Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be reviewing roughly a dozen new network shows.
The ones that are filled with good elements are easy enough to review, because they’re usually pretty good shows.
The ones that are filled with bad elements are easy enough to review, because they’re usually pretty bad shows.
But then there are the shows that just sit there, where I’ve got nothing kind to say, but I can’t exactly isolate things that are specifically worth my ire.
There are at least a handful of fall pilots that are notably worse than NBC’s “Chase,” but there are very few fall pilots that it’s actually better than. Does that make any sense at all? It’s an issue of attrition almost. So I can tell you that “Chase” actively annoyed me significantly less than “The Event,” its Monday night lead-in. But despite being irked and frustrated by “The Event,” which definitely has more negative elements than “Chase,” “The Event” also had elements that at least left me curious, there’s no direction I can foresee “Chase” going that would cause me to watch it again.
[I may not have a lot to say about “Chase,” but I’ll say it after the break…]
It doesn’t take long to summarize the premise of “Chase.” There’s a team of U.S. Marshals and they’re tasked with hunting down the nation’s most dangerous fugitives, generally in Texas I’m guessing, since that’s where the show is set.
The ostensible head of the team is Kelli Giddish’s Annie Frost, whose only real character traits appear to be “dogged” and “female,” though there are strong intimations at the childhood that made her this way, because heaven forbid a woman go into law enforcement without a good traumatic reason.
She’s got a team that includes characters played by Cole Hauser, Amaury Nolasco, Rose Rollins and Jesse Metcalfe. Of those characters, I can’t tell you anything about a single one of their characters other than Metcalfe, who’s playing the inexperienced new guy.
This isn’t TV’s only U.S. Marshals drama, but “Justified” is a star vehicle for Timothy Olyphant and “In Plain Sight” is the same for Mary McCormack. “Chase” isn’t built the same was for Giddish, who gets the most screentime, but definitely is part of the sort of ensemble you’d see going after serial killers on CBS.
The “Chase” pilot muddies those waters further by focusing on a vicious, remorseless psycho played by “Tarzan” and “The Beast” star Travis Fimmel, sporting an unconvincing accent, but totally convincing scruff and dead-eyed menace. It’s exactly the sort of character and performance that you’d expect from the guest star of the week on “Criminal Minds” and since this Marshals team is adept at profiling, viewers would be hard press to guess what makes them different from the BAU or any comparable group of television killer catchers.
Though Giddish, Nolasco, Metcalfe and Hauser all have the requisite profile to either topline a show or certainly to be a piece of a small ensemble, but without a writer to give their characters or their individual jobs within the team any specificity, the result is generic on every level. Generic heroes chasing after a generic villain, even across geographically specific terrain, becomes monotonous very quickly.
And the title of “Chase” isn’t incidental. Directed by unstoppable pilot mastermind David Nutter, “Chase” never pauses for breath once the action begins and, by the same token, it never pauses for humor or humanizing moments between characters. This is full-speed-ahead for 44 minutes and after the time, you know more about Fimmel’s character than you do about the Marshals. Well, I wouldn’t be tuning in to see Fimmel next week. I’d be tuning in to see the Marshals. I was given no reason to.
It’s not like you doubt why NBC picked “Chase” up.
Coming after the Jay Leno debacle, the network had to make amends to the creative community and you don’t make amends to the creative community by picking up pilots from no-names. So you pick up a pilot from J.J. Abrams. You pick up a pilot from David E. Kelley. And, if the opportunity presents itself, you most certainly pick up a pilot from Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman, especially one directed by David Nutter.
Now, though, NBC has to sell those shows. The Kelley joint doesn’t drop until midseason (and wasn’t sent early to critics). Abrams’ “Undercovers” isn’t especially substantive, but it’s still stylish and fun.
And “Chase”? It isn’t badly acted. I don’t remember any of the performances at all. It isn’t horribly written. I don’t remember any of the dialogue or plot machinations. It’s actually nicely shot and the art direction in the U.S. Marshals’ headquarters was handsome.
That’s not enough.
“Chase” premieres at 10 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20 on NBC.