Friday, March 2, 2018

Pilot Review: Unsolved

Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. (USA)
Premiered February 27 at 10pm

Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon, with the recreation of infamous 1990s crimes and the trials that followed starting off popular anthology series that could run for an infinite number of seasons with new sensational plotlines every year. “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” was first on FX, then “Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders” on NBC, and now USA is joining in with their own spin on it. Biggie and Tupac and the nature of their deaths have been the subject of much fanfare over the years, and so it makes total sense that this would be able to draw an audience. This first episode presented it as three separate narratives – the story of Biggie and Tupac while they were still alive, the investigation by the two detectives a month after, and the restarted investigation from much later by another pair of cops. It’s an interesting format, I suppose, though hardly an original one. This show is notable for featuring a number of recognizable faces, mainly as the four detectives on the case. Jimmi Simpson has been in so many shows, most recently “Westworld,” and he and his mustache are paired with Jamie McShane, who I always mistakenly think is actually Irish from his role on “Sons of Anarchy.” Josh Duhamel once offered people the chance to “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton” (a much better movie than I ever expected), and he’s known more on TV for “Las Vegas” and that strange new “Web of Fries” commercial. He’s paired with the fantastic, Emmy-nominated Bokeem Woodbine from season two of “Fargo.” Also around is Michael Harney from “Orange is the New Black” as the lieutenant. The portrayers of Biggie and Tupac, Wavyy Jonez and Marcc Rose, are definitely good, and their scenes are stronger than the police investigation ones. The opening shootout raised a lot of questions, ones that I imagine this show might eventually answer, but this start seemed interesting enough but not all that engaging.

How will it work as a series? We know that this is an unsolved murder, which is the point, and I’m not sure exactly what’s going to fill ten episodes, especially since a second investigation had to be started so much after the first because of the lack of findings. As long as Biggie and Tupac remain worthwhile characters who get backstories and content as their deaths are being looked into, this show could do alright.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be pretty good, which I’m not sure I would have expected, but it does have a certain audience that continue to idolize these too artists who were killed so early in their careers and the obvious draw of this true-crime phenomenon these days. Its premiere numbers were very good, especially for USA, and therefore I think a second series, whatever it may focus on, is highly likely.

Pilot grade: B-

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