Wednesday, April 08, 2009

'The Unusuals' & 'Southland' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review the two new cop dramas on the block: ABC's "The Unusuals" and NBC's "Southland":
There are plenty of dramas on television about cops, but precious few about being a cop.

The "CSI"s and "Law & Order"s and the rest are driven largely by plot. It's been a while since we've had a drama specifically about the culture behind the badge -- so, in typical TV fashion, we get two at once: ABC's "The Unusuals" and NBC's "Southland."
You can read my full review of "The Unusuals" and "Southland" here. Both shows have certain things that are interesting about them, but if I had to pick one to recommend, it'd be "The Unusuals," for reasons I go into in the column.

But because of the Passover holiday(*), I won't have time to do a separate "Unusuals" pilot post for tonight, so feel free to discuss it here. I likely won't have any more time to do a separate "Southland" post, either, but since it's airing tomorrow night, I'll at least get some kind of open discussion post ready to go for when it's over.

(*) While we're on the subject of the Night That Is Different From All Other Nights -- which, btw, gave us the ever-popular Dayeenu rule -- chances are I won't be getting around to "Lost" and/or "Life" until sometime tomorrow morning at the earliest, and my Thursday viewing may be even more disrupted. Sorry.

23 comments:

Undercover Black Man said...

First! I tried to watch "Southland" on Hulu. But checked out after the drive-by. Something seems very mid-'90s about that show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thanks for the reminder about Southland being up on Hulu, UBM. As is always the case with situations like this, I'm going to ask anyone to avoid any kind of major plot details in their comments until the episode actually airs on TV tomorrow night.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
Just wanted to take a sec to wish you and yours a "zissen Pesach".
Enjoy the time with family, and thanks again for all you do for us tv fans....this blog is my second stop every morning (right after cbs sports to get my fantasy results...sorry) but BEFORE I read the Ledger!!

Emily said...

Happy Passover to you! I hope you enjoy "Life" whenever you get to it--what a great show!

Kelley said...

Alan,
I want to wish you and yours a blessed Pesach.

Peace,
Kelley (the goy in OK)
http://kelleysmsblog.blogspot.com/

Chris said...

After seeing a million ads for both shows, I know I won't be checking either out. They both have one instance in the ad that really gets to me.

The Unusuals have that hot dog guy as if that in and of itself is a joke and she says "Who are you gonna call? The Hamburgler?" That doesn't make any sense! And it's not funny just because of the randomness; they tried to make a joke (get it, hot dog and hamburgler!) but it just got on my nerves.

And every single ad I've seen for Southland has been the mustached cop in the younger guy's face talking all tough about being a cop. "You don't get it, being a cop is like being a piece of coal, you're hard, people are trying to get rid of you, and in the end you could be a diamond." It just feels like it's trying way too hard to be serious and macho and seems (at least according to the ads) to lack any sort of personality that would make someone stick around.

Anonymous said...

Happy Pesach, Alan. Next year in Jerusalem...

Dominik500 said...

Happy Passover Alan!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ2h3CdAl2A

Love,
The Unusuals

Cameron Hughes said...

The Unusuals sounds a lot like Joseph Wambaugh's excellent Hollywood Station and Southland is too much like Will Beall's excellent novel L.A. Rex

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Unusuals sounds a lot like Joseph Wambaugh's excellent Hollywood Station and Southland is too much like Will Beall's excellent novel L.A. Rex

There's an element of Wambaugh to both shows, though only "The Unusuals" manages to feature Wambaugh's sense of humor.

David E. Kelley was, at one point, trying to turn "Hollywood Station" into a series. Not sure if it's still in development or not.

Anna said...

I just read the Times review on both of these shows as well.

The author accuses The Unusuals for lifting a scene (the use of a copier as a lie detector) from The Wire. That scenario was not original on The Wire either. They did the same thing on Homicide (season 1, I think)

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Anna: The copier thing comes from David Simon's reporting in the nonfiction book "Homicide." So at least "The Wire" and TV's "Homicide" came by it honestly.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, I didn't have room to get into the copier gag theft, which is the biggest strike against "The Unusuals" for me.

Neither show is exactly treading new ground, but lifting something that specific is uncool.

Anna said...

Yes, Undercover Man, I think it's ok that The Wire used the gag of a sister show.

My complaint was more that you shouldn't complain about a show being not original by saying that it took a "bit" from a show that clearly was not original in using that same bit in the first place. (Of course, The Wire is one of my all time favs and is very original in many ways, just not in this scene).

Further, it bothers me when a professional reviewer doesn't know better. Professionals should have better memory/knowledge of shows that I do. (which is why I"m a faithful reader of Alan!)

Cameron Hughes said...

Kelly and Wambaugh had creative differences.

dez said...

Not sure when you will see this (happy Passover!), but when you do, the link to your review isn't working tonight.

J. Hawes said...

One "Wire" theft I can deal with? Dukie. My, that boy is all grown up. Glad to see he's still getting work.

Alan Sepinwall said...

DUKIE!!!! DUKIE!!!!

Sorry. I just needed to do that.

Alanna said...

Ah, thanks for mentioning the copier thing. I'm watching the pilot now, and I immediately recognized that from somewhere. Funny thing, though, is that I've only seen a handful of Wire episodes.

Overall, I like the wacky-humor vibe, though I can already see the cliches seeping in. Plus, I'd rather see a wacky NY cop show than a pretentious LA cop show. Guess it's east coast bias (and I say this as a native Texan who now lives in Georgia.)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't really get into The Unusuals last night. I don't believe it was the fault of the show, but seeing Terry Kinney and Harold Perrineau in the same scenes together and having "Alvarez" said throughout the hour... I just kept losing my focus on the show and thinking back to Oz. "Hey, Augustus is standing up! Wow, Terry Kinney's got the same neck as Leo Glynn now! Is anyone else going to pop up?"

Jennifer said...

I like Amber Tamblyn, but the show itself? Eh.

Anonymous said...

A lot of the reviews I read for The Unusuals mention the "dispatcher" device between scenes, at least a few of them unfavorably so. As I watched the show, that device reminded me of the PA speaker/announcements from M*A*S*H.

Michael

Gordon Harries said...

I liked both shows and my preference lies with ‘Southland’ has the edge, although I appreciate Alan’s complaint that it’s too clinical. (my problem with ‘The Unusuals’ is, I think, the quirk. I’m not a fan of the quirk.) but the tonality of it is much more to my liking.

That said, whilst I love ’The National’ and adore ’Fake Empire’ I’m not sure if I ever need to hear it again as score on a TV show/Ad …is it just me or is it approaching MOBY levels of ubiquity?