Depending on your vintage, Rob Lowe might represent different things for you as a viewer; he could be the Brat Pack Rob of St.Elmo’s Fire, “Schmutzy Pants” Rob of The West Wing or the lovable but dim Rob of Parks & Recreation. Certainly as an actor, he was way ahead of the curve in terms of successfully transitioning from film to TV – something once seen as a little unseemly for your career but is now considered de rigueur for every Hollywood hotshot.
So his longevity in the industry makes him a little less of a stunt cast than most in that regard, but that hasn’t stopped ITV crowing about his appearance in the show. So what’s the story? Well it’s a riff on the classic fish-out-of-a-water trope, with Lowe cast as hotshot American police chief Bill Hixon, who’s been transplanted from Miami to Lincolnshire along with his bookish daughter Kelsey. Hixon is an academically-minded policeman, who believes he can solve any crime with statistical analysis – something he doesn’t hesitate to deploy in his no-nonsense welcome presentation to the assorted unimpressed officers of his new precinct.
We get the usual steady stream of American versus English jokes that you would expect, but the overall tone feels a little unbalanced as it veers from observational comedy to severed heads in fridges. The writers cut their teeth on Silent Witness so the pedigree is there in terms of building characters, and the cast built around Lowe is strong and memorable. Likewise, Boston is full of character itself – a purposeful microcosm of Britain’s turbulent issues in one location.
So what about the case? Well, that’s where things fall down a little. It’s to be expected for an inaugural episode that the plot might be a little thin as the cast are introduced, so it might not be fair to judge the show on it’s opener alone. However, it feels curiously lightweight in tone considering the contents of the case in question – down to the choice of Hixon to have the mother of a murder victim babysit his teenage daughter. There’s a few strands of sub-plot running underneath around the reasons why Hixon was sent to Britain in the first place, and his task to cut staff numbers causing discontent amongst the rank and file.
So far everything feels suitably… ITV. The show is an easy midweek watch and Lowe is as effortlessly charming as ever, regardless of the role. The case is neatly wrapped up in under an hour and we get a tidy resolution with some late-stage heroics in time for whatever next week’s one-shot case will bring. The show even might raise a wry chuckle or two given our currently fractious “special relationship” with the US. Whether it can raise itself out of the set-up it situates itself in remains to be seen however.