As I’ve argued before, there are two ways to approach reviewing an ongoing television series. Critically, the best way to gleam all the good, bad, and ugly for any program is to follow each and every hour, analyzing each one for strengths and weaknesses; however, that isn’t the way most folks approach television. Largely, folks watch the first hour; make some rudimentary decision about whether or not the program interests them; and history is made … or it isn’t. I call this process “at first blush,” and I applied it recently for the DVD release of ROGUE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Grace Travis (Thandie Newton) is an undercover detective, torn between her identity as a loving mother and her cold, calculating persona as an agent for crime boss Jimmy Laszio (Marton Csokas). Tormented by her son’s unsolved murder, Grace conducts her own investigation, convinced that the killer lies somewhere within Jimmy’s treacherous ranks. Now, in order to uncover the truth and stay alive, Grace must help Jimmy weed out the traitor in his midst.”
ROGUE kinda/sorta made waves in the entertainment biz when it premiered as DirecTV’s first originally programming, and I suppose on that front most audiences might find it acceptable if not tolerable viewing. Thandie Newton is, at best, a curious choice for a leading lady, much less an emotionally-tortured undercover cop as some criminal mastermind dabbling in international smuggling. Her performance in this first hour is aptly described as palatable, but maybe that’s not her fault – perhaps she was doing the best she could with what she was given.
I found it pretty difficult to sink my teeth, however, into anything here. Newton’s command of the screen only surfaces in a few, spare moments as the bulk of this first episode spends far too much time introducing the audience to far too many secondary characters who may or may not mean something in a greater expansion of what’s truly happening here. As a result, everyone – from her husband and daughter all the way to the seemingly endless line of seaport thug after seaport thug – comes across as very generic. Not even the usual presence of notable heavy Marton Csokas elevates the material, and he’s arguably got on the best brooding, menacing mugs to come along in a long time.
It’d be easy to chalk up a fair share of the hour’s weaknesses to the fact that writer/creator Matthew Parkhill really has a surprisingly thin resume for one given the task of manufacturing a hit out of a property packed to the gills with familiar faces and themes common to other programs. Were there something novel, new, or exciting here, then ROGUE might not feel so routine. To his credit, Parkhill does pack the last few minutes of this episode with a solid cliffhanger – one that less inexperienced audience members might be far more inclined than I to tune in again next week – but that’s 40 minutes too late for this neophyte cynic. ROGUE’s world certainly could feel more like a place a viewer would want to visit more often, but – at first blush – this one is way too saccharin to find a notch on my busy viewing schedule.
ROGUE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is produced by Entertainment One and Greenroom Entertainment. DVD distribution is being handled by Entertainment One Entertainment (aka E One Entertainment). As for the technical specifications, this is one smartly shot and produced program; the sights and sound are exceptional, perhaps leaving a lingering hint of some hidden greatness to come in the story department. If it’s special features you’re looking for, then ROGUE’s release offers some script-to-screen featurettes as well as other fodder regarding the program’s webisode production.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. Were it not so bland and uninteresting, ROGUE might be worth more than the investment of a single hour, but with so many opportunities for quality entertainment presented to audiences today I’m more than a bit perplexed why this show’s premiere story is so dimensionless. Newton is a commodity worthy of celebration, but here she appears as a skinny little waif with some huge, unexplained chip on her shoulder. To complicate matters, no one else seems remotely interesting, so I’m giving this one a pass for others to cover in greater detail.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One Entertainment (aka E One Entertainment) provided me with a DVD copy of ROGUE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution in no way, shape or form influenced my opinion of it.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more