ABC’s newest drama, SECRETS AND LIES, is based on the Australian miniseries of the same name. A man finds a boy’s body in the woods, and he soon finds himself the prime suspect in the kid’s murder, despite his insistence that he’s innocent. As friends and neighbors turn against him, can he clear his name and save his family?
First, it should be said that it is ridiculous how America finds the need to remake English-language series instead of just buying and airing the original versions, as is done in other countries. Secrets And Lies marks the third prime-time broadcast network drama this complaint applies to in this single television season, the first two being Gracepoint (copied from Broadchurch) and The Slap. At least this one doesn’t have any actors reprising their same roles, thus seems a little less repetitive.
When the U.S. remakes these shows, they almost always make an inferior, watered down product, often because the series is stretched out to more episodes, Americans not being used to limited series like other countries get. In this case, Secrets And Lies has been expanded from six hours to ten. But I have not seen the Australian version, so unlike with Gracepoint, I cannot lament over how American studios screwed up the program. Instead, I am judging this drama on its own merits, which, if not great, are surprisingly not terrible.
Secrets And Lies is a less complex version of The Killing, or a remake of Desperate Housewives with fewer characters and lacking humor. It does have some major plot holes, such as why the entire town turns against its protagonist before there’s any reason to, especially in a scene where he gets into the front seat of a police car. The DNA of the show, though, is a familiar case of a detective investigating locals, and thankfully the case will span the season, rather than be resolved in a single hour.
The lead investigator in Secrets & Lies is Detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis, The Firm TV series, Natural Born Killers), who is unfortunately the worst character in the first episode. She lacks any discernable emotion, other than supreme judginess, and has already made up her mind about the case before she sees any evidence. Her suspect, Ben Garner (Ryan Phillippe, Damages, Cruel Intentions), does have some holes in his story worth looking into, but he’s certainly not an obvious murderer, at least not right away.
Ben’s family is a central part of the tale, too. He is having problems with his wife, Christy (KaDee Strickland, Private Practice), and not just financial ones, though those are present and quickly worsen. His best friend, Dave (Dan Fogler, Man Up), is immature and crashes with them. His eldest daughter, Natalie (Indiana Evans, Home and Away), was the babysitter of the dead kid, and is being attacked by her friends for what her father is accused of doing. His younger daughter, Abby (Belle Shouse, Summer’s Shadow), may be the only one not turning against him, yet anyway.
Rounding out the cast is the deceased’s mother, neighbor Jess Mullen (Natalie Martinez, Under the Dome), who of course has some secrets of her own.
This is not a very original premise, and so my expectations were quite low going into episode one. Perhaps that’s why I ended up liking it, at least somewhat. It is far from the smartest show on television, but it has a solid cast of performers who handle the plot pretty well. Even where there are holes, they are smaller than in most of the recent premieres I’ve seen in the lack couple of years, and I’m drawn into Ben’s situation, sympathetic to his plight. There are a few surprises that don’t wholly feel like surprises, but there could be something here.
Of course, once we get to the middle of the season and the story has to tread water or add unnecessary subplots because Secrets And Lies seeks to fill more than the six hours it is based on, that opinion could quickly change, so I’ll take it week by week for now, rather than committing to the season pass. Still, this could be something, especially in the currently weak broadcast field.
SECRETS AND LIES premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It’s All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.