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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
TROOPER (BUSTED CBS PILOT)
(written by Aron Eli Coleite; directed by Craig Gillespie; TRT: 41:50)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out? Green Day's cover of "I Fought The Law" serves as its temp opening theme.
The plot in a nutshell: A pair of title cards kick off our adventure, one attributed to Governor Mario Cuomo ("New York State Troopers are the best police force in America."), the other to Trooper K.J. Flaxton ("It isn't all handing out tickets to jerks in Jaguars. That's just icing on the cake.") And with that we meet said trooper (Mira Sorvino), a single mother of three - eldest Olive (Quinn Shephard), youngest Ruby (Lily Pilblad) and son Lee (Timothee Chalamet). She's an unabashed fan of her job, from the uniform to the jurisdiction (homicides, drugs, kidnapping, anything and everything the locals can't handle on their own). Her partner Carlos Coto (Jay Hernandez), a Miami PD transfer, conversely isn't as gung ho about his duties, a facet not aided by her endless braggadocio ("People drive five miles slower when a trooper's on the road, slowing the flow. We call it the big blue tampon.") and tendency to cut him out of interrogations.
Their latest case: a Niagara Falls hotel room is discovered covered in blood but there's no body to be found. Our heroes quickly learn that it belongs to a pair of newlyweds, eventually tracking down the bride, who has no memory of what happened. Ultimately, the usual zigs and zags of the procedural machine prove things are far different than they seem. Meanwhile on the home front, K.J. is unapologetically hard on her kids, literally arresting Ruby for stealing the "for sale" signs from their old home and hiding pieces of Lee's beloved bike until he cleans the gutters. In the end, inspired by parallels in the case to her own life, K.J. must fess up to the fact she doesn't know everything and needs to be more patient with those she cares about.
What works: Sorvino brings an interesting energy to the proceedings as it's rare to see a cop portrayed as a devout superfan of their own job, not to mention a mother so vocal about instilling values in her kids. Said vigor is bottled with a cocksure attitude that would have you believe she's something akin to a trooper whisperer, where clues and leads are there for the taking if you know how to listen to people and read the environment. The irony is of course she's not actually as smart as she thinks, especially on the personal side. While this take isn't particularly revelatory, there's something about how it's all packaged together that's rather likeable.
What doesn't: It's still very much within the confines of your typical procedural fare with its well-worn territory not exactly emboldened by the fact K.J. and Coto are presented as the only ones on the show with functioning brains. Whether it's the local cop practically fleeing the initial scene in terror or the medical examiner's unapologetic ignorance of a distinct mark on a body, no one besides our heroes seems to be able to tie their shoes. Sure there's some unprofessional fun to be had as a result - K.J. brings a suspect to Olive's volleyball game, because according to her, people don't break in interrogation rooms; K.J. likewise fires at another suspect, paperwork be damned, because he's annoying - but it would be nice if the bad guys actually had some teeth.
It also doesn't help that the case-of-the-week proves to be far too on the nose with K.J.'s personal life, providing a flimsy excuse for her to give long-winded speeches about her own life and the mistakes she's made or serving as a source of debate between the optimistic K.J. and the pragmatic Coto. Maybe it's just my lack of criminal experience, but I'm pretty sure the last thing a presumptive murderer wants to hear is how all of this relates to person arresting them. By that same token, the show's momentum frequently hinges on K.J. essentially divining where to look next (example: a random billboard for a cemetery makes her think that's where a murderer went to stash a body), feats which we're told make her a great investigator but just feel like lucky shots in the dark. Then there's odd developments like Olive more or less disappearing after the opening act or K.J.'s recovering addict sister Dakota (Anna Wood) being introduced for no other reason than to have K.J. be about to recount she used to be a rehab social worker later on. At the end of the day...
The bottom line: ...hopefully we'll get to see Sorvino in something else.