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A twisted, wickedly entertaining thriller best viewed on a cold winter night, tucked under a blanket with the lights off - not in the care-free vacation heat of summer
Network: Fox; Genre: Crime/Mystery; Content Rating: TV-14 (for strong violence, gore, language and deviant adult and sexual content); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);
Seasons Reviewed: Complete Series (1 season)
Rebecca Loche (Rachael Nicols) is a gifted criminal profiler who has been recruited by Peter Coyote's Web to be part of an elite Los Angeles FBI team that solves the most horrific and deviant of crimes. The subtle twist here is that instead of being a profiler of the killer, Loche's talent is to profile the victim, under the assumption that with the right bait they can ensnare the killer. Hints are given about a traumatic event in her own childhood, once a kidnapped child herself. Web believes in the rookie. "She has a gift - forged in pain" Coyote tersely barks to convince the team to take her in. The team also including Adam Baldwin ("Firefly") and Katie Finneran, who stole the show in "Wonderfalls" now kept straight and dry here. Jay Harrington ("Coupling") gets saddled with the "I-believe-her" straight-man role that the show goes to when it can't have a women step in to save the day.
With TV now slowly becoming an assembly line for crime/detective shows and each one a dime a dozen, it seems the latest way to differentiate yourself from "Law & Order" and "CSI" is to crank up the violence and gore. This, along with last Fall's "Numb3rs", looks to be the first of several new shows about a team that goes after only "the most brutal and gruesome crimes". I know Fox throws up Viewer Discretion warnings like they're going out of style, but everyone - particularly parental activist groups who somehow got the idea that everything on TV should be tailored to kids - heed it on this one. As "The Shield" is the most brutal show on cable, "The Inside" is the most brutal on network TV. So far.
A 2 episode arc where Coyote is fired and we suspect him to unhinge and compulsively begin his own killing spree marks a high point and shows us how well this show could keep us guessing - and how attached we'd become to the ensemble. Then there is "Everything Nice" (involving a child who gutted a classmate in a gated community) which is downright chilling - and a little manipulative. "Inside" is deadly serious stuff, with Finneran dropping a dry one liner every now and then. I do find it almost comical how quickly and recklessly the team members draw and brandish their guns.
On the surface, there is not much about "The Inside" that breaks the crime series mold. But the show has an all-star pedigree behind it, created by Tim Minear ("Wonderfalls", "Angel") and Howard Gordon ("24") for Fox's favored Imagine Television. Within the framework it is well done. The crimes are inventive and the killers are nasty. There is a thoughtfulness and attention to pace, detail in the unfolding story that we usually don't get in procedure-oriented crime shows. It is dark, slick, stylish, but now show-offish and wickedly entertaining.
What I appreciate most is the care that is taken to unfold the story so that there is time in the 3rd act for a real rollicking climax. When Loche becomes the bait and finds herself in a harrowing, appropriately milked set piece on a subway, drugged in a bathtub or held hostage by a killer's monologue, it takes more than the simple quick-fix shot to the head (that so many other shows tiresomely use) to get her out. Nichols really gets put through the paces here. Let's just say, there is a little hint of David Fincher misogyny coursing through the show. She is quite good. Someone to watch in the future.
Back to the monologue in question, from "Pre-filer". I know it may sound cliché, but when delivered by guest star Michael Emerson (who has played this role perfectly since "The Practice") I will lap it up every time. "Pre-filer" is the best of the lot, featuring a serial killer who hunts potential serial killers. It is just the kind of terrific twist that could have been this show's hallmark.
If this nasty stuff sounds as juicy to you as it was to me, you'll know why I like this show. "The Inside" was part of Fox's "Summer Season" which, to me, always felt inappropriate scheduling given the tone of the show. "The Inside" is a twisted atmospheric thriller best viewed on a cold winter night, tucked under a blanket with the lights off, not in the care-free vacation heat of summer. Fox should have also known it would have been swallowed whole by their "So You Think You Can Dance" - a shameless capitalization of ABC's dance-themed, summer remake hit "Dancing With the Stars".
I had high hopes for the Fox network with the departure of Gail Berman as Entertainment President and the installation of Peter Liguori, who is credited with helping make FX the juggernaut network it is today. Berman's tenure at Fox consisted of it's own reign of terror, a bloodbath that buried every creative scripted show she could find before anyone noticed it and replaced it with mindless, cost effective reality shows with the goal of temporary ratings gold at the expense of any future commodities. Liguori's first act at Fox was to renew the ratings starved "Arrested Development" for another season. A gritty crime series, "The Inside" looks more like an FX show then a standard network series anyway, so it appeared that things where turning around.
But no, once again we've seen that it is "Arrested Development" and only "Arrested Development" that is given the benefit of network support. And Fox is back into it's usual habits, once again vehemently defending it's reputation as the most inept, intellectually bankrupt, short-sighted and audience-insulting network on the air today.
* * * / 4
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