TV review: Fox's new series "Backstrom" is hardly original

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Fox’s new crime procedural, starring Rainn Wilson as the titular homicide detective, is best described as “House M.D.” with a badge. Wilson’s Backstrom is misanthropic, riddled with health problems/vices. Simply put, he’s a debasing jerk who craps on everyone around him. And fulfilling the typical vocational irony narrative, he’s amazing at his job of solving murders.

Each of the first three episodes of “Backstrom” is a straightforward narrative: Someone is killed and Backstrom figures out whodunit while alienating and insulting his co-workers. Throw in a handful of moments where Backstrom lets his ego/guard down or recognizes the efforts of his fellow officers and, again, the series feels a lot like Fox’s popular medical drama starring Hugh Laurie.

It might be pointless to rail against redundancy because going the safe, been-there-done-that route is what network television is all about; but there are reasons why “Backstrom’s” unoriginality is disappointing.

“Backstrom” has a deep-bench cast of capable actors to go along with a solid performance by Wilson, despite the character being fairly rote. Joined by Dennis Haysbert (“24” and insurance commercials), Page Kennedy (U-Turn from “Weeds”), Genevieve Angelson and Beatrice Rosen as fellow crime solvers, and Thomas Dekker as Backstrom’s only buddy, there’s some talent here. And again, Wilson is pretty good in a typical a-hole anti-hero role.

I can see an audience for “Backstom,” as it makes enough tweaks to the crime procedural while maintaining the status quo fans of the genre are suckers for. I just won’t be part of it, unless the writers produce a more original narrative that incorporates more interesting serialized elements. Whether or not Backstrom will get fired and/or build actual relationships aren’t enough to keep me invested over a full season.

But if you’re a glutton for crime/murder/detective procedurals — especially those centered on eccentric cynical detectives — “Backstrom” will surely meet your requirements.

Photo courtesy of Fox

"Backstrom"

9 p.m. Thursdays on Fox

2 stars