Somewhere in my list of incomplete blog posts I have a piece I’ve started months ago about forgiving the shows you enjoy. Everyone does it. Everyone has to. A terrific show has a weak episode, or a joke that’s in bad taste, or a special effect that looks fake as hell, and you shrug it off, because the rest is worthwhile.
Well, this post is going to be about TV shows I watch(ed) on Netflix that were in some ways wonderful, but which have flaws that are so egregious that I don’t recommend them to anyone. First up:
An Iraqi veteran receives a head injury that changes his personality and thought processes so that he can discern connections other people would never notice, making him a savant when it comes to finding lost items and people.
Geoff Stultz is fantastic as Walter, the veteran who has been so completely changed that he cares about almost nothing except whatever he’s obsessed with finding at the moment. The late Michael Clarke Duncan is wonderful as the kind-hearted, staunchly ethical friend and business manager. Like a lot of shows, the relationship between the regular characters is what sells it. Walter is brilliant and erratic, but once he starts searching for something, he becomes obsessed and can’t stop. He has also lost much of the social skills he used to have, so the people around him are always trying to protect him, especially from himself.
And yeah, it’s a bit of a Sherlock Holmes thing, but with actual humor and some irrational processes. The lost items Walter is sent to find is usually a person, but not always. The walk-on roles for each episode have complexity to them, and the show benefits from not having the same old same old in every episode. Great idea for a premise, well executed.
Why I Don’t Recommend it:
That would be the vicious racism. Note for creative people of all types: “gypsy” is not synonymous with “gangster” or “career criminal”.
DEATH IN PARADISE
A humorless, uptight detective from London finds himself transferred to an island paradise in the Caribbean, and he hates it.
Most TV shows sink or sail based on the relationships between the main cast, and this fairly standard episodic whodunnit (complete with a “gather all the suspects to reveal the murderer” climax) leans heavily on the main cast. But it works. DI Richard Poole hates the heat, sun, sand, and relaxed lifestyle of the Caribbean–he even hates the run down (but beachfront! with gorgeous view!) house assigned to him. He insists on clinging to the symbols of his authority–especially the jacket and ties–because he just can’t adapt.
It’s a funny show. Not in a “hilarious belly-laugh” sort of way, but they’ve cast charismatic actors (including the guy who played Cat on Red Dwarf) and everything clicks. They even play fair with the clues. There’s some unfortunate stuff with the lead actress–TV is always trying to cram romantic story lines where they don’t belong–but it didn’t work and they recognized that and backed off.
Plus: gorgeous scenery.
Why I Don’t Recommend It:
The pilot episode starts with the current DI being murdered, and Poole is sent to investigate, then trapped in the assignment. However, as the third season started, the actor playing Poole wanted out (apparently for personal reasons: too much time shooting on the islands away from his family). So, to bring in a new DI, they did the same thing as in the pilot: they murdered the old one.
Some shows kill off characters all the time. Game of Thrones kills characters you love and hate every episode, it seems. But this? Not that kind of show. DI Poole is a comic figure, and we like him, and seeing him murdered, up close, with an ice pick… well, let’s just say the fun was spoiled.
Of course they had to bring in a replacement lead, and he had to not quite fit in without being identical to the previous character’s predicament. While it’s not the actor’s fault, the new character is ridiculous and the rhythm is ruined.
Maybe watch the first two seasons and pretend the rest doesn’t exist? Or not.
THE GOOD GUYS
Fussy, rule-abiding Detective Jack Bailey is partnered with old-school rule-breaking Detective Dan Stark because the whole department hates them both, and no one can stand to have them around. They’re given the pettiest, most bullshit crimes to investigate which always leads to a major case.
Jack thinks it’s a good idea to correct his superiors’ grammar, and Dan won’t stop talking about the time he and his old partner saved the governor’s son back in the 80’s (and that there was a TV movie of the week made about it). Together they’re an excellent double act (straight man and comic) and the show is pretty funny, even though it doesn’t have as many laughs as it probably should have.
The crimes the leads are given to investigate–smashed vending machine, stolen dry cleaning–are handed out like insults, but somehow the people involved always connect to a huge crime that no one else in the department knows about. The plots are structured like a farce, and each episode wraps up with an extended comic action scene like a shootout or car chase.
The villains are also great characters, from the vegan bank robber to the good old boys who think it’s their patriotic duty to steal cars from British criminals. Really, as fun as the plots can get, and as strong as the two leads are in their roles, it’s the attention to creating interesting, quirky villains in the Elmore Leonard mode that makes the show work.
Why I Don’t Recommend It:
The moment for a show like this has passed, hasn’t it?
It’s one thing to feature a comicly ridiculous rule-breaking cop to make fun of the trope of the renegade cop, but we’ve seen rule-breaking cops in real life, and the effect they have is anything but comic. So, it’s a fun show, but some people will take it with a heavy dose of ick.