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October 7, 2015

The Unusuals: Pilot (series premiere)

by Mike Moody, posted Apr 9th 2009 11:38AM
the unusuals pilot abc
(S01E01) ABC's quirky new crime procedural is not the brilliant blend of drama and absurd comedy the network might want it to be, but it does have a few good things going for it. First, there's the great cast. It's hard to pick a favorite among these talented TV vets, but series star Amber Tamblyn is genuine and beleiveable as Casey Shraeger, a detective working to weed out corruption in a kooky NYPD homicide unit, one of her first grown-up roles. Jeremy Renner, adding some Nathan Fillion-esque goofiness to his all-around good guy persona, is a good fit for Detective Jason Walsh, Tamblyn's possibly duplicitous partner.

I'm convinced that Lost's Harold Perrineau can do almost anything, even turn a one-note character like Detective Leo Banks, who's obsessed with the idea that he'll die at the age of 42, into something special. Perrineau didn't exactly get the best material here, but he and partner Adam Goldberg, playing a nervous depressive who is actually dying, managed to elevate their short scenes together.

Another thing The Unusuals has going for it is an intriguing mystery. The ep started with Casey getting recruited to the Second Precinct to fill the shoes of Det. Burt Kowalski, who was seemingly killed on the job. She teamed up with Walsh, Kowalski's former partner, to investigate the murder. The investigation lead to some, er, unusual findings, including Kowalski's burned down storage locker full of revealing case files on his co-workers.

Casey's new boss Sgt. Brown (Terry Kinney) revealed that he hired her to root out the corrupt cops in his department. We learned that some among this zany team of investigators are not who they say they are, and that they're all keeping big secrets. The final scene even cast suspicion on Walsh, the only male character who seemed sane enough to relate to Casey.

The mystery and strong performances might be enough to hook some viewers, but the show's odd mixture of absurdity and standard police drama isn't for everyone. The premiere was loaded with too much contrived quirkiness (a perp dressed as a hot dog, twin grandmas getting booked, a clueless detective who constantly refers to himself in the third person). Some of the gags hit (the odd dispatch calls were funny), but most of them seemed out of place, inorganic or, at worse, stolen from the last few years of Night Court.

And speaking of stealing, that copy machine/lie detector scene worked a lot better on The Wire.

This first episode moved along at a confident and rapid pace, but the tone was all over the place. It was diverting at best, artificial and labored at worst. It looks like ABC might have greenlit another oddball cop show that will likely get yanked before its mysteries are revealed.

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i like the unusuals. who knows on what show was the actress who played casey's mother?

April 21 2009 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I, too, tuned in for the cast, but this show is a "one and done" for me. Boring, poorly written, trying too hard. I also got the recycled Night Court vibe, and I LOVED Night Court! But I hated this. It put me to sleep multiple times. It actually reminded me of one of those fake TV shows they show you are those scammy "be a TV test audience" events where they really only care about your reactions to the commercials - while keeping you held hostage through several hours of bad pilots that never made it to air.

I have WAY too many other (better) shows to watch than to waste more than 1 hour on this. It's too bad, though. I'm definitely an Amber Tamblyn fan.... even if she is creepily dating David Cross.

April 10 2009 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"...series star Amber Tamblyn is genuine and beleiveable as Casey Shraeger."

Uh, no, she isn't. Horrible casting...what happened to strong, weathered female Homicide detectives like Melissa Leo or Kim Delaney? And yes, the copier bit was a blatant rip-off of "Homicide," I think it was a stunt pulled by Munch and Bolander.

April 09 2009 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MJL's comment

IIRC they did a version of it on "NYPD Blue".

April 10 2009 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Great cast"???? Are you kidding? This is the worst cast show on TV right now. Having one querky character in a show gives it spice, a whole bunch just makes it bad. And the title is pretty much the worst as well, what are in in 1968? (Not that there's anything wrong with 1968, with all the "free love" and all.) I was waiting for the punch line and a joke the entire episode, really. I thought it was a comedy for the first half an hour, then I thought "this is pretty lame for a comedy" and it finally hit me, these people are trying to do a drama! I can't believe this is on TV, it's so bad. I suppose the producer(s) has/have pull; no I did not bother finding out who produced the thing. The only thing clearly as badly written as this was Kings - that did get cancelled, right? The question is, is it bad enough to watch again to see how low TV has gotten? Not for me.

April 09 2009 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent Schmidt

Watched it and during the commercial break they showed a preview for Monday's other new cop show. Swear to God I thought that was the one I was watching. They seriously all look the same.

April 09 2009 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was looking forward to The Unusuals but when it showed up I wasn't sure whether to show it the door or let it stay. I hope they take the chance to fix the mistakes they have made with the show because once they do I think it will be a neat little quirky drama.

The characters could be fine but there are to many dysfunctional ones. Like many successful series, ie. Monk (character Randy and Monk) one or two quirky characters are fine but everyone in the show is overkill. Streamline the characters. The editing is choppy the jump from scene to scene disjointed and choppy it's almost like it was written by a daytime drama writer. It should be smooth in transition from scene to scene so that you want to sit and watch instead of feeling like every 60 seconds it's going to switch so you can get up and leave the room and therefore not invest yourself in the story.

If they make a few changes I think I'd give it another try.

April 09 2009 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with the tone being all over the place. I wasn't quite sure how to gauge it. Of course it's just a pilot. I laughed in parts, but it didn't feel balanced. We could have done with one perpetrator hot dog scene, two was a bit much. If they made the quirkiness more subtle, it would be a lot funnier and quirkier. It felt a little caked on. The leads were good though and the mystery compelling. Maybe that can save the show.

April 09 2009 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was looking forward to it because the ads were great. I did like parts of it, and not like others. I really liked Casey's backstory of being a socialite and her annoying calls from her mom. I think the premise is really good that since she is wealthy, she can't be bribed and therefore should be the one to find the cops on the take. The characters are pretty interesting and quirky, but the show needs some work at moving stories along. I know that a pilot usually tries to be something for everyone and pleases no one. Let's hope that that this is just a pilot issue and the series sorts itself out quickly.

April 09 2009 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"This first episode moved along at a confident and rapid pace, but the tone was all over the place."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?A rapid pace? It was so SLOW. Tone was all over the place but that added to the quirkiness.

I think this show would be much better if it tried to be a dark comedy instead of quirky drama.

April 09 2009 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am pretty sure Homicide did the copier gag too with Munch and Lewis.

This show felt like it was paint by numbers goofiness. It tried too hard.

I will give it two episodes to pull it together, otherwise, I have too much on DVD.

April 09 2009 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to michael's comment

Yup, here it is:


April 09 2009 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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