Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unusually Good

I was flipping through the channels not too long ago, when I spotted the sweet smiling face of Amber Tamblyn. I hadn't seen her in anything really worthwhile since Joan of Arcadia, so I flipped back. Within minutes I was treated to Harold Perrineau (of Lost and The Matrix fame) and Adam Goldberg (loved him in The Hebrew Hammer). After watching for a few minutes, I realized I had stumbled on to the dynamite ensemble cast of The Unusuals.

"Shabbat shalom, motherfuckers!"

However, face recognition will only take you so far - even the best actors can't sell the viewer on wimpy characters. Also, police procedurals are notoriously formulaic, character-driven though they may be. There were so many ways for The Unusuals to actually be more of the same.

Happily, this is not the case. Several characters in The Unusuals are interesting twists on well-known tropes. The tough-as-nails cop is also the sexually voracious love interest (without, at least so far, compromising her professionalism). The brown-nose turns out to be quite a sympathetic character. The goody-two-shoes rookie is also the cop with a shady past. And the street-smart mentor/father figure Jason Walsh, played by Jeremy Renner, is actually one of the pair of protagonists (side note: if he dumps the tough-as-nails cop for the other protagonist (Amber Tamblyn), I will be very disappointed). This multitasking not only gives these typical throwaways more depth, it makes room in the ensemble for some truly original characters.

Amber Tamblyn plays Casey Shraeger, an up-and-coming cop who happened to up-and-come from a wealthy family. She doesn't want her co-workers to know, and often has to scramble to hide her connections. I know it sounds weak, but the interplay of her two worlds is really well done.

Furthermore, Harold Perrineau plays a cop who lives in constant fear of death or injury and whose partner, played by Adam Goldberg, seems to have a death wish. The cast is rounded out by some really strong support – the DA who went to school with Shraeger and must be blackmailed to keep her secret, Shraeger's handsome yet bumbling accountant, and the Sergeant who has asked Shraeger to spy on her partner.

As you can see, there's a lot going on with this show. But it all fits together well, with divergent story lines and motivations coming together to into a coherent plot. So check out The Unusuals, online or Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC.

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