A First Look At Backstrom, Via Episode 3

You may wonder why this “first look” is coming three episodes in to the show. To be honest, I’d seen and heard ads for Backstrom and was curious enough to take a look, but didn’t get that chance until this week when I saw it was airing in a time slot after something else I was watching.

This review is actually going to go in a slightly different direction than my usual format, because I’d like to compare it to some other shows I’ve watched in the past.

Backstrom centers around a police detective played by Rainn Wilson (The Office; Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), and the other members of the Special Investigations department. As with most stories of this ilk, they end up taking the cases that are either too odd for other departments to tackle, or it will probably also eventually include ones that have been passed down as unsolvable.

BACKSTROM

Everett Backstrom is a jerk. The audience knows it, and so do the people around him. What I see as the biggest problem with this show isn’t necessarily it’s run-of-the-mill nature, but rather the fact that I was watching episode three and I didn’t see the kind of character dynamics that make shows like this successful. Big misanthropes are really only tolerable in fictional media, and for someone to fall into that category as heavily as Backstrom, they need some kind of contextual foil as a counterbalance. Greg House had James Wilson (and to some extent Lisa Cuddy, although that fell apart at the end), and Cal Lightman had Gillian Foster. Even when the main character isn’t really that bad, the writers still use a “buddy cop” type of system, for instance when Patrick Jane has Teresa Lisbon, or Richard Castle has Kate Beckett, or Charlie Eppes had his brother Don.

The literary foil is commonly used across genres as a way to show the audience that someone who would otherwise be unsympathetic actually has some interesting traits to them, and vice versa. Backstrom has none of that, at first glance. It’s a shame, really, because I can’t see past it to appreciate any of the other characters, let alone remember what the “case of the week” was. Premise and/or cast are often what get me started, but character dynamics are what keep me coming back.

I may watch more of this if I remember when it’s on, but I don’t intend to follow it as closely as the other offerings that make up my queue.

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]