Primetime television is bleeding from all orifices with shows being picked off like fleas every week. I’m telling you, it’s a frickin’ jungle out there. So what do you do when you gotta fill those spots with something that will stick? You bring in the big guns and load them with grit and teeth and hope they grow legs — long, sturdy, sexy legs — fast. Luckily, FOX gave us Empire and then Backstrom from acclaimed Bones writer, creator and executive producer Hart Hanson.
So, who will appreciate Backstrom? You’ve got your diehard Bones fans who are convinced the tenured showrunner sh*ts ice cream farts rainbows. Then you’ve got your Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) teeth-gnashers whom Amazon.com was gracious enough to introduce to another (and way more prolific) Swedish novelist, Backstrom co-creator Mr. Lief G W Persson (He Who Kills the Dragon), who just so happens to be equally detail-oriented and significantly more character-colorful in his own criminal-political-psychological thrillers than his late predecessor. And, finally, you’ve got a healthy faction of Rainn Wilson/The Office fans who have been missing all that Schrute-y goodness for years.
Meet the Cast of Backstrom >>>
So you’ve got all those people, but what about the rest? Why should you watch Backstrom and why are you going to love it? No guarantees, people, but after watching the first four episodes, courtesy of FOX Broadcasting’s screening room, I can give you five really solid reasons.
1. This Isn’t Your Ordinary Procedural
We still have an unsolved homicide and a team of detectives, but the conceit is more original than not. Forensics, procedure, logic and due process are not the stars of Backstrom. The focus is on the nature of humanity and one man’s ability to make it his bitch — except in regard to his own humanity, of course. Rather than assessing all the crumbs, creases, stains, and callouses on a person and deducing they stubbed their toe on the way out of the tub and that’s why they failed the chemistry exam and ate that dozen donuts, Backstrom‘s titular character absorbs information, nuance and perspective. He doesn’t stand on the outside. No, Backstrom inhabits an individual’s soul, sees what they see and understands what their nature would have them do. He always cuts straight through the crap of the human facade and it’s a pleasure to watch.
2. The Two Female Characters Kick Radical Unexpected Ass
The ass-kicking comes at the most unexpected times. I don’t want to give anything away too soon, but let’s just say that rule-following Detective Gravely portrayed by Genevieve Angelson could easily have become a wallflower when juxtaposed against Backstrom’s unconventional process, but when you least expect it she opens a can of whup ass on a suspect… and then does it again right after making a self-righteous declaration. As for Beatrice Rosen’s Nadia Paquet, she’s no slouch either. She’s buxom, brainy and as commanding as a Russian matriarch.
3. Rainn Wilson Plays Backstrom
This guy’s acting chops knocked serious boots for almost a decade on The Office. His comedic timing, his willingness to adventure in a role so unlike his previous ones, his submission to the slovenly persona of the self-loathing primordial sludge that is Everett Backtsrom, even after having read Persson’s exquisite characterization of the despicable constable — whom, to be fair, is mostly reprehensible in his thoughts #LiteraryChocolate — these are the gifts Wilson brings to the table and it’s a five course meal. That takes cojones, my friend. The literary Backstrom is an equal opportunity bigot and misogynist who’d sooner give every person he meets the finger, and rarely deserves the credit he receives. Wilson has created a Backstrom who does the work despite his many failings, and though it may be a messy journey, he gets the job done and gives credit where it is due. I could go on and on.
4. Backstrom is Not a Total Dick (But You Gotta Love the Humor)
Oh. My. God. The original promotional materials for Backstrom were amazing. Here’s just a taste. The image on the right is pure artistic perfection, but the one on the left? Maybe I’m stuck in my anal phase, but this kind of humor kills me. Bravo, FOX. Bravo, I say. (Favorite line from Guardians of the Galaxy: “You got my dick message!”) So that’s a taste of the kind of bawdy off-color humor you can expect with Backstrom. It’s not a giggle fest by any stretch, but it is in a time slot that allows it to indulge in more mature language and humor. There’s a scene between Det. Almond (Dennis Haysbert) on the topic of testicles that’s priceless.
5. The Character of Backstrom is Not House
House disdained everyone, considering himself superior. Backstrom is an equal opportunity offender of people, but only truly loathes himself and general humanity (and his dad). He doesn’t waste time with idiots, but he doesn’t waste energy on them either. House considered himself whistle clean and brilliant on the inside (despite the drugs, that is). Backstrom is a hot mess in and out, but his pride is not so great that he can’t somewhat desperately ask his roommate Gregory Valentine (Thomas Decker) for help, ask Nadia to be his friend, or repeatedly blurt the same answer until he finds the question it belongs to. Oh, and, House hated associating with people, especially patients and their families. Backstrom, on the other hand, is fascinated by people and has no problem engaging with them.
The final way Backstrom is not like House is that his vulnerability is palpable. There’s something going on inside him, some mystery there to be gingerly unfolded. House was brilliant, but he was just an ass. Backstrom is a surly, sarcastic, verbally bigoted, offensive, somewhat repulsive man. But it’s not just because he’s an ass (unlike his literary counterpart). It’s because there’s something else there going on, something that damaged his soul and broke his heart at a very young age. I hope we get the chance to find out what that is.
So, there you have it — five good reasons to get your Backstrom.
Backstrom airs on Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)