Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cops Rock - Southland and The Unusuals

The Unusuals - Pilot - Ep. 101 - Series Premiere
Southland - Pilot - Ep. 101 - Series Premiere

Two new cop shows. Two great ensemble casts. Two refreshing retro twists on the formula.

While I wasn't exactly looking for more cop shows, I found myself really enjoying ABC's The Unusuals, which is sort of a quirky, if mysterious and amusing take on the cop genre. It sort of reminded me of Denis Leary's The Job, which was a hilarious cop show but this time with a serious side too.

Meanwhile, Southland is basically ER but with cops. Even down to the wide-eyed newbie (The OC's Ben McKenzie (above) in the Noah Wylie role), the hyper realism, and the tracking cams with LA now instead of the insides of a hospital. Considering it's also John Wells show, it's not a surprise. All of which may seem like I'm saying I didn't like the pilot. But I REALLY REALLY liked it. I loved Michael Cudlitz's John ushering in Ben McKenzie's Ben and after all the recent glossified cop/crime shows like CSI, it was nice to see a show that harks back to the grittier cop show format. While I was never a fan of NYPD Blue and have yet to catch up on The Wire, I'm glad the grit is back, at least the way it's done here.

Plus there are fabulous casts in both shows, with actors that I've always liked but never seem to have found that hit. With Regina King (24), Tom Everett Scott (above with King, That Thing You Do), Shawn Hatosy (Ouside Providence, Kevin Alejandro (Ugly Betty), and Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers), they seem to be finally plucked from go-to-guest stars and given nice juicy headlining roles of their own here on Southland. Plus it's nice to see them all fulfill their early promise.

Meanwhile, I was NOT of fan of Joan of Arcadia and thus didn't really care for Amber Tamblyn, and while I tolerated her in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I had some sort of weird grudge against her (really for no apparent logical reason). But she's terrific in The Unusuals as the rich girl-turned cop who is being shifted up to the detectives department to find out the secrets amongst the cops. She's paired with Jeremy Renner's Jason (both above), who himself has an unusual past as a former Major league baseball player turned short-order cook/diner owner turned cop. Renner (North Country) is one of those actors I've always wanted to champion (plus even though his eyes are kinda funny, it makes him all the more cute and hotter, so that certainly helps) with an underlying intensity but mainstream fame has sort of alluded him.

Now, I'm not an Adam Goldberg fan (I still think of him as annoying Ross on Friends) but he's nicely paired up here with Harold Perrineau (Lost) so it kind of works, especially with the duality of Goldberg's Det. Eric mysterious aura of constantly missing death and Perrineau's Det. Leo who is always afraid of dying (like the rest of his family).

Add an eclectic mic of other characters with Terry Kinney (Oz) as the Sergeant in charge, overly religious Det. Henry Cole (Josh Close), weirdo Det. Eddie (Kai Lennox) and token sassy latino girl Det. Allison Beaumont (Monique Gabriela Curnen), and I'm game to find out what everyone's unusual secrets and pasts are hiding, and how the unusual cases this group of detectives seems to be getting will be solved. There's a nice balance of serious drama and the story arch of an internal investigation with some of the more quirky lighthearted and amusing cases and characters.

The Unusuals is getting a ***1/2 (out of 5) from me so far but it's leaning so close to the 4 stars or more. Meanwhile, I'm giving Southland ****1/2 (out of 5) right off the bat because that's how much I loved the pilot. Okay, so I'm a sucker for Ben McKenzie shows but I'm sticking to my score.

The Cast of Southland:

Ben McKenzie as Ben:

Regina King as Lydia:

Tom Everett Scott as Russell:

Shawn Hatosy as Sammy:

Michael McGrady as Sal:

Michael Cudlitz as John:

Kevin Alejandro as Nate:

Arija Bareikis as Chickie:

The Cast of The Unusuals:

Jeremy Renner as Detective Jason Walsh:

Amber Tamblyn as Detective Casey Shraeger:

Harold Perrineau as Detective Leo Banks:

Adam Goldberg as Detective Eric Delahoy:

Josh Close as Detective Henry Cole:

Kai Lennox as Detective Eddie Alvarez:

Monique Gabriela as Detective Allison Beaumont:

Terry Kinney as Sergeant Harvey Brown:

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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