Thursday, May 17, 2018

Pilot Review: Patrick Melrose

Patrick Melrose (Showtime)
Premiered May 12 at 9pm

I don’t always get to all of the miniseries that air these days, though the lines are becoming increasingly blurred with one-shot limited series that end up being renewed for a second season even if the source material doesn’t extend beyond that. Showtime’s latest is set to run for just five episodes, over the course of as many weeks. The big draw here is that Benedict Cumberbatch is the star. He has picked up a number of accolades for his TV work on “Sherlock” and earned an Oscar nomination a few years back for “The Imitation Game,” and so it’s completely worth noting the projects he chooses. This is quite the role, an adult man hooked on alcohol and a number of drugs trying to cope with the death of the father who was very abusive to him. Cumberbatch is indisputably excellent, and the best parts of his performance are when he acknowledges the voices in his head and reacts almost in annoyance that other people can hear either them or whatever he’s saying back to the person he believes he’s conversing with. We didn’t see much of his mother, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, in this episode, but Hugo Weaving, best known for playing Agent Smith in “The Matrix,” made quite an impression in just a few short flashback scenes as his father. Allison Williams, from “Girls” and “Get Out,” stood out a bit more as the American date who really wasn’t into what he was selling. This is an intense trip of a show, and I think that this first dose was more than enough for me.

How will it work as a series? This show is based on novels by Edward St. Aubyn, and so there’s presumably a good deal of material to cover over the next four episodes that will explain the events that made Patrick into who he is and whether he’s able to recover from this latest crushing blow to his livelihood or if his out-of-control, addictive lifestyle is going to kill him first.
How long will it last? I don’t see any reason to expect that this will continue past its initial five-episode plan, mainly because I believe that the story is contained within it. Reviews seem to be mostly positive, and Showtime airing it on Saturday nights rather than its regular Sunday programming night helps to distinguish it as more of a special event than a continuing series.

Pilot grade: B

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