Thandie Newton, left, stars in DirecTV's original drama "Rogue." (Joseph Lederer / DirecTV )
The recent explosion of scripted dramas from outlets as disparate as History and Netflix has created such a surfeit of fine television that it's become increasingly difficult for even the most dedicated viewer to keep up. For those who already feel overwhelmed, a bit of good news: DirecTV first foray, the mob-cop thriller "Rogue," is pretty terrible, a moody, broody jumble of clichéd characters, pregnant pauses and sex scenes that border on the pornographic.
Those who do not have access to the carrier's Audience Network on which it premieres Wednesday night are not missing much.
Thandie Newton stars as Grace Travis, a hyper-dedicated cop, and it's easy to see why she signed up: The premise of creator Matthew Parkhill's story, though familiar, is promising enough. While working undercover in an attempt to bring down Oakland crime boss Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas), Grace learns her young son has been killed in what appears to be a drive-by shooting. Months later, still out on leave but feeling that the police are not doing all they can to solve the case, Grace goes rogue, reestablishing her relationship with Jimmy, who she feels may hold the key to the murder.
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This puts her nicely at odds with her boss, her fellow officers and her family, making Grace That Kind of Cop, the one willing to risk everything to see that justice is done.
Jimmy, meanwhile, is plagued by issues of his own and by the end of the second episode, the two form an unlikely alliance that could allow Parkhill to explore the perils of ambition and tunnel vision of any sort.
Unfortunately, a total lack of chemistry between Newton and Csokas, indeed between Newton and anyone, makes this outcome unlikely. Instead, we are left with a group of good actors shoved around in scenes so over-burdened with tone and intention that they can't take a breath without it being forced to Mean Something.
Only Ian Hart, last seen in "Luck," emerges with his dignity intact, although his cop does participate in a sex scene the likes of which I hope never to see again. (Seriously guys, gratuitous male nudity mid-coitus from the back is absolutely never a good idea.)
This new breed of non-pilot dependent television — DirecTV ordered all 10 episodes of the first season — is regularly celebrated by its creators; released from indentured servitude to early high ratings, they argue, writers are free to build stories more organically. Which is true as far as it goes, although far too many of these shows follow the grim crime-related template.
But any show hoping to elbow its weigh into an increasingly crowded marketplace would still do well to hit the ground running, which "Rogue" does not. Indeed, instead of going organic, the execution of the story is overwrought to the point of being soap-operatic.
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Filmed in Vancouver, "Rogue" overcompensates with dim interiors and mood music from the beginning, and every character is unnecessarily hyper-extended. The bad guys aren't just drug dealers, they're slavers; Jimmy isn't just a mobster, he's a wine-sipping, ring-wearing mobster, with his eye on a legit life and, of course, Grace, who is tough but beautiful in a fur-lined parka and boots.
Although the death of her son is used as a catalyst, grief is strangely absent from the proceedings — Grace is just as grim after as she was before, and the fact that her determination alienates her from those she loves is served up with a ham fist. Her husband (Kavan Smith) natters on, as cop spouses do, about how "this has got to stop," her teenage daughter requisitely drops F-bombs, smokes pot and slams doors, and her various cop buddies meet her under bridges to reluctantly hand over folders and try to talk her out of doing things.
At this year's Television Critics Assn. press tour, executive producer Nick Hamm assured reporters that unlike the first season of AMC's "The Killing," the first season of "Rogue" would clearly wrap up its story. Like that's "Rogue's" problem. He should have worried more about the beginning; it's hard to imagine anyone sticking around for the end.