I’m beyond thrilled for Jeremy Renner’s big-screen success with The Avengers, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, et al., but to me, he’ll always be Detective Jason Walsh.
Walsh was the male lead in ABC’s cop comedy/drama The Unusuals, which lasted ten episodes in 2009. But for those ten episodes, I was madly, stupidly in love with this show like some women love shopping. And in particular, I loved Walsh, the smart-mouthed cop who once played for the Yankees, ran a diner when he felt like it, and took utter delight in driving one of his colleagues up the wall at every conceivable opportunity. He was my guy.
If you’ve been impressed by Renner as Hawkeye in Avengers, or any of his big-screen roles, you need to come back to this one. While not his first crack at TV (he’s also appeared in episodes of Angel and House, to name a few), this was his first series as a regular, and he stepped up to the plate. Series creator Noah Hawley wrote an honestly unique character and Renner delivered a guy who was a little bit of everything.
Walsh was by turns hilarious (pranking fellow detective Eddie Alvarez on numerous occasions), an obviously good homicide cop, partner and friend (helping new girl Casey Shraeger learn what really makes good police), and often heartbreakingly real (the speech he gives at the end of the pilot always makes me cry, every time, without fail). He was that rare character that wasn’t pinned down to a type or a certain set of characteristics.
Sure, Walsh was a badass whipping out a shotgun from under the counter at the diner, but I equally remember him as the guy who had to work up the courage to visit his girlfriend in her hospital room after she’d been shot. I don’t think any other actor could’ve played him. Whether it was a look in his eyes, his delivery of a line, or a crack in his voice, Renner made me feel like Walsh was a complete, real human being. He was the guy I cared about, rooted for, and fell in love with.
I’ve been a fan of Renner’s since I saw him in S.W.A.T. in 2002, and I’m so incredibly happy that he’s finally being recognized (as a Hawkeye fan, having him play one of my favorite comic book characters is about the best thing ever), but for me, The Unusuals was one of his best roles, simply because Walsh was someone I felt like I could go to New York and have a drink with – and someone I’d want to go have a drink with.
But as I’m sure Renner would be the first to tell you, The Unusuals wasn’t all about him. It stands as one of my favorite TV series, because every time I watch it, I feel like I’m visiting old friends. There was a fantastic cast here: Amber Tamblyn (House), Harold Perrineau (Lost, recently announced for Sons of Anarchy), Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lie To Me, Fast & Furious), Josh Close (The Pacific), Kai Lennox (Justified) and Adam Goldberg and Terry Kinney (who reteamed on another New York-set cop show, NYC 22). As a TV buff, I remember looking at the cast and thinking, “Wow, how did they get all these people on the same show?”
My guess is it had something to do with the writing. When TV people throw the word “quirky” around, I want to force them to watch The Unusuals. It’s the only show I’ve ever seen invoke that word properly. There are a lot of shows – cop shows, lawyer shows, all kinds of shows – that want to be quirky, and that ends up meaning cutesy, unrealistic or downright strange.
All of Hawley’s characters were definitely quirky – for example, Perrineau’s Det. Leo Banks slept in a bulletproof vest and had inflatable furniture in his apartment – but those traits never felt forced. The characters didn’t feel like walking punchlines. While they were certainly a little different, they still felt like competent cops, and plausible people. In fact, for all the chuckles along the way, a lot of the time they moved me emotionally, too. Watching the show again to write this article, I was surprised at how much I just missed spending time with these people.
Sometimes I still think about the detectives of Second Squad. I wonder if Walsh and Beaumont are still together. I hope that Cole got his wedding and, by extension, his real second chance. And I occasionally speculate on whether or not Alvarez still refers to himself in the third person.
Not bad for a show that only got ten episodes three years ago. Thankfully, you can buy the whole series on DVD and watch one of TV’s true missed opportunities.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my BuddyTV writer page, and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Image courtesy of ABC