Sinatra (Frank John Hughes), and plenty of other A-lister shenanigans, Ruddy is transformed into a Winston Wolf-type with Vito Corleone flair by the iconic production. He’s the series’ anchor, heart, and hero, which might seem distastefully self-serving coming from Ruddy as the show’s executive producer if he weren’t 92.
Another storyline features Ruddy fending off crime boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) and the American Italian Defamation League, which initially opposed The Godfather but later came to play a key role in its success. This material ought to be the more interesting half of The Offer, but creator Michael Tolkin, known for Escape At Dannemora, sees his show struggle most when its off the Paramount backlot. The story isn’t presented in a consolidated way (little of The Offer’s chronology adds up, actually), but there’s at least a feature-length’s worth of a shitty crime thriller in this thing no one wants or needs.
Despite a stellar cast, equally good performances, and the rights to one of cinema’s greatest achievements (conveniently celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), The Offer mishandles its embarrassment of riches by rolling out a generic carousel of flat anecdotes that feel first and foremost like a Godfather-themed ad for Paramount+.With the snow capped mountain logo splashed across studio walls and craft service coffee cups, this series’ old Hollywood navel-gazing feels less like a wink or nudge than an ad-supported bullet between the eyes: “Sure, HBO Max might have the Friends and Harry Potter reunions. But Paramount+ has this ten-hour The Godfather bonus feature thing… and that’s something!”