Saturday, 8 February 2014

Pilot review: Amazon's BOSCH

Saturday, 8 February 2014
written by Michael Connelly & Eric Overmyer (based on characters and novels created by Michael Connelly) | directed by Jim McKay

I've never even heard of author Michael Connelly's LAPD detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch (Titus Welliver), who's starred in 17 novels since his 1992 debut The Black Echo. I doubt I'm alone, but unfamiliarity with the source material shouldn't impede enjoyment of Amazon's gritty pilot, BOSCH, which finally brought the character to life after Connelly regained the rights a few years ago.

Without any knowledge of Bosch's literary adventures (although I'm aware this pilot mixed in elements from City of Bones and The Concrete Blonde), I viewed this episode on its own merits. My general apathy towards crime procedurals is well-known, but I was pleased Bosch overcame some of my issues with the genre. The biggest boon is the casting of Welliver; an actor who commands the screen with quiet authority, finally given a leading role after memorable appearances on the likes of Lost and The Good Wife. This show's success rests squarely on his shoulders, and Welliver rises to the challenges without being showy about it.

Like many TV dramas adapted from novels, they appear to more fully-formed and meticulously researched. One of the best scenes of the pilot was a "science moment" where a child's bone was forensically examined and used to deduce a history of appalling physical abuse the owner endured. I also liked the duality of the story: as Bosch is being investigated by Internal Affairs, and appearing in court charged with shooting an unarmed suspect in cold blood. This will presumably be an ongoing concern if Amazon commission more episodes, and despite witnessing the event in question it's unclear if Bosch was in the right or wrong. Naturally there's case that Bosch is working simultaneously, when a dog discovers the aforementioned bone and kick-starts a murder enquiry. It's just the thing to keep a workaholic like Bosch busy out of court.

Connelly himself is a key creative voice behind this adaptation of his work, so fans can be assured it will deliver a faithful interpretation. For non-fans like myself, it helps that a writer-producer who worked on The Wire and Treme is involved (showrunner Eric Overmyer), and there are familiar faces from The Wire in Jamie Hector (as Bosch's partner Jerry) and Lance Reddick (as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving). There's little reason to believe Bosch is going to put a foot wrong, so it all depends on how many people are keen to see this prickly, sensitive, detective continue his investigation. Are the bookworms numerous enough to get behind Bosch and make Amazon commit to making more? You'd think so, being an online book retailer—which may have been part of the thinking behind this pilot's existence.

I'd certainly like to sample a few more episodes, even if this isn't usually the kind of thing I enjoy watching—without something more original and memorable involved in the premise or lead character. As it stands right now, Bosch is a decent drama pilot with promise because of its creative pedigree and Titus Welliver's jazz-loving lonely sleuth, but I'm at the mercy of Connelly's readers regarding its long-term potential—similarly to how things sat back when Game of Thrones began on HBO. There's a divide between the newbies and the bookworms, but Bosch certainly didn't do too much wrong in this opening hour.

Available to stream NOW on Amazon Instant (North America) and LOVEFiLM (Europe).