Tuesday , April 23 2024
Ray Liotta plays a bad guy. Is that new and different?

TV Review: Smith

Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to review a new television show.  Watching Smith is one of those times.  Here’s a show with a good cast:  Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen and Simon Baker among others.  The story is the exact sort of thing I tend to like, and the majority of the acting is solid.  That being said, for some reason, I was completely uninterested in it.  So, what went wrong?  I’ll try and figure it out…

The title for the show, Smith, comes from the term police officers give to unidentified criminals.  Thus this show actually centers around a group of “Smiths” with Ray Liotta as the main character.  Liotta plays Bobby Stevens, a thief that tries to balance his home life, his fake day job, and his heists.  Maybe part of the problem is that Ray Liotta is completely unbelievable as a non-bad guy.  Thus the home life and day job bit simply don’t ring true.  When I look at Ray Liotta I see unrepentant evil, not James Bond super-villain evil, just regular old bad guy evil, but it’s undeniably there.  So I cannot imagine how anyone looking at Bobby Stevens in the show doesn’t know within five minutes of meeting him that he’s doing something horribly shady under the table. 

Shohreh Aghdashloo makes a brief appearance in the episode as Charlie, Bobby Stevens's boss/runner.  She is absolutely convincing and great to watch.  She is able to pull off the evil but pretending to be good in a way that I just don’t feel like Liotta can.  While Virginia Madsen’s character (she plays Bobby's wife) seems vaguely interesting and something of an enigma here in the pilot, that may just be because she isn’t terribly fleshed-out and that once she is any curiosity I have about her will disappear. 

Maybe the reason it just doesn’t feel astounding and wonderful is that it comes on the heels of both Heist & Thief, two other shows that centered around the criminals, not the cops, both of which failed to generate much audience interest.  Andre Braugher did manage to garner an award for his work in Thief at this past Emmy Awards, but critical accolades do not a successful show make. 

So, Smith definitely does have the feeling of something that’s been done before. But that really isn’t enough for me to dislike it, after all, how many police or medical procedurals are on the air?  The topic may not be 100% fresh, but it certainly has some life left in it.

Executive produced by John Wells and Christopher Chulack, the shows settings certainly have a real feel to them, the heist itself was well presented and interesting, and as a whole the show certainly makes stabs at substance.  It doesn’t really get there, but it makes a stab and certainly may be going somewhere.  However, airing head-to-head-to-head with Law & Order:  SVU on NBC and Boston Legal on ABC may mean that Smith gets arrested before ever truly generating any momentum. 

Like crime dramas?  Like Ray Liotta?  Like Virginia Madsen?  Like seeing things from the criminal’s point of view?  This show may be right up your alley.  Then again, maybe it won’t be:  I like all these things and it’s not up mine.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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