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Chase - "Pilot"

Illustration for article titled Chase - "Pilot"
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Chase debuts tonight on NBC at 10 p.m. Eastern.

(With all due respect to the fear of overusing this device, we hope you find the following imagined conversation between Jerry Bruckheimer and Todd VanDerWerff about the new Bruckheimer-produced drama Chase useful and edifying. If you do not appreciate such whimsy and, indeed, react poorly to it, we can provide a short version: It sucks. - The editors.)

[TODD comes across JERRY BRUCKHEIMER in a small-town diner. Jerry is enjoying the number two with an Oreo milkshake.]

Jerry Bruckheimer: "Hey, Todd, man. How's it GOIN'?"

Todd VanDerWerff: "All right. Been a while since you've been around."

JB: "Yeah, new shows keep bombing. Don't know why."

TV: "America has all the drably monochromatic crime procedurals it needs for right now?"


JB: "Yeah, maybe."

[Jerry slurps up the rest of his shake with his straw, chasing the last stray bits of ice cream around the bottom of the glass in an attempt to consume every last drop.]

JB: "Know what's the worst thing about the world?"

TV: "War? Famine? Poverty?"

JB: "Bitches, man."

TV: "I should say some sort of standard liberal platitude about misogyny and sexism, but I'm curious to see where you're going with this. Go on."


JB: "Know what's the second worst thing about the world?"

TV: "Also bitches?"

JB: "Naw, man. Rapists and murderers."

TV: "I agree. That is a thing I also do not like."

JB: "Know who can be boiled down to an easily assembled and comical list of forced stereotypes?"


TV: "Having seen your new drama, Chase, I know the answer to this is Texans. Can we please get back to the thing about the bitches?"

JB: "Just … been thinkin' a lot about this. Bitches are dumb."

TV: "Considering Chase is created by a woman, Jennifer Johnson, who wrote the pilot, and stars Kelli Giddish as Annie, I should be curious about all of this animosity. But, also, I know that in the pilot of Chase, virtually every woman our protagonists come in contact with in the course of their investigation is weak, misguided, or easily swayed by a rangy-looking dude with a presumably stellar penis. They refuse to give up engagement rings after being told their fiancee shot a woman in the head to take the ring from her. They lie almost obsessively to protect family members, even when told how horrible their family members are, but they cave almost immediately when the marshals at the show's center apply the slightest of pressure to the women themselves. Their greatest weakness is a guest star who is more or less the poor man's Taylor Kitsch. The only two worthwhile women are Annie - who's pretty much just a standard Bruckheimer lead with a vagina instead of a penis - and her colleague, who pretty much only gets to hit a punching bag really hard in the pilot."


JB: "So you agree bitches are dumb then? Man, and I thought this conversation was gonna take forever."

TV: "Certainly in the universe Chase takes place in, they're dumb. Yet, at the same time, Giddish …"


JB: "Call her Kelli."

TV: "I've been calling people by their last names for so long that I know no other way to live. At the same time, Giddish creates a pretty compelling woman out of your standard format. Annie is a tough as nails, hard-bitten law enforcement agent who doesn't let in emotions and is warped by an unspecified trauma in her past. She's every protagonist on one of your crime shows ever made, except for a collection of quirks you and Johnson seem to have tossed her solely because she has a Texan accent, and the show's set in Texas. She likes country music. She lives rough. She'll jump out of a helicopter to take down someone who's fleeing from her before he makes it to the border. She's a bona fide hellcat, Alyson Michalka be damned."


JB: "I won't have you saying anything bad about lil' Aly Michalka."

TV: "But this is almost entirely due to Giddish. I didn't like her much on Past Life back in the winter, but she's made me a believer here. She's good at playing this kind of character, and I hope someone eventually channels that energy into something worthy of her talents."


JB: "So not Chase?"

TV: "No, not Chase. Now, don't frown! You're still Jerry Bruckheimer! You've made lots of very popular shows, and at least three shows - C.S.I., Without a Trace, and The Amazing Race - I've grudgingly enjoyed from time to time, to say nothing of your successful movie career! And there are some other good things here. I like most of the action sequences, particularly the very first one and the very last one, and the pilot is handsomely shot by David Nutter, making good use of Texas locations, even stereotypical ones like a cattle auction house."


JB: "You don't have to say you dislike it just because I made it, man. It's cool!"

TV: "But virtually everything else in the pilot that's not the direction or Giddish fails. In particular, the dialogue in the script is atrocious. I've always argued that shows should get a little latitude for bad, expository dialogue in a pilot, where introducing a ton of information is always tough. But almost every other line in Chase is an absolute groaner. I mean, take a look at that opening action sequence. Annie has cornered her man in the auction house, and she goes in to bring him down, but he quickly gets the best of her. He asks her if her mother taught her not to play with guns. It seems ol' Annie is going to meet an early demise! But wait! Before he can choke her or shoot her or stab her, though, she uses an article of clothing to take him down in a way that's legitimately awesome. And then, well … then she says, 'My mother died when I was 8. So no,' which just kills everything you're going for."


JB: "Jennifer and I worked hard on that line."

TV: "Maybe you did. If that was the only bad line in the pilot, I could excuse it. But this script is full of cliches, bad attempts at jokes, and terrible exposition. I was going to write down all of them, but then this would have turned into a review consisting entirely of bad dialogue from the show, and I figure your best shot at a pilot audience is people tuning in to experience the bad dialogue for themselves. So, instead, here's a sample: 'He cut off a woman's finger to steal a ring when he was 18.' 'Romantic guy!' 'Fugitives are just like us. They need food, shelter, companionship.' 'At work, we get to use guns. At home, we gotta, you know, talk.' And I could go on."


[A lengthy, stunned silence.]

JB: "The fries are good here."

TV: "And another thing …"

JB: "You're kind of an asshole, you know?"

TV: "Yes. Most likely. But, honestly, this formula stopped being merely tired about five years ago and became completely and utterly strained. The dark, foreboding world where danger lurks around every corner? The many, many killers roaming the American night? The cops and other federal agents who abuse their authority to get the job done, and we're supposed to be OK with it, so long as they win in the end? It all feels like a formula that needs to be put to rest, outdated and stale. You branched out in the movies, and even though I don't like all of your films, you're at least making many different kinds of pictures. But on TV, you keep plugging away with this formula, and it's enormously hard to evaluate it anymore. Try some new tricks!"


JB: "I do have that immensely personal story about knick knack collectors …"

TV: "Yeah. Do that. Because your world of emotionless, unconnected cops and the weak victims - often women - who compel them to work that much harder has grown much more difficult to spend any time in. What do these people like? What do they hate? What do they want out of life? Who are they besides crime-solving automatons? Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I think that you're not particularly sexist; you just have absolutely no interest in characters who have emotions about anything that isn't efficiently solving crime."


[Jerry nods, looking out toward the night sky.]

JB: "Doesn't matter. This'll still probably be a hit."

TV: "Bully on you if it is. I'd just like something I could care about, something I could really come to love."


JB: "Yeah, well, VanDerSmurf, your love makes you weak. Check!"

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