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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Jennifer Johnson; directed by David Nutter; TRT: 43:03)
The network's description: ""Chase" is a fast-paced drama from Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI" franchise, "The Amazing Race," "Pirates of the Caribbean" films) and executive producer Jennifer Johnson ("Cold Case") that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America's most dangerous fugitives. Kelli Giddish ("Past Life") stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run. Cole Hauser ("K-Ville"), Amaury Nolasco ("Prison Break"), Rose Rollins ("The L Word") and Jesse Metcalfe ("Desperate Housewives") also star as members of Frost's elite team."
What did they leave out? The show tends to take the title literally as there's lots of running involved.
The plot in a nutshell: U.S. Marshal Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish) always gets her guy: whether it's a dope dealer trying to flee in the middle of a cattle drive or murderous home invader on the lam. The latter, Mason Boyle (an effectively creepy Travis Fimmel), however isn't your ordinary criminal. Billed as one of the "15 Most Wanted," he hasn't been heard of since escaping from prison in 2005. That was until three nights ago when he mortally wounded the occupants of his latest home invasion: a suburban couple and their daughter. And with that, Annie and her team - dependable number two/sounding board Jimmy Godfrey (Cole Hauser), the chatty Marco Martinez (Amaury Nolasco) and the stoic Daisy Ogbaa (Rose Rollins) - begin their hunt. Much to their chagrin however they've been tasked with a "tagalong," the eager but green Luke Watson (Jesse Metcalfe).
Through his eyes then we learn about the tactics involved in fugitive retrieval, or as Daisy calls it, "hide and seek, only with guns." In short, like everyone else, fugitives need food, shelter and companionship - you find Mason's, you'll find him. And sure enough they follow Mason's trail to his girlfriend, a waitress who refuses to believe what Annie and company are saying about her man, "Gary Jones." There they confirm Mason's modus operandi: he's constantly looking for the next pretty blonde to impress, all in the name of the abusive mother - herself a pretty blonde - he never could. That combined with a Waylon Jennings fetish and he sees himself as a outlaw cowboy. Through said profile - not to mention some unexpected smarts from the newbie - Annie gets Mason in her sights and well, you can do the math from there.
What works: It's as serviceable of a procedural as you'd expect from the Bruckheimer machine: bad guy commits a crime, good guys get on his trail, let the "chase" begin so to speak. In that respect you more or less know what you're going to get here, even with the added wrinkle that fugitive retrieval presumably raises the stakes - them being escaped prisoners and all. What is proffered to set the show apart then is the Annie Frost character, who's superhumanly dedicated to tracking down the bad guys because they're constant reminders of the man who broke her heart: her dad, himself a fugitive that was never caught. It's an interesting enough characterization...
What doesn't: ...one that gets weighed down in its own convenience and triteness. Whether it's a crackerjack exchange a drug dealer (Bad Guy, while gaining the upper hand: "Didn't your mother teach you girls shouldn't play with guns." Annie, after regaining the advantage: "My mother died when I was eight. So no."), her hospital bed promise that she'll catch Mason to the aforementioned little girl or the hackneyed advice she gives the latest addition to her team ("Learn some music Luke, quickest way to see into a person's soul."), everything is acutely tuned and on the nose instead of organically manifested.
Plus, there's more than a few times in which you wouldn't be surprised to see a crawl appear at the bottom of the screen saying, "look, there's character development going on here," as Annie awkwardly pauses to ask Jimmy about his home life or Daisy cryptically notes to Luke that Marco is "that way" for a reason. It's very heavy handed stuff, all of which undercut what should be an inherent likability to our heroes. Instead the show's mechanizations - not to mention the actors' performances - feel very orchestrated and deliberate, rather than in the moment and raw - ultimately making it feel very fake, its emotional notes never quite earned. That's not to say the pendulum can't swing in the other direction though as there's more than enough DNA for a good or maybe even great show in here...
The bottom line: ...just not yet.