TV Review: Rainn Wilson Brings Cynical Life To Backstrom

Bones showrunner Hart Hanson is no stranger to police procedurals, a television staple that persists despite the ubiquitousness of the genre. One way to breathe new life into this format is to introduce a compelling central figure that an audience can care about. Currently into its tenth season, Bones found success in its quirky titular character and fun atmosphere.

Hanson returns to this well with the upcoming Backstrom. Based upon the Swedish crime novels of Leif G W Persson, Backstrom is anchored by the character of Everett Backstrom, a talented and self destructive detective played by Rainn Wilson. Backstrom is overweight, unhealthy, and doesn’t seem to care about much other than solving his cases, and that includes himself. Think House investigating homicides and you’d be pretty close, with a heavier dose of cynicism.

Backstrom’s biggest draw is the nuanced, subtle turns of Rainn Wilson’s performance. When I first saw the promos for Backstrom, I didn’t even recognize Mr. Wilson. He’s undergone an incredible transformation to bring us this character, disheveled and overweight. But Wilson doesn’t just inhabit the skin of Everett Backstrom, he brings to life the raging ego of the character, who cannot rest unless others marvel at his abilities. While the cases on Backstrom may not break the procedural mold, Wilson gives audiences a grand reason to tune in. I think his work here can grow to be defining of his career.

While it’d be easy to dismiss Backstrom as another crime drama in a long line of the same, but that would be a crime in itself. In its center is a compelling character, who doesn’t possess some mythical prowess to solve crimes. Instead, Backstrom wears his weary humanity on his sleeve and its damn entertaining to watch.

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