The Good: Funny when it tries to be, Decently dark otherwise
The Bad: Very dark, Unlikable protagonist, Not funny, Light on character/acting
The Basics: A disappointing supposed-satire which relaunched Dennis Leary's television career appears on DVD as a set that does the best it can, considering how mediocre The Job was.
Every now and then, I come across a television show that has a concept I am fairly sure I would like. So when Sports Night was being promoted in the summer before it premiered, the idea of a show that was a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes of a television show appealed to me. Similarly, when Kitchen Confidential (reviewed here!) aired, it seems like a decent concept as well; what happens in a kitchen at a fancy restaurant. Having worked at a less-than-fancy restaurant, this seemed like I might well appeal to me. And when The Job first premiered as a parody of NYPD Blue it looked like it would be a slam-dunk.
I'm sure that is what the producers of the show thought as well. Unfortunately for The Job, it quickly became clear that the show was far too dark to be considered a comedy and given that it was promoted as a comedy, it fell flat. Even outside the hype, The Job - The Complete Series now on DVD does not hold up as a worthwhile series that actually entertains.
Mike McNeil is a police detective working in New York City, estranged from his wife and having trouble with his mistress while working with possibly the least competent detectives in the city. As he smokes, drinks, and screws his way through his days, McNeil tries to solve crimes plaguing New York City with mixed results. Often he makes bad situations worse and his temper and temperament are not an asset to him.
While bumbling through their days, McNeil and his partners engage in cases that result in protecting Elizabeth Hurley, a hostage situation, pranks with dismembered body parts, and anger management classes. The cases often rely on the outright stupidity of the suspects - like getting a suspect to confess to one of the detectives dressed as a priest - and the DVD set contains all nineteen half-hour episodes of the series. The sad thing is, in a series that has only nineteen episodes, it quickly repeats itself. Early in the series, Mike is assigned to help Elizabeth Hurley, later on Mike works as Gina Gershon's bodyguard. Often there is a repetitive quality to the episodes that it took NYPD Blue several seasons to achieve!
But ultimately, the problem is, The Job just isn't funny. It's not funny and the characters are almost universally unlikable. Mike McNeil is not even so much an antihero as he is a disturbing protagonist who has traits that are often considered villainous. The show often has McNeil off doing one thing (usually involving smoking, having sex with people not his wife, or drinking heavily) while the other detectives in the squad illustrate idiot group mentality like all spying on a nearby topless yoga instructor with a boosted telescope or trying to get each other to come out of the closet.
With limited appeal to the repetitive plots, one turns to the characters hoping they might redeem the show, but it is the characters who frame the series as a fairly dark, (supposedly) satirical show illustrating corruption and incompetence. The principle characters in the series include:
Mike McNeil - The boozing, smoking, detective who seems more likely to be getting into bed with anyone other than his wife while investigating crimes. He is abrasive, gets along poorly with his coworkers and seldom solves a case on his own without annoying either the suspects, his coworkers or the people he is sworn to protect and serve,
Frank - A fairly incompetent detective, he manages to lose a suspect within the station house once! He often gets into the messiest situations and needs to be bailed out and as the series progresses, McNeil comes to believe that he may be gay,
Pip - Mike's partner, he is efficient, quieter than most in the office and far less abrasive than McNeil. He is married (for 25 years) and is faithful to his wife. Possibly the most likable character on the show,
Jan - One of Mike's prior mistresses, she works with McNeil reluctantly and works to put some distance between them, despite McNeil investigating her new boyfriends and showing her more kindness than he shows his wife,
Ruben - A younger detective, he is somewhat browbeaten by his mother (she wants him to apologize to a suspect he had to shoot), he is the easiest to influence by suspects and their superstitions,
and Al - Ruben's partner and a completely supporting character (though he does appear in all the episodes!). He mostly just shows up.
This is clearly a vehicle for Dennis Leary, who plays Mike McNeil. Before he got Rescue Me, he had essentially the same character here on The Job. McNeil has even less charisma than his newer role. I used to watch Leary on a talk show he had on Comedy Central called Afterdrive (I still remember the theme song!) and on this, he is playing pretty much his angry stage performer. Leary is excellent in that role, but it's nothing we have not seen from him before.
On DVD, The Job is fairly unimpressive. It looks good (it was shot as a parody of the style of NYPD Blue) but by the time one gets into it, it's over. There are five episodes that have commentary tracks featuring Dennis Leary and one of the producers and they are interesting, but do not enhance the source material significantly. As well, there are interview featurettes and behind-the-scenes bits. The gag reel is pretty standard and the promo spot makes the series seem much funnier than it actually ended up being.
That's the show's epitaph; it never truly had enough time to become something other than repetitive and unlikable. It certainly never rose to funny and the DVD is a poor choice for those looking for satire or even humor or even anything remotely original.
For other television series' that made their debut on ABC, please check out my reviews of:
Happy Endings - Season 1
V - Season 2
Once & Again - Season 2
Once & Again - Season 1
Spin City - Season 1
V - The Complete Series
Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Epic Series
For other television shows, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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