Carter premiered last summer/fall, and I just got around to trying an episode. The premise is a typical trite TV Land premise, i.e., a person who is not a cop acting like a detective and bringing an unique perspective to the world of police work with some success. Lots of shows have done it over the years, with some coming from the world of cozy writing (Murder She Wrote), medical examiners (from Quincy to Crossing Jordan, there are dozens of examples), lawyers (hundreds, starting with Perry Mason), and more recently Castle. Few had the success of those shows I just listed, but Castle was one of the more recent ones — a best-selling novelist, always looking for the real story, initially shadowing the lead detective to do research but not-so-secretly lusting after the detective and more importantly, actually enjoying the work.
So when the premise came across the list of premieres of an actor playing a TV detective solving cases in real life, I thought, “Wait? Didn’t I just see this?”. Nope, that was The Grinder, with Rob Lowe. He played a TV lawyer now handling legal cases in real life. Sure, totally different. My bad.
Anyway, I expected it to be Hollywood Glitz style, high-budget, maybe some action scenes. I was NOT expecting it to be shot and generally set in North Bay, Canada with a much smaller budget.
Jerry O’Connell plays Harley Carter, formerly boy detective, now TV star detective. He’s likeable in a goof-ball sort of way, and oddly enough for my litany of shows above, I actually used to like him on Crossing Jordan. Except part of that liking him is because he wasn’t the lead. In small doses, I don’t mind him. Not sure if I can take him for a whole series.
In the show, Harley goes back to his hometown and gets his old high-school band of friends back together, namely a old potential ex of sorts (he’s not sure if he slept with her one night when he was drunk, she says no, she was just kidding him) and a buddy. The ex/not-ex is now a police detective (of course she is), her name is Sam Shaw (seriously), and is played by Sydney Poitier. I recognized her in the show, but had no clue from where…I would have never come up with Veronica Mars (even though I just binged it last year), or Joan of Arcadia (a million years ago), or Knight Rider (although, once I saw that in her bio, I was like “oh, yeah, now I remember”). She’s okay in the show, looks a bit younger rather than more mature than him though for the episode.
The buddy, Dave, is played by Kristian Bruun, and the whole time I’m watching, I’m thinking that I know this guy from something else, just can’t place it. He’s awesome though. Just can’t place it. Head slap. I see a photo of him without the beard, and I’m like “Donnie from Orphan Black!”. Of course. He always played Donnie as a bit of an uptight goofball doofus, here he’s actually relatively confident and more of a laid-back blue collar dude. I’m not surprised I didn’t immediately recognize him, just surprised I didn’t eventually come up with it. Sigh.
So the three amigos are going to investigate crime while Harley is on hiatus from his TV gig. And just for fun, Harley’s mother went missing years earlier and is presumed dead. But Harley has never forgotten her nor stopped believing she’s out there somewhere, probably. At least it seems like it at the end of the episode — a small hint there’s more than just the case of the week.
When I saw the original premise, my reaction was “Actor plays TV detective, actor becomes detective –> Cancellation”, and after seeing the pilot, I would have stayed with that prediction. Which is easy to claim as the show is long past cancellation. It went ten episodes, August 2018 to October 2018 and that seems to be all she wrote.
And while I’m not surprised, I am a bit disappointed. I have no illusions it’s high quality TV, but I would have tuned in for more shows and I’m going to burn through all ten episodes even though I know it isn’t going to do much with the bigger mystery (I cheated to see if anyone plays his mother in the show, and they don’t). It’s lighter fare, but better than some of the darker fare out there that still gets renewed.