Is It a Crime? – A Look Ahead to NBC’s GRIMM

I’m a natural skeptic.  Not an unusual or profound thing for my generation, but that’s what I am.  In growing older, I find my tastes funneling down into increasingly ordered grooves from which I rarely stray.

So when somebody comes along with a lot of high-falutin’, amalgamative concepts, especially within the concept of network television dramas, my horseshit harpoon gun goes hair-trigger.

Now, here comes Sean Hayes (you know, the flitty one from Will & Grace), pushing a new show that sports as disparate a pairing of concepts as, say, Corningware and lawn darts.  The show is Grimm, the world’s first fairy tale-based police procedural, and regardless the success of this project, undoubtedly the last.

It goes something like this.  Detective Nick Burckhardt starts seeing people slipping in and out of monster-mode, in kind of a Roddy Piper, They Live sort of way.  His mother cues him in to the fact that he is a Grimm, which is to say, he is a descendant of the Brothers Grimm.  Turns out what we always thought were fairy tales are (suspend disbelief…now) journals of actual experiences and that the Brothers were actually cursed with an ability to see monsters roaming the…oh, you get it.

So, is it a crime drama?

So, first the good news, as I see it.  You can’t say that this is just another addition to the alphabet soup of crime dramas that already saturate the airwaves.  That’s as true as it is obvious.  If nothing else, Grimm will be different from anything else on television.  Also, from what little various sneak peeks on the web provide, I’m not yet turned off by what I hear coming out of the actors’ mouths as of yet.  There seems to be a nice mix of humor and action, mixed with a few jump-out-of-your-seat, dig-your-nails-into-your-significant-other’s-forearm type moments.

On the other hand, how can a series structured around fairy tales not end up turning into a contrived mess?  We’re talking about a plotline that’s going to have to jump through a lot of preexisting narrative hoops while still delivering a level of suspense and intrigue that is appropriate to the tone they appear to be pushing in the ad campaign.  In fact, the worst-case scenario from a standpoint of delivering credible material might be that the show becomes a runaway success.  The longer the series goes, the trickier it becomes to deliver.

But is it a crime drama?

I’ll answer that question with another question:  If there was a CSI: New Orleans, would it be any weirder?

Sure it’s a crime drama.  You’ve got a lead detective using his innate abilities and special talents to bring an elusive perpetrator to justice, save lives, so on, so forth.  In a nutshell, that is what an investigative type of police drama is.  In addition, there are guns. There are chases.  There may even be an old crusty vet on the verge of retirement.

I’m not a purist when it comes to police procedurals, or frankly any other genre of TV drama.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that if the writers can keep things from spiraling out of control plot-wise, it’s got the potential to bring a breath of fresh air to an overcrowded, increasingly stodgy genre.  Even if it really isn’t part of the genre.  I’ll go out even further and say, with the right people behind it, Cop Rock could be made to work in the 21st century as well.  I mean, look at Glee, for God’s sake.

Okay, I’ll come back in now.

Look, my guess is that hardcore fans of the NCIS‘s and CSI‘s and Law and Order‘s are not going to come in out of the cold for this.  Maybe they will.  The Hawaii Five-O people will, of course, as those rubes will clearly try anything once.  I’m guessing this will appeal a bit more to the Heroes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer crowds, or should I say the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crowd and the sixteen people who muscled through to the network-forced finale of Heroes.

Whether it’s any good or not will be the tale told by time.  It could be the next X-Files, or it could be Cop Rock.  I’m hopeful that it will be something closer to the former.

By Josh Converse

+Josh Converse work has appeared in Crime Factory, Plots with Guns, Black Heart Magazine, Out Of the Gutter, and A Twist of Noir. He is the only person to have ever simultaneously held the WBO and WBC middleweight and welterweight titles without any witnesses. Josh can talk his way out of any situation, particularly when on the cusp of runaway success. In 2010, he was the recipient of Nick Tosches’ final apology. He lives and works and eats cereal in Chicago.