Review by Gordon Justesen
Donnie Wahlberg, Neal McDonough, Mykelti Williamson, Gary Basaraba, Nina
Garbiras, Lana Parrilla, Jason Gedrick
Creator: Graham Yost
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 810 Minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2004
SHOT A SIX YEAR OLD! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?"
Boomtown; a TV show with a pure cinematic appeal. Who knew such a show could
There are times
when I seriously thought television had lost its touch. There were hardly any
shows on the air, with the exception of Third
Watch, that had a certain edge to them. Like my mentor, Mike J., I had very
much given up on TV for a good long period. However, the last several years have
shown in increase in what I consider to be top quality television.
For me, and I'm
sure many will agree on this one, a little show called 24 revolutionized the overall appeal of TV entertainment. With its
brilliant narrative structure and never-ending cliffhanger element of suspense,
it was like no other show I had ever experienced. Another strong element was the
presence of Kiefer Sutherland who, on a side note, is very deserving of the Emmy
With that show's
debut in 2001, I began noticing that rival networks began ushering in a slew of
series that, from my perspective, seemed to have a bigger level of edge and
appeal to them in the year following. One of those shows was Boomtown,
which I had been anxious to catch because of the high acclaim and buzz it had
received prior to airing, just like 24.
However, due to its Sunday evening time slot, I was unable to catch a single
Now, the show has
made it to DVD, and I'm happy to say that while it may be second to 24,
Boomtown is every bit as
groundbreaking and dramatically involving. It's an L.A. cop drama unlike any
other I've seen, clearly making it the single best cop show I've ever seen. And
I thought Crockett and Tubbs would rule that throne forever.
may not have the strong narrative style of 24
in that of tying each episode together, it does manage to have a unique
narrative trick of its own. Each episode involves a crime that has occurred
somewhere in Los Angeles. The crime and the events that are followed are
examined from the viewpoints of the different groups of people involved in the
entire aftermath. These people are the detectives, street cops, politicians, the
media, and sometimes even from the very suspect of the crime.
The creator of the
show is Graham Yost, who also penned screenplays for Speed, Hard Rain, and The Last
Castle. Given Yost's track record as a long time screenwriter, it's easy to
assume that he wanted to bring a different show to television; one that
maneuvered the same way a piece of cinema did. To give a good example of a plot scenario and to get an idea of the
central characters, I'll examine the pilot episode; not only one of the
strongest episodes of the season, but possibly one of the best pilot episodes of
We learn that a
young girl has been wounded in a drive by shooting. First on the scene is
ruthless Deputy D.A. David McNorris (Neal McDonough) who's there to answer
questions about the incident, as well as manipulate the event for his own
political gain and media exposure. The lead reporter covering the shooting is
Andrea Little (Nina Garbiras), whom the married David just happens to be
shooting are homicide detectives Joel Stevens (Donnie Wahlberg) and Bobby
"Fearless" Smith (Mykelti Williamson). The high level cops work
alongside uniformed officers Ray Hechler (Gary Basarba) and Tom Turcotte (Jason
Gedrick), despite the possible resentment between the two ranks. The wounded
girl is treated by lead police paramedic Teresa Ortiz (Lana Parilla), who is
then able to provide key information to the detectives.
The story takes
many surprising turns, as the suspect trail leads to that of teen whose prints
were found on the weapon used in the shooting. The result a gut wrenching twist
involving an accidental death and the pain that must be dealt by a suffering
grandfather. It goes without saying that like 24, Boomtown doesn't make
compromises when it comes to suspense and grim subject matter.
Now although it may
sound as if the show maneuvers in the way of a traditional hour long show, it is
quite the opposite. Each episode is essentially divided amongst the key
characters, and a certain plot element is sometimes replayed as part of being
retold through another character's perspective.
This is done in a
neat process where in which a character's name appears on the screen to preside
a sequence, after which then certain events are seen. It then ends and begins
again with another character's name, and the events are seen in a new light.
It's like chapters in a book helping to let a whole story become entirely
revealed. It reminded me a lot of Memento,
and the effect that its storytelling structure had on me.
And although the
strength of Boomtown may come by way
of the narrative, there are two other elements that make it an even stronger
series. The first is in the way the series is shot. In many episodes, the visual
aspect becomes almost as important as the events in the story. With the visuals
consisting of periodic moments of deep saturated images, as well as distinct
coloring, the intensity of a storyline would be upgraded to a full effect. If
anything, the look of Boomtown is one
of uncompromising brilliance, rarely found in television.
The second element
is the strong cast lineup helming the show. For my money, there are two big
standouts in the cast; Donnie Wahlberg and Neal McDonough. It's a shame to note
that neither actor was rewarded with an Emmy nod.
In the role of the
power-hungry, self-centered, politically driven David McNorris, McDonough, who
was great as the over-the-top villain in Walking
Tall, is a sharp live wire in a strikingly complex character who you find
yourself rooting for at times, while at the same time acknowledging the fact
he's nothing more than a politically driven slime ball. Two episodes, "The
David McNorris Show" and, especially "Blackout", both centering
on McNorris are two of the best episodes of the first season, and that's
attributed to McDonough's powerful performance.
As for Donnie
Wahlberg, brother of Mark, Boomtown is
a strong revelation if I've ever seen one. Wahlberg has had a number of
supporting roles in a number of films, most notably Ransom and Dreamcatcher,
but it's his outstanding work here that has solidified him as a serious actor.
His character, Det. Stevens, is another complex character of the show. He's
clearly the hero of the series, though there are times during the season where
it's questioned whether or not he may be the clean dedicated cop he appears to
be. Wahlberg is credited with delivering the most intense line of dialogue
during an interrogation scene in the pilot episode.
If there is a
disappointing element regarding Boomtown,
it's the fact that the show got dumped by NBC late last year, after a year and a
half run. It's clear that the show has a dedicated fan base; otherwise we
would've probably never seen a DVD release. One thing's for sure; it's a pure
work of brilliance, the kind rarely seen in television. Here's hoping the second
season will see the light of day on DVD quite soon.
handling of this series has resulted in perhaps the best looking performance of
any TV show I've experienced on DVD, possibly even the unsurpassable handling of
24. Boomtown, like many current TV shows, was aired in the widescreen
format. With the grand anamorphic enhancement, the visual effect of the show has
been elevated even further. No matter what the sequences calls for, be it light
or dark, the image is that of endless sharp beauty. Every episode didn't falter
one bit, adding up to groundbreaking series of television made even better by
the format. Like Fox has done with 24, Lion's Gate should be congratulated for their efforts for
applying the anamorphic job, and giving it an extra dose of pure quality.
The Dolby Digital
2.0 track supplied delivers a bigger bang than one might expect, even for a
presentation limited to TV viewing. Every element here, from dialogue delivery
to numerous action scenes, to a good many bits of music playback, by way of both
original music and provided songs (the opening theme is quite a riveting one)
add up to make this a much more memorable sound presentation than one would most
Now that I'm a
solidified fan of this now non-existing show, I have to give Lion's Gate props
for not letting this collection go empty handed in the extras department.
Included are six commentary tracks, selected for six specific episodes,
including commentary from creator Graham Yost, producer/director Jon Avnet,
writer and producers Larry Andries, Chris Brancato, Bert Salke, Kevin Dunnigan,
Fred Golan and Fred Keller, as well as cast mates Donnie Wahlberg and Neal
Also featured are
two very well made documentaries, "Building Boomtown", which takes a
look at the creation of the series, and "The Boomtown Shuffle", which
explores the show's unique storytelling method.