Amazon’s “Bosch” Is Good, Not Great, And That’s Okay

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    I’d have agreed with the sentiment here about ten years ago. But scripted, serialized, story-arced TV has gotten so very, very good that we don’t need to settle for “pretty good” anymore. We live in the era of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Americans, House of Cards. And if you’re like me (and I know I am) then you have only so much time to dedicate to media consumption in the first place. So an Epicurean approach makes a whole lot of sense.

    Which is why I think we should review more movies and TV shows and new music and books ’round these parts. Help our readership sort out where to focus their attention because not only is there a whole lot of really good media out there to consume, there’s also just a whole lot of media there. Sifting through the chaff is a helpful thing to do.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq
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    The most original detective series on right now is Canada’s Murdoch Mysteries. It takes place in late 19th and early 20th century Toronto and Canada. The protagonist is scientific and analytically minded, basically a porto-nerd, devote Catholic named William Murdoch. His love interest is a woman his own age, a doctor and feminist named Julianne Ogden. The love each other and get along well but the differences in the world view between the devote Catholic Murdoch and the progressive feminist Julianne do come into play at times. As I mentioned above, the show takes place in the late 19th and early 20th century and most of the characters believe and act appropriately for the times while still being sympathetic to us. In episodes where sex as well as murder come into the plot, our hero expresses opinions on things like pornography that are in line with Catholic teachings on the subject. His love interests takes a more modern seeming view.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
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      “basically a porto-nerd”

      I gotta get one of those. My nerd just sits around on the couch all the time. Very difficult to move.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq
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      Sounds interesting. What outlet releases this? Seems like a BBC America kind of thing.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        You can watch several seasons streaming on Netflix. If you pay a small monthly premium, you can subscribe to Acorn TV on youtube and watch the first seven seasons on there. PBS aired it years ago along with Acorn TV’s other offerings.

        Its really one of the best historical dramas I’ve seen. They do their best to show that people in the 1890s really did act and think differently than people in the present but at the same time present them as likeable. The relationship problems between a devote Catholic like Murdoch and a very forward thinking, for the late Victorian Era, woman like Ogden is realistic portrayed.Report

  3. Avatar Will Truman
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    Sam, have you read any of the Bosch books? I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who hasn’t in part for the reasons you describe.

    I agree with your review, though it is at least in the minority of cop shows by virtue of the fact that it is a mystery (and an action chase) over a season rather a mystery an episode (L&O) or an ongoing interweaving (NYPD Blue). I agree that there’s virtually nothing original about the characters,though.Report

  4. Avatar j r
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    Agree that Bosch is a serviceable crime drama, but like @burt-likko says, I’m not sure it’s worth the opportunity cost for me. It is very well-shot and the plot has potential (I’ve only seen the first episode), so I may return to it in the future. There are, however, a couple of things that really bother me and may keep me away; although maybe they get better in following episodes.

    One, there is an awful lot of exposition by dialogue. I almost expected one of the other characters to turn to the camera and say “Bosch is a complicated man and no one understands him…” It’s not hard to just let the characters do what they do and let us learn about them over time, which I find is what the shows that I enjoy the most do. This is the same problem that I have with Damages, of which I made it through a few episodes before giving up. The whole premise of that show is that the Glenn Close is this incredible lawyer and that working for her is an opportunity that you cannot turn down. And yet, watching the show, you can’t really figure out what makes her and her firm so special, other than the fact that characters keep saying it.

    Also, the particular ways that the show uses to show that Bosch plays by his own rules don’t come across so well. There is one scene in the first episode where he gets a to a murder scene before the crime scene folks, moves the body and starts poking around it. In 2015, that sort of thing doesn’t signal maverick; it signals bad policing. This is LA. Didn’t these guys pay attention to the OJ trial? One of the things that I most enjoy about The Wire is the way that it goes out if its way to show that competent policing is grounded in procedural competence, not in opposition to it. There is that really great scene in Season 1 where McNulty and Bunk rework an old murder scene in a kitchen. The Wire shows policing and investigating as a professional endeavor and the shitty cops are the ones who eschew that professionalism either because they are lazy or corrupt. In the first episode, Bosch comes across a lot like first season Pryzblewski.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
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      I agree about the exposition. They really should have had more faith in gradual revelation. I think the “moving stuff around” was more about moving the plot than the maverick signalling, though.Report

    • Avatar James Pearce in reply to j r
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      “This is LA. Didn’t these guys pay attention to the OJ trial?”

      I wish they had. Bosch, to me, has always been a character through which to view Los Angeles in the 90s. OJ and the riots and all the big media trials inform the books thematically, but from what I saw (and I’m only a couple episodes in) they’re absent in the series.

      Also, I’m not sure if I should finish the thing if this is the case:

      “Bosch plays by his own rules”

      Bosch is nothing if not scrupulous. Not sure I really want to see him turn into an anti-hero. Competence? Bosch always does his due diligence. Everyone counts, or no one does. Basically, if Bosch is working your case, your murder book is going to be thick.

      And it still bugs me that he’s an Afghanistan vet. Wars are not interchangeable. Vietnam left its mark on Bosch, left him a little jaded and comfortable feeling unappreciated. Afghanistan changes that whole dynamic. I mean, I get it…he’s a vet. He’s seen things. But it should be a little more inglorious.Report

  5. Avatar Shelley
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    The best of crime genre remains, for me, the BBC (not the terrible U.S.) Life on Mars, followed by Ashes to Ashes. Character, dialogue, metaphysics.Report

  6. Avatar aaron david
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    I enjoyed it. I generally don’t watch TV, because in general I can’t suspend disbelief in the ways that it asks me to. Bosch didn’t ask me to suspend in those ways. It isn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. I had read the early Connelly books, and enjoyed them. This worked well with them.

    My wife and I have dipped our toes into Transparent and while we feel that Tambor is phenomenal in it, the characters of the children (not the actors, they are quite good) are so deeply shitty that I cannot take too much of them. One of my mothers cousins is trans, and as Maura transitions I see many similarities with Lucy.Report

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