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SCOUNDRELS Series Premiere Preview

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SCOUNDRELS Series Premiere Preview

Scoundrels Cast Photo

SCOUNDRELS CAST : PATRICK FLUEGER, VANESSA MARANO, PATRICK FLUEGER, VIRGINIA MADSEN, DAVID JAMES ELLIOTT, LEVEN RAMBIN PHOTO : (ABC/BOB D’AMICO)

A successful pilot introduces us to the characters and their world, acting as a template for the rest of the series and giving us a hint of how the story will progress.  The first episode sets the tone and rules for the series.  The pilot doesn’t have to tell us where the story is going, but it does need to give us a reason to follow it. 

By : SHAWNA BENSON

A successful pilot introduces us to the characters and their world, acting as a template for the rest of the series and giving us a hint of how the story will progress.  The first episode sets the tone and rules for the series.  The pilot doesn’t have to tell us where the story is going, but it does need to give us a reason to follow it.   Shows that focus on anti-heroes, like “The Sopranos” or “Breaking Bad” show us all facets of a character, leaving it up to the audience to decide whether they are “good” or “bad.”  “Scoundrels” wants you to know its characters are genuinely good, even if they don’t appear that way at first.  It tries too hard to be likable, and in the process files off what edges the show might have had.  Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott are enjoyable as the leads, but are never gripping.  The supporting characters feel photocopied from other shows complete with stereotypes of sibling relationships.  The lead cop who investigates the family (played by “24’s” Carlos Bernard) comes across as an annoyance rather than an adversary.   The show has an intriguing premise: the West family, known for their law skirting ways, must suddenly cope with a surprisingly long sentence for the patriarch, Wolf (Elliott).  No one in the family is surprised he’s going to jail, but no one expects him to go away for five years either.

Scoundrels Cast Photo

SCOUNDRELS CAST : PATRICK FLUEGER, VANESSA MARANO, PATRICK FLUEGER, VIRGINIA MADSEN, DAVID JAMES ELLIOTT, LEVEN RAMBIN PHOTO : (ABC/BOB D’AMICO)

The pilot should be about how the West family copes with a father who is put away for a long time, and how they will make decisions without him around.  Instead, the pilot focuses on Cal, the less intelligent and more criminal of the two twin brothers  who has gotten himself mixed up in a home invasion gone bad.  Madsen’s Cheryl, who must fill the gap left by her husband as he his shipped off to prison, decides it’s time for the family to “go straight.”  This is what the show wants to be about, exploring whether the family is capable of this kind of change, but Cheryl’s decision is made in the last five minutes of the show.

It makes one wonder why Cheryl is only now taking control, when she appears to have had ample opportunity to set the course for the before now.  This is clearly not Wolf West’s first time in the joint – he’s a career criminal, even if it is mostly petty crimes (the family does have a “Code,” after all).   Are we to believe that Wolf’s longer sentence is the first time Cheryl is forced to make big decisions about the family?  If Cheryl is so strong, why would she cede her authority to a husband who has been in and out of prison so much?  She’s been an enabler for so long, it strains credulity to not only have her step forward in such a prominent way now, but that her family will even listen to her.  If Dad has been the provider and the decision maker all along, why are they suddenly going to listen to Mom?

Most disappointing was that this is a show about family that seems to care more about the individual characters than about the relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children.  There are so few shows on the air that really explore family dynamics that the premise of “Scoundrels” and the characters feel like a much needed oasis from the dark, gritty crime shows, the melodramatic soap operas and the light as meringue comedic fare.  I found myself rooting for the show, even with its tepid, silly subplots, so much did I want it to succeed where other shows about family have failed.

Perhaps future episodes will hone in on the stories that matter, and help us understand these characters better – they seem like sketches right now.  Part of me wants the show to succeed – Virginia Madsen is so appealing you can’t help but want her to thrive in the TV playground.  Unfortunately, this may not be the vehicle she needs to experience the kind of success other actresses have found away from feature films.  She deserves better, and so do we. 

“Scoundrels,” premieres June 20 at 9 PM on ABC.

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