I know what you’re thinking. It’s another one of those ‘Give this Show a Shot’ pieces. Backstrom, right? The one with the detective who hates … just about everyone. Do we really need another show with a ‘loveable’ irascible male lead? Didn’t FOX learn anything from Rake? And ok, you may get a guilty giggle about how non-PC it all is, but that’s no basis for a whole hour’s commitment once a week, is it? Maybe you’ll DVR it. Maybe you won’t. What else is airing on Thursday?
What if I told you that you were making a mistake? Not just you, but a whole marketing team in fact? What if the show is not about what you think it’s about? Because, in case you’re in any doubt, that is essentially what I’m telling you.
Backstrom is actually one of the most nuanced, sensitive and smart new dramas on air, but there’s no way you’d know that unless you’ve seen a handful of episodes, and if you’ve been put off by a series of cheeky, un-politically correct promo trailers, then chances are, you never will.
Here then are 5 honest reasons to give this show your time on Thursday.
1. About that mis-advertisement?
I don’t work in marketing, so I won’t pretend to know what goes on during the “How should we sell this?” portion of a TV show’s birth, but I’m guessing subtle, poignant and touching aren’t words you might associate with a show like Backstrom. Perhaps those qualities are not something that can be effectively conveyed in a 30 second promo. In fairness to the team behind the promotion of the show, perhaps they’re not something that should be attempted in a thirty second promo.
For example, how could the final moments of last Thursday’s “Bella” be fully understood without watching through to the end?
The episode saw our ‘irascible male lead’ Everett Backstrom (Rainn Wilson), a guy no one seems to like very much, forced to reveal a series of gritty details about how he was mercilessly bullied as a child. Although most of the incidents are played for laughs, there is an almost certainly deliberate Citizen Kane reference to “Bella” a much-loved childhood item, stolen by the bullies. Who or what is Bella? Not a hand made beaten up sled as it turns out, but a hand made beaten up kite.
Valentine (Thomas Dekker) helps Everett track down Bella, and the final scene sees Backstrom transported back to his childhood and the simple freedom of flying a kite. The scene plays out without words, just the kite, the clear blue sky and the expression of pure childish joy on the face of our lead. Not exactly promo material, but this picture speaks one thousand words.
In a statement given to the press before the release of Citizen Kane waaaay back in January 1941, Orson Welles spoke about Kane’s stolen childhood and the symbolism behind the loss of Rosebud.
“Actually, as it turns out, “Rosebud” is the trade name of a cheap little sled on which Kane was playing on the day he was taken away from his home and his mother,” said Welles. “In his subconscious it represented the simplicity, the comfort, above all the lack of responsibility in his home, and also it stood for his mother’s love which Kane never lost.”
You’re not going to get this level of nuance, depth and drama in a thirty second clip. Do yourself a favour. Go watch the whole episode now.