CHASE 1.1: Pilot

If you’re going to call your TV show CHASE, it’s probably a requirement that it contain an actual chase sequence. NBC’s new CHASE gets that out of the way early by hitting the ground literally running, continuing the theme throughout the hour, and wrapping up with a chase by land, air and sea (well, river, at least).

The episode hits the ground literally running, with U.S. Marshal Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish) chasing a fugitive on foot through Fort Worth, Texas. She is joined in this pursuit by her partner, Jimmy Godfrey (Cole Hauser). Eventually Annie runs down the fugitive and after a vigorous bout of hand-to-hand combat, she subdues him.

Back at headquarters, Annie, Jimmy and the rest of the team, including Marco Martinez (Amaury Nolasco, who did a lot of running on his own as PRISON BREAK’s Sucre) and Daisy Ogbaa (Rose Rollins) are introduced to newbie Luke Watson (Jesse Metcalfe, the former lawn boy from DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES) , fresh out of the academy. Of course the vets whine about the wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn, but they are stuck with him.

“The New Guy” is the traditional entry point for stories about groups, allowing the audience to see the established operation through the eyes of the rookie, and learn as he learns. But while we join the story with Annie’s crew already a well-oiled machine, they don’t really incorporate Luke very well. Nobody walks him through procedures and practices, and thus the audience doesn’t get to know precisely what purpose each character serves and how they interact, or much about the U.S. Marshal service at all. The most we learn is that the marshals are unlike the police when it comes to chasing criminals. As one character put it: “[The police] care about where he’s been; we care about where he’s going.” Or, as another chirped, “It’s hide-and-seek with guns!” I know the pilot had to cram a lot into an hour, so maybe subsequent episodes will bring audiences up to speed.

One thing we viewer could glean is that the marshals seem reluctant to use their weapons; I don’t know if that reflects reality or a conscious effort by the show’s creators to tone down the violence. For instance, Annie and Jimmy had ample opportunity to shoot a runner from the safety and comfort of a helicopter, but no — Annie elected to leap from the copter onto the man’s back! Whatever the reason, it make their threat, “Stop, or I’ll shoot!” ring hollow.

And it’s not like there was no one worth shooting. The villain, Mason Boyle (Travis Fimmel), is the kid of guy who shoots children in the back while executing entire families. And he enjoys doing it.

We don’t really learn much about why Annie enjoys doing what she does, other than the fact that she claims her mother died when she was 8, and she doesn’t know if her father is dead or alive. Giddish is tough, attractive and charismatic — it’s clear why producers keep wanting to build shows around her — but she deserves a stronger script. Jimmy and the rest of the team are complete ciphers — though we know Luke is not very observant for someone who graduated at the top of his class. There are clearly too many characters on the squad, so a little judicious pruning should allow TPTB to concentrate more on Annie and Jimmy. Giddish and Hauser did a nice job of suggesting that the marshals have been partners for a while and each knows how the other operates. Now the audience needs to learn that.

The storytelling was fairly standard procedural, with less emphasis on the technical aspects than, say, CSI, and more on the…well, the chase. Naturally, the episode ended with a foot chase. Well, a foot chase that turned into a swim when the fugitive jumped off a bridge. And Annie answered every mother’s challenge, “If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” with a resounding “Yes.” She plunged into (presumably) the Rio Grande, and engaged Mason in another mean bout of hand-to-hand combat before Jimmy waded in and offered her a hand.

I get the feeling CHASE is going to need a hand if it is going to get a leg up on the much slicker HAWAII FIVE-O, which is airing over on CBS in the same timeslot.

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