Monday, March 2, 2015

Review of Amazon's "Bosch"

Image result for bosch tv show

I've read every single "Harry Bosch" novel by Michael Connelly, and I've met him several times at book signings back when he and I both lived in Los Angeles, and he would always stop by the Mysterious Bookstore on the west side. Connelly used to be a crime reporter with the L.A. Times, and it shows in his novels, which are chock full of police procedural details.

A year ago, when Amazon unveiled its second slate of potential TV shows for viewer responses, I eagerly watched the "Bosch" pilot starring Titus Welliver (the Man in Black in "Lost") in the title role. I wouldn't have thought of Welliver as Bosch, but the trailer clips that I saw sold me almost instantly.

The pilot episode introduced the central mystery: a boy's skeleton gets unearthed on top of a hill, and there are multiple signs of repeated physical trauma. Who killed him, when, and why? It also starts the B-story, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of a man whom Bosch killed on duty. Bosch believed the man, a suspect in a string of murders, was drawing a weapon. The lawsuit is being pursued by a lawyer known as Honey "Money" Chandler, who has made a living suing the LAPD.

I gave the pilot 5 stars and wrote a short but very positive review, and I was glad when it was picked up for a full season of 10 episodes. It must have helped subconsciously that were a few connections to "24" with Amy Price-Francis (a terrorist in season 7) playing Money Chandler, and Annie Wersching (Agent Renee Walker in seasons 7 and 8) playing a rookie police officer. Not to mention Lance Reddick, whose striking looks and distinctive voice play well in just about anything he shows up in (including, I should add, Keanu Reeves' revenge flick John Wick, which I watched over the weekend).

A year later, the full season was made available in late February. The pilot episode had been reworked a little, with Mimi Rogers replacing Price-Francis; and with the case starting in the middle of the trial, as opposed to pre-trial motions in the earlier version.

If you've read the books and liked them, you'll probably like the series. If you've never read the books but end up liking the series, then I think you'll like the books. It's a pretty good translation of the books on to screen. I say books, because it draws from three novels: "City of Bones," "Echo Park," and "The Concrete Blonde."

Of course, one of the complications for me as a viewer was the fact that I had read all three source novels, so I had a pretty good idea where things were going. Connelly (who's one of the executive producers) was obviously aware of this, given that this is a show on Amazon, which started as a giant online bookstore. There are some significant deviations from the books, so while some general outline of the plot is predictable if you've read the books, you won't know everything that's coming down the pike.

The casting is really good. Reddick plays Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, a longtime frenemy of Bosch's. I'm pretty sure that Irving is a white guy in the novels, because there's one book in which that is a plot point, but Reddick absolutely nails the hardass character, and that one plot point isn't relevant to the storyline here (and no doubt can be done away with when the producers get around to mining that particular novel).

Welliver perfectly captures Bosch's avenging angel attitude. There are times when Bosch does some stupid things, like going into places without backup. Often when that happens in movies or TV shows, it's due to lazy writing to manufacture tension. Here, it's one of Bosch's character flaws, and sometimes it comes back to bite him in the butt.

If I were to nitpick something, it would be that in a city with as large of an Asian population as Los Angeles has, there sure don't seem to be very many in the L.A. depicted on the show. It's mostly a black and white cast, which means that even more incongruous than the lack of Asians is the relative absence of Latinos. Otherwise, think of it as a long mini-series. Two or three episodes a night works out perfectly.


  1. ha! I could have written this post - I also read all the Bosch books and my first instinct when I saw there was a Bosch series was trepidation as I feel a little proprietary about those books. I didn't like Welliver for the first half of the pilot and then I was sold. I had always used Clint Eastwood as Bosch in my head, probably because of his role as McCaleb in Blood Work.

    Anyway I came to your blog to see if you had an opinion about Hastert's prosecution which seems to me to be an end run around statutes of limitations (with no love lost for the man).

    1. Interesting that you thought of Eastwood. I actually never imagined Clint Eastwood as Terry McCaleb, so his casting in "Blood Work" surprised me. I seem to recall that Bosch is under 6 feet tall in the books, whereas Eastwood is 6'4". In any event, Welliver so perfectly captures the essence of Bosch that it's hard for me to remember what I used to think he looked like.

      Re Hastert - it's related to something I'm working on this summer. But I suppose it's as much an end run around the statute of limitations as much of a pretextual prosecution (i.e., going after Capone for tax evasion), which appears to be cemented into place following 9/11, anyway.

    2. It's funny (and kind of annoying) how an actor just muscles out your conception of a character from a book. Eastwood would be age-appropriate for the Bosch from the books as he served in Vietnam while Bosch from TV served in Iraq or Afghanistan in order to make it work out age-wise. I think he's a terrific actor, I'm just sorry he is so full of vitriol and yells at chairs.

      This is Patrick Sullivan LC '12 if that's not clear from my 'P' handle...