With the holidays nearly upon us and much of TV going on hiatus, what better time to catch up on some of this fall's best shows? This week we're looking at several worthwhile freshman series that can be easily binged within a week — or if you're really ambitious, a night!
You wouldn't expect it from a show whose stars rose to fame on the comedies How I Met Your Mother and New Girl, but Stumptown is the best new crime drama of the season. Just six episodes in, the series has really hit its stride, with Cobie Smulders playing a fascinating central character, and Jake Johson her closest friend.
What's it About? Smulders plays Dex Parios, an brilliant but troubled Marine veteran battling PTSD the only way she knows how: with the aid of gambling , alcohol and sex. She's also the sole guardian of her younger brother, Ansel (Cole Sibus), who has Down's Syndrome and works at a bar owned by her best friend Grey (portrayed byJohnson). Strapped for cash, Dex stumbles into a line of work that seems to suit her rough and tumble lifestyle: that of a private investigator, solving cases where the police can't get involved.
What's it Based On? In what seems to have become a trend this fall (see: Watchmen and His Dark Materials), Stumptown is adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka.
Episodes Aired: Six, with episode 7, titled "November Surprise," scheduled to air tonight.
The Best Parts: As he was in New Girl, Johnson is always a crowd pleaser. As Grey McConnell in Stumptown, he plays an ex-con trying to stay on the right side of the law (and yes, he's a bar-owner/bartender yet again). But it's Smulders who's the star here, and she's easily the strongest part of the show. Dex is miles away from the commitment-phobic Canadian she played on How I Met Your Mother. It's fairly easy to understand why so many of the men on the show have a thing for her, although that's the one area where the series runs into problems.
The Worst Parts: Within six episodes, Dex is already tied to many partners — so many that it can get a little confusing. It's been established that Dex and Grey had a one-night-stand once upon a time, which is how they met. But we also know they didn't escalate the relationship. Dex is also in a relationship (of sorts) with Detective Miles Hoffman (Michael Ealy). The two do have some chemistry, especially in scenes outside of the station. One of those scenes occurs at a concert for a pop star named Fiona X, (who is also Dex's ex-girlfriend). The strongest romantic tie involves Dex's childhood sweetheart, who was killed while on service in Afghanistan from an explosion in which she was also injured.
One Random Question You Might Have About Stumptown: It took a few episodes, but for those of us who haven't read the graphic novel, "Dex" is short for "Dexedrine." You're welcome.
Episodes To Skip: None. The pilot is the weakest episode of the bunch, but it's also vital as it sets up characters and the overall plot.
Episodes To Watch Again: The show really finds its footing in "Rip City Dicks" (episode 3), in which Dex asks a veteran P.I. named Artie Banks (Donal Logue) to help her solve a custody case between her client and a real estate hotshot named Randall Tapper. Unbeknownst to her, it turns out Banks is working for Tapper, setting up a two-episode rivalry between the two detectives. "Dex, Drugs and Rock & Roll" (episode 6) is also great, as viewers gain new unexpected insight into Dex's character revealing more of what she's like as a friend.
What Critics Think: The show has been a critical hit for ABC, with a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Primetimer's own Aaron Barnhart reviewed the pilot back in September, memorably dubbing it "the bisexual PTSD Rockford Files remake we didn't know we needed."
Will It Stick Around? Yes, at least through Spring 2020. The show has seen solid ratings, earning it a full-season pickup in late October.
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Karen Belz has contributed to sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, and So Yummy. Follow her on Twitter at @KarenEBelz.