[08/15/07 - 11:06 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Marlowe" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.

And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(pilot not ordered to series)

The network's description: "The greatest detective in American crime fiction collides with present-day Los Angeles in a smart, stylish update of the Raymond Chandler classics. The City of Angels has changed since we last saw Philip Marlowe: the clubs have gotten louder, the drugs stronger, the girls skinnier. But deep down the rich and sometimes famous, with their sense of entitlement and their deep dark secrets, are just as willing to break the law as ever. A low-tech guy unfazed by our high-tech world, Marlowe still solves mysteries and doggedly fights for truth with his whiskey, his revolver, and his gravelly first-person narration. The case isn't over until justice is served, even if the check bounces. The only change in his style is that he's hired a girl Friday, a dame named Jessica who's as hard-headed as she is easy on the eyes. Because when you get taken apart by goons in a back alley fight, it's nice to have a workplace wife to put you back together. Director Rob Bowman ("The X-Files," "Daybreak") masterminds this thrilling, atmospheric, character driven procedural in the style of classic Hollywood noir. Jason O'Mara ("In Justice," "Men In Trees") stars as Marlowe, while Amanda Righetti ("The OC," "North Shore") features as comely assistant Jessica Reede. Trouble may be Marlowe's business. But the rest of us will sleep better knowing that the world's greatest gumshoe is back on the case."

What did they leave out: Sandra Bullock, or her car actually, plays an integral part in the plot.

The plot in a nutshell: "Life is choices," explains L.A. former-investigator-for-the-D.A.'s-office-turned-private-investigator Philip Marlowe (Jason O'Mara). Should he call it a night, knowing the wife (Lisa LoCicero) of the man who hired him to follow her is clean? Or should he look into why another woman - Tracy Faye (Jaime Ray Newman) - is entering the house of the guy she's supposedly cheating with? It's the latter choice that sets into motion the events of the pilot as said girl runs screaming from said house, covered in blood. It seems the guy has been murdered and Tracy not surprisingly is one of the suspects. And like any good femme fatale, Tracy hires Marlowe to prove her innocence - routinely throwing herself at him in the process. He thankfully is good friends with the lead detective on the case Frank Olmeier (Adam Goldberg), who is more than thrilled to have someone else take some of his workload. From there then it's not long before Marlowe digs up some new suspects. Is it Adam's (the deceased's) brother (Clayton Rohner), his layabout business partner; the owner (Michael B. Silver) of the club where he trolled for women; Tracy's own jealous suitor, who wasn't pleased with her and Adam's relationship; the shady politician, whose dealings Adam was caught up in; or even Stephanie Church (LoCicero), the original woman Marlowe was hired to follow? The number of suspects is dizzying, but Marlowe isn't your ordinary P.I. He sleeps in his office, doesn't have to reach far for a smart ass comment, routinely gets the shit beaten out of him and most importantly, gives us the show's noirish narration about life in L.A. Aiding him in his cause then are his assistant/surrogate mom/nursemaid Jessica (Jessica) and his plugged in club owner friend Thomas (Sherman Augustus). With their help (and a little luck), Marlowe manages to get to the truth but not before some more beatings, smart ass comments and amusing observations about L.A. After all, as Marlowe explains in the closing narration: "I don't mind letting L.A. beat me up once in a while, as long as she tells me the truth in the end."

What works: Much like FOX's "Nurses," this is another example of a show that I'm genuinely confused as to why it's not on ABC's schedule. Essentially "House" done as a cop procedural, "Marlowe" is less about the actual case than it is about watching Marlowe trying to crack it. He's the guy who just can't help but get involved, even if he knows how much trouble it will stir up. He's the guy that will sleep with his client ("A part of me wants to throw her out the window," he notes. "And another part of me wants to nail her against the wall. Maybe I'll leave the window out of it until the morning."), again fully knowing what a bad idea it is. (And in a fun running gag, he keeps on losing his cell phone and his car keeps on being sent to the shop.) It helps that O'Mara totally sells this identity without making him too self-destructive or too self-righteous. An enormous amount of kudos also goes out to Greg Pruss and Carol Wolper's script, which actually makes Marlowe's narration sound noirish without being too stilted. After he's knocked unconscious by a thug, his narration notes - "A deep black pool opens under me... and I dive in." Just as fun are Marlowe's descriptions of L.A. While pulling up to a club he notes that only in L.A. will the valet be 20 cars deep while a nearby self-park lot sits empty. If there was ever a sentence that summed up L.A., that's it. Overall, you can't help but get swept up in the show's unique style and O'Mara's engaging performance.

What doesn't: Again much like "House," the show's Achilles heel is the casework - which thankfully in this case is more along the lines of vaguely confusing instead of your standard mind-numbingly obvious. All the suspects are wisely painted in varying degrees of gray, even if in the end the most likely one turns out to be the culprit. All in all, ABC hasn't found a successful cop procedural since "N.Y.P.D. Blue" left the airwaves so...

The bottom line: ...I'm surprised they passed up on this one.

  [august 2007]  


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