The Gritty Perfection of 'Bosch'
“Everybody counts or nobody counts." - Harry Bosch, "Bosch"
We live in a radically different era for TV. There's more scripted shows now than ever before by a wide margin. Six years ago the number of scripted series on the air was 211. In 2014, that number had ballooned to 376. And last year, the number of scripted series on the air jumped to 409. Think about that, in six year we've seen almost double the number of scripted shows emerge.
The fastest risers among that group is on streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. In 2012, the streaming services produced 15 scripted series a year. In 2015, that number ballooned to 44. And already 2016 figures to see an increase. Since mid-February, Netflix has released an original series each week.
While Netflix was a pioneer in getting original scripted fare to audiences, Amazon seems to have become the next big power player. Part of it has been a result of their unusual process. Amazon shoots all its pilots and puts them all online, inviting users to watch and give feedback it uses to determine what makes it to series. And so far, that plan has worked.
A pair of half hour shows for Amazon ("Transparent" and "Mozart in the Jungle") have won awards as best series, and another series ("The Man in the High Castle") was, perhaps, the most buzzed about show last fall. All that is helping boost the profile of their original content.
To me, the best of the Amazon series is "Bosch," which dropped its second season on March 11. The series is based on the Michael Connelly novels that follow the titular detective, Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch, as he works cases in Los Angeles.
When the pilot first appeared during an Amazon Pilot Season in February 2014, it was my favorite of the group. That was a group that included "Mozart in the Jungle," which has two full seasons in release and won the Best Comedy Series award at the Golden Globes in January. "Bosch" didn't get a lot of buzz, but it was picked up to series.
The first season dropped a year later, in March 2015, without much fanfare. I remembered liking the pilot, but it took some time before I found the series again on Amazon. When I did, I was struck by the style, pacing, writing, and acting. It drew me in, and I rolled through the 10-episode season in a week.
When the second season dropped last Friday, I rolled through the 10 episodes in less than 24-hours. It's engaging, engrossing, and beautifully put together.
That's a credit to the source material, but probably more so to Eric Overmyer, who adapted "Bosch" for television. Overmyer is no stranger to TV. He served as a writer/producer on three David Simon series, "Homicide: Life on the Street," "Treme," and "The Wire," which I consider to be the greatest series of all time. It makes sense that he's had that background when you look at "Bosch," which has a slow burn intensity that was one of the most engaging aspects of "The Wire."
The series is also populated by "Wire" vets. Jamie Hector, who played Marlo on "The Wire," is Bosch's partner, Jerry Edgar. Meanwhile Lance Reddick, who played Daniels on "The Wire," is another conflicted police commander in "Bosch." Both are great in their roles and add to the drama and narrative of the series.
But what makes "Bosch" special, beyond the writing and storytelling, is the performance of Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch. Welliver is a veteran character actor that people might remember as The Man in Black on "LOST" or from his parts in movies like "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town." As Bosch, he carries much of the series. His facial expressions, cool demeanor, and beautiful line deliveries bring the plot to life. He feels like the perfect choice to inhabit this character and carry this series.
Additionally, "Bosch" works because it feels like a retro kind of detective story. There isn't a case of the week, but rather slow progress throughout each season, building to interesting climaxes and crescendos. The series also works hard to use Los Angeles as an interesting character. It's not a glitzy or familiar take on the city, but a more honest portrayal of the different facets of Los Angeles and an appreciation of the city's rich history.
All that combines to create a series that's unlike anything else on TV right now. That helps "Bosch" stand out, and it's what makes it, to me, the best series on streaming services and one of the best TV series on the air now, period.
With more than 400 new series each year, it can become easy to be paralyzed by choice when it comes to picking a new series. Give "Bosch" as try. You'll be glad you did.