How well does the pilot episode of Bosch translate bestselling author Michael Connelly's tough but beloved series character to the screen?
As a longtime fan of the 18 novels about the hard-boiled Los Angeles homicide detective, I would say: Nailed it.
Connelly, who lives in Tampa but sets his fiction amid the sweet dreams and mean streets of L.A., had major involvement in the development of this potential series about Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, and it shows in every frame of the hourlong pilot. From the casting of Titus Welliver (The Good Wife, Deadwood) as Bosch to the atmospheric portrayal of the city, the pilot captures the tone and details of Connelly's fiction, which has sold many millions of books worldwide.
It's unusual for an author to have so much input into a screen version of his books. Also unusual is the show's venue and the direct importance of audience input. The pilot is one of 10 available now for free viewing through Amazon Instant Video (see box), and everyone who watches Bosch becomes part of a focus group that could greenlight the series. The more viewers who watch and rate it, the better the chances that more episodes will be made for Amazon Studios.
After watching the pilot, I'm rooting for it — I want more. The show is not a one-to-one adaptation of any of the books; instead, it combines elements from two novels, City of Bones (2002) and The Concrete Blonde (1994), with original material. Connelly has adapted the characters and the chronology — Bosch, who in the most recent novels is approaching retirement, is considerably younger here, as are familiar characters like his partner, Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector).
The pilot is not self-contained; it sets up a story meant to arc over a season, with Bosch involved in several cases. It opens with him tailing, then shooting a suspect, then moves to a couple of years later, with Bosch in court because the family of the man he shot is suing him. Bored out of his mind, he finagles the shift of two other detectives (fans will recognize Crate and Barrel) even though he's supposed to be off the roster. Bosch lives to work, to, as another cop says to him, do something that matters.
When he gets a call about a dog that has found a supposedly human bone up in the hills, he's skeptical. But, as the song goes, the arm bone's connected ...
The success of this show hinges on its title character, who is deeply real to a legion of readers. Does Welliver look exactly like the Harry I picture? No. Does he make me believe he is Harry? Indeed he does. Gruff, wisecracking, seething with carefully controlled rage, slyly flirtatious, a man who can shrug off all sorts of horrors but break down over a telltale crack in the bone of a long-dead victim — this is Bosch. (Sensitive types should be warned that Welliver's performance is also true to the books in that Harry cusses a blue streak and smokes up a storm.)
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The pilot does just as fine a job with Los Angeles, which in the books is portrayed in such detail and complexity it's more character than place. There are glimpses of Angel's Flight and Hollywood Station, a dinner at Musso and Frank, and great scenes in Bosch's cantilevered hillside home at night, the city a sea of lights beyond the windows, jazz musician Frank Morgan's Lullaby playing softly as Bosch broods.
Connelly himself has a funny cameo in the pilot. But it's not like those plays-himself poker games he sometimes shows up for on Castle; blink and you'll miss him.
But don't miss Bosch.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.