Ozark star-director Jason Bateman is an HE reader, which is one reason why I’ve always paid special attention to whatever he’s up to, including the paycheck comedies. Another reason is that his performances are usually on the dryly ironic, underplayed side. A third reason is that he’s an above-average director (Bad Words, The Family Fang). Which is why I felt kinda badly as I wrote the following email, which I sent him this morning:

I have an apology to make. A big one. I try and watch as much well-reviewed cable fare as I can fit into my schedule, but between all the movies and filings and researchings and constant deadlines and whatnot, I don’t see everything. I tend to be picky. Plus I’m occasionally reluctant to get into series because of the long-haul commitment of eight to ten hours. Plus I have a prejudice about drug-dealing melodramas, especially if some of the characters are redneck biker types with tattoos and missing teeth. This is one reason why I avoided Breaking Bad; the other was that it costarred an actor I often referred to as “tennis-ball head,” and whom I can’t stand.

These are no excuses — I’m just telling you how I play it sometimes.

Last night I finally sat down and watched the first two episodes of Ozark (two of the four that you directed over the course of season #1) and was pretty much blown away. Which is to say hooked and committed. Marty Byrde is your best character, ever; ditto your best performance ever, in anything.

Clean, unfettered, no-nonsense direction. And the writing! Hats off to the decision by screenwriters Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams to give almost every character (even the lowest, scurviest ones) something arresting or eloquent or off-angled to say. I love it when everyone is sharp and clever and has sussed all the angles, regardless of their age (Marty’s two kids are great) or genetic inheritance or educational background. I was engrossed, riveted, satisfied.

I don’t know at what point I was finally sold, but I think it was the moment when the body of Laura Linney‘s boyfriend slammed into the pavement at 150 miles per hour. And I loved how you didn’t build up to this or show the cartel goons pushing him out — your character is just approaching the building, going over what he’ll say to his cheating wife, and WHUP!

Hats off, bowing down, obeisance before power.

I’m very sorry for missing that Hollywood soiree you and your producers invited me to the other night, but I’m in NYC/Connecticut for the time being. Back this weekend.

Looking forward to the remainder of season #1, and to the imminent launch of season #2.