- Shraeger: "Hefties. I swear if you took all the time that men wasted thinking about the female breast throughout history, there'd only be enough time to read a magazine."
- Walsh: "You mean like Jugs or Maxim?"
Same old, same old with the big television networks. Put on a promising show, cancel a promising show. ABC's appallingly short-lived THE UNUSUALS is the latest victim to fall prey to the arsebackward peccadillos of these program directors. Ten episodes are all we get, with plot threads hanging unresolved all over the place. Sad.
THE UNUSUALS takes up where LIFE left off, in terms of offbeat characters embedded in an intriguing police procedural. New York City detectives Casey Shraeger and Jason Walsh are our early eyes and ears to what makes this series tick, and it's Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn) towards whom we naturally gravitate as she's the newbie in the lot, what with her having just two seconds ago been reassigned from Vice to the 2nd Precinct Homicide Division. Shraeger is instantly thrown in the deep end, her new unit tapped to look into the murder of a very flawed police detective who turns out to be the old partner of Jason Walsh (Jeremy Renner), who is now Shraeger's new partner. But it's always perilous poking into a hornet's nest, and, o jaded us, it's not startling at all that Shraeger would inevitably catch a whiff of police corruption. One smug perp actually passes judgment on the 2nd Squad, mocking it as "Chaotic. Disorganized. Too much personality. Not enough discipline." He should've added "dysfunctional."
- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, this is Dispatch reminding you that handcuffs are for official police business only."
Part of what makes this show so addictive is that all the characters seem to be nursing a secret or harboring a quirk. One detective constantly refers to himself in the third person (no one much likes this guy). Another officer is so easily spooked he sleeps with his bullet-proof vest. Amusingly, his partner tends to be so very reckless, and the episodes mine this odd couple dichotomy for tons of giggles. There's the former bad boy who found religion. And the former professional baseball player. Shraeger herself, we learn right away, is a closet Park Avenue princess with a mean trust fund. Shraeger just wants to fit in, doesn't want preferential treatment. She doesn't inform anyone she's posh. Secrets are part and parcel of the make-up of this homicide squad. As Walsh asks Shraeger:" How can you trust someone who doesn't have secrets?" I even got to wondering about the police dispatcher whose no-nonsense yet frequently hilarious on-radio communiques contribute yet one more offbeat color. I can't decide which of her broadcasts I like most.
- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, be advised: Female trapped in a port-a-potty in East River Park. This perfectly summarizes my last relationship."
Amber Tamblyn and Jeremy Renner head up a fabulous cast which also includes the always memorable Adam Goldberg. THE UNUSUALS is seedy and gritty and funny and full of great character moments and that sense of easy camaraderie. There's a smattering of romance. It's certainly dramatically compelling. I don't know if the cases by themselves are interesting or if they're made interesting because it's these oddball detectives investigating them. The murder store ("One Man Band"). The brown bag pornographer whose film sets are residences of unwitting homeowners ("The E.I.D."). "The Dentist" borrows a plot device from REAR WINDOW and a classic gag from CODE OF SILENCE, and it features a daring heist which takes place in the 2nd Precinct station. We see a 1313 go down, and that very hilarious Tape Delay maneuver. We learn of the mustache fraternity and the precinct's long-established bartering system of favors.
- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, this is Dispatch. It's a full moon tonight, people, and you know what that means. Anything can happen. Werewolves, succubi, giant robots fighting in the street. Proceed with caution."
THE UNUSUALS - THE COMPLETE SERIES collects all ten episodes and comes in two DVDs. The single bonus feature on disc is "On Set with the THE UNUSUALS" which I guess serves as the Behind-the-Scenes look into the thing. It runs at 5 minutes, 24 seconds. There's also a leaflet insert with very brief synopsis of the episodes. So it's got that going for it. What we're also left with are dangling plot threads. So what happens to Delahoy? Will Cole ever 'fess up to his partner about what he did? Will Banks ever turn 43? And so forth. I realize that the big three networks have to compete now with cable, and that it's ultimately about the bottom line, which is that THE UNUSUALS simply weren't drawing in the sexy Nielsen ratings. But, geez, what ever happened to those days when a network would nurture a fledgling show, give it room to grow and find its audience? Or, hold up... did those days ever exist, really?