Customer Reviews: The Unusuals: The Complete Series
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 25, 2010
- Shraeger: "Hefties. I swear if you took all the time that men wasted thinking about the female breast throughout history, there'd only be enough time to read a magazine."
- Walsh: "You mean like Jugs or Maxim?"

Same old, same old with the big television networks. Put on a promising show, cancel a promising show. ABC's appallingly short-lived THE UNUSUALS is the latest victim to fall prey to the arsebackward peccadillos of these program directors. Ten episodes are all we get, with plot threads hanging unresolved all over the place. Sad.

THE UNUSUALS takes up where LIFE left off, in terms of offbeat characters embedded in an intriguing police procedural. New York City detectives Casey Shraeger and Jason Walsh are our early eyes and ears to what makes this series tick, and it's Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn) towards whom we naturally gravitate as she's the newbie in the lot, what with her having just two seconds ago been reassigned from Vice to the 2nd Precinct Homicide Division. Shraeger is instantly thrown in the deep end, her new unit tapped to look into the murder of a very flawed police detective who turns out to be the old partner of Jason Walsh (Jeremy Renner), who is now Shraeger's new partner. But it's always perilous poking into a hornet's nest, and, o jaded us, it's not startling at all that Shraeger would inevitably catch a whiff of police corruption. One smug perp actually passes judgment on the 2nd Squad, mocking it as "Chaotic. Disorganized. Too much personality. Not enough discipline." He should've added "dysfunctional."

- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, this is Dispatch reminding you that handcuffs are for official police business only."

Part of what makes this show so addictive is that all the characters seem to be nursing a secret or harboring a quirk. One detective constantly refers to himself in the third person (no one much likes this guy). Another officer is so easily spooked he sleeps with his bullet-proof vest. Amusingly, his partner tends to be so very reckless, and the episodes mine this odd couple dichotomy for tons of giggles. There's the former bad boy who found religion. And the former professional baseball player. Shraeger herself, we learn right away, is a closet Park Avenue princess with a mean trust fund. Shraeger just wants to fit in, doesn't want preferential treatment. She doesn't inform anyone she's posh. Secrets are part and parcel of the make-up of this homicide squad. As Walsh asks Shraeger:" How can you trust someone who doesn't have secrets?" I even got to wondering about the police dispatcher whose no-nonsense yet frequently hilarious on-radio communiques contribute yet one more offbeat color. I can't decide which of her broadcasts I like most.

- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, be advised: Female trapped in a port-a-potty in East River Park. This perfectly summarizes my last relationship."

Amber Tamblyn and Jeremy Renner head up a fabulous cast which also includes the always memorable Adam Goldberg. THE UNUSUALS is seedy and gritty and funny and full of great character moments and that sense of easy camaraderie. There's a smattering of romance. It's certainly dramatically compelling. I don't know if the cases by themselves are interesting or if they're made interesting because it's these oddball detectives investigating them. The murder store ("One Man Band"). The brown bag pornographer whose film sets are residences of unwitting homeowners ("The E.I.D."). "The Dentist" borrows a plot device from REAR WINDOW and a classic gag from CODE OF SILENCE, and it features a daring heist which takes place in the 2nd Precinct station. We see a 1313 go down, and that very hilarious Tape Delay maneuver. We learn of the mustache fraternity and the precinct's long-established bartering system of favors.

- Police Dispatcher: "2nd Squad, this is Dispatch. It's a full moon tonight, people, and you know what that means. Anything can happen. Werewolves, succubi, giant robots fighting in the street. Proceed with caution."

THE UNUSUALS - THE COMPLETE SERIES collects all ten episodes and comes in two DVDs. The single bonus feature on disc is "On Set with the THE UNUSUALS" which I guess serves as the Behind-the-Scenes look into the thing. It runs at 5 minutes, 24 seconds. There's also a leaflet insert with very brief synopsis of the episodes. So it's got that going for it. What we're also left with are dangling plot threads. So what happens to Delahoy? Will Cole ever 'fess up to his partner about what he did? Will Banks ever turn 43? And so forth. I realize that the big three networks have to compete now with cable, and that it's ultimately about the bottom line, which is that THE UNUSUALS simply weren't drawing in the sexy Nielsen ratings. But, geez, what ever happened to those days when a network would nurture a fledgling show, give it room to grow and find its audience? Or, hold up... did those days ever exist, really?
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on May 18, 2009
Really liked this show. Very disappointed that there will only be one
season but that seems to happen to a lot of shows I like, for instance
Wonderfalls and Firefly.
I liked the characters and their relationships with eachother. I also enjoyed
the humor. Sorry to see this one go.
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on May 13, 2009
I LOVE this series! It's like NYPD BLUE with humor and on acid!
Each episode has certainly lived up to the title and the characters' quirks drive the plots forward with a compelling "drive-by" momentum. It's so good to see actors who have done great work in the past get such meaty roles---like Amber Tamblyn, Adam Goldberg, Terry Kinney, and Harold Perrineau (who is still my favorite Mercutio!)
This is one show I will definitely get when it becomes available on DVD. ---Can't wait because I've missed an episode or two no longer available to view online.
Definitely worth the search on the ABC schedule.
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on April 8, 2010
The box The Unusuals comes in claims the series is "dark and gritty." This is a flat-out lie. There's nothing gritty about The Unusuals at all. But this is a good thing.

Sony Pictures is just afraid you won't buy this if you don't think it's a duplicate of every other cop show made in the last twenty years. ABC feared the same and mis-marketed the comedy as a hard-boiled grimefest. Unsurprisingly, it tanked in the ratings. But what does exist of it is fortunately available now.

Normally, I don't go for cop shows, but this one stood out to me. It's about the characters -- true to the title, everyone working at the precinct is UNUSUAL in some way. Amber Tamblyn steals the series as Casey Shraeger, a stereotype-defying smartmouthed heiress who wants to pursue her own interests (and attempts to keeps her true identity secret for much of the series). Harold "WHERE'S MAH BOOOOOOOOOOOYYYYYYYYYY?" Perrineau plays a paranoid detective convinced he's fated to die within one year. (We never get to find out if that's true.) Other cast members range from a former baseball pro to a sergeant who really wanted to be an astronaut but discovered he was afraid of heights. The cases they get handed are also suitably bizarre.

Tamblyn prophetically said in an interview that the series could run into problems for "being so unique." For those who are tired of network factory entertainment and want to see a show unafraid to break the mold, I recommend the ten episodes of The Unusuals. Woe that there aren't any more, but I fear if it had gone on, ABC might have tried to turn it into the depressing thing they were selling it as.
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on February 26, 2010
The police procedural is a show that has been made and remade more than a couple of times, covering everything from the detectives working cases as in the "Law and Order" franchise, to the forensics of the investigations such as in "CSI" and its spinoffs. These shows are mostly dramas, dealing with the motivations and conflicts of the people investigating these cases, but comedic police dramas have also been attempted with varying success rates. Often these "police comedy dramas" are more than a little formulaic, seldom venturing beyond what the characters feel about the case of the week or the romantic tension between the female and male leads. These shows aren't necessarily bad, and they fare well with general audiences due to their "safe" nature, but their derivative nature can become tiresome for those who have seen more than a few police dramas and know the ropes. "The Unusuals" is one of those shows that comes along to defy these conventions, with a snappy sense of humor that dares to be absurd, distinct quirky characters with complex motivations, pasts, real personal problems, and some very involving drama.

"The Unusuals" deals with the humorous chaos and often grounded reality of the lives and work of the detectives in the second precinct police station in New York. Detective Casey Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn) of the NYPD is transferred from Vice (short for "Vice Unit", which investigates matters such as narcotics, pornography, and in this case prostitution) working undercover as a prostitute, to the second precinct in order to do internal affairs house cleaning at the request of precinct commander Sergeant Harvey Brown (Terry Kinney) who believes the fact she comes from a wealthy family yet decided to become a police officer makes her incorruptible. She is paired with Detective Jason Walsh (Jeremy Renner) as her partner and begins investigating the death of Walsh's former partner who was a crooked cop.

The precinct's detectives turn out to be quite the colorful bunch: Walsh once played major league baseball, yet stopped playing and became a cop. Detective Henry Cole (Joshua Close) is a devout christian who has a dark criminal past and once lived by another name. Detective Allison Beaumont (Monique Gabriela Curnen) is Cole's partner, who has been having problems with her rent due to a perp suing her for breaking his neck. Detective Eric Delahoy (Adam Goldberg) is a mustachioed loner who's been diagnosed with brain cancer and is refusing to seek treatment or confide in anyone due to having nobody close to him. Delahoy's partner Detective Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau) is obsessed with not dying at 42 years old, like his father and grandfather did for inexplicable reasons, and wears a bulletproof vest at all times. Detective Eddie Alvarez (Kai Lennox) isn't paired with anyone, and in fact barely knows the names of his fellow officers after spending a full year at the station due to him thinking of himself as a lone wolf, and his snobby, bureaucratic nature. On top of that, Eddie Alvarez likes to speak about "Eddie Alvarez" in third person.

Throughout the run of the show each of these characters grow and develop in meaningful ways, their cases often forcing them to confront their own problems and change as people. During all of this you'll never lose sight of their humanity, they feel guilt, pain, anger, and fear in a very real way, and are often reluctant to change or reach out. Their witty and sometimes crude banter draws you closer and makes the dramatic moments in the show stand out all the more clearly. Even Alvarez changes for the better and learns he can, and will often need to, lean on his fellow officers for help and support. The characters, their pasts, and their development is simply brilliantly written and very well executed by a competent cast.

Interestingly enough, there are a few less than great things about the show which are mostly minor, but still present. First and foremost, the pilot episode simply had too many characters and plot elements to introduce, and the tone was perhaps a touch too silly. The first episode is fair, but it's not the show's best as it's lacking in the drama department, and is a somewhat weak starting point which may drive potential viewers away (in which case, it's their loss). Another problem is that the intro, which is fairly simplistic with a synth trumpet musical background, is perhaps a bit too simplistic and a tad bit cheesy, which sometimes contrasts a bit too sharply with the openings of the more dramatic episodes. It's kind of weird to have the semi-cheesy theme playing immediately after a supporting character has been shot in a diner robbery. Aside from that, the music which plays during aerial shot transitions between scenes can also be iffy at first, but it'll grow on you after you "get" the New York feel of the show.

The Unusuals is an unusually refreshing breath of fresh air with its deep characters, its punchy humor, and the perfect balance of the two that the show delivers If you can get past the rocky first episode, you'll find a unique thoroughly rewarding show waiting for you in the following episodes. As of the time of writing (2/26/2010) I'm eagerly waiting to purchase to box set, and hoping this show will be renewed and not become another firefly.
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on June 17, 2009
This show is GOOD...and one of the reasons is that it is a bit "unusual". I really enjoy Reaper also (another "unusual") but of course, it's gone too.
Why is it that they do not give some of these really good shows a chance anymore? There have been very many shows in the past that took a couple of seasons to gain a larger audience, and then became hits. It's frustrating to see good shows get cancelled before they really have a chance, and some other's (barely watchable) go on. It just makes no sense at all to me.
I do hope to at least be able to purchase a dvd of this "cancelled too soon" show.
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on March 29, 2010
I was so disappointed when this show was cancelled. It seems like more and more great, worthwhile shows are being cancelled, and pointless & inane reality shows are popping up to take their spots. What does this say about the state of our culture these days? The Unusuals had humor, heart, and the cast was just phenomenal. It's such a shame that the public did not appreciate this wonderful show.
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on March 23, 2010
Brilliant Show. The freshest, grittiest, comedy noir in years. Barney Miller on speed and on the streets, and the morons at ABC cancel it!! Of course you had to have an IQ above that of a cabbage to appreciate it and I guess ABC considered its audience not up to the task. Once Lost is over, I now have no reason to watch ABC ever again - funny how that works!
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on April 20, 2010
This show unfortunately can only live on in the hearts and minds of fans and new fans alike. When it first aired, I was immediately intrigued by the sense of humor, witty exchanged, and fantastic choice of actors. As I continued to watch it, I fell in love with the whole package. The main characters themselves were an incredible mix of wonderfully flawed human beings. My favorite duo was that of Det. Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau) and Det. Eric Delahoy (Adam Goldberg). The former believe that, as many of his male relatives have died at the age of 42, and his birthday recently passed, that his number is up--which makes him completely paranoid of everything. His partner, on the other hand, may or may not have a brain tumor, but definitely has a death wish.

Series creator Noah Hawley (known for his early work on Bones) compared the series to M*A*S*H, and the comparison is apt, as it contains much the same mix of humor and drama that was appropriate for getting through the subject matter. The series also features one of the greatest sequences I believe has ever been filmed. During one scene in the episode "Crime Slut," Delahoy is reading aloud from Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle on the concept of the "Karass" (much like a team) over a faintly played piano background, meanwhile his partner and coworkers are suiting up in riot gear and entering a church to arrest a perp. The scene is beautiful and poignant.

If nothing else, buy this DVD in support of good writing and fantastic character-driven plots.
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on August 2, 2015
I was one of the few to have watched this when it was originally broadcast. I thought it was the funniest thing on television at the time. It was too off-beat for the mainstream, apparently, since it was canceled. Every time I watch it again I realize the mediocrity of television these days. If you've never seen it, think Barney Miller meets Hill Street Blues with more humor and quirkier characters. You've got to love the dispatcher, she's the unseen comic genius of the show.
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