First Impressions


Aired on: FOX

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


           Promos for the new crime dramedy airing on FOX network really didn't grab me.  What I saw in Backstrom was House meets Columbo - a cynical, smart-mouthed, disheveled detective that, despite his appearances, is highly capable of solving crimes.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it.  Friends couldn't wait for the series premiere.  I decided I would check out the first episode of Backstrom to air at 9pm EST on January 22, 2015.

Based on a Swedish book series by Leif G.W. Persson, Backstrom stars Rainn Wilson as Everett Backstrom, an overweight, slovenly, offensive police detective.  Backstrom has been assigned to the traffic division, not because he isn't good at solving crime, but thanks to offensive comments during a press conference.  He has recently been reassigned to the Special Crimes unit in hopes that his ability to somehow get into people's heads will bring him back to his former greatness.

His partners in this unit aren't so certain.  Detective Nicole Gravely (Genevieve Angelson) is a former Vice Cop who is new to solving murders.  Though Backstrom's second in command, Gravely finds herself with the unenviable job of keeping him in line.  Detective John Almond (Dennis Haysbert) is a religious man who is somehow able to overlook Backstrom's approach in favor of the results.  Officer Frank Moto (Page Kennedy) is a former MMA fighter.  The muscles of the group, Moto has a lot to prove regarding his crime solving abilities.  Sgt. Peter Niedermayer (Kristoffer Polaha) is the unit's Forensics liaison and a huge fan of Backstrom's work, much to Backstrom's chagrin.  Nadia Paquet (Beatrice Rosen) is a civilian who works in the support section of the unit and somehow sees through Backstrom's overly-aggressive, slovenly cover.

In the pilot episode, we learn that Backstrom is hoping to use the Special Crimes unit to get back to Homicide, his one true passion.  But everyone, including his son and criminal underworld connection, Gregory (Thomas Dekker), realizes that being in this unit may be the one thing that keeps Backstrom from killing himself.  It's not that Backstrom would actually commit suicide by eating his gun.  It's his destructive nature when it comes to his eating habits, drinking, smoking and his loner lifestyle that are cause for great concern.  His doctor warns him that his self-destructive attitude towards his health may prevent him from keeping his job, but as Gregory points out, it's the job that's keeping him alive.

Backstrom's first big case in the Special Crimes unit is the murder of a prominent Senator's son made to look like a suicide.  It is here that we see the House meets Columbo factor.  By getting into the heads of each and every individual related with the victim, including the victim himself, Backstrom is able to piece together what happened to the young man.  And his team helps him every step of the way, figuring out the forensic clues and gathering evidence to support Backstrom's theories...and cleaning up the mess whenever Backstrom's offensive attitude gets in the way.

While I found the show to be a bit over the top when it came to Backstrom's crime solving skills, the fact of the matter is that I kept watching.  For some reason, I was fascinated by the show, unable to take my eyes from the screen.  I'm not sure what it is.  Could it be the complete departure from Rainn Wilson's former character of Dwight on The Office?  Or perhaps it's simply the shock value of wondering just what is going to come out of Detective Backstrom's mouth next that keeps one glued to the screen.  Wilson is excellent in his role, that's for sure and the supporting cast is equally enjoyable.  I still can't believe that much of the writing in the series is even allowed on television.  I remember a time that was so P.C., the utterance of the word "God" was bleeped out of movies and television series.  Nowadays, anything goes and Backstrom doesn't pull any punches.  In the first episode alone, he manages to insult Hindus, blacks, gays, Native Americans, women in general and more. 

I don't know just what it is about this new crime show on FOX, but I find that I want to watch more.  So count me in among eight million other viewers when I say that I'm going to give this series a chance and check out the next episode of Backstrom.  I don't know how much longer the series will last, but it's bound to be a fun ride while it does.


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