Scoundrels Review: A Comedy-Drama Lacking in Both
The career-criminals-going-straight bit has been done before, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to The Riches, but offers terrific comedic and dramatic potential.
Unfortunately for ABC's Scoundrels, that potential was not achieved in either capacity in Sunday night's pilot. It languished somewhere in between, leaving us apathetic.
Despite Virginia Madsen's best efforts, it was hard to know whether to find the show funny or take it seriously, or even know what the producers were going for at times.
You'd like to think this was deliberate, holding us hostage emotionally and glued to our screens as we decide whether to sympathize, laugh at or loathe the characters.
But it was just kind of dull.
Madsen brings sufficient flair to Cheryl West, the mother of a four kids who must run a family of small-time crooks alone now that her husband is doing five years' time.
The children, played by three actors (the polar opposite twin sons are actually the same guy, which is either clever or gimmicky, we can't decide), are all shady as well.
After some angry Chinese mobsters come looking for her son Cal, Cheryl decides to call it a career. This ordinary-seeming suburban family will now become ... ordinary.
It's like Weeds, only in reverse ... and not as funny.
Will these crooks really stop acting like crooks from now on? Do we want them to? To us, it feels like it's neither dramatic nor off-the-wall enough to hold our interest.
But when we see her sobbing in her car after visiting her husband, or daughter Heather (Sloan Sloan from Grey's Anatomy) nearly getting roofied, you don't feel bad.
This is because unlike Weeds, which is such a dark comedy that depressing reality checks can be integrated, Scoundrels tries in vain to be wacky the very next minute.
The kids are seemingly clueless, fairly likable individuals, but should we root for them? For a pilot episode, the show's mere concept was left awfully blank/ambiguous.
Perhaps this was done on purpose, but when watching a new show, you need to get sucked in by something - engaging characters, an intriguing premise ... something.
We're just not sure we found it in Scoundrels.