Boxset Monday: Spring 2020 – Part 1

Reviews of eight new shows from the US, Canada and Australia

Lincoln Rhyme

Monday’s TMINE is normally dedicated to a boxset, usually from Netflix or Amazon, but I’m still playing January catch-up and the Spring 2020 season has now started in the US and Canada – as has the Summer 2020 season in Australia – so let’s instead watch what basically amounts to a boxset worth of TV.

This week, we’re going to be looking at no fewer than eight new shows from around the world:

US TV

  • Deputy
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
  • FBI: Most Wanted
  • Dare Me
  • Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For the Bone Collector

Canadian TV

  • Nurses
  • Fortunate Son

Australian TV

  • The Gloaming

We can talk about all of those after the jump.

Deputy Fox

Deputy (US: Fox)

Plot

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is one of the largest police forces in the world, but when the elected sheriff dies, an arcane rule in the county charter, forged back in the Wild West, suddenly thrusts the most unlikely man into the job.

Bill Hollister is a fifth-generation lawman who is only interested in justice. The bad guys don’t stand a chance but neither do the politicos in the Hall of Justice. The dangers associated with the job often lead the police to LA County General Hospital, where Bill butts heads with the hospital’s chief trauma surgeon – who is also his wife.

Given a job he never wanted, in an unfamiliar sea of politics, Bill quickly learns that doing what is expected and doing what is right are two different things, and that his innate, dogged pursuit of justice is the only skill the job truly requires.

TMINE’s verdict

Deputy is a very confusing show. Now, clearly I’m not from California and don’t live in California, particularly not Los Angeles county, but Deputy seems to be suggesting that LA county is more or less the Deep South. Maybe it is – how would I know? – but I’m never seen that suggestion anywhere else, so I get the feeling that the show is trying to be both edgy and conservative at the same time.

Certainly, we have Stephen Dorff playing a good old boy, complete with southern drawl, who went hunting for hogs with his daddy. Yet he’s a fifth generation LA lawman, so presumably has never spent more than a vacation outside the greater LA area. Where’d he get that accent?

The show also caters to conservative Fox underpinnings, with Dorff constantly playing up his blue collar, honourable, traditional values in which common sense and arse-kicking rule over health and safe assessments and government funding. Not to mention a former marine as a right-hand man (Brian Van Holt). He may be the boss who’s supposed to stay back at HQ and do meetings, but that won’t stop him from giving his bodyguard the slip and going on raids. On horse back.

He’s basically doing Justified… in LA.

Yet at the same time, it’s definitely LA and he has a lesbian bodyguard (Bex Taylor-Klaus), a black godson (Shane Paul McGhie) and a Latina wife (Yara Martinez). Yes, provided you’re not a free-loading, bleeding heart liberal, but a socially responsible conservative, it’s a broad church at Fox.

There is a certain enjoyment to be had from Dorff’s old school values and butting heads against the powers that be. True, you have to balance that with the fact that the bad guys are always Latino (usually gang members) and despite being armed with sub-machines can’t hit a horse at 20 metres, even if they’ve been ridden by someone who’s only ever done dressage. And that anyone who looks to bring nuance into proceedings is clearly part of the problem, not the solution, even those that have a think about how much law suits might actually cost LA county in terms of cops’ pay, etc, and are merely trying to minimise it.

But that would almost be tolerable. It’s when the show reckons it can actually impart good ideas to the world, it runs into problems. Van Holt kills a gang member in front of the guy’s kids, so what’s the obvious thing to do? Foster them! Something Dorff bends the rules to bring about. As a demonstration of the clear value of transparency and oversight, Deputy is hard to beat.

Otherwise, this is pretty generic stuff – a police procedural that wants to be a western, but really doesn’t know how to do it in the setting it’s chosen (presumably for tax purposes).

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (US: NBC: UK: E4)

Plot

Zoey Clarke is a whip-smart computer coder forging her way in the tech world of San Francisco. After an unexpected event, she starts to hear the innermost wants and desires of the people around her through music. People are unknowingly singing their feelings through popular songs – just to her.

At first, she questions her own sanity and turns to the only person she thinks can help explain what’s happening – her neighbour Mo, a devoted music enthusiast and DJ. With Mo’s help, she realises what’s happening and soon discovers that this unwanted curse may just be an incredibly wonderful gift.

TMINE verdict

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist sounds like a fun idea to have a reason to do a musical in the context of an otherwise normal show. It stars the always excellent Jane Levy (Suburgatory, There’s… Jonny!) and given it’s a musical, don’t be 100% surprised that Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Ground Floor) is playing her best friend/would-be lover.

Had it been a half-hour comedy with a one or maybe two musical numbers per episode, that would have worked a treat. However, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a full hour-long show packed with song and dance routines that seem to go on forever. This, naturally, makes it a far less palatable affair.

There are many other rather strange choices going on, too. The show’s motif is that Zoey can hear the inner voices of people and find out what they aren’t saying but might want to or perhaps shouldn’t. So that enables her to find out that one co-worker is really a bro-worker who wants to crush her rather than support her. That’s not fun.

Similarly, there’s the hot guy she’s got a crush on who always seems happy but turns out to be… suicidally depressed. And married (to Blood & Oil‘s/Kröd Mändoon‘s India de Beaufort).

And then they’ve got Gilmore Girls‘ Lauren Graham playing Zoey’s ovary-busting boss. And Peter Gallagher plays Zoey’s dad – except he’s got a degenerative mental disease so spends the entire episode motionless and silent on a sofa being fed by the cast until… well, you can guess the rest.

Even Levy seems a little out of sorts, over-acting something colossal when she’s faced with one of her hallucinations. It’s a bit hard to judge, I guess, whether the show is supposed to be a comedy or a drama.

But it’s amiable enough and might even bring a tear to your eye at times. The coding elements of the show are at least about 100 times more accurate than Dollface‘s and the fact Zoey predominately uses her special gift to get herself a promotion and be a better manager is a considerable advance on the usual soft-hitting angles most shows give their empathic female leads.

All the same, a bit disappointed this one isn’t better than it is.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.
FBI: Most Wanted

FBI: Most Wanted (US: CBS)

Plot

From Emmy Award winner Dick Wolf and the team behind FBI and the Law & Order franchise, FBI: Most Wanted is a high-stakes drama focusing on the Fugitive Task Force, which relentlessly tracks and captures the notorious criminals on the Bureau’s Most Wanted list. Seasoned agent Jess LaCroix oversees the highly skilled team that functions as a mobile undercover unit that is always out in the field, pursuing those who are most desperate to elude justice.

TMINE verdict

It’s probably wiser to think of FBI: Most Wanted less as a spin-off of FBI or even something comparable to anything within the Law & Order milieu, more as an attempt to revive Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior with a duller cast. Floated initially as a backdoor pilot within FBI, it sees Julian McMahon leading his gang of top-notch FBI agents who’ve all graduated magna cum laude, etc, etc, as they hunt the worst, the absolute worst human beings to walk the planet.

This episode sees ET‘s Henry Thomas playing a crooked doctor using his practice to make money for gangs by selling opioids to the addicted. But when he’s burgled, he not only kills the burglar, he kills his wife, too! Before you know it, he’s using his own daughter as a hostage – except she now hates dad because he lied about his war record.

He is the absolute worst.

Of course, most of the show is largely concerned with opining about the opioid crisis in the US. Apparently, it’s caused by doctors overprescribing. Why are they doing it? Because most female pharmaceuticals reps are really former exotic dancers who’ll take doctors to strip clubs and give them lapdances if they prescribe opioids!

Attractive female Big Pharma sales reps are the absolute worst.

It’s basically horrible nonsense for old people who would read the Daily Mail, if it were available in the US in large-print format.

TMINE verdict

Rating: 1 out of 5.
Dare Me

Dare Me (US: USA)

Plot

Dare Me is an unflinching exploration of volatile female friendships, jealousy, loyalty and the dynamics of power in a small Midwestern town. Peering behind the all-American facade, the series dives into the cutthroat world of competitive high school cheerleading, following the fraught relationship between two best friends after a new coach arrives to bring their team to prominence.

Part coming-of-age story, part small-town drama, part murder mystery, Dare Me exposes the physical and psychological extremes that some young women are willing to endure to get ahead.

TMINE verdict

Dare Me wants to be the cheerleading version of Friday Night Lights. Or maybe Black Swan. Unfortunately, it was probably dropped on its head during practice one time, and from the moment the portentous narrative starts at the beginning of the episode, you know you’re about to be hit by a whale-sized lump of S-T-U-P-I-D – what does that spell? Stupid!

The result is something more in keeping with Pretty Little Liars but without the necessary tongue in cheek to pull it off, meaning you spend most of the time laughing at the show’s imagined revelations, which teeter on the edge of ridiculous and usually fall off.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Lincoln Rhyme

Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (US: NBC)

Plot

Former NYPD detective and forensic genius Lincoln Rhyme was at the top of his game until a serious accident at the hands of a notorious serial killer forced him out of the field.

When Amelia Sachs, an intuitive young officer who has a gift for profiling, finds herself hot on the killer’s trail, Rhyme finds a partner for this new game of cat and mouse.

As the unlikely detective duo join forces to crack the city’s most confounding cases, they must also race to take down the enigmatic killer who brought them together.

TMINE review

Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector has already been the basis of a successful movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

Now, 20 years on, we have more or less the same story, expanded over the course of a season and with Russell Hornsby and Arielle Kebbel in the lead roles. Naturally, as a result of the extended running time, we have more plot and more characters to sustain the narrative.

The first episode is largely about a (spoiler alert) copycat killer. It’s an interesting choice, since the episodes shows us the identity of the Bone Collector from the get-go – it’s Brían F O’Byrne from The Last Ship and Brotherhood – so we know whenever we see a potential killer that the goodies are barking up the wrong tree.

As a result, the focus is on giving the main characters some background, as well as introducing the supporting cast of Lincoln’s generic police procedural ensemble of helper monkeys, which include Michael Imperioli.

Unfortunately, while the show is smart, it’s the wrong kind of smart. It’s the one that thinks it’s a good idea to create a hero who knows that the bad guy wrote Titanium Dioxide on a bomb in order to indicate that you need to cut the white wire, because it used to be used in white colouring.

It thinks that Beautiful Mind style on-screen graphics to indicate Lincoln’s fanatical knowledge of New York minutiae indicates anything except that he’s a mentaler (“That’s the same font they used to use in fashion catalogues at the start of the century. The exact wording was Ladies… He’s in the Flatiron district!”).

But the show is at least semi-smart and there’s some pleasing diversity on display, with Kebbel having a mental disability to match Hornsby’s physical disability. There are unexpected twists and turns occasionally, too. Both Hornsby and Kebbel are personable leads and although the “super smart serial killer” has been done to death, there’s enough life in this show that I’ll at least be trying the second episode.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Nurses (Canada: Global)

Plot

Five young nurses work on the frontlines of a downtown Toronto hospital, while struggling to help themselves.

TMINE review

Canada, as far as I know, isn’t Brexiting itself from NAFTA so has no need to recreate a whole bunch of shows it already imports from the US. Yet, every so often, it tries to come up with its own, home-grown versions of the job lot of US shows that fill its screens – perhaps in some effort to ween itself off an addiction that’s been many decades in the making.

Nurses is in absolutely no way different from Code Black, The Resident, Grey’s Anatomy and any other US medical show about new recruits at a hospital, beyond the fact it’s set in Toronto and is about nurses, rather than doctors. There’s the same old speeches about how tough it is and everyone has to shape up or ship out (seriously, doesn’t Canada do clinical placements and mentoring?). There’s everyone caring to their upmost care-ness for patients, only to learn Valuable Lessons.

There’s the occasional Canadian touch, such as the fact one of the nurses is a lesbian and actually starts off in bed with her girlfriend at the same of the episode, rather than that being dropped into conversation at some point further down the line.

But genuinely, if you have a photocopier near you, slip an old episode of ER, run off a copy and watch that instead.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Fortunate Son

Fortunate Son (Canada: CBC)

Plot

Kari Matchett (Covert Affairs, 2 Hearts) plays Ruby Howard, an American who fled to Canada as a fugitive from the law. Set in the chaos of the late 1960s, the Vietnam War and the anti-war protest movement, Ruby helps smuggle Vietnam War deserters and draft dodgers across the Canadian border. What she doesn’t know is how these actions will unfold and who is watching her.

Rising star Darren Mann plays Travis Hunter, a Vietnam war deserter whose troubled past follows him into Canada and the lives of the Howard family. Mann is known for the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series and the critically acclaimed film Giant Little Ones.

Stephen Moyer stars as Vern Lang, a CIA agent. Moyer is well-known for his roles in True Blood and most recently, The Gifted.

Additional lead cast includes Kacey Rohl (Arrow, Hannibal), Rick Roberts (This Life, Designated Survivor), Patrick Gallagher (Night at the Museum, Glee), Ty Olsson (War for the Planet of the Apes, Supernatural), Alex Nachi (1991, Clash) and Zoé de Grand’Maison (Riverdale, Orphan Black).

TMINE review

It’s a bit hard to really care about Fortunate Son. True, it’s about a relatively undramatised part of history – the Canadian side of draft-dodging during the Vietnam War. If you watch the show, you’ll probably learn all sorts of things about how you could get someone over the border at the time. To be honest, though, it didn’t look that hard.

But it all feels like a big ‘so what’? We start by watching Stephen Moyer recruiting a special forces soldier (Darren Mann) in Vietnam after a touch of ‘friendly fire’. He uses that to leverage Mann into working for him and going undercover as a draft dodger so he can infiltrate the Canadian ‘underground railroad’.

And I’m not sure I care. Moyer’s basically a bit part and even in the few parts of the show during which he appears, it’s possibly it’s largely a dubbed-over body double filmed from behind. There’s a fun bit of fighting. There’s a nice rivalry between the Canadian cops and the border guards.

But it’s really about a rich white American ex-pat in the US and her super-Marxist kids chatting about how working in banking makes you a tool of the devil, all while helping Americans escape from serving in the army nearly 50 years ago – and the CIA’s efforts to take her down! Oh noes. I hope (semi)-fictional woman is going to be okay.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
The Gloaming

The Gloaming (Australia: Stan)

Plot

The story of an unorthodox and troubled police woman Molly McGee, who leads an investigation into the murder of an unidentified woman. Molly has to team up with Alex O’Connell, a man she hasn’t spoken to in 20 years. They discover that the murder has links to a cold case from the past.

TMINE review

Some shows are commissioned on the strengths of their casts. Some shows are commissioned on the strengths of their plots. But it has to be admitted that there are few shows commissioned on the strengths of their locations.

The Kettering Incident was surprisingly popular, mainly on the strength of its Tasmanian filming location, rather than because it was a great piece of writing. Strongly encouraged by this, here we have another female-centric spooky drama set on Tasmania from the same author: Victoria Madden. This time, though, Tasmania is even more front and centre, leaving the script a little more in the background of the production team’s thoughts.

Glitch‘s Emily Booth is the heroine of the piece, but you’ll soon grow to hate her after she spends the first ten minutes breaking into someone’s house and listening to numerous annoying records while dancing away. She’s a cop, BTW.

Turns out that’s her ex-husband’s place. At least I think it is. It’s Martin Henderson’s anyway – isn’t it odd how Henderson disappears for a while then appears in two shows, one Australian, one American, then disappears again? He did it with The Red Road and Secrets and Lies a few years ago, and he’s just popped up in Virgin River in the US and this.

Henderson does little but glower, play with some toys and conspire planning conspiracies with politicians.

Meanwhile, there’s a crime to be solved that involves a fair degree of spookiness, a dead body and lots of lingering shots of the picturesque Tasmanian countryside.

The first episode is a bit messy, but there was a certain strength to it. It didn’t feel like Tasmania-tourism, with the show clearly having done some research. The nods to horror movies are an interesting change from the usual Scandi-noir inspiration. Plus the central mystery is moderately engaging.

But the main characters are surly, humourless and dickish to pretty much everyone. Whether they’re together or apart, they’re annoying.

So it’s The Kettering Incident again.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.