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August 30, 2015

Gone Too Soon: Boomtown

by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 3rd 2009 10:05AM
I remember watching Boomtown for the first time. I remember where I was, and at what point in our lives it was on the air. Now, I watch a lot of television and have seen and forgotten more shows than most people would ever even want to be aware of. But Boomtown had that much of an impact on me.

Oh, I'm a sucker for a unique premise or take on familiar territory. I first tuned in to 24 because it took place in "real time," and I just had to see how that would work. I tuned into Boomtown because it promised me a look at crime from every possible perspective. How, I wondered, is that possible? And yet it brilliantly, beautifully and all too briefly was.

What was it?
Boomtown was a crime procedural unlike any other. While each episode focused on a criminal investigation, it was the way in which it did so that made for compelling and innovative storytelling. The tagline for the series was, "One crime, seen from every point of view."

They meant it. We got to see it from the point of view of the cops on the street who answer the call, the detectives who investigate the case, the lawyers who get involved, reporters following the case, witnesses and even the criminals themselves. And these weren't just bit appearances, we got everybody's story throughout the hour.

BoomtownIt forced you to pay attention, as it was through the different perspectives that the complete story of what went down would finally come together. On top of that, all these characters that we met and followed were fascinatingly complex individuals. It was an incredibly ambitious undertaking to try and follow so many different points of view, and it was apparently too much for most viewers.

Why did it have to go?
After tanking on Sundays, NBC shifted the series to Fridays. Friday wasn't quite the ratings wasteland it is today back in 2003, but it wasn't doing great either. Nevertheless, despite horrific ratings, the series received incredible critical acclaim and received several awards nominations, even nabbing top honors for new and dramatic series at the Television Critics Awards. So NBC brought it back.

Unfortunately, in an effort to attract more viewers and appease network concerns, the producers neutered the show's unique concept and turned it into more of a traditional cops-and-robbers procedural. They dumped the reporter and had their paramedic join the police academy to keep the series focused. In response, it tanked even worse and got yanked after two episodes from the schedule.

How do I find out what happens next?
It's best not to want to know what happened next, because it would have been better for NBC to just cancel it after the first season. Season one offered us something special; intelligent television. They dumbed it down in an attempt to win us over, but it just wasn't meant to be. Either Boomtown was ahead of its time (maybe it would do well on a network like FX now), or maybe we'll never be ready for such a smart show.

BoomtownWhere did the cast wind up?
  • Donnie Wahlberg (Det. Joel Stevens) went on to appear in several of the Saw films, as well as starring in The Kill Point, but he can be seen most recently touring with the reunited New Kids on the Block.
  • Neal McDonough (Dep. D.A. David McNorris) went on to appear as Dr. Stephen Connor in Medical Investigation, Wyatt Cain in Tin Man, and Dave Williams in Desperate Housewives among other film and television credits.
  • Mykelti Williamson (Det. Bobby 'Fearless' Smith) has appeared in several film and television roles including Virgil Hayes in Kidnapped and Chief Sinclair on CSI: NY. He'll be starring as the new head of CTU in the new season of 24.
  • Gary Basaraba (Officer Ray Heckler) has appeared in many major shows and films both in the states and in his native Canada, where he starred as Hank on Mixed Blessings.
  • Lana Parrilla (Paramedic Teresa Ortiz) went on to play Sarah Gavin in 24, Nina Schaefer in Windfall, and Trina Decker in Swingtown. She'll next be appearing in the upcoming CBS drama Miami Trauma.
  • Jason Gedrick (Officer Tom Turcotte) has appeared in LAX, Windfall, Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer and Desperate Housewives as Rick Coletti, among many other guest roles.
  • Nina Garbiras (Reporter Andrea Little) appeared as Miss Chicago in The Nanny Diaries and then apparently vanished from the face of the Earth. Anybody heard from her?

BoomtownWho Cares?
At this point, only those of us who fondly remember it. There are no memorials for the show online, and no efforts to revive it. Considering what happened to it before it ultimately died, I'd say NBC canceling it in season two was a mercy killing. I know I couldn't watch it anymore without remembering how innovative and exciting it was watching the stories unfold the previous season. Ironically, the network replaced it with Law & Order, which followed more the traditional format Boomtown was forced into.

The bottom line is that I hate cop shows, I hate crime shows and I hate procedurals with an undying passion. But I absolutely loved Boomtown and it was all of those things ... but so much more!

When can I see it?
If you want to pony up the cash, you can buy Boomtown: Season One on DVD right now for a very reasonable price. At this point, it looks like we may never see Season Two, but I find I'm all right with that.

[via Wikipedia, IMDb and more!]

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David Gueirlla

Thank you for pointing out the lack of memorials. For some reason, this never even achieved a cult, which sucks, as I would say it's better then Arrested Development or Firefly.

February 22 2012 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Gueirlla

Boomtown is probably the greatest drama of all time. yeah even better than Breaking bad or dexter ot the wire. i think the only show that i might say beats boomtown is malcolm in the middle (throught its 7 year run there were always some really clunker episodes and there were some good ones and then there were amazing episodes. if you took the top 25 best malcolm episodes and put them against the top 25 episodes to any other show malcolm wins imo)

February 22 2012 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Damn great show! Season 2 was released in region 2 but I think it's out of print now. Oh, and Nina is in the interior design business these days.

August 28 2011 at 5:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Espy

Brilliant show. I think HDNET was/is rerunning it.

November 04 2009 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is actually my favourite show of all time. McDonough and Wahlberg were amazing, but the others were all great too, even if their characters weren't fleshed out as much. I've also long wanted to know what Nina Garbiras is up to these days, as Andrea was one of my favourite characters; as far as I can tell Boomtown was the last major role she had.

November 03 2009 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Moncur

Boomtown was awesome - I still remember several scenes vividly.

I like to think that in a post-LOST world a show like this could work - people are willing to be confused by smart TV. I'd love to see someone try this format again.

November 03 2009 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

Great series, with Don Wahlberg proving yet again that he can act circles around his brother.

November 03 2009 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I miss boomtown too. The show was pretty awesome and I can't believe they canceled it.

November 03 2009 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's a scene in Boomtown I will never forget (thanks to IMDB for the exact wording):

Fearless: "I didn't do it."
Joel: "I know."
Fearless: "But what if I had?"
Joel: "You wouldn't do that."
Fearless: "But what if I had?"
Joel: "It's not who you are."
Fearless: "But what if I had?"
Joel: "I brought a shovel."

November 03 2009 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of the greatest shows that aired the first half of the decade. Neal McD was amazing, as was Wahlberg. I was really getting into season 2 when it got cancelled, it was really starting to heat up. Season 1 was amazing too. I still miss it, ugh.

November 03 2009 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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