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AMC’s SMALL TOWN SECURITY, Big Characters
Stuck with 90 minutes to fill the other night, I caught up on the latest show from AMC, Small Town Security. Three episodes in, I was damn impressed. It wasn’t the standard fare of aiming a camera at an odd segment of life – Cajun alligator hunters, Alaskan truckers, Sasquatch lumberjacks – and just letting the freak flags fly.
Small Town Security had complex characters, represented in a sophisticated way. It’s more about the unique folks that populate JJK Security than it is about, well, caricatures of small town rent-a-cops. Setting is secondary. The brush isn’t broad. True to form for the potent AMC production team, even seamy reality TV is handled with an exquisite hand.
That’s not to say Small Town Security isn’t outlandish. I had a difficult time accepting that it was reality. It scans more like a Christopher Guest film, balancing the bizarre with the sentimental.
Episodes so far have each focused on a core character. Small Town Security episode 1 was devoted to Joan Koplan, fame-addicted regent of JJK Security and “Chief” of the force. It segued well into the second episode, which concentrated on her right-hand man, Lieutenant Dennis Cross. But no matter what the episode, Koplan is the hurricane at the center of this drama, riling events and booming large over the dialogue.
No surprise there – this show is her baby. After taking a few shots at singing and starring on the screen, Koplan took aim at public access TV and then reality TV. She shepherded Small Town Security to William Morris, and they saw it into AMC’s able hands.
As contrived as it all is, I’m glad she did. Small Town Security not only does justice to its characters, but its culture as well. It shows a small-town South that is far more complicated than the coasts of America might assume. Old traditions and bigotry may persist, but the tidal wave of media drowns those old fashions in diversity all the same. This is especially evident given that Dennis Cross is a transgendered man, and his treatment by those in the show – conservative, old-school and distinctively small-town-Southern as they may be – is revealing to the character of the Mason-Dixon in the 21st century.
At 30-minutes long, filled with strong characters and a clear glimpse at a culture too often stereotyped, Small Town Security proves worth a watch.
Plus, there’s always the chance that Michael McKean could pop through the screen door at any moment.