Not quite a cop thriller, a medical show, a courtroom drama or a murder mystery serial, Boomtown still fits the bill for a 21st century standard American crime TV series – with its astute fusion of police procedural, paramedical details, legal wrangling, news media angles and (of course) action thrills. Each episode offers alternative viewpoints on a single crime in Los Angeles, from the perspectives of emergency medical services, uniformed police officers, detectives, a newspaper reporter, and the deputy district attorney. The familiar plot device of emotional resonance with the particulars of individual cases or personal tragedies is used to reveal all the characters’ off-duty lives and personal problems, but the framework each story hangs on makes discerning use of Rashomon inspired perceptions and amusingly non-linear Pulp Fiction stylistic flourishes, often to surprising effect. This mix of traditional screen drama with impressive digital editorial techniques and innovative plot constructions, engages viewers’ attention with the process of discovering the truth (whodunit?) in a manner not really seen before on a regular basis.
Donnie Wahlberg (from Band Of Brothers) plays conscientious detective Joel, whose home life is wracked by tragedy. Mykelti Williamson plays his ex-military partner, ‘Fearless’ Smith, a veteran of Desert Storm, still haunted by his wartime experiences. Blue-eyed blond Neal McDonough plays ambitious and self-centred Deputy D.A. McNorris,
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whose legal expertise cannot stop his headlong fall from grace. Nina Garbiras provides the show’s female appeal as smart crime reporter, Andrea, while Lana Parrilla (TV sitcom Spin City, and the heroine of Spiders) is always watchable as compassionate paramedic Teresa. The other main cops here are habitually luckless patrol officers Ray and Tom, played by Gary Basaraba and Jason Gedrick, respectively.
Standout episodes include: Possession (guest starring Jennifer Sky), in which a killer is pursed across the city; All Hallow’s Eve, an offbeat kidnapping story that spotlights an endangered Teresa; The Freak, which has Fearless in a big shootout while he’s protecting a witness from killers working for the Russian mafia; Crash, an intriguing tale of insurance fraud; Home Invasion sees Joel leading the search for a gang of serial killers that attack families; Blackout is nearly a one-man show for McDonough as troubled McNorris, hitting the skids after a night on the town, a hit-and-run traffic accident and a bout of alcoholic’s amnesia leave him fearing the worst.
This is high concept television that works. The scripts are tightly paced, there’s some fascinating camera effects work to present evidence and replay events with a unique, eye-opening approach to crime scene spectacle, and (just for a change) all of the principal characters are admirable, or generally likeable, in one way or another.
DVD boxset extras are very disappointing – there’s just a trailer and a four-minute launch presentation on disc five.
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