Monday, April 22, 2013

Rogue Behavior

I recently watched the first two episodes of Thandie Newton's
action-adventure series Rogue on DirecTV's Audience Network.
It is gritty, fast-paced entertainment that feels oddly British (I kept
expecting to see the iconic "Egg" Building in the background) even
though the story is supposed to be taking place in Oakland,

It is probably not surprising that the show appears wrapped in the
Union Jack when the chief writer, Matthew Parkhill, and most of
the prime participants are either British, Australian, New Zealand
or Canadian actors and the show is filmed in the city of Vancouver
in the Province of British Columbia. I don't understand why the
show wasn't based in London - except for the desire to sell the
concept to an American network and audience. Suffice it to say
you never believe you are in Oakland, California, despite the signs
on various buildings designating this as an Oakland Police Station
or that as an Oakland courthouse.

Something decidedly "British" pervades the whole enterprise.
British and Australian actors are apparently the new vogue in all
realms of entertainment. They play True Blood vampires and
upright police officers and rogueish Governors dealing with the
Walking Dead
, but in all of those instances if you didn't know,
you wouldn't know. In this particular instance, you are constantly
aware of something being not quite kosher with these allegedly
"American" characters. 

Ian Hart, who plays an artful dodger cop, is such a archtypical
British character with his cockney attitude and porkpie hat that
his character could have been played by Bob Hoskins. The most
believable of these "American" characters is Kavan Smith, as
Thandie's husband, and he was born in Edmonton, Alberta.

All of which is to say what? "Rogue" feels ersatz? Yes. Do I
ever feel like I am in America, let alone in Oakland, California?
No, not ever. Even the stakes, the Chinese mafia trying to bully
in on the action on the docks, seems British. Even Newton's
mixed race kids are too British in looks and demeanor to be
believable as Oakland born and bred. It is annoying. Why are
they trying to sell me that this story is taking place
in America, let alone in Oakland, California?

But, if you can swallow all the textural tea and crumpets,
Rogue is gripping and compelling. Newton is whippet lean
and junk yard tough as Grace, the conflicted cop working
undercover to expose the smooth but lethal boss of the docks
(New Zealand born Morton Csokas). The sexual attraction
between these two is palpable but Grace is the wife of Tom
Travis and the mother of feisty teen-ager, Evie Travis (Sarah

Grace's dual life takes a terrible toll on her family: her young-
est son wets the bed, has nightmares and draws horrific pictures
of sharp-toothed predators chasing him. A good cop, she is a
horrible wife and mother - constantly making promises she can't
keep.  Grace wants to quit her increasingly dangerous life and
devote more time to her family, but she keeps getting sucked
back in - with ever escalating consequences.

I'm all in for the ten-episode run.