I’ve advocated for one-season TV shows in this space before, and we’re fortunate enough to have examples of these: cancelled shows. I saw a couple of these recently on Netflix, and one of them actually executes the idea to near-perfection – I imagine with more lead time it would have been wrapped up even more neatly. I’ll take that one first, and then the one that doesn’t really work for me.
I remember this show getting good reviews but poor ratings when it was on the air (2010-2011), and it makes sense: it’s a funny, tightly written, well-executed show. Fans of Arrested Development in particular will enjoy it, as the show shares the same commitment to an unreliable narrator, internal consistency, subtle humor, and premature cancellation.
The small cast features:
Will Arnett as Steven Wilde, an oil tycoon’s son and spoiled rich brat in love with his childhood friend.
Keri Russell as Emmy Kadubic, the childhood friend and environmental activist.
Robert Michael Morris as Mr. Lunt, Steven’s handler.
Mel Rodriguez as Migo Salazar, Steven’s other handler.
Stefania LaVie Owen as Puddle Kadubic, our narrator and Emmy’s daughter. It’s notable that her father isn’t named.
Peter Serafinowicz as Fa’ad Shaoulin, Steven’s rich friend of unspecified Middle-Eastern origin.
David Cross, who guest-stars as Emmy’s green fiance.
The story centers on Emmy’s return to whatever rich school district Steven lives in, which makes her daughter happy, her fiance sad, and the rain forest tribe she is trying to save from Steven’s father indifferent. She is trying to use him to save the tribe, and he wants to win her over, so he convinces her to stay. That’s the basic setup, and the result just works.
I’ve already praised the writing, which is just plain funny and captures the essence of the actors and characters very well. Arnett is fantastic as the manchild genuinely trying to be a better person, a persona not unfamiliar to Arrested Development fans. Meanwhile, the real surprise of the show for me was Keri Russell: her character could easily have been a holier-than-thou judgmental type that took momentum from the funnier characters. Instead, she sells the committed activist tempted by the comforts of civilization as a real person, and a funny one at that. The conflict between what she thinks she should want and what she really wants is a fun one to watch, and the show isn’t shy about calling her out on hypocrisy when appropriate. (Women who are in some way losers are a humor goldmine, as I’ve written before.) There is a throwaway line in which she admits that not even the native tribe wants to live in the rain forest, an admission that she’s “protecting” their land there mostly to feel good about herself. It’s an admission that she’s as flawed as Steven, and the show is that much stronger for it.
The supporting cast is pretty good, too. Steven’s handlers provide a mixture of everyman perspective and familial devotion, and they’re at their funniest when used sparingly. My personal favorite is Serafinowicz’s Fa’ad, a Steven without Emmy and the resulting desire for self-improvement. He provides Steven with the temptation of Steven’s easier life with parties and women, and the viewer with some excellent comedy. Episode 5, in which we learn of Steven and Fa’ad’s competition to have the most unnecessary and thus extravagant party, is probably the funniest of the show. (“The unnecessoiree is tradition! What’s more unnecessary than a huge party on a night that already has a huge party?”)
The show lasted only one season, and thus the end of it feels a little rushed. That said, the course of the show would have probably just strung out the first season longer than necessary.
Highly recommended, and, at 13 episodes, could make a cold afternoon a little more enjoyable.
This show began with a backdoor pilot (from Bones) and only survived for 13 episodes in early 2012. There are many worse shows that lasted far longer, but I suppose that The Finder just wasn’t different enough from other shows of the present day to persist. Its characters weren’t different enough, or engrossing enough, to last.
The cast includes, per Wikipedia:
-Geoff Stults as Major Walter Sherman, U.S. Army (former). Due to brain damage suffered in Iraq, Walter is paranoid, suspicious and quirky, but it also somehow resulted in him now being able to find anything, seeing patterns where others wouldn’t.
-Michael Clarke Duncan as Leo Knox, a widower and former attorney. He owns the bar, “The Ends of the Earth”, located on Looking Glass Key, and he also serves as Walter’s manager and legal advisor, and sometimes bodyguard.
-Mercedes Masohn as Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada. While Walter’s antics frequently get on her nerves, she and Walter have a “friends with benefits” arrangement.
-Maddie Hasson as Willa Monday, a Romani juvenile delinquent. Willa is very talented with computers, but she is prohibited from using a computer for the duration of her probation. Sherman takes her in.
-Toby Hemingway as Timo Proud, a Romani and Willa’s “cousin”. While Timo and Willa have been betrothed (by their mutual “Uncle”, Uncle Shad) since she was 5 and Timo was 10, Timo is himself in love with a mutual “cousin” of theirs, Magdalena.
The show is a pretty ordinary procedural, in which the team takes cases that require them to find things like a ballplayer’s lucky socks, a magician’s assistant, and a crashed alien craft. The serialization is a very minor part and focuses on Willa and her Romani family. It’s also perhaps the weakest part of the show, as none of the characters involved are particularly interesting, and their motives are usually vague or nonexistent. Perhaps there could have been a payoff down the road, but there wasn’t in the first season.
Duncan’s Leo Knox is perhaps the most interesting character, owning most scenes he’s in. His calm and strong presence is a nice balance to Stults’ twitchy and energetic character. The show was Duncan’s last.
I would write more here, but it’s been a couple of months since I’ve seen this and I remember very little, which should tell you everything you need to know about the show.