I’m not going to lie – I had some reservations about this. I like smart, funny, character-driven procedurals – (hello, Bones…), but I don’t like jerks – in real life, or in entertainment. In particular, the comparisons to House did it no favors, because I never saw an episode of that show that didn’t leave me wanting to plant my fist in House’s face. (Granted, though, I wasn’t a regular viewer, because fist…face.)
Anyway, I’ve got to say, because it seems so weird to me …I didn’t feel pressured in any way to give Backstrom a shot, just because I’m a Bones fan. Really, the concept of pressure where entertainment promotion is concerned doesn’t even make any sense to me. Part of the point of social media is people sharing things, whether it’s my delight in Bones, my family’s fruitless efforts to get me to watch Game of Thrones, or Hart Hanson’s colleagues encouraging people to watch his new show.
I watch what I want to watch, don’t watch what doesn’t appeal to me, and expect others around me both to do the same, and to let me know their views of what’s out there. Otherwise, how do I find new shows? I first tried Bones because a friend was persistent.
(For that matter, if I was going to feel offended by my Twitter feed filling up with people telling me I should watch something, I’d have unfollowed dozens of people who were tweeting endlessly about Parenthood on Thursday. Instead, it sounds like that was a winner, all the way around, so …good for them.)
Getting back to the point…reservations about the character of Backstrom aside, I have a deep respect for Hart, so I decided to give the show a try.
I think one of the things he does best is to create interesting characters, with distinct personalities. I suspect this is harder than it sounds. I can think of shows – I won’t name them – where even the regulars seem pretty indistinguishable from one another in terms of personality, let alone the minor or recurring ones, but on Bones, I’ve always been impressed by how unique the rotating squinterns are. No, I don’t always like them – but even that, that people have such strong responses to characters we only see occasionally – emphasizes that they’re real people to us.
So I was willing to give the show a try, just to see who Hart peopled it with.
Another thing is that whether or not a person (or fictional character) is an ass is very much in the eye of the beholder. Case in point: I know people who won’t watch Bones because they think Brennan’s an arrogant jerk. (Just to stave off the comments, let me say the obvious: I don’t agree. I adore Brennan, absolutely and unreservedly.) That illustrates, though, that sometimes a character is a complete ass, and sometimes… they only appear to be, and I was willing to find out which one Backstrom is.
Two episodes in, the jury’s still out on that, but I’ve seen enough to keep me watching:
- Some of the reviews I read described Backstrom as a bigot, but most bigots, in my experience, are ignorant, guilty of gross stereotyping, and see their own beliefs, culture, or race as superior. I’m not sure any of that applies here. He’s offensive, yes, and certainly politically incorrect, but when he’s an ass to his Indian doctor, ignorance of the other man’s religion isn’t a factor, and neither is his promotion of his own. He’s scornful of everyone and everything equally.
- His relationship with Valentine weighs heavily in the plus column for me. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show, and the trust and affection there (however weirdly expressed on Backstrom’s part), make it even harder for me to apply the bigot label, because…middle-aged straight dude/young gay guy. That’s not a scenario where bigots (on either side) are common.
- In the second episode, Backstrom’s response to the young fireman telling him he was trusting him with his life was a panic attack. (Or that’s how I read the scene, at least.) This is not the usual behavior of someone who truly cares nothing for other people.
- The joy we see him display while flying Bella…there’s no cynicism there. He’s happy, and unlike most genuine asses I have the misfortune to know, his pleasure isn’t tied to abusing others. I hope to see more of it.
Finally, to be a hopeless jerk, he’s surrounded by a lot of decent, loyal people. If there’s someone you can call to rescue you in the middle of the night when you’ve been dumped on the street, nearly naked…it’s because they see something in you, something that makes that effort worthwhile. I want to know more about what that is.
At this point, Gravely, Niedermayer, Almond, and Valentine interest me the most, both as individual characters and in the whys and wherefores of their relationship with, and loyalty to, Backstrom. The surface explanation that he’s responsible for them closing cases (well, where the cops are concerned, at least) seems insufficient when it’s surely only a matter of time until his methods (planting evidence, falsifying warrants) will have, er, negative consequences for all of them. So what else is behind it? Inquiring minds want to know.
I don’t feel like I have much of a handle on Moto and Nadia yet, but…early days.
Humor, heart, a number of likable characters – and one who is decidedly not likable, but whom I’m somehow rooting for, anyway… I’m not yet in love with the show, may never be, but I will say this: I watched exactly two hours of TV this week, and one of them was Backstrom.