Bosch Review: Amazon's Newest Drama Is Like a Decent Book You Can't Put Down

Bosch: Season 1

Amazon must be doing something right. Last weekend, I sat down to watch a few episodes of the online-retailer-turned-TV-studio's new police drama, Bosch, so that I could write a little something for you folks. Long story short, several hours and most of a pizza later, I had finished all 10 episodes of Season 1.

The thing is, I wouldn't say that I loved the show, or that I felt especially compelled to keep watching—and yet, I did. I ended up binge-watching Bosch just like you might burn through an entire just-okay novel in one sitting. This actually makes total sense, as the series is based on a popular book series by Michael Connelly, which I'm sure many Amazon customers are familiar with. So, regardless of whether or not Bosch is a particularly notable TV series (something I'll get into momentarily), props to Amazon for producing a show based on a book that somehow reproduces the experience of reading. Those algorithms work!

For those who aren't familiar with the source material, Bosch (produced with Connelly's involvement and led by Eric Overmyer of The Wire and Treme) centers on the titular Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), a veteran of the LAPD homicide division and all-around roughneck. While Connelly's novels follow Bosch throughout a longer duration of his life, the series jumps ahead to an older version of the character, one who's already divorced with a teenage daughter, and who already experienced an odd brush with fame when Hollywood made a bad movie about one of his cases. Season 1's 10 episodes track three primary stories: 1.) a civil trial in which Bosch's shooting of a potentially unarmed man is put under the microscope, 2.) the discovery of a young boy's bones in Laurel Canyon, and 3.) the cat-and-mouse game between Bosch and presumed serial killer Raynard Waits (Jason Gedrick). Along the way, Bosch gets involved in a questionable romantic relationship with new uniform officer Julia Brasher (Annie Wersching) and embroiled in the political maneuvering between the deputy chief (Lance Reddick) and the district attorney (Steven Culp).

If much of that set-up sounds familiar to you, you're not alone. Bosch is not a show that reinvents any sort of wheel, nor does it try to do so. I'm not familiar with the novels, but I get the impression that the TV adaptation doesn't stray very far afield of Connelly's work, and like that work, it's rock-solid and generally enjoyable without ever making much of an attempt to push boundaries, generic or otherwise.

There's no doubt that Bosch is Welliver's show. He's almost always great in films and on television, and not only is it wonderful to see him in a starring role, he's also just as strong of a lead performer as he is a supporting player. I've heard that Bosch is a bit more unhinged in the books, and that there's been a concerted effort to soften some of those edges for the TV show, but that doesn't dampen Welliver's performance. Although I occasionally found myself waiting for Bosch to uncork the rage that never came, Welliver has done a fine job of embodying a man who's holding back some of his anger. Bosch unfortunately falls into the trap of having other characters talk about how much of an asshole or an outlaw Bosch is without letting us see him truly act like one, but this is a man who's haunted by some of the things he's done without letting those things completely derail his productivity as a detective. While Bosch routinely mistakes and breaks protocol, the character isn't a full-stop anti-hero, and that's for the betterment of the story.

The rest of Bosch's cast is comprised of some real-deal veteran actors, and they're almost universally good here. The Wire's Jamie Hector is a sturdy and sometimes very funny presence as Bosch's partner Edgar, and Lance Reddick and Steven Culp do Lance Reddick and Steven Culp things. ER's Amy Aquino plays Bosch's lieutenant and longtime friend, and she's so great that I wish there was more of her. Jason Gedrick, playing the aforementioned serial killer, is compellingly low-energy, but he grows into the role as the season progresses (and even as the series runs out of interesting things for his character to do).

Annie Wersching's Brasher is a bit of a mess on the page, though I did enjoy the way Season 1 tried to parse out whether or not she's dating Bosch simply to advance her career. Like Gedrick's Waits, Brasher fades a bit in the last few episodes, to allow the show to focus more on Bosch's relationship with his profiler-turned-poker-player ex-wife (Sarah Clarke) and their teenage daughter (Madison Lintz). However, that's not Wersching's fault. She, like everyone else in the cast, does good work. And a half-dozen other people that you'd recognize pop up along the way, making Bosch an entirely professional endeavor.

The cavalcade of solid performances help buoy what is a fairly boilerplate group of interwoven police stories. Bosch's civil suit never yields a sense of real urgency—even when it's clear that he did shoot and kill an unarmed man—and the show doesn't do much to investigate the psychological impact the event has on the lead character. It's not that he lacks remorse, but he feels justified enough in what he's done, and hey, there are these more interesting, pressing cases happening, so whatever anyway. The mysteries of the little boy's bones and the serial killer activities dovetail nicely very early on in the season and then relatively quickly separate, leaving both stories to iteratively move forward until Bosch solves them. The show gets some decent mileage out of Bosch's surprising personal connection to both cases—without spoiling much, he was abused as a child—and that material gives Welliver the opportunity to showcase some range.

Bosch also benefits from a lovely use of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and strong direction by Jim McKay, Kevin Dowling, and Ernest Dickerson. The show boasts a methodical pace that's underscored by its visual style; there are countless scenes tracking Bosch as he enters and exits buildings and crime scenes, but the movement isn't shaky for the sake of being shaky. There are also some beautiful night shots and good wide shots of Bosch's swanky home (he has the Hollywood money to thank for that). The show isn't gritty like The Shield or Southland, but it's also not slick or overly stylized either. Like everything else about Bosch, the direction is constant without falling into boring territory.

All of these various elements come together to form one of the more inoffensively reliable shows I've seen in a while. In a TV landscape that's currently populated with all sorts of murder mysteries and serialized cop dramas that strive to gussy up familiar tropes with a boatload of style (True Detective, Broadchurch) or a slightly different perspective (Top of the Lake), Bosch feels as if it hails from an entirely different era or world of television production. But the truth is, even with insane amount of TV we have available to us today, there's still plenty of room for those "better" shows and something like Bosch to coexist.

I can't imagine that anyone who enjoys Connelly's books or serialized police investigation stories, or even decent police procedurals, would dislike Bosch. Really, I can't imagine anyone disliking Bosch. And while I also can't imagine anyone adoring the show with the same level of passion that some folks have exhibited for True Detective or even Amazon's other big series, Transparent, Amazon needs a broadly appealing show like this in its rotation. What better way to encourage people to take the Amazon Prime service seriously than by producing an original TV series that's based on and feels just like a book?


Comments (56)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Jun 04, 2015
It was like 'old-style' TV.
With a show like True Detective, you have to prepare to sit and WATCH each episode.
In return it's very rewarding.
With Bosch, it was just sit back in the couch, relax, and let it wash over you.
A very pleasant way to spend an hour or ten.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 25, 2015
I watched this and was disappointed with two mains things. Firstly there was little crackle in the dialogue which often felt flat and second that the serial killer was one of the least scary ever. And for each I'm not sure if the writing was watered for TV or that the actors just seemed to meander their way through. None of the developments were inventive or fresh looks into why someone does the things they do. Southland and True Detective piss all over this.
All in all a quite perfunctory show.
Reply
Flag
Feb 24, 2015
I had watched the pilot one year ago when it was released. I liked it enough to want to watch the entire series. Everything about the pilot felt dated like something out of the 80s. The story in the pilot was compelling enough for me to give it a 3-4 episode test. I was hooked after episode four and could not stop watching.

The whole series still felt very old school but yet surprisingly better than average. Perhaps with all the new stylish show, this was a good change. More importantly it was not boring.

I would say the only two strong actors were Titus Welliver and Lance Reddick. If they had a better cast perhaps the show would gain more praise.

Jamie Doran from The Fall played a much better serial killer.

Still I do hope there is a season two and perhaps we can get a bigger and better cast.
Reply
Flag
Feb 24, 2015
I loved The Wire's connection. Reddick and Hector. Like you said Reddick was being Reddick, but I liked Hector. Most of his characters that I watched were kind of stuck up and cocky, but I liked the Edgar character. Gave him a different attitude to play. And yes, I binge-watched this over less than 2 days. I liked the Intro btw.
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Sorry, but with this name I can't think of anything else.


9
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
good ser.....
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
I found that cure for its predictable parts (which were many) was to use my second 34inch 4K Monitor with PORN! Sure porn is predictable-- but it has a happy ending for everyone; even the viewer gets one! Where as Bosch was more like watching a tattooed wannabe Philip Marlow with Mommy issues an Ex-Wife with an interesting set of parenting skills in that they totally lack any skill, and daughter who will most likely end up dancing on a Pole by the age of 17 because of her parents! So, it only seemed fitting that I would watch fill material that is ironically usually considered the finale step for people who excel at dancing on the pole. Myself, I think nymphomania is just good fun for all. And if I didn't look like a Sasquatch Midget I'd Be The NEXT PORN KING OF AMERICA!!!! Sadly, no room for the short hairy guy in Porn any more!

Jason Gidrick was almost amusing. I thought that man was dead-- literally dead! Talk about peaking in the 1980's with a shit film-- Iron Eagle.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Started at 5pm yesterday, finished at 1am this morning. Enjoyed it mostly. Very well cast, with good direction and music throughout. Jamie Hector was great as was Titus Welliver and Sarah Clarke, and I enjoy any time I get to see Rose Rollins on my screen. Plus Broyles was awesome.
Also, is there something about Robert Culp that every character he plays is a horrible, weasely slime ball?
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 11, 2015
Steven Culp who is on tons of shows.. First noticed him on JAG but he ended up dying on Desperate Housewives..
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
You should really check out the books. They're my favorite cop/detective novels. Connelly used to be a crime reporter and has a real eye for the details, but most of all LA features so strongly that it's like a supporting character. Connelly really knows how to anchor a story in its setting. I prefer the earlier novels before Bosch's personal life gets complicated and more involved in the story: a cop, a dead body, and no explanation. Is there any better setup for an entertaining fiction novel?
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 26, 2015
Totally agree about reading the books. I just heard about the TV show a few minutes ago, when I took a break from reading the latest Harry Bosch novel. The only problem is that I read the plot summary above and realized that I had read the book on which at least one of the TV's shows themes is based. BTW, Harry's ex-partner is named Jerry Edgar (not Edgar). Curious to see what part Amy Aquino plays - maybe it's another of Harry's ex-partners, Kiz Ryder. Amazon's TV venture is very interesting. I'm in the middle of Transparent now - very good show. Sort of a slightly off and interesting spin on Arrested Development with the same actor playing the father (?).
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Whenever I pop into a bookstore, usually to kill time, escape the heat or crowds I always check if Michael Connolly has written a new book, if it's Mickey Haller or some other popular character I hesitate, check my funds but if it's a Bosch book I lose the hesitation.

Don't know what the secret is, maybe because to actually meet Bosch he would actually be a bit of a jerk but reading about him and his demons, he feels like an old friend.

I sometimes imagine Connolly must want to kill him and move on to other stuff like other serial novelists linked with their popular characters but he's a loveable detective without the self smugness of say Kathy Reich's characters.

Even closing a case is a downer and we move on to the next every day LA based crusade business as usual for Bosch, not falling into the trap of the big Ewok parties at the end of the case that other detective books do.
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
I have read all the Connelly books, so i am excited about this show! As it seems it turned out good, so cheers to Amazon! Next project now should be a Jack Reacher tv series, that would be incredible!!!
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
I wasn't going to try this--just more cop shit--but your review convinced me to try it. Great cast.
3
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
I watched the first 6 eps. Bosch is ok. nOt bad. The cool thing is you can watch the whole season in one sitting. It has some interesting elements. I'll finish up this weekend.
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Just watced the first one. I'm good.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
The thing is, I wouldn't say that I loved the show, or that I felt especially compelled to keep watching—and yet, I did. I ended up binge-watching Bosch just like you might burn through an entire just-okay novel in one sitting.

Exactly right. And your use of the word decent was spot-on. It was watchable, and okay, and Welliver was good, as were the other Wire alumnae, but the show itself was meh. It was no Transparent and it was no Alpha House.

Gedrick was an awful criminal, and as nice as it was to see Veronica Cartwright, I was rooting for him to put the pillow over her face in the first ten minutes. Those scenes were painfully bad television.

As were the sex scenes, the chemistry between Bosch and that freshman actor were horrible. She is new to acting, isn't she? She stinks.

The scope of the geography (I'm sure there's a word for that) was impressive, they brought Bosch and his partner all over LA and that was helpful in making the show more bearable.

For me, the best part of the show was Bosch's house, although I wouldn't give you a plugged nickel for that drop dead gorgeous view built on matchsticks on a fault.

It sure was nice seeing the La Brea Tarpits, and Alan Rosenberg (L.A. Law) at them. He looks like hell, though, I hope he's not sick. I'm surprised you didn't give a shout out to him or Veronica. I didn't see anyone else worth noting.

Visual style, those are the words. The visual style outshone the dialogue and some of the acting and the show itself. It was still meh, but the visual style was worth the watch. No doubt they'll give it a second season, because Amazon has lots and lots of money and nothing to do with it.

one of the more inoffensively reliable shows

Exactly. Damned with faint praise. Good review.

More+
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
It's funny that you call her a freshman because she is literally in everything. One of the most prolific guest stars on television.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
If you look her up on this site, you can see that the one that played the love interest female cop has actually been in loads of stuff, so not new to acting at all.
Reply
Flag
Mar 11, 2015
Who can forget her getting shot in the head in a building after having sex with Jack Bauer!!!!
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
I only seen him (that I remember) Titus Welliver in LOST as the black smoke/ the black man, and in Sons of Anarchy as the cool irish weapon dealer Jimmy O´Phelan (thanks imdb). I always admired Titus Welliver in those episodes. He truly deserves his own show. I haven´t seen Bosch yet, but after reading this good review (you got me at pizza), I am for sure going to watch this, though maybe without the food ;)
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
His irish accent on SOA was truly horrific though.
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
And he has such strong Irish roots. But the irish accent is not an easy one to do, unless you are Irish. But his acting was superb, and for that Titus Welliver is forgiving ;)
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Huge cop show fan and have been for 30+ years dating back to the likes of Hill Street Blues, huge fan of the Bosch series of books so was really excited to see the pilot and it was a great relief how good it was, having watched the first 7 episodes of this now I'd put it right up there with the best cop shows there've been, I like that it's very low key and no flashy CSI bullshit, perhaps down to budget but it's a show about the characters, the story, the city, that's it, which is fantastic, reminds me a lot of NYPD Blue without the drunken camera work ;)
2
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Yeah in episode 1 I had a few expectations and they were met, the cool Bosch house overlooking LA and the face to face with the coyote. The flashback of violence Bosch was dealing with as a kid, his anger at the loss of his mother emoted by Titus Welliver was just bonus gravy
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Dude...watch southland and tell me its one of the best still
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Obviously I've watched every episode of Southland and loved it, and complained bitterly on here each time it was cancelled, Bosch isn't quite there with Southland which certainly vies for the best cop show of all time for me but Bosch is in the upper echelons with it.
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Not bad. Amazon will have to chuck all those(not funny at all) comedies and put up or get out!
Reply
Flag
TQB
Feb 20, 2015
Oh, and can someone give me a cliff notes explanation of what I have to do to watch this? Does it require a Prime subscription or can I just buy the episodes? How much is Prime? FWIW I did make an attempt to answer these questions at Amazon but it proved confuserizing.
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Prime is pretty great. You get free 2-day shipping on almost everything, and you can share it with friends and family. And you get all their E-books and videos for free. It's 99 bucks a year, but you can split the cost with a someone or two.
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
You don't get all of Amazon's e-books for free. That would put them out of business. You get one free e-book to borrow a month - and it's only some e-books, not their whole collection. The videos are all you can eat, but it's only a subset of all of their videos.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Yup. I thought I could watch all the first 48 free, but was I disappointed at the per/episode fee.
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Share it? Free ebooks? You using the same Prime I am?

And don't forget, if you send back too many items, Amazon will threaten your account with suspension.
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
If you send back too many items you probably should have your account suspended or go into high intensity training to learn how to shop online. I buy LOTS of stuff on Amazon and only had a problem with one item in all that time.
They have excellent customer service. Try dealing with any problem on eBay and you will appreciate Amazon.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
Amazon is the WalMart of the Internet.
Flag
TQB
Feb 20, 2015
Oh goody! Broyles and TMOB!

There is always room for doing something traditional if you do it really well. I watched John Wick this weekend and same thing - not a new story, just done really well, with interesting and talented actors.
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
i'm halfway through the season, and is a really good show so far, i'm really excited to see what happens next
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
Yep, knocked this out in about two days as well. I might give it higher praise than you, but I agree that I could never quite figure out what it was that made it so compellingly watchable. Welliver might be one reason, but the story was pretty great too. I'm not really a watcher of crime/cop shows, but I liked this a lot and hope there will be a second season. Thanks for reviewing!
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
I had planned to spread out the show over a week or so, but ended up binge-watching this over two days. It's funny because I guess I feel the exact same way as what was portrayed in this article. It's not amazing television -- I didn't love it, exactly -- but it was also very hard for me to stop watching. The direction and plotting is very polished and smooth. The actors all do a wonderful job. I ended up getting quite annoyed with Julia, but in all fairness, that was basically the intent considering how her character develops.

I guess I'll note that I've read all of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels, so I was a fan before watching. But as many have experienced, being a fan of the source material rarely equals similar appreciation for its adaptation.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
This looks like binge watching worthy... If only for Welliver...

Not related at all but is anyone at TV.com previewing the new USA show DIG? I have seen ads but no buzz / coverage... Not a great sign I suppose but still wondered...
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
A word of advice, please. As a viewer who loves Welliver and Reddick, but falls asleep to CSI, L&O, and just about every detective procedural there is (Terriers and some UK shows aside).... Should I even bother with this show?
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
It's certainly more Terriers than CSI and L&O, mainly because Bosch, like Terriers, doesn't follow the case of the week format (like True Detective, mentioned below). It's very much a serialized detective drama and I'd recommend it.
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
this show doesn't feel like a procedural but rather something in tone with True Detective whereas one case is dealt with the entire season. I'd say you should bother, first 2 episodes (I've only seen them yet) have been very solid and intriguing.
2
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
Of course it wasn't as good as TD, but I did like how Bosch was called on going into the basement without backup. The idiots from TD never did get dinged for going into that cave without vests or backup.
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
thanx! i will then :) need something to make the time go by while the flu passes....
1
Reply
Flag
Feb 22, 2015
well - now i've seen it. and yeah - descent is the proper word here. it's solid, but basic. the script's not boring, but certainly no adrenaline rush. direction is good, but nothing out of the ordinary. the acting is the highlight, with Welliver (ofc) and Aquino (whose delivery i would probably have called terrific, if she had been given more to do). i dont buy the the likeness to True Detective - besides from both being detective shows, they dont have anything in common. if i were to find a similar show, i'd say Idris Elba's Luther, which, unlike Borsch, IS a great show. still - it WAS decent. and good enough to spend a couple of days with, while fighting the flu. but i doubt i'll watch any second season.
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
Oh my goodness Bosch is awesome...I binged watching this show and just couldn't stop. It is that good..I hope Amazon continues this top notch series...
2
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
Ditto. And that cast! I mean, seriously, life a familiar face every five seconds!
2
Reply
Flag
Feb 20, 2015
I binged this show as well. Couldn't stop and would watch on if there were more episodes. And I agree with most of what you said. Bosch didn't blow my mind away but it did put it in a very nice place. The mysteries there keep a nice pace, especialy the bone case's twists and turns had me dizzy.
What was even more dizzying was the intro. I mean, seriously, it almost made me nauseaus!
2
Reply
Flag
Feb 21, 2015
That was some cool camera work. What kind of lens was that, I wonder.
Reply
Flag