Several reviews have compared ABC’s new cop show The Unusuals to M*A*S*H, that’s pretty apt–from the quirky characters to the snarky dispatcher voiceover, The Unusuals is clearly a direct descendant of that groundbreaking dramedy.
While I don’t think anyone expects The Unusuals to come anywhere near M*A*S*H‘s decade-plus run (based on initial ratings, it may not last this season), my question is whether it can grow beyond the pilot. Many pilots struggle like they’re marching through quicksand, trying to establish characters and settings. The Unusuals is more fun than that, setting up a wacky NYC (where not everyone is white! Clutch your pearls, people) and an amusing set of characters. But this pilot also feels like it burns through a lot of character revelations in a short time, and it makes us wonder what hey have left to reveal from week to week. In just the first half hour, we meet characters who are trust fund babies choosing to pursue vice detective careers (an always welcome Amber Tamblyn), police officers so paranoid they sleep in a bulletproof vest (Harold Perrinieau), and the boring guy–he’s just dying of a brain tumor and might be the pivot for some magical realism (Adam Goldberg). Oh, and then there’s the guy whose partner is killed (Jeremy Renner). He sleeps in the back of the diner he runs off hours (where he makes the aforementioned Skittles reduction when he runs out of fruit). Also, he used to be a professional baseball player. But he’s just one of the guys now.
They were a fun group to spend an hour with, and with the murder of the bad-cop-who-wasn’t-all-bad behind us the show might be able to turn to cases as unusual as the characters (such as the serial cat killer who wanders the city wearing suspicious gloves). The Unusuals is worth checking out a second week, but it remains to be seen whether the show has burned through all its charm. Using the photocopier-as-lie-detector gag Homicide perfected years ago isn’t promising. Adam Goldberg cheating death is. Wednesdays at 10pm Eastern and Pacific on ABC.