Summer TV: Getting Swamped by The Glades

REVIEW: I’m usually not too excited by the Summer crop of new cable TV programs but since this past season of network TV was perhaps one of the worst ever (thank god for “Chuck” and the limping along – pun intended – “House”), I’ve been more than mildly surprised by the new shows for Summer 2010, and in particular a cool new show on A&E called “The Glades.”

From the description is sounded like yet another chick show, mildly re-purposed to appeal to men who need to be able to sit on the couch while their significant other works on her notebook and half-listens to the “drama light” cable TV style of programming.

Imagine my surprise to find that “The Glades” has a little more of a Magnum P.I. vibe, sharing more in common with “Justified” than with the disappointing “Memphis Beat.”

The lead actor Matt Passmore is not somebody I’ve seen before, but he strolls through the stories with a bit of a smirk, playing detective Jim Longworth. This homicide detective has a fun back-story, having been accused of sleeping with his former boss’ wife in Chicago, but uses the payout from winning the case to live off of and moves to the small town of Palm Glade, Florida. Yep, thar’s gators in them there waters. Hurricanes, too.

Passmore is tall and has that leading man quality, and apparently was in a popular series my elderly mom watched called “McLeod’s Daughters,” but you can get his full bio all over the Web now that this show is taking off.

A good backing cast banters off the main character, and the first episode was pretty unusual (spoilers ahead) as his partner turned out to be the bad guy. The final scene between the two of them at the BBQ was very interesting, as Passmore’s body language is subtle, but not wooden, and again reminds me of Tom Selleck back in the Magnum days.

Kiele Sanchez plays the potential love interest as Callie Cargill, who happens to be a nurse, with a son, and husband in prison. Certainly a little bit of a plot device as a homicide detective will run into somebody at the hospital more often than the dry cleaner, but this gives you the smart and sexy character in one, and gives the main character a relationship to pursue, while also having a go-to gal for medical info, and he can play big brother to the son. I actually prefer this to the over-used device of the female interest being a reporter, or TV anchor (think “Moonlight” or a million other shows).

Certainly we’ll see that develop into something. The direction has been above average for this type of program, letting the characters play off each other and it feels surprisingly natural and not so contrived and staged as with “Memphis Beat.” Director Peter O’Fallon has worked on a number of shows I like from “House,” to the original “Eureka” pilot and more mainstream things in between. O’Fallon is also a writer, which shows his deft hand in pacing and Q&A between the actors.

The other cast includes the boss (played by Michelle Hurd) who’s tough but not seeking to belittle Longworth, the medical examiner (Carlos Gomez) who’s also smart and isn’t impressed by Longworth, the geeky intern (Jordan Wall) who is the glue to many situations as well as the minor comic relief (a bit like the “probies” on NCIS were originally); and of course, Cargill’s son (Uriah Shelton) who plays like a real kid, and not a fictional placeholder. Nicely chosen cast by Susan Edelman.

The first couple of episodes have been enjoyable, and not easily “guessed” at every turn as with many homicide procedural shows. I like “Bones,” but sometimes on that program a room full of smarty pants can be unbelievably dense about the obvious, which is pretty much bad writing no matter how you slice it.

While the show looks to be more than your typical cable TV “room full of dummies pitching story elements” brain-fart, it seems to be credited to writer and executive producer Clifton Campbell as the “creator” (apologies to all involved if I got that wrong). Campbell has also been a part of “White Collar” which I didn’t get into, as well as “Profiler.”

If you’ve been bored by network TV, the sad plethora of “reality” programming, the tabloid fawning and 24-hour news channel idiocy, then you might also find “The Glades” as charming, and engaging as I did.

Copyright © 2010 Christopher Simmons. This article originally appeared on CitizenWire.com.