The Unusuals (pilot episode)


Rating 3

Created by Noah Hawley

Written by Noah Hawley

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Starring Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner, Adam Goldberg, Harold Perrineau, Kai Lennox, Joshua Close, Monique Gabriela Curnan, Chris Sarandon and Terry Kinney

Detective Casey Shreager is pulled off Vice and assigned to the New York Homicide squad following the murder of a possibly crooked cop. She is teamed up with his former partner Detective Jason Walsh (Jeremy Renner).

She quickly discovers that the squad is made up of a collection of decidedly oddball characters; Walsh seems to operate a run-down diner as a sideline that he opens sporadically as the mood takes him. Detective Eric Dalahov (Adam Goldberg) has a brain tumour that he is keeping a secret. It might explain his tendency to cry constantly, his sudden outbursts of temper and his decision to give his moustache a name. It doesn’t explain why he seems to be impervious to danger – in this pilot episode he survives falling in front of a subway train and being shot at close range with both barrels of a shotgun. His partner Detective Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau) is obsessed with germs and convinced that death is waiting around the corner for him. He permanently wears a bullet-proof vest, even in bed. Detective Eddie Alvarez is an egotist who always refers to himself in the third person and is mocked by his colleagues. Detective Henry Cole (Joshua Close) is a born again Christian who hides a delinquent past. They all have something they seem to be hiding, including Casey Shreager, who is, in reality, a “Park Avenue Princess”.


‘The Unusuals’ is a police procedural, promoted as a comedy-drama. This pilot episode was broadcast on 8 April 2009, the first of ten episodes commissioned by the ABC Network. The viewing figures, just 6.8 million, which seems very low for the opening episode of a brand new show, and the fact that ABC has only committed to ten episodes suggests that the series may well be doomed, even at this early stage.

It is being promoted as a kind of up-dated cousin of ‘MASH’ and the similarities are evident immediately, right down to the quirky tannoy announcements. It has an old-fashioned feel that put me in mind of ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘Cagney & Lacey’. The planned format will have a main investigation each episode, shadowed by a second quirkier one. In this pilot, Shreager and Walsh investigate the murder, a case that Alvarez is put in charge of, while Dalahov and Banks are assigned to investigate the killing of a cat and find themselves on the trail of a serial cat killer. Dalahov and Banks are, it would seem at this early stage, likely to become quickly established as particularly popular characters with viewers. Adam Goldberg and Harold Perrineau (who played Michael Dawson in seasons one, two and four of ‘Lost’) work very well together.

Amber Tamblyn is a favourite actress of mine and has been excellent in everything I have seen her in. She is the reason I first became aware of this show when it was being cast. However, as good as she is, I could not help but have a suspicion during the pilot episode that she might be miscast here. She doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit for the character, whether as a police detective working vice and homicide, or as the “spoilt princess” daughter of rich society parents. Time will tell if this becomes more or less apparent.

I think the pilot episode was trying too hard at times and some of the humour and quirkiness was rather too obviously forced. However, it was very enjoyable and this is clearly a show with promise, although it seems unlikely to be around long enough to have sufficient time to find its niche and iron out the crinkles.

Review posted 14 April 2009


No comments: