Farewell to ‘The Unusuals’

Last night ABC aired the final episode of The Unusuals, a midseason replacement they had high hopes for but the ratings weren’t there and the series became a One Season Wonder.

Deb and I came late the series, along with the other new cop show Southland, thanks to the miracle of the DVR. As a result, we watched both at the same time, adjusting to the tones and new sets of characters. In the end, we found ourselves preferring the canceled series over the one coming back next year (although being placed opposite Ugly Betty and Dollhouse means there’s no way to record all three).

The Unusuals is just another example of something quirky, fresh, and different failing while something tried and true and far more somber succeeded. Coming from producer John Wells, Southland is very much in the ER mold of flawed, depressing characters that have little beyond their jobs.  It’s got a feature film look and feel and while the performances and characters are solid, none are truly original or breakout interesting. The complications in their lives are fine, but nothing compelling. The cases they cover, both the uniformed officers and the detectives, are somewhat mundane with the freshest angle being the frustration from the cops over the hierarchy’s favoritism for the rich and elite over the rest of Los Angeles.

On the other hand, the cops at the NYC precinct are a collection bordering on the caricature side but also more likely to be truer to life. The POV character, Casey Shraeger is played by Amber Tamblyn who is in her mid-20s but still has a babyface so sometimes it’s hard to take her gravitas seriously. But she’s paired with Jeremy Renner who has a world-weary look to his face and his experience balances her out. Each set of detective partners is unique in its own way with visually unusual pairings and everyone has issues. There’s the broke cop, the safety freak, the guy denying his brain tumor, and so on. Some of the personal storylines were too far-fetched, notably the cop who reinvented himself in NY after being a convicted criminal in Texas. Still, there are terrific, tender moments for most of the cast and those in relationships actually seem to be happy with one another. Some of the cases are laugh out loud silly but also fresh and different which one wants after watching cop shows the last four decades.

Last night’s series finale was actually very touching on several levels with one case providing contrasting comic relief. A great balance and as the credits rolled, we felt sad to see them go after just 10 episodes.

Still, the tried and true won out once more over the daring and different. There’s nothing wrong with Southland, really, and were we to watch more next fall, we’d be entertained. But if it were canceled today, we wouldn’t have that same feeling.

One comment

  • Never caught The Unusuals (trying to cut back on TV though a DVR is actually making it harder rather than easier) but of the two it was definitely the one that I would’ve liked to have seen. Unfortunately, Southland was already off to a bad start with it’s logo (SouthLAnd, South LA, get it?. After Pushing Daisies, it doesn’t surprise me that networks are choosing tried and true versus quirky and innovative. Sad but true.

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