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The Inside: Good Enough to be Great?

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There’s only one reason why I made it my business to tune into the premiere of The Inside last week, a new moody and atmospheric drama on Fox about an FBI special crimes unit.

Tim Minear.

Minear, a writer and producer who emerged from Joss Whedon’s unparalleled television universe (Angel, Firefly), has emerged as one of the key players to watch on the TV scene. After the critically heralded Wonderfalls was cancelled following a short run last year, Minear is now bringing his uniquely edgy and comically attuned vision to the police procedural.

Since I don’t watch very many “cop shows” (FX’s The Shield being the big exception) I was a little leery after watching the first several minutes of the premiere episode of The Inside. A dead body turns up, and a bunch of cops (or in this case, Feds) show up to investigate the scene. “How many times have I seen this?” I thought, as my highly sensitive and easily activated Boredom Alert System pinged from blue (neutral) to yellow (alert).

But as with Angel — which proved to be much more than just another “vampire show” and in some ways surpassed the brilliant and groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe Inside builds upon a great ensemble cast, sharp dialogue, and off-beat pacing to slowly, surely, and inevitably snare the viewer into what can only be described as a revelatory experience: watching something on television that you haven’t seen before.

The Inside also establishes a downbeat, almost noir tone that sets the stage for what appears to be a show about federal agents who go after serial killers. It’s the emphasis on character, however – particularly the glimpse into a mysterious abyss of questions surrounding several of the main players – that made the show worth watching and will keep me coming back throughout the summer.

Rachel Nichols stars as Special Agent Rebecca Locke, the new member of a special task force that has some kind of vague authority to follow cases wherever they might lead. This, I believe, will give the show flexibility as it will allow for both undercover and procedural plotlines.

The old crotchety boss is given a nice twist by way of Peter Coyote in the role of Virgil “Web” Webster. The character arc of the show will likely focus upon the reason that Web selected each member of the elite team. He has, we’re told, an ability to pick assets and then control them to suit his needs. Special Agent Paul Ryan, portrayed by Jay Harrington, professes to be Web’s “conscience.” So, already, there’s an entertaining trio of characters put in play: the manipulative yet effective boss, the brainy upstart recruit, and the wizened and impassioned voice of reason.

Then there’s the great Adam Baldwin as Special Agent Danny Love. I’ve been a fan of Baldwin’s every since his loopy portrayal as the evil alien in the first Men in Black film, but to me he’ll forever be a man named Jayne. The hilariously narcissistic rouge he brought to life on Firefly should go down as one of the great yet short-lived character roles in the history of television. On The Inside, Baldwin is keeping it a little bit close to the vest thus far, but still managed to land a few great one-liners (and grimaces).

That’s the thing, too, about Minear and The Inside: there’s more than a healthy dose of humor and humanity to leaven the darkness. That, far above the serial killers and the plot twists and revelations and chases, will keep me coming back throughout the summer.

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  • Bob

    Pssssst…

    Adam Baldwin was NOT in Men in Black. Apparently you’ve been a “fan” of the wrong man all this time.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    That was Vincent D’Onofrio currently on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

    Otherwise, nice. I like Inside too.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Yep…. no Baldwin in Men in Black… looks like I locked in an assumption in the six years ago range which was wrong.

    You know what they say about assuming. My bad.

    I did find out that Baldwin was in Full Metal Jacket during a little post-screw up research… which is pretty cool.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    He was? Didn’t recall that. D’Onofrio was in that too! career parallells?

    I like your choice of Firefly which did have Baldwin. haha

  • Bob

    You didn’t know Adam played Animal Mother in FMJ? What kinda fan are you? ;p

    You’re SO right about Jayne though that I’ll forgive you… (Seen Serenity yet? More Jayne — yay!)

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    It’s been quite some time since I watched FMJ….

    So many movies, so little time…

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Speaking of old movies, I managed to watch Spaceballs and Stripes over the course of the last week. Man, I didn’t realize how much I miss John Candy — he was flat out great in both films.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    Don’t forget Splash, he was good in that too.

  • Eric Olsen

    I agree Tan, he almost stole Splash

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