Amazon’s new drama pilot, their first ordered to series, BOSCH, begs the question: do we need another police procedural? True, BOSCH is also a character study of a tormented man who is on trial for killing an unarmed suspect, so he’s not solely focused on whatever new cases he gets into (against orders, of course), but none of this is very original or groundbreaking. Perhaps the title character in this show takes a things a step further than his broadcast network peers, the writers digging a little deeper, but the first hour feels like yet another retread on very familiar ground.
The thing is, I just can’t jump on the Bosch band wagon. When Luther, Elementary, House, and so many other shows have given us a very similar leading man, there just isn’t enough here that feels fresh or new. Sure, there are cosmetic differences, of course, the quality of this program is at least as high, if not higher, than those others I’ve named. But at the central core, Bosch is lacking originality. And, like nearly half of the shows on television today, it takes place in L.A., a totally uninspired setting.
It’s possible to stay in the crime genre and make something fresh. HBO’s True Detective last year proves that. But BOSH isn’t True Detective, so it fails on an essential level.
The best thing I can say about BOSCH is that it casts Titus Welliver (Lost, Argo, Sons on Anarchy) in the main part. Welliver definitely deserves leading man status, and he easily handles the material, being allowed to show his depth and range in a way he hasn’t yet. From his buried pain over what he did, to the face he has to put forward both for the sake of his profession and so that he can try to live with himself, he’s not a shallow man. Bosch is no House; he is quite likeable. Circumstances have brought him to where he is, not mistakes he made with foreknowledge.
He is joined by an excellent ensemble. The other major characters include Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Annie Wesching (24), Lance Reddrick (Fringe), Amy Aquino (Being Human0, Abraham Benrubi (ER), Amy Price-Francis (King), Alan Rosenberg (Cybill, Luck), Valerie Cruz (Off the Map), and Jamie Hector (The Wire). So many familiar names, and all of them memorable. One cannot complain about the casting.
What will set BOSCH apart a bit, for those who love the genre so much that they haven’t yet grown tired of it yet, is the dual narratives. Because Bosch is facing his own challenges while working at his job, and his personal story probably won’t only pop up a couple of times per season, as it would on CBS, there’s something interesting in every episode. It’s not enough for me, but it will likely be enough for many viewers.
So, at the end of the day, I don’t think it matters if BOSCH has smart writing, convincing acting, and well-developed characters. All of those things are true, and the series definitely is near the top of its field, but the market is too saturated. With Amazon just trying to break into scripted drama, it may have been a safe path to choose something tried and true, but it’s also a boring one. We didn’t need another show like BOSCH, and while it may make Amazon seem like a legitimate contender in the original content market, it also signals they may not forge their own identity, which is sorely needed to set them apart.
Bosch’s first season is available now on Amazon.com