Rainn Wilson Stars as Hot Mess 'Backstrom'

By Wiegand, David | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 22, 2015 | Go to article overview

Rainn Wilson Stars as Hot Mess 'Backstrom'


Wiegand, David, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The creator of the new Fox police procedural "Backstrom" was correct last weekend when he told members of the Television Critics Association that one of the show's greatest assets is the likability of its star, Rainn Wilson.

The question, though, is whether audience affection for the former cast member of "The Office" will be enough to counterbalance the less likable aspects of the show, which premieres at 9 tonight.

The show's title should suggest this is another dour Scandinavian detective story repurposed for English-speaking TV audiences because, well, that's what it is. The series is based on a novel by Swedish author Leif G.W. Persson who created the character known as Evert Backstrom.

Mr. Wilson stars as Lt. Everett Backstrom, a grumpy, friendless, obnoxious Portland cop with all kinds of bad personal habits, but, of course, superior crime solving abilities. He drinks, he looks like a pile of old rags, he insults everyone, he believes rules are there to be broken, and his own brand of misanthropy begins with hating himself.

Although not exclusive to Scandinavian crime fiction -- remember "Cracker?" How about "Prime Suspect?"-- the world-hating crime fighter is a familiar type at this point. Handled correctly, he or she engenders a certain affection from audiences. So it is, some of the time, with Everett Backstrom as he goes about solving crimes with the help of an often frustrated team of more stable cops who try to keep Backstrom from self-destructing while grudgingly acknowledging his brilliance.

The cases in the three episodes sent to critics are mostly the kind of stuff dreamed up in a writers' room late at night. A handsome teenager is found hanging from a bridge in the midst of a strangely localized rainstorm-- it's quite sunny in the distance of several shots. The case seems like suicide but of course, isn't. It's murder and drugs are involved. To add to the complications, the boy is the estranged son of a powerful politician.

Arson for profit is at the center of the second episode, and the eventual denouement is pretty hard to believe. A third episode focuses on a troubled missing teenaged girl, a member of a mysterious cult of hoodie-wearing teenagers. …

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