Jan 22 2015

Backstrom – “Dragon Slayer” Review. Been There, Seen That


BACKSTROM - Key Art 2Season 1, Episode 1

Air Date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 9/8c on Fox



The two most commonly aired shows today are either about detectives/cops or the medical field. Somewhere in the human psyche, we are interested in people who save lives and/or investigate the mystery of the week. Backstrom is a detective series that tries to be fun, witty, gritty, and interesting, but it just tries too hard.

Backstrom revolves around Everett Backstrom (Rain Wilson), a rude detective who has a knack for solving hard cases. After years of being demoted for being unhealthy and extremely offensive, he is back in the game doing what he does best. He is joined by a team of specialists to aid him with the tough cases, while proving he is the police force’s finest investigator.

I wanted to like this show but it just isn’t interesting. Because there are a lot of police procedurals, you have to find a niche to separate a new one from the pack. With Monk, we had an eccentric protagonist who had every phobia known to man. The Mentalist is about a con artist who helps solve crimes. Even House falls under the detective category as a sort of Sherlock Holmes meets ER. Backstrom doesn’t really have a niche. In fact, I can’t figure out what’s supposed to make the show compelling.

Rainn Wilson as Lieutenant Detective Everett Backstrom

Rainn Wilson as Lieutenant Detective Everett Backstrom

Let’s start with the main character. Detective Everett Backstrom is an obscene police detective who bends and breaks the rules and doesn’t care about anyone. So he’s just Gregory House with a badge? Sadly, Backstrom isn’t even as good a detective as House. Yeah, he figures out the answers in the end, but so what? Every other main character in a detective show solves their cases too so why should I care about this investigator? What makes the average gumshoe engaging isn’t their ability to solve cases, it’s how they solve and present the case to the audience. The thing that made House and Monk interesting was they would tell the audience the answer to the mystery, and then lead them down their train of thought, which made their deductive reasoning seem like magic. Backstrom doesn’t do that. When watching the show, it seems obvious where the conclusion comes from because Backstrom walks the audience through his deductions the whole time. Yeah, he has “a-ha” moments where he notices slight details nobody else does to solve the problem, but it isn’t as fascinating as I’ve seen in other shows.

What could make up for the lack of fascinating deductive reasoning is if the primary sleuth has appealing character qualities. Backstrom’s abrasiveness could be interesting and he has the ability to bring a lot to the show if done right, but again we are left wanting more.

l-r: Backstrom and Gravely arguing about the case

Backstrom and Gravely arguing about the case

The main issue stems from not having any justification for liking Wilson’s character. Whether your main character is an evildoer or a saint, you need to have a reason to like them. There has to be something that makes us want to come back and see our favorite hero week after week. I don’t see why I’d follow Backstrom—he’s gross, annoying, self-centered, and insulting. When you have a character like that, usually you want them to be funny. The writers try to make Backstrom funny, but the jokes that play off his lack of understanding social cues get old and boring really fast. That’s not to take away from Wilson’s acting. A lot of people are going to be looking for Dwight Schrute (Wilson’s character from The Office), but won’t find him in this show. Wilson is able to separate himself from his cornerstone character, but still brings a smidge of why we liked Schrute to Backstrom (although probably not enough). Wilson is a good actor and does his best with the role, but the dialogue and character development is forced (kind of like the rest of the show).

Backstrom and Detective Sergeant John Almond

Backstrom (Wilson) and Detective Sergeant John Almond (Dennis Haysbert, R)

The supporting cast is much like the main character with regard to their development, but don’t seem as interesting. There is Moto (Page Kennedy), who’s the muscle; Det. Sgt. John Almond (Dennis Haysbert), is the kind, religious detective; Sgt. Peter Niedermayer (Kristoffer Polaha), is the smart forensics guy; Detective Nicole Gravely (Genevieve Angelson), is a new detective; Gregory Valentine (Thomas Dekker), is Backstrom’s underground connection; and Nadia Paquet (Beatrice Rosen), is a European assistant. Unfortunately, there’s not much depth to any of them. The characters are very generic and don’t bring a lot to the show. Like Wilson, it isn’t to say the acting is bad; the way the characters are written feels very stereotypical. It’s understandable to have these archetypes of the nerd, the strong guy, the kind mentor, the up-and-comer, etc. but the writers don’t bring a great deal to the table of originality when developing these characters.

I can imagine the creators of Backstrom got into a room, thought about other detective shows that were successful, and tried to use those examples to make this show. I can’t say the whole series is going to be bad, but “Dragon Slayer” doesn’t put its best foot forward in convincing me to watch the show. Wilson has the ability to be the main focal point for a TV series, but so far with Backstrom, he doesn’t woo me. Move carefully across this rickety bridge of a show, because you might fall with the lack of story structure.

Tune in to Backstrom, on Thursdays at 9/8c, only on FOX. For more on Backstrom, go to http://www.fox.com/backstrom.

LIKE Backstrom of Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BackstromFOX.

Follow Backstrom on Twitter at: @backstromfox.
All photos © 2015 FOX Broadcasting Co. All Rights Reserved.



© 2015, Nick Polizzi. All rights reserved.

Nick Polizzi

You might say I'm a firm believer in the Narrative Paradigm. I'm a storyteller. If I'm not watching a film, I'm reading a book or writing. Laughing is the most important thing in the world, so I do my best to infect everyone with humor. I also enjoy the stuff the cool kids like, but my true identity is a sarcastic, ordinary nerd who strives to be extraordinary.

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