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Angry ‘Backstrom’ in Portland

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

“You were demoted for catching a mass murderer?”

“That, and at the press conference, I sang, one little, two little, three little Indi-“

With that, we are introduced to Lieutenant Everett Backstrom, who is recounting his demotion to his doctor, after catching a white supremacist that murdered several Native Americans. A politically incorrect sarcastic cynic of the highest order, Lt. Backstrom also happens to be one of the best detectives in Portland and the head of their Special Crimes Unit.

With there being so many police procedurals on television today, what makes “Backstrom” different? Based on novels by Leif G. W. Persson and produced by “Bones” creator Hart Hanson, “Backstrom’s” characters make this police procedural standout. The most intriguing part of “Backstrom” is the main character, Lt. Backstrom, played ever so brilliantly by Rainn Wilson (“The Office”). He constantly muddles through the day in a pessimistic manner, having absolutely no filter to his mouth. Stereotypes, insults and insinuations fly out in every conversation he has, and he will bypass standard operating procedure to find the answers to his questions; a warrant doesn’t stop him.

The blunt remarks of Backstrom reflect the character’s bleak past, where mistakes and trauma are everywhere, from a rough childhood, a lasting conflict with his father, a paragon of police service and sense of inadequacy and the need to always be on point. It seems that all of these underlying problems have led Backstrom to a disenfranchisement with those around him, wearing a callous and offensive mask filled with dark humor. You both like and dislike him and want to know the reasons for his harsh behavior.

The rest of the ensemble is just as captivating, most notably Det. Nicole Gravely (Genevieve Angelson), who’s rookie idealism clashes with Backstrom’s scorn. Det. John Almond (Dennis Haysbert) brings veteran experience to balance the team and provides calm and insight. There’s also Officer Frank Moto (Page Kennedy), Sgt. Peter Niedermayer (Kristoffer Polaha), Nadia Paquet (Beatrice Rosen) and Gregory Valentine (Thomas Dekker), who form the rest of Backstrom’s associates, each with their own little quirk. Officer Moto was a former MMA fighter, Sgt. Neidermayer the Forensics liaison, Paquet the French advisor and Valentine, Backstrom’s criminal informant and roommate. All in all, the characters blend well together, amusingly and professionally creating the Special Crimes Unit that centers on a dysfunctional bunch of people.

A weak point of this enterprise is the cases, which can range from somewhat interesting to intriguing. From the homicide of a senator’s son, a serial arsonist, and a murder of a youth pastor at a church, the cases are a bit fascinating, but not standouts of the genre. However, the show’s layering of the clues and the suspects shows promise, which could lead to truly innovative plots later on in the series.

You can view FOX’s “Backstrom” much like the ending image from the pilot; a lone man, wearing an orange poncho and smoking a cigar in the rain, as the people around him all pass by. Backstrom is the lone man trying to stand out, and with its great characters and ideas, it shows great promise.



RECOMMENDED: While “Backstrom” is cut from the same cloth as other police procedurals, its characters make it shine and it has the tremendous potential for growth.