Published on: September 27, 2019
I've been looking forward to "Stumptown," the new ABC TV series that debuted this week, and I wasn't disappointed by the tightly written and directed premiere.
Now, I'm a sucker for TV cop shows. Always have been, since I was a kid. "Mannix." "Spenser: For Hire." "Magnum, PI" (the original). "The Rockford Files." "Columbo." "Longmire." "Castle." "Banacek." "Harry O." "Bosch." Even lesser efforts like "BL Stryker." Just love them. (And I'm sure there are a bunch I'm not remembering to mention.)
Which is why "Stumptown" held so much appeal. Based on a series of graphic novels (with which I am unfamiliar) by Greg Rucka, the series features Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother," Avengers
) as Dex Parios, a former military officer suffering from PTSD, raising her younger brother (who has Down Syndrome), dealing with financial difficulties, a gambling problem and assorted problems in her social life - all of it in Portland, Oregon, which as you all know is one of my favorite cities. She's a mess, and she's irresistible.
This week's pilot episode showed her getting involved in a kidnapping, events that lead to her becoming a private investigator … all of which are infused with sardonic humor and plenty of action, just like so many of those TV cops shows of the past. Smulders is terrific - funny and vulnerable and tough all at the same time, wanting to do the right thing but constantly getting in her own way.
"Stumptown" also gets Portland right, from the first moments of the show when two thugs are shown debating the relative merits of a particular blend of coffee. My biggest problem with the show is that it isn't actually shot in Portland; with the exception of some establishing shots and the usage of green screen technology, it is shot in Los Angeles. I hate that. I like it when shows - especially those that purport to take place in specific places, and have many exterior scenes - are shot in the cities where they take place. One of the best things about "Spenser" was that it was shot in Boston, in the same way that "Magnum" used Hawaii so well, and the first season of "Harry O" was better for taking place in San Diego.
Now, my kids say I'm nuts. "Was 'Star Trek' shot in space?" they say. Fair point. But I'd still be happier if "Stumptown" were shot in Portland so it could take advantage of the local color. Other than that, it is the very model of a made-for-10 pm broadcast television series. I mean that as a compliment.
Not so much, as it happens, for two other TV series I had the chance to watch. "Prodigal Son," which stars Michael Sheen as a serial killer and Tom Payne as his son-turned criminal profiler for the NYPD. Sheen is terrific, as is Lou Diamond Phillips in a supporting role, but the show veers wildly in terms of tone, and there is just too much stuff that isn't funny that they try to make cute, and for me, it just falls flat. And "Bluff City Law," with Jimmy Smits and Caitlin McGee and father-and-daughter attorneys, just doesn't have enough authentic energy and conflict to make it work - it is like a pale imitation of a show I didn't want to watch 20 years ago.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.