I find that I’ve come to be pretty cynical when it comes to the quality of most new hour-long shows of the crime drama variety that air on the networks.
Most of the time, I find that the characters are cardboard and they deliver some of the most bla, or even silly-sounding, dialogue possible.
I decided to give the new ABC crime drama “Stumptown” about a female private investigator a try, but I was expecting it to be lame enough that I wouldn’t even get through the pilot episode.
And while it didn’t totally blow me away by any means, it was definitely a much more entertaining forty-three minutes than I was expecting.
The show centers around a woman named Dex. She’s an ex-marine who likes to gamble and drink. She has a complicated past and suffers from PTSD. And she decides to become a private investigator.
Honestly, I thought all this sounded a bit cliché on the surface. Like Jessica Jones (bleck, I’m not a Jessica Jones fan…), even down to the P.I. part.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing complex female characters in TV and movies. But I think the b-a thing can be kind of a cliché, like how hardboiled can we make this chick?
That’s what I thought this show would be, from the premise. But I think the pilot did a really good job of balancing this woman’s toughness with an actual personality, wit, and a heart.
She’s somewhat funny (and not just by insulting people or being rude), and she takes care of her brother with Down Syndrome.
The brother, I think, is a real highlight of this show. Dex loves him, and though she’s fairly imperfect in taking care of him, the relationship really humanizes her and keeps the character from falling into that cliché of hard-core-ness that I was expecting it to be.
(Plus, I am definitely all for any show that tells the world, oh look, people with Down Syndrome are people! No need to encourage their termination in the womb!)
Stumptown’s moral issues
The most notable potential problem in the moral arena here is that this woman is known to have one-night stands.
In the pilot, she sleeps with someone she barely knows (one more mark for the cliché column, unfortunately…). But on the positive side, almost nothing of it is shown onscreen. Comments from a friend imply that she does this pretty frequently, so hopefully further episodes don’t tend toward overly-sexualized material.
Beyond that, there’s some violence but nothing too intense.
I’ll be watching this one
I’m not ready to say I love this show by any means, but it was definitely better than I was expecting.
I think, so far, they’ve taken material that could have been pretty so-so, and they made it fairly good. I’m interested to see if it gets better than good, or if it falls down to the level of your everyday cliché.