I watch a lot of TV, so I probably won’t be making a habit of reviewing individual episodes of all the shows I watch – I’d never be able to keep up. However, from time to time I may share some thoughts, if I have enough to share. Sunday night I caught the premieres of two new shows, Secrets & Lies on ABC and Battle Creek on CBS.
I almost didn’t bother watching this show. I am not a big Ryan Phillippe fan, so he alone wasn’t enough of a draw to make we watch. Plus it was on at the same time as The Walking Dead, so I knew I wouldn’t be watching live. At the very last minute I decided I would give it a chance – I guess all the effort ABC has spent advertising it the last couple of weeks didn’t go to waste – so I recorded it, and watched immediately after The Walking Dead.
Not only did I not plan to watch it, I didn’t plan to be completely hooked within the first hour, but I was. Secrets & Lies is a much more deserving U.S. successor to the British Broadchurch than Fox’s Gracepoint ever could be*. Secrets & Lies has a much better understanding of drama and suspense, and had me completely riveted for the entire two-hour premiere. The bombshell dropped at the end of the first hour wasn’t a complete surprise – I had already begun to suspect it – but the reveal was well done, and I liked how it played out in the following hour. By the second hour I was already so invested in the show and the characters that I was starting to get really tense and frustrated that Ben wasn’t just telling his wife the truth about Tom’s paternity.
The format of the show really helps to set this show apart from other crime dramas, and even from Broadchurch, which is the closest comparison I can make. I liked the way the show focuses entirely on Ben. The story is told from his perspective – we only see events as they relate to him, or occur around him – which is an interesting choice. Despite this, we still have no idea if we can trust Ben. The series begins just after he has discovered the body, so we have no idea what happened before. He could be the murderer, or maybe he’s innocent. The way the series is filmed isn’t giving anything away, even though we only see Ben’s movements. It’s fascinating to me, and I hope it can keep up that level of interest.
If, like me, you loved the suspense and drama of Broadchurch but were greatly disappointed with the U.S. remake (which even David Tennant couldn’t save) then I recommend giving this series a chance. The basic plot is similar – a young boy who was known throughout his community is found murdered – but there are some great contrasts that make it feel fresh and interesting. ABC is really hitting it out of the park with their dramas this season.
*After Googling the series I realize the irony in this statement, since Secrets & Lies is actually a remake of an Australian series. Would I feel the same way about Secrets & Lies on ABC if I had watched the Australian version first? Would this be just another Gracepoint in that case? It would be an interesting experiment to go back and watch the Australian version now, and see if the problem with Gracepoint really was just that all the suspense of the series was gone once I’ve already seen one version.
I really wanted to love this series immediately because the commercials made it look fun. While it was amusing, it didn’t hook me immediately. Maybe it was because I watched it immediately after Secrets & Lies, so I was still enamored with how well that show was done and how much I enjoyed it, but I just couldn’t get into Battle Creek.
The premise of Battle Creek is a straight-laced, by the book FBI agent is transferred to the new office in Battle Creek, a place where the police department doesn’t have enough funding to even keep working batteries in their stun guns and are forced to resort to using baby monitors to listen in on a sting because their microphones do not work. The very first scene sets this up well and sets the tone for the humor throughout the rest of the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything else that really made this show stand apart from any other crime series, except that it isn’t trying to be gritty and dramatic.Throughout the episode I found myself thinking about The Unusuals a lot – and thinking that I liked that show a lot better than Battle Creek.
I like the cast of Battle Creek, and I will give it a few more chances because I really do want to love it. Perhaps I’ll wait and watch the next episode on Monday, instead of following The Walking Dead and Secrets & Lies. Hopefully if I’m not comparing it to those two shows, I will be able to enjoy it more.