May 12, 2014

NIELSENWAR 2014-15 Trailer Review: FOX’s “Backstrom”


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BACKSTROM:  Midseason TBD on FOX

THE FACTS:  Rainn Wilson plays your basic difficult-but-brilliant homicide detective in a procedural based on a series of Swedish mystery novels, adapted for television by Hart Hanson, the creator of Bones.  Backstrom is grumpy and dismissive of his colleagues, and unhealthy in his eating, drinking and general living habits, but oh boy, can he solve a murder.  The supporting cast includes Kristofer Polaha, Dennis Haysbert and Genevieve Angelson.  The show was originally developed for CBS, but after that network passed, FOX gave it a direct-to-series order for 13 episodes.

WHAT IT’S SAYING:  A down-the-middle effort:  every week, other characters will shake their heads at how obnoxious Backstrom is and how crazy his theories are, and every week he’ll run rings around them, proving himself smarter than they could ever hope to be.

WHAT IT’S REALLY SAYING:  The success of Backstrom will have less to do with tightly knit mystery plots than with Rainn Wilson’s appeal away from The Office.  At least in the trailer, it appears to be very much a star vehicle, and since Wilson never did much of anything else during his Office years, his popularity now that it’s over is unclear.  The show itself looks very familiar, but Hart Hanson struck gold with what initially appeared to be the not very promising premise of Bones, so it would be unwise to dismiss his ability to do it again.

THE OUTLOOK:  FOX hasn’t announced a timeslot for Backstrom (or any of its other midseason direct-to-series orders), but the obvious place to put it would be paired with Bones after Gracepoint finishes its 10-episode run, since they not only shares a series creator but a homicide-for-fun tone.  If the show’s chemistry clicks, it could be a moderate hit, but if Wilson’s return to TV doesn’t get viewers excited, his character’s flaws may remind them all too much of Rake, and we all know how that ended up.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."