BLOGS

The Unusuals: An Unusually Good Series That Met the Usual Bad End

At this year's Academy Awards, the Iraq War action-drama The Hurt Locker swept most categories, winning six out of nine nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Unfortunately, it didn't win Best Actor, the category in which Jeremy Renner was nominated for his portrayal of an utterly fearless, possibly traumatized bomb technician. His performance was at the center of much of the praise of the film, and while it wasn't enough to beat Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, it remains a key element of the film's success. Now, if only that movie had come out before Renner's cop dramedy The Unusuals aired, the show might have had a chance, but the series was cancelled after only ten episodes, and the last one aired nine days before The Hurt Locker came out in theaters.

While the cover of the Amazon-exclusive DVD set (due out this week) smartly makes it look like the series is all about Jeremy Renner -- and, sadly, like it's a generic action movie -- the series is actually an ensemble show. The Homicide Division of the 2nd Precinct of the NYPD is a collection of misfits, each with their own quirks and foibles, and most of the cases they investigate come from the "Unusuals" pile -- zombie sightings, cat theft, porn break-ins, elderly crime sprees, etc. And although it's mostly a serious cop show, the characters and the storylines provide plenty of laughs over the course of an episode. The detectives are:

- Jason Walsh (Renner) - A mysterious ex-ballplayer, banned from the game, who runs a diner on the side, when he feels like it.
- Casey Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia) - A vice cop with rich parents brought in to inform on the other detectives when one of their own is killed.
- Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau, Lost) - An overly cautious cop afraid of dying at the same age all the men in his family do -- 42. (His current age.)
- Eric Delahoy (Adam Goldberg, Saving Private Ryan) - Recently discovered that he has a brain tumor that is slowly killing him, and is beginning to affect his senses and behavior.
- Henry Cole (Joshua Close) - Born-again Christian who used to run with criminals and robbed an armored car before he changed his name and left Texas.
- Allison Beaumont (Monique Gabriela Curnen) - In addition to having a secret relationship with Walsh, Beaumont seems to have money problems.
- Eddie Alvarez (Kai Lennox) - An egotistical suck-up with a heart of gold and a mustache worth its weight in gold. Slightly naive. Easily fooled. Talks about himself in the third person when bragging.

There's a Sergeant (Terry Kinney, The Mentalist), too, but he doesn't do very much besides assign out cases no one wants and occasionally ask Casey what she's learned about her colleagues. The revelations are trickled out, with Cole's past being one of the first to come back to haunt him in a storyline eerily similar to what happened with Katee Sackhoff's character on 24 this season. There were still plenty of unresolved plot threads at the end of the tenth and final episode, but considering that two of the threads would have ended with the deaths of Banks and Delahoy, I'm kind of glad the series stopped where it did. Now the characters are preserved in amber for all time, and the series is one I can loan out to Hurt Locker fans with the promise that they'll be done in ten hours. And while Renner isn't the focus of every episode, his time on-screen is indicative of his future movie success -- in particular, the farewell toast he raises at the end of the first episode will bring tears to your eyes. I'm sure he's not wanting for work right now, but if his movie career ever fizzles out, he'll be welcome back on my TV.

Read a recap of the first episode here, then buy the season, dammit!

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