Thoughts on The Unusuals

If I were a betting man, I would wager that Disney read the pilot of The Unusuals, a new cop show airing wednesdays at 10/9 central, and messed heavily with it. The same unintentional awkwardness that marks all ABC comedies is here in spades. It’s overproduced (without appearing slick), full of infodumps, and can’t stick to a genre. The latter could become a boon in the right hands, but the show doesn’t yet demonstrate the needed confidence to pull it off.

There are several nods to David Simon’s work in print and on television (the look of the bullpen, the love of cop lore, the photocopier/lie detector gag, casting Dukie in the small part). Being a big Simon fan, my immediate wish for the show is that it explore the precinct and give it personality (instead of what is presented here, which in contrast we might call color). The setting has a rich history. While Simon’s task to represent an entire city was certainly ambitious, there’s a lot of Baltimore we never got from The Wire. Lowering the sights on a relatively limited amount of terrain has a lot of potential. We could get to know the beats, meet reoccuring figures and district power brokers. And we could certainly slow the flow of information about these characters to give them a little more intrigue. Who knows, the show might be setting out to do all of this.

But the immense genre distortion taking place here, while keeping the viewers on their toes, also means that tone becomes very difficult to establish. It’s a procedural, a quirky comedy, and a longform suspense show in turn, and the whips from one to the other are jarring.

A lot of this stuff is fixable (although Tamblyn is a FLK). I need more to hold onto.


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April 2009
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