Tuesday, April 12, 2016


It took me awhile, but I've caught up entirely with the Amazon series, Bosch.  I recently watched Season 1 over the course of a week and season 2 in a weekend. Have to say, I was not disappointed.

Bosch is a straight police procedural that does nothing new, nor does it try to tweak an old formula or play around with familiar tropes.  It works as a series, though, because everything about it - the plotting, the acting, the characterizations, the pacing, the mood, the feeling for place - is done well. Each season dips into and adapts a few of Michael Connelly's Bosch books and seamlessly binds them into a tight, cohesive whole.  As I say, there's nothing startling or that you've never seen before, but while watching, I was reminded of film director Howard Hawks' definition of a good movie.  "It's three great scenes, no bad ones," Hawks said. Bosch, through 20 episodes, has maintained a level of rock-solidness with nothing less than good scenes and no poor ones.  It's an addictive experience, a perfect show for a binge watch.

The quality comes as no surprise.  There's the strong source material and Michael Connally's involvement with the show and a number of the people behind the show's production are crime show veterans.  Eric Overmyer developed the series for Amazon - he's a guy who's worked on Homicide: Life on the Street, Law and Order, and The Wire - and one of the executive producers, Pieter Jan Brugge, has worked on several Michael Mann films, including Heat and Miami Vice.  These are pros who know the genre inside and out, and the same goes for the episode directors, people who have a long history working on high end crime television dramas like the ones done by Tom Fontana (Homicide, Oz) and David Simon. Titus Welliver makes a fascinating Harry Bosch, and his chemistry with Jaime Hector, who plays his partner Jerry Edgar, is excellent.  Though he's been getting regular TV work for years, I haven't seen Hector in anything since he was Marlo Stanfield in The Wire, and the controlled authority he brought to a street drug boss in that, he brings, (albeit with less menace) to his role as Bosch's partner.  From The Wire also, Bosch has Lance Reddick in a key role and James Ransone in a smaller one. It must be said that the show takes something of a risk here.  Any time you cast a crime show with people who were on The Wire, the audience will think of The Wire, and maybe you don't want your audience comparing your show to the greatest crime show ever on American television? But Bosch gets away with it.  It doesn't try to compete with The Wire but does its own thing, and seeing the familiar crime show faces made me think of how old Hollywood used to do it, with the same actors turning up in gangster films over and over.  Like with the people behind the show's cameras, the actors bring not only their skill but their experience working in the genre, and it's fun, for example, to watch Lance Reddick do a variation on the reserved serious police officer character he played in The Wire or James Ransone inhabit yet another jittery screw-up, this time not as a low-level drug dealer but as a corrupt cop ripping off drug dealers.

From top to bottom, the series is well-cast, and it's the kind of show that takes time to develop lots of relationships among different characters.  Bosch alone has layered relationships with his ex-wife, his daughter, and Lieutenant Grace Billets, his immediate superior.  The lives of secondary characters are complicated.  It's a show, in other words, with a density and texture I find compelling, and it does it all in a way that's smooth and unforced.  In both Seasons 1 and 2, the narrative flows. And it's superb in capturing Los Angeles in a way that's both naturalistic and reminiscent of classic noir, without, again, seeming mannered.  Not to beat a dead horse, but damn this show is so much better than that second season of True Detective.  It's what True Detective in its second year could have been but wasn't. We're in southern California, we're dealing with politics and police corruption and organized crime, but Bosch gets it right in contrast to Nic Pizzolatto's strained, pretentious, allusion-strewn creation.

For the record, watchable as Bosch Season 1 is, Season 2 is better.  One thread in Season 1 concerns a serial killer, and though Jason Gedrick is good as the killer and the story line is suspenseful, with surprises, it is yet another rendition of the serial killer on the loose plot, with a few predictable notes.

Season 2 goes in a different direction and is more interesting for it.

And now, unfortunately....there's waiting.  I've had my Bosch binge watching pleasure and can't do anything but wait till a third season gets filmed.  Which it will. Amazon has made the announcement.


Catharine said...

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Dana King said...

Well put, Scott. I agree with everything here. The Beloved Spouse and i are in the tank for all the reasons you cite, including why Season 2 is better than Season 1. (Not that Season 1 wasn't very good.) Our only quibble is the occasional skipping over a common sense element, which we might not have thought oi in a lesser show. BOSCH is so good in general these things stick out. (Example, with mild spoiler alert: When Harry and J. Edgar realize something is about to go down at the bank, they drive like Popeye Doyle on crank to get there in time when what they should have done was call for closer cops to go there and hold everyone they were interested in. Had that happened on any other cop show, I would have let it roll off my back. "It's a cop show. What can you expect?" BOSCH is good enough to make me expect more.

I also want to make mention of a point you made that I think may be the crux of the whole argument here. There's a value in excellence that may surpass the worth of being different or ground-breaking. Not that either of those are bad things, but they're only important if the execution is there, and proper execution can make any material outstanding.

scott adlerberg said...

Execution's definitely where BOSCH excels - apart from rare and small lapses (good point about the bank scene) like the one you mention.