TV Review: Chance, Trial and Error - should you risk watching them?
There's too much good stuff to watch at the moment with Broadchurch, Homeland and Big Little Lies currently running.
Into this crowded scene pops new US series Chance (now available on Lightbox), telling the tale of neuropsychiatrist Eldon Chance (Hugh Laurie).
"I spend my days in the company of those mutilated by life," he says in the opening moments, as he dictates terribly sad notes about his patients.
Added to his woes, he's got a few standard clichéd issues for a midlife male in a television drama. Ongoing bitter divorce battle? Check. Angry teenage offspring? Check? Financial worries? Check.
Into all these troubles stumbles new patient – beautiful blonde Jacklyn Blackstone (Gretchen Mol). She's been abused by her husband and Chance wants to help. Sure, it would be crossing a professional line. But this is a man on the brink.
He takes a step nearer to that metaphorical cliff edge when he tries to sell off an antique desk worth $50,000. Suddenly he's given a glimpse of a shady underworld that seems to offer previously unconsidered solutions to his problems. Primarily in the shape of D (Ethan Suplee), a huge, bald thug of a man with a lust for violence and a surprising talent for recreating intricate antique metalwork.
It all looks good with its San Francisco setting and brooding film-noir style. Expect lots of low lamplight and a sort of drawling, worldly cynicism. It's hypnotically beautiful with a cast of intriguing characters and, of course, talented Laurie as the doctor in a dilemma.
But despite this, it's a struggle, sometimes the hypnotic feels just plain draggy. And in the opening stages, Chance's character seems so laid-back and jaded, it's hard to see why he would suddenly feel this overpowering need to help the vampish Jacklyn.
As if the writers felt it wasn't quite clear either, they've hammered it home in the closing scenes when Chance dictates patient-note style, but about himself. "He feels he is drawn to the precipice of some new and dark reality … he can't stop himself from falling." Yeah, okay, we get it.
Overall Chance is a mixed bag – but stick with it for the first couple of episodes and you may find it draws you in.
By contrast, Trial and Error (now available on TVNZ On Demand) is a fluffy light comedy about a murder trial. done in a sort of documentary style where characters occasionally talk direct to camera. Young, ambitious lawyer Josh Segal (Nicholas D'Agosto)is sent to the town of East Peck to head up his first case.
He's excited but – guess what? His "office" is the storage room for the local taxidermist and his research assistant suffers from a host of ailments including facial amnesia, which means she doesn't recognise people seconds after they've met. Imagine the hilarity that ensues.
Ah, look, it's okay. Not for now, but later. Perhaps for the flu season when you're lying on the couch, half-conscious, dosing up on Lemsip. Then it'll be suitably soothing and untaxing.