Tag Archives: Backstrom

Spring 2015 Review: Backstrom

28 Jan


If Mad Men is the direct inspiration for a generation of stuffy, somewhat humorless period dramas, House is the direct inspiration for a generation of procedurals starring a male protagonist who is savantish in his line of work while being a jerk and all-around misanthrope who can’t get his personal life into order. Backstrom falls squarely into this cadre of House successors.

Rainn Wilson plays Backstrom. An assholish cop with no friends, he is, at the start of the show, being given another chance to work homicides for the Portland police department after being demoted earlier because, of course, he’s damn good at his job. He sees what no one else sees, particularly because he makes dark and disturbing assumptions about everyone that others who are more inclined to see the good in people are unwilling to make. His life is a mess. He does it all – drinking, smoking, gambling, hookers. While on the job, he works with a crack team of oddball rejects, who for one reason or another, be it competence, personality, or sordid history, don’t fit in with the rest of the department. And damned if, for all his many, many negative traits as a human being, he doesn’t solve those hard cases.

 Backstrom is created by Hart Hanson, the man behind Bones, and the show shares Bones’ tone, feeling light and jokey with plenty of humorous asides despite an array of dead bodies and dark plots. Backstron would fit right in on USA; Backstrom is a character, and I have no doubt he’d be welcome.

Backstrom is a show that’s supposed to be fun, only it isn’t, and that starts with the main character. The issue is that I’m so tired of this character, the limitedly brilliant jerk, and I hope that America is to.  By no means do I need all characters to be likeable.  But there are two problems in this case. First, beyond being unlikeable it feels like the show, rather than being agnostic to how we feel, actively wants us to root for him, because deep down he has some capacity for change that we need to be supporting. Second, he’s boring and not worthy of our attention. Tony Soprano is often despicable, but he’s always interesting. Backstrom isn’t. 

There’s really all there is to it. By no means is it unwatchable, but it feels derivative and stale, more out of 2008 than now. More is expected of TV in 2015 than Backstrom is ready to give.

Will I watch it again? No. I really do wish weird character actor Rainn Wilson could get a better second memorable television role, but this ain’t it. Hopefully the police department will fire Backstrom and hire a competent police officer who at least makes some pretense of being cordial to his fellow humans.

Spring Previews and Predictions: Fox

7 Jan


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with designs for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

Empire – 1/7/15


This is Fox’s big midseason player. Terrence Howard plays the founder of a massive music empire (actually named Empire as well), which he built from nothing, starting out as a small time drug dealer to fund his music career. After he learns he’s dying, he realizes he must pass on his company to one of his three sons, who compete for the honor. Added to the picture is his ex-wife who appears to be getting out of a long prison sentence and wants what’s hers, having contributed to the label way back when it was just beginning. This is definitely an attempt for the network to do a big show, a cable-type show, and it’s from director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong of Lee Daniels’ The Butler fame. I rarely get hopeful for new network shows in this day and age, so forgive the tepidness you see throughout these predictions, but this show holds a halfway chance at maybe being decent, which is just about all you can ask.

Prediction: Renewal – Fox is pumping its promotion machine into this show, airing commercial after commercial, and if it fails, it’ll be a major black eye for Fox’s development team.

Backstrom – 1/22/15


You’ve seen this show before. The detective, who on the job is an absolute genius, who sees things absolutely no one else can see, has an absolute wreck of a personal life. He’s a misanthrope and an all-around asshole, but he’s damn good at what he does. This time Rainn Wilson plays that wacky detective, who is, of course, named Backstrom, and has a team of characters with a capital C that would be welcome on USA any day of the week.

Prediction: 12- It’s from the Bones creator, so I don’t know if that buys the show any good will (though it didn’t for Bones spin-off The Finder), but it feels like we get one of these shows every year, and those they may succeed occasionally, odds are against.

The Last Man on Earth – 3/1/15

The Last Man on Earth

Now, that was a weird trailer. The title is literal, not figurative. Will Forte appears to be the only remaining man on earth as he shops and then sings The Star Spangled Banner to an empty Dodger Stadium. I have absolutely no idea what to think. Presumably he at least meets a couple of other people, or the show would probably get boring fast, but I kind of like the fact that it’s so ridiculous. The pilot is directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the men behind The Lego Movie and 21 and 22 Jump Street, which is a good sign, and I’ve always liked Forte.

Prediction: Renewal Why not? It’s not really a sensible prediction. The Last Man on Earth seems probably too insane, it’s airing way too late in the Spring, at a time where very few debuting shows ever get picked up, but it’s fun to pick surprises. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be good.

Weird Loners – 3/22/15

Weird Loners

I can’t actually find a trailer for Weird Loners which is never a great sign for the success of the show. There is an exceedingly small amount of information out there for a show set to debut in just a couple of months. Weird Loners is apparently about four relationship-phobic thirty-somethings who through some odd circumstances are forced to live together. Former Happy Endings cast member Zachary Knighton and How I Met Your Mother Barney love interest Becki Newton are among the cast members.

Predictoin 12- Well, I know so little about it, so it’s hard to judge based on quality, but the fact that there’s so little out there leads me to believe that unless it somehow generates an unlikely groundswell of support it’ll be a mid-Spring show which airs a few episodes before being completely forgotten about.

Wayward Pines – 5/14/15

Wayward Pines

A mystery-horror-suspense-mindbender. Matt Dillon is a special agent of some kind who winds up somehow in a town called Wayward Pines, Idaho. This is a mega-creepy Twilight Zone style town where everything looks hunky dory but everyone is watching (think Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life). It’s the type of town where you can enter, but you can never leave. One would imagine that over the course of the 10 episode series (it looks like an event-type series that’s over for good after 10) we’ll dive deeper into the dark secrets of this town and maybe find out a thing or two.  Juliette Lewis, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, and Toby Jones are among Dillon’s co-stars. M. Night Shayamalan is producing which is always troubling, but he’s not writing it, for what it’s worth.

Prediction: It’s a limited series, so there really isn’t one. It’s 10 and out, and it doesn’t seem like the type of show that would be easily anthologized, considering the title is the name of the town.