Sunday, February 08, 2015

Like Cinderella at the Ball

Titus Welliver as Detective Harry Bosch

(Editor’s note: The piece below comes from Nancie Clare, who co-created, along with Leslie S. Klinger, the podcast series Speaking of Mysteries. She was also a co-founder of the single-issue iPad publication Noir Magazine, and is the former editor in chief of LA, The Los Angeles Times Magazine. Clare last wrote for The Rap Sheet about the 2013 Bloody Scotland crime-writing festival.)

The invitation came through on January 22 to the debut screening of Bosch, a live-action Amazon Prime series based on Michael Connelly’s novels about Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch. If you’re as wild about Harry as I have been--and as just about every reader of procedurals is--then seeing the character come to the screen after such a “tortuous journey” (Connelly’s own words in an interview I did with him in 2012) was a watershed event.

From my interviews with Mike Connelly, I already knew some of the genesis of the series. When I spoke with him in September 2012, just before The Black Box was published, he and executive producer Henrik Bastin and screenwriter Eric Overmyer had already met and were getting started on the project. They hadn’t yet cast Titus Welliver in the title role, but the rights to the Harry Bosch character had already been secured. For those of you who don’t know the story, Connelly sold the rights to Bosch to Paramount Pictures, a decision he doesn’t regret as it gave him the means to quit his day-job as an L.A. Times reporter and become a full-time fiction writer. But in spite of numerous scripts, a Bosch film never came to pass. When the 15-year term of his contract was over, Connelly sued Paramount to get the rights back. The price to reclaim his own character? Three million dollars. He had three years to pay up.

Maybe it was for the best. In the interim, basic cable outlets such as AMC, TNT, and USA, as well as premium outlets such as HBO and Showtime, and streaming newcomers Netflix and Amazon, had all changed the game by creating quality series in the mystery and thriller genre, shows on the order of Breaking Bad, The Killing, The Wire, Justified, The Bridge, House of Cards, and The Americans. Movies weren’t the only way to bring a character to life and, in many ways, the story of cop Harry Bosch lent itself to a multi-episodic arc instead of a movie.

(Left) Author Michael Connelly

But back to Bosch.

Michael Connelly is a best-selling author everywhere, but he has a special place in the hearts of those of us who live in L.A. Yeah, I know, Connelly now lives in Tampa, Florida, but Harry Bosch is a creature born and bred in my hometown. Bosch is L.A.

So, what better place to premiere Bosch last week than at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood? It was a fitting as it could get.

Things got off to a good start. In every cup holder at every seat in the place was a pair of commemorative Bosch mirrored aviator sunglasses. How cool was that?

I had already watched the Bosch pilot episode, released on Amazon last year, and for those of you who also saw it, I would highly recommend seeing it again. It has been recut and makes much more sense as the launch of a 10-episode story arc.

I knew as soon as I saw the opening credits that this TV production team got it. With a jazz soundtrack (which was to be expected, considering Harry Bosch’s legendary taste in music), the opening takes us through the city of L.A. in a through-the-looking glass, up-is-down/down-is-up mirror-image montage that I think does a great job of setting the tone that in this city, things are rarely what they seem.

The plot line--at least in the first two episodes, shown during the premiere--weaves together elements of at least three Harry Bosch novels: Echo Park, The Concrete Blonde, and what may be one of my favorites of all time, 2002’s City of Bones. It’s a good mix. There’s the internecine battle going on within a police department that thinks nothing of throwing someone who hasn’t played ball under the bus, the conflicted relationship the police have with Hollywood (there’s a snarky little aside about Harry having sold a story that was made into a film; the movie was terrible, but the fee enabled Harry to buy his house with the view), and an examination of the challenges L.A. police face in regard to their city’s geography, both physical and philosophical.

Going into the experience, I have to admit I wasn’t sure about Titus Welliver as Harry. I’m happy to report, I was wrong. Every single Connelly fan has a picture in his or her mind of Harry Bosch, and when a face is put to that character, it can be jarring. (Personally, I envisioned Harry as more of a Vincent D’Onofrio type, circa Law & Order: Criminal Intent.) Even Connelly admitted during a short introduction, which he presented in company with Henrik Baston and Eric Overmyer before the screening, that Harry had been his--but now he would be Titus Welliver’s. Thankfully, Titus captures Bosch’s stubbornness, commitment, sense of justice and, at least after an exchange with Alan Rosenberg (who plays the medical examiner in this series), his secular humanism. Titus is believable in a way that makes him own Harry’s personality.

The rest of the cast is built with solid character actors, including such veterans of The Wire as Jamie Hector, playing Bosch’s partner, and Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving. Amy Aquino is especially good as Bosch’s lieutenant, who appreciates him for the good police that he is, at the same time as she bemoans what a pain in the ass he can be. Even characters who could easily slip into “dumb cop” caricatures, Detectives “Crate and Barrel” (Troy Evans as Detective Johnson and Gregory Scott Cummins as Detective Moore), are more than meet the eye. Their handling of possible serial killer Raynard Waits, played by an excellently creepy Jason Gedrick, is subtle but very slick. And, although the romance between Harry and ambitious rookie cop Julie Basher, played by Annie Wersching, is only in its nascent stages by the end of the second episode, I have a feeling that story arc is going to evolve nicely.

An official trailer for Amazon’s Bosch

After the screening, everyone who attended was invited to a party across the street at a restaurant/club called Lure. And, it being a Tuesday night, dress code-wise it was a pretty casual affair. But fun. Most of the cast along with Connelly, Henrik Bastin, and Eric Overmyer showed up to nosh on sliders and mac-and-cheese, and partake of the open bar. No VIP corners for this crowd; everyone was out and about and chatting with guests and graciously receiving their props. I cut out early, though, since I’m a party lightweight and it was a school night.

All 10 episodes of Bosch will be available for streaming through the Amazon Prime service, beginning this coming Friday, February 13. The show is definitely worth the price of admission if you’ve been on the fence about joining Amazon’s delivery-and-streaming mash-up. And, hey, nothing says “Happy St. Valentine’s Day” better than a binge watching of Bosch.

READ MORE:Bosch Previewed: Harry on the Small Screen,” by DeathBecomesHer (Crime Fiction Lover); “Bosch, Amazon Prime Instant Video, with Titus Welliver -- Preview,” by Robin Jarossi (Crime Time Preview); “Writer Michael Connelly’s Teenage Brush with Crime,” by John Heilpern (Vanity Fair); “Michael Connelly, Bosch Make a Case for Series on Amazon Prime,” by Greg Braxton (Los Angeles Times).

1 comment:

mizdarlin said...

For this absolutely die-hard fan of Connelly in all his LA noir glory, this news comes as a slightly scary prospect..
On the one hand, always thought that Bosch would make a great theatrical character..I'm an ex-pat, left Hollywood in '72, and had my own weird experiences with the law there..I know those hills, those views, and the strangeness that permeates LA. and love reading about Hollywood again, after so many years away, it really brings it all say that most movies, TV, mini-series, et al. don't make it when compared to the written word is to say the least..
Hopefully, if this series has Connelly's stamp of approval, I'll be a bit less inclined to give it a miss..