The biggest problem I have with Amazon’s Bosch is that no one believes me when I tell them I like it. Part of this is my fault. I’ll cop to that. I’ve spent years writing and blabbering about shows like Zoo and The Young Pope and CSI: Cyber, so my recommendations are suspect to begin with. And it doesn’t help that the show is about a loose cannon cop named “Bosch.” That’s one of those names that just sounds perfect muttered under an angry authority figure’s breath. (Try it now. It’s fun. “Bosch.”) You’re probably picturing the whole thing in your head now and seeing a generic paint-by-numbers cop show, with a lead character who doesn’t play by the rules and is in constant danger of being taken off a case for non-book-following shenanigans, and a chief who always has the mayor up his ass.
Well, guess what. It is sort of that and you are good at picturing things. The big difference, though, is that while Bosch definitely doesn’t play the rules and is always in danger of being taken off a case for non-book-following shenanigans, and the chief does often have the mayor up his ass, the show is almost always more than that. A lot more. And even when it’s not more than that, it’s still just about the best version of that. I promise.
Let’s start with the basics: Bosch is an Amazon series starring Titus Welliver as Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, an LAPD detective who lives in a huge glass house overlooking Los Angeles that he paid for with the proceeds from a television show about his life. His mom was a prostitute, and she was murdered when he was a kid, and he’s still investigating it. He is also investigating other murders. Lots of them. Sometimes they involve creepy serial killers (this was season one, it was the weakest season, you can totally just skip it and pick up with season two), sometimes they involve sexy housewives, sometimes they involve crooked cops who have it out for Bosch. Most investigations end with Bosch shooting someone, or someone shooting at Bosch. And if you’re wondering if he gets results, well…
That, in case you’re wondering, is Jamie Hector, best known for playing Marlo on The Wire. He is on Bosch, as Bosch’s partner. A lot of people are on Bosch. Lance Reddick, who played Lt. Daniels on The Wire, is on Bosch. Jeri Ryan, who was not on The Wire, is on Bosch. Brent Sexton, who was also not on The Wire but was on Justified, is on Bosch. The list goes on and on. And Amazon is very helpful because its streaming service tells you which actors are in each scene every time you roll your mouse across the screen. You will use this feature often.
Those tie-ins to The Wire make sense, by the way, when you realize that the series was adapted — from a series of books by Michael Connelly — by Eric Overmyer, a veteran of The Wire and Homicide. The crime series bona fides are firmly in place, even if it is very weird and somewhat upsetting the first time you see Marlo as a cop. It’s not right. You’ll get used to it, you really will, but it will take time.
But the thing is, even with that lineage, the series has less in common with shows like The Wire than it does with other shows you probably recognize. It’s like… it’s kind of like Justified, in a way. Justified was also a show about a loose cannon who played by his own rules and got taken off cases but got results. Justified also weaved together season-long criminal investigations that featured gunfire and secretly duplicitous lawmen. It’s basically the same show but about 30 percent less funny, and there’s no Boyd Crowder, and now Raylan Givens is a middle-aged detective who lives in Los Angeles and isn’t too great at putting his hands in his pockets.