Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pilot Review: Hap and Leonard

Hap and Leonard (Sundance)
Premiered March 2 at 10pm

I make it a point to try to watch shows on SundanceTV, which has thus far produced “Rectify,” “The Red Road,” and the brilliant British series “Babylon.” It’s therefore natural to have high hopes for this show, which stars two very different actors with rich TV pasts. Michael Kenneth Williams made a name for himself on “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire,” while James Purefoy chewed scenery on “Rome” and “The Following.” Here, they’re good friends living in East Texas whose lives get a little more interesting when trouble and temptation come around in the form of an ex-wife with an extremely appealing proposal. I’m excited to see the odd pairing of Williams and Purefoy, who definitely have fun here, and I’m all for Christina Hendricks putting the skills she honed on “Mad Men” to good use. It’s also great to see Jimmi Simpson, who does great creepy, as one of two frightening killers who are somehow related to the goings-on in this general area. Learning that this show is based on the writings of Joe R. Lansdale, who also wrote “Cold in July,” which made for a superb and dark thriller, gives this show some context. It’s not nearly as alluring or intense as I’d like it to be, mainly because the show’s pacing and scope don’t move too quickly. I’m willing to give it another shot. None of SundanceTV’s series have been known for being especially fast-moving, and so maybe this show is just in that style, another slow-burn drama.

How will it work as a series? The first season is only slated for six episodes, which is normal for this network but also hardly too much ground to cover, which means that it may all play out as Hap and Leonard search for this missing money. I’d hope that the universe would be expanded a bit during that time, and I’m sure that these mysterious murders will figure into things and make it plenty more interesting.
How long will it last? It’s hard to tell. “The Red Road” lasted a measly two seasons, and so I think SundanceTV is going to have to see whether the buzz is as strong as its flagship series, “Rectify.” If so, this show could have a bright future, and if not, I’d expect another six-episode run and then that’s it.

Pilot grade: B-

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