Shall we call AMC’s ‘new’ series LOW WINTER SUN a premiere or a remake? Fun fact of the day: LOW WINTER SUN is based on another miniseries from 2006 by the same name starring the same lead character played by MARK STRONG only changing the original setting of Edinburg, Scotland to Detroit, Michigan. Is your mind blown yet?
For a new series to be a sure fire hit, at least two characteristics out of four needs to exist for me: either 1) well casted and unique characters, 2) a complex and interesting narrative, 3) compelling visuals and/or 4) a well written script. While all four are preferable (GAME OF THRONES, HANNIBAL, SoA or JUSTIFIED) three of them can work just fine (AMERICAN HORROR STORY, WALKING DEAD) and as long as two exist, the other two can be forgivable to some extent if they happen to come up a bit short (TRUE BLOOD, MAGIC CITY).
In the case of LOW WINTER SUN, it possesses none of them and needless to say suffers considerably as a result.
Brief synopsis: two cops played by MARK STRONG and LENNIE JAMES kill a crooked cop who supposedly murders people and chops them to bits. Internal Affairs comes in to investigate and there is an out-of-place sidestory involving two guys stealing some cocaine. There, I saved you an hour.
Inherent problems… there is zero initial character development, so when the dirty cop dies and the supposed ‘good cops’ are visibly affected by the choice they made, there is no actual reason to start giving a damn. Putting on my strategic writer’s hat for a minute, let me come up with a better story arc in thirty seconds: dedicate the first two or three episodes to setting the stage with the characters and how they interact together. Use copious amounts of foreshadowing that the dirty cop is a murderer. The other two cops plan to and carry out the murder in the third-to-fourth episode after their quirks and motivations are clearly established to the audience. Internal affairs investigates from there. And while on the topic, cast a better internal affairs guy. What a useless tool.
With the exception of MARK STRONG whom I enjoy a lot in his other stuff (KICK ASS, SHERLOCK HOLMES, JOHN CARTER) all other characters are instantly forgettable and seemed pieced together from every other generic cop drama out there today. Ask yourself, why does SONS OF ANARCHY work so well as a whole? It might not have the biggest named actors, but they are all powerhouses and all bring something unique to the table. MIDWEST MARK’S school of character building 101 says that a good character should be instantly recognizable even if it were merely silhouetted. These people stand around in a circle with dead eyes and all essentially look the same.
The setting: Detroit. Nothing to see there.
And the script? Lowest common denominator procedural babble. In this case, ask yourself why JUSTIFIED works so well as a ‘cop drama’ in the deep south. It’s because the script is so well written to each actor’s personality that the script itself becomes every bit as important as the picture.
This is all sort of a shame, because it would be great to see MARK STRONG in a great television role. This is not it. In fairness, pilot episodes can sometimes not be indicative of the series as a whole. But based on the “on this season of Low Winter Sun” preview, there was not one snippet that wanted me to come back for more.
The premiere attracted 2.5 million viewers which pretty much pales in comparison to the 5.9 million people who tuned into BREAKING BAD, especially considering that LOW WINTER SUN was bookended by both BREAKING BAD and the new TALKING BAD with CHRIS HARDWICK. Not like the ratings were terrible, but I would be shocked if they didn’t dip considerably next week.
I’ll count this one as a catch and release. I might tune in next week if there’s nothing else to do, but doubtful. D+ overall.