CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
TV Review: NBC’s ‘Grimm’ Offers Flat Variations on Classic Legends
CHICAGO – NBC’s “Grimm” is far from the first show to tweak well-known fairy tales or urban legends for modern viewers. Even just this week, ABC has touted the premiere success of “Once Upon a Time,” another show that suggests that perhaps fictional creations have some real-life counterparts. The CW’s underrated “Supernatural” has been doing it for years. Seemingly inspired by that CW show, “Grimm” tries to turn well-known stories like Little Red Riding Hood into modern fantasy thrillers with a pair of men who stand between you and the Big Bad Wolf. With leaden performances and a distinct lack of personality, the show is remarkably flat, especially when one considers its bizarre subject matter. Believe it or not, this is a show about real-life werewolves that’s still safe and boring. There’s no creative risk-taking here and nothing to distinguish it enough to keep it around for too long on a network seriously struggling for a hit.
Television Rating: 1.5/5.0
The series premiere of “Grimm” opens with a jogger in a red hoodie being attacked by a shadowy figure. Portland Detectives Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) and Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) get the case and Nick quickly discovers that he’s not your average crime-solver. It turns out that the detective is a “Grimm,” one of the guardians of the rift between the potentially-dangerous fantasy world and that of the humans. The investigation leads him to a book that explains the Grimm creatures of the world and even a partnership with one of them (Silas Weir Mitchell). And, of course, the plot of the first episode brings our new hero face-to-face with a real-life Big Bad Wolf, reimagined as a kidnapping predator. Bitsie Tullock co-stars as Nick’s fiance while Reggie Lee and Sasha Roiz have supporting roles.
Photo credit: NBC
On paper, I bet “Grimm” was a pretty attractive prospect. Fairy tales and the creatures that come with them are as popular as ever with a little vampire/werewolf book series currently making billions at the box office in advance of two adaptations of “Snow White” and the aforementioned “Once Upon a Time.” We love to consider that the fictional creations of our fantasy writers are based on something actually hidden in the woods; that the monster under the bed might be real; that the sound we hear on the roof at night is more than just the wind.
Wouldn’t you assume that a cop show based on Red Riding Hood would be a little bit of fun? “Grimm” is remarkably dull. It never creates any actual tension or interest, in no small part due to the fact that Giuntoli is a boring lead. On “Supernatural,” Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki make the occasional lapse in quality writing easy to bear through the sheer power of their screen charisma. Giuntoli has almost none. It’s almost shocking how flat the series premiere of “Grimm” comes off with no edge, no personality, and nothing more than a by-the-numbers presentation of its plot. (And if you think the “Supernatural” comparison at all off-base, the Portland setting of this show even forces the programs to have a similar look…most of The CW hit films in Vancouver.)
Can “Grimm” be saved? The writers need to recognize that their concept is undeniably silly and have some B-movie fun within that fact. Don’t be so damn self-serious. Have a good time. No one wants to be bored on a Friday night and the last thing people want is a show that takes our beloved fantasy tales and makes them stale. We tune in to something like “Grimm” to see something different from the average cop procedural. We want to see something abnormal and unique. So why does it feel like “Grimm” is trying so hard to be like everything else?