It might have been easy to classify The Glades
in the dime-a-dozen category of quirky, dramedic cop shows about a fish-out-of-water detective cracking cases against a glossy South Florida backdrop, especially given that the show turned up on the A&E network. But The Glades
has turned out to be a consistently charming, well-scripted, and excellently cast anomaly in the world of police procedurals by placing its emphasis on fun and funny, with an assortment of likable characters who are genuinely pleasant to spend time with. The setup has disgraced Chicago cop Jim Longworth landing feet first with a bemused attitude on the homicide squad of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE, a.k.a. State Police). Show creator Clifton Campbell chose a fictional setting called Palm Glades, where the glaring sunshine covers locations that range from places that resemble the swankest haunts of Miami Beach to the dankest hearts of Everglade swamps. Longworth is drawn with impeccable guile by the charming Australian actor Matt Passmore, who comes off as all-American through and through, with his twinkling eyes, cavernous dimples, and a pervading aura of irresistible cuteness and devilish charm. Passmore makes the show, but he gets plenty of help from a writing team that always gives him a quick quip and clever wink to match the sharp mind that caps his expert case-solving skills. The ensemble around him also gives the show much of its appeal, especially Kiele Sanchez as Callie, a local nurse and single mom who trades sparks with Jim while her husband is in the slammer. Neither one can really decide what they want their relationship to be (until the season finale, that is). Sanchez is enormously engaging, with a wit that matches Passmore's, and their scenes together have the breezy flow of improv as they bounce ripostes, endearments, sarcastic asides, and cautious flirtations against each other in a dance of comic sexual tension. Other regulars who add to the personal and professional camaraderie are Carlos Gómez as the medical examiner and Jim's foil/friend, Jordan Wall as a geeky, brilliant forensics intern, and Michelle Hurd as the homicide lieutenant who may be exasperated with Jim's playful manner, but appreciates his way of getting the job done.
The 13 episodes in this season-one set all follow pretty much the same formula. A body is discovered in some exotic location in the first scene, usually carrying signs of a grisly demise. They end with Jim tidily solving the puzzle for us and explaining his process to the killer in a denouement that also has a posse of FDLE backup poised to swoop in and snap on the cuffs (shades of Columbo). What keeps the stories from falling into the humdrum of mundane TV-ness is the terrific chemistry of the cast and plot arcs that hew to themes of Floridian lore, but always with a playful sense of spice. Episodes involve things like golf, alligators, golf, manatees, hurricanes, golf, NASA, treasure hunting, prostitution, smuggling, and golf. (Jim likes spending time on the links almost as much as he does chatting up babes and solving nice juicy murders.) There are limited special features in the DVD set, but the selected commentaries add some extra color, as do the ubiquitous deleted scenes and a couple of on-set documentaries about the casting process and the importance of the show's varied uses of the locations available in Florida's big, hot backyard. In all, The Glades is a top-tier cop show from a lower-tier cable network, as satisfying as a powerful drive down a sun-drenched fairway. --Ted Fry