David Simon’s Afterbirth
by ALEX CARNEVALE
creators Eric Overmyer & Michael Connelly
Were you potentially interested in a show that is a lot like The Wire, but you know, not? Amazon Studios’ ten episode series Bosch, based on the character from Michael Connelly’s mediocre novels, gruffly enters the scene. A white man made us and shall save us.
The highest art made from the lowest original source material is a ticklish subject. I guess the right answer would be Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox? This rarely comes up; truly bad books are rarely made into magnificent anything. Bosch is nowhere near magnificent, but simply through Eric Overmyer’s involvement, it becomes a major improvement on the novels about the too often fictionalized Los Angeles area.
Hieronymous Bosch (Lost‘s Titus Welliver) is one hell of a homicide detective. I mean, he allows a serial killer to nearly escape from his clutches, spends two months trying to solve a decades old cold case for no reason, causes a suicide and two other deaths, shoots an unarmed man who he says is a killer, and consumates a relationship with a junior officer in his department (Annie Wershing). Besides that, the man is a damn genius.
Bosch is also a terrible father. His ex-wife is a retired FBI profiler who lives in Las Vegas and competes against whales in high stakes poker. Her new husband is every bit the father Bosch does not want to be, because our detective has “cases.” He actually only has one case for most of Bosch, and it takes him forever to solve it. Vegas is only a few hours away, but he never goes there.
Bosch’s superior is Deputy Chief Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick), who is basically reprising his exact role from Overmyer’s The Wire for no reason I can discern. Reddick’s low voice is his signature. Emoting and bringing vibracy to an underwritten scene is not really his signature. There is one moment where Reddick talks to a prosecutor while both sit in cars that happens on all of Overmyer’s shows, because it is the kind of thing that occurs in real life, and Overmyer loves stuff like that. But here the tête-à-auto accomplishes the opposite effect — it makes everything seem fake.
The thing that was actually good about The Wire was not the writing or the performances — both varied greatly in quality. What made the show different was that every scene had consequences, unfolding the butterfly effect through bleak streets and inside quiet homes.
Bosch’s house, which he supposedly bought from the proceeds of a movie adapted from one of his cases, is completely open to the world. Massive windows look out on the metropolis below. (Bosch’s daughter has never even been there.) His girlfriend is not invited to this inner sanctum at any time, but she shows up unexpectedly and Bosch begrudgingly invites her in. What would she want to do with this monster?
In order to make someone so devastatingly banal sympathetic, Connelly has created a detailed backstory that involves Bosch’s mother being a prostitute who was murdered, and him being raised in an abusive Catholic orphanage. It turns out the serial murderer (Jason Gedrick) came through that same orphanage, where a dark room with a soiled mattress isolated the most disrespectful boys.
Because we see no actual evidence of how this impacts who Bosch is, the context feels fake. Everything around Bosch is actually more fascinating and vibrant than he is: a lesbian police captain (Amy Aquino) with a child, a repressed homosexual serial killer, Bosch’s divorced African-American partner (The Wire‘s brilliant Jamie Hector), his rookie love interest who has her growing pains, his sympathetic but hard-nosed ex-wife (24‘s Sarah Clarke). All these characters get plenty of screen time, as Overmyer smartly emphasizes the ensemble.
But the focus is too often on Bosch himself. Welliver tries his best to imbue the thankless role with a brusque charm, but he fails partly because he is never given anything to do. He has one costume change in the entire run of the show. (He takes his shirt off once to have sex.) He never moves quickly or decides something at once — from all appearances the only thing he is any good at is drinking and smoking.
Nobody watched Treme, even though it was the best musical by far that has ever been created. It was also hard to follow without detailed notes. Overmyer takes Bosch in a much simpler direction: instead of a thousand storylines, we get one procedural stretched over an entire season of episodes. The plotline of Bosch would have been wrapped up in mere minutes by any other detective. I understand the idea of following a single character over the expense of a large group makes television easier to follow and understand, but airing as it is on Amazon Prime, Bosch did not need to appeal to that audience.
As long as Bosch waited to become a show, and as much as it cost Connelly personally to buy the rights back from Paramount, did we really need another white cop who doesn’t follow the rules, unless he is portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal?
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
“Lovit” – Marian Hill (mp3)
“Wasted” – Marian Hill (mp3)
The new album from Marian Hill is entitled Sway and it was released on February 17th.