Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Unusuals, "Boorland Day": Spree for all

Quick thoughts on episode two of "The Unusuals" coming up just as soon as I push an old lady off a roof for you...

While I'm often wary of TV dramas that proudly wear their quirks on their sleeves, I enjoyed "The Unusuals" pilot because I felt there was a strong balance between the wacky and the serious, particularly in Jeremy Renner's delivery of the speech about passing the badge number from cop to cop until it kills one of them. (I found it much more interesting than the comparable speech in the "Southland" pilot.)

Episode two, unfortunately, felt much higher on the comedy(*) than the moments I could wrap my hands around. I still think Renner, whom I vaguely remember from "SWAT" and little else, is an actor I look forward to watching (he could be Nathan Fillion's slightly disturbed younger brother), and Adam Goldberg and Amber Tamblyn on-hand still have some goodwill on reserve with me, but I fear that the show is going to head into unwatchable David E. Kelley territory sooner rather than later.

(*) And it doesn't help that "The Unusuals" is the latest ABC show to fall victim to that network's plague of Please Start Laughing Now music. It's getting to the point where, when I hear the tinkly piano, I immediately set my jaw and prepare to not laugh in defiance of the network's belief that I'm too stupid to recognize comedy without some secondary audio cue. The scene where Casey's trust fund manager showed up was particularly egregious on this score.

Another problem is that the ongoing mystery element of the show hasn't really grabbed me yet. I don't care that the Christian cop used to be a bad guy, or that his friend was responsible for getting Walsh's partner killed, or even the possibility that Walsh himself might be dirty. That part of the show feels obligatory in a way, as if either the creator or ABC felt a slice-of-life series about weird NYPD detectives wouldn't be compelling enough without some kind of larger story arc. Not every show needs it. "The Unusuals" needs something, but this isn't quite it.

I'm in it for a few more episodes, but my enthusiasm waned quite a bit after watching this one.

What did everybody else think?

25 comments:

S. Tarzan said...

I haven't seen The Unusuals yet, but I'm interested because Jeremy Renner was quite good as an almost psychopathically reckless soldier in "The Hurt Locker".

Jordan said...

I've watched both episodes, and I may watch another, but if they really want me to stay, they'll blow it up and make the focus of the show Goldberg and his ridiculous mustache.

olucy said...

I liked the pilot more than this ep, but I still like the show and will continue with no intention to bail in the near future (which is more than I can say about Castle).

I don't even notice the music, so that's not a factor for me. However, I *do* wish they'd stop hitting us over the head with Renner's warnings that this is a strange group of cops and Not Everything Is As It Seems. Can't they just let that unfold and allow us to discern that on our own?

Also, I'm relieved that if they're going to have two of the cops getting it on, that they're just establishing that from the get go and not trying to set up the potential for a Renner/Amblyn hookup.

I still find this show different from most and I'm still in.

Graeleight said...

Amber Tamblyn is pretty.

Jen said...

My interest is definitely starting to wane in this show. I liked the pilot but yes, this was pushing things a bit.

I'm not totally clear on the stakes. The captain wants Casey to get his house in order, but I'm still not totally clear on why. Does internal affairs specifically want to investigate Walsh or is it someone else in the dept?

Also, why does the captain have all that NASA stuff in his office? The space suit, the models, the photo of him floating in zero Gs. Why do I have a feeling there will be an episode devoted to this in the future?

I'm willing to keep going with the show for a bit, but it's pushing it.

pdf said...

I missed the pilot but caught last night's episode; it wasn't bad, but in between it and Better Off Ted (which I love, and which was absolutely hilarious last night) comes Lost, which I avoid like it's gonna give me some kind of Videodrome brain virus, so the chances I'll watch it again are kinda slim.

Matt said...

I haven't watched last night's, but:

Also, why does the captain have all that NASA stuff in his office? The space suit, the models, the photo of him floating in zero Gs. Why do I have a feeling there will be an episode devoted to this in the future?Obviously, this means that they're all actually in suspended animation on a far future trip into distant space.

rosseau said...

Well, if they basically focused on the Lethal Weapon type characters and shenanigans of Goldberg and Perrineau (probably incorrectly spelled), then the show might have something, no matter how well-worn. There is chemistry between those two, as there is between Tamblyn and Renner. I don't think making Kenneth the Cop part of an ongoing conspiracy arc is wise. That whole story needs to be shuttered. Just focus on the relationships, and lower the quirk.

Gua said...

This show is basically boring. They are trying to hard to have chemistry and mystery consequently there is none. I have never liked Perrineau (as an actor) even on Lost and his current character does nothing for me. I think the writers and actors are trying to hard and they are coming up short.

Ladypeyton said...

I remember Jeremy Renner from playing Penn the Vampire on an episode of season 1 of Angel the Series. I agree this episode wasn't as good as the pilot. I was extremely disappointed when we finally found out what the ever increasing numbers stood for but I'm going to give it a few more chances.

olucy said...

I thought the numbers were going to correspond to positions in the Kama Sutra before they started getting into the three digits.

J.J. said...

You know, I have to chalk it up to the impressions I got of the police force from watching "NYPD Blue," but I now find it hard to get into police shows where they have such weirdly young detectives like the lady in this show.

"NYPD Blue" made me think it took a while to go from a uniform to detective (unless you had connections or happened to be in on some high profile cases).

I didn't look it up on IMDB or anything, but this Amber Tamblyn looks like she's 23, 24. Maybe there's no established age guidelines for a cop making detective rank (and maybe "NYPD Blue" just played it up as an excuse to have Andy crack wise about people's age or inexperience), but I just have trouble granting the premise on this.

Brendan McCarthy said...
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Brendan McCarthy said...

Alan,

I stumbled upon your column five or six years ago because I wanted to read the Ledger's reviews of The Sopranos (you guys were practically James Gandolfini's co-star). I've followed you ever since, checking your thoughts on any and all TV I watch.

All this time later, I'm working in production and watched The Unusuals crew bring that show to life. And here I am, reading your review.

Basically, if anything goes wrong, Alan Sepinwall will be my constant.

Oh and I can't say I'm a fan of the show. Not terrible, but not something I'm going to put effort into keeping up.

Matt said...

Tamblyn turns 26 next month, though definitely reads a bit younger than that. But, hey, she's dating a 45 year old in real life (David Cross).

toonsterwu said...

I actually like the story arc a bit, but yeah, for different reasons, the Unusuals doesn't have me. I may watch because that's the only thing on at that time that is okay, IMO. I hate that dispatch radio women's comments - it's taking quirkiness into a ridiculous level. I like Amber Tamblyn - don't quite buy her as a cop, and don't quite care about the "rich girl finding her own way" storyline.

There's some good moments, like the Tamblyn/Renner scene on trust, along with the Perrineau/Goldberg scene on the same basic idea. It had an overall episodic theme, IMO, of being there for those that you love, but it didn't play too well.

Here's hoping for better. The grittiness of Southland intrigues me a bit more.

FlopEJoe said...

"Graeleight said... Amber Tamblyn is pretty."

OK... this cracked me up! Otherwise, I'm in for a few more eps. With a couple of other things ending for now, this is a pretty good show so far. I miss the dispatcher jokes... did they cut those because people whined or was that only intended for the pilot?

olucy said...

The dispatcher jokes were there in the 2nd ep.

Karen said...

Also, why does the captain have all that NASA stuff in his office? The space suit, the models, the photo of him floating in zero Gs. Why do I have a feeling there will be an episode devoted to this in the future?Clearly, they're setting up for the finale...where we'll learn that the reason Goldberg survived the gunshots and Sgt Brown's house is not in order, is because this is all a hallucination in the minds of astronauts on their way to Mars in search of a previous space mission called the Dove.

Henry said...

I felt the same way. The pilot hooked me with the wacky and serious moments (nice way to shoehorn in that badge number speech, which I quite liked), but this episode felt like the show was still trying to find that right mix of comedic and dramatic elements.

I'm hoping there's a larger payoff to the ongoing storyline because the corruption angle doesn't seem large enough and Casey doesn't seem to make a lot of progress on the investigation front (then again, it's only been a week's time apparently)...

Karl Ruben said...
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Karl Ruben said...

I'll keep watching this until the inevitable cancellation at (or before) season's end, just for the luvverly chemistry between Adam Goldberg and Harold Perrineau (also Goldberg's hair and mustache).

I actually thought this was a better episode than the pilot; the zany and the serious bits seemed to gel easier. The whole conspiracy subplot (see Jen's comment above) needs to be explained better soon, though, or my start-making-sense-meter might keep me from watching; Perrineau/Goldberg/mustache be damned.

Alan Sepinwall said...

FYI: ABC is going to run two episodes next week. The first will be Tuesday at 10 (bumping "Cupid," which is likely doomed), to see how this show does after "Dancing with the Stars," and the second will be at the usual timeslot after "Lost."

Whiskey said...

at the end of the pilot ep I told my husband almost the same thing Alan wrote in the last two paragraphs of this post. I find this need to make sure it's clear that there is a dark undercurrent to these cops to be a HUGE turnoff in both The Unusuals and Southland, it smacks to me of a lack of trust in the audience. I may give both shows a couple more chances but they're really testing my patience.

Positive things I can say: I like that Tamblyn's character has a more realistic wardrobe than, for example, the female cop's in Castle who seems to wear a different [expensive] coat in every scene. This ep, my favorite scenes were between Goldberg & Perrineau: when Goldberg jumps off the roof and thru the window, showering Perrineau with potentially lethal potted plants, and the last scene of them at the bar bonding. The rest of the ep was a total waste for me.

jimmo said...

finally got around to watching the first two episodes, and I found them both quite enjoyable.

Too much doom and gloom in the comments on this one I think; its only two shows in, why are so many looking for answers to every little question? I'm totally hooked on the Christian cop/Navan Granger storyline and I'm willing to, you know, wait a few weeks for it to develop. And I laughed a couple of times at the dispatcher- not at her lines themselves, but when the subjects of them came through the precinct (especially the ones wearing the matching pink and white sweaters).

Pretty good stuff so far.