Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pilot Review: Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom (TNT)
Premiered June 14 at 9pm

It’s possible that my standards for this show may have been a bit high considering my regard for the 2010 film on which it is based. The Australian crime thriller earned Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but it also boasted terrific turns from the likes of Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, and Ben Mendelsohn, all of whom have increased their visibility in American cinema and television since then (Weaver has too, of course). Revisiting this premise is certainly appealing, but most of these first two hours are nearly identical to scenes from the film, as recalled by this viewer who saw it just once six years ago. There’s such an effort to mimic what was great about the movie that it can’t possibly do anything but disappoint. I understand that casting of Ellen Barkin in the Weaver role, but it does feel overdone. Shawn Hatosy, creepy as he is, doesn’t hold a candle to Mendelsohn in the original part, and this Pope feels far less layered. It’s possible this was true in the movie also, but the emphasis on this family as shaggy trailer trash seems unnecessary, and doesn’t add much to it, especially considering how Scott Speedman’s Baz is nothing like that with his styled hair and clean looks. This show absolutely wants to push the envelope, with J’s teacher telling him to call her by her first name after class while his girlfriend, who is without a doubt going to be corrupted by her new adoptive family, is just a feet few away. I want to like this show, but at this point I’m distinctly unimpressed with this imitation.

How will it work as a series? I don’t remember everything about the movie, but I think we’ve probably reached a point of divergence where new creative plotting can take over and head in a different direction. I’m somewhat curious about what lies ahead, but I can’t help but feel that it’s going to be forced and uninspired.
How long will it last? It’s hard to analyze cable ratings since the expectations and parameters just aren’t the same, but I think this show did pretty decently in its debut and successive airings. The reviews have been relatively solid, so I imagine that TNT is going to want to invest in this darker drama and see where it goes in the future.

Pilot grade: C+

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