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The Finder Review: Fox's Bones Spin-Off Is OK But Needs To Find Its Footing
Tonight on Fox, Hart Hanson’s new drama The Finder will make its official debut. Unofficially, the series began with a cross-over episode of Bones last spring, however tonight’s “An Orphan Walks Into a Bar” episode not only serves as a more formal introduction to the series, but also opens the door for new viewers, with no previous knowledge of Bones or this new series required.
Due in large part to the over-crowdedness of Thursday night television, I don’t typically get to watch more than a few episodes of Bones per season. With that said, I’ve seen enough of the drama to know it’s a good show and to understand the enthusiasm expressed by fans of the series. The characters aren’t like any other characters on television, there’s an over-arching story that likely keeps viewers coming back, and an episode-to-episode procedural element that offers a certain amount of weekly satisfaction to viewers, much in the way House does. The series falls somewhere between straight-up procedural and the more serialized drama we see in other TV shows, which is a formula that works for Bones as much as it works for House and may very well work for The Finder.
“An Orphan Walks Into a Bar” opens with military veteran Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults) tracking (and chasing) down John Fogerty’s guitar. This is followed by a brief guest appearance by Fogarty, who then disappears, making the whole start of the episode feel strangely detached from everything that comes afterward in terms of the pacing. Still, hey, John Fogarty. Cool, right? Moving on, the meat of the premiere has Sherman helping a teenage boy track down his father, a military pilot with a shared history with Sherman. The connection between the lead character and the man he’s trying to find serves to give us a better introduction to Walter Sherman, as well as to let us see how he operates in his work. He’s a “Finder.” Without giving too much away, we essentially learn that Walter’s brain was damaged while he was in the military. Honorably discharged, he now has a sort of gift that helps him find things.
At Walter’s side is his friend Leo (Michael Clarke Duncan), whom we learn has a very specific reason for the loyalty he shows Sherman. Maddie Hassan plays Willa, a teenager with a troubled past. She works for Sherman at the Ends of the Earth bar and may have a secret agenda for being there. Finally, Mercedes Masohn plays U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada. She has a romantic history with Sherman and seems to represent the law in this series.
The set-up for the series feels a bit wobbly from the start. For one thing, while a group element similar to what we see in Bones may be coming together, the connections between the characters from the start seem a bit too loose to make sense right now. That’s something that could definitely tighten up over time, but in the meantime, it’s hard to tell how this group, if they are a group, will stay together and relevant to the story each week. And then there’s the idea that Walter Sherman’s brain damage may have given him some kind of extraordinary gift, which doesn’t quite click. There’s a sort of super-power implication being wedged into a series that lacks a supernatural element. However, there is something to the idea of a man with the compulsive need to find things once he’s set on a trail, and that’s more or less where Walter Sherman seems to be as things get started on this series.
A show about a guy set to find things has as much potential for story direction as any series involving a private detective. Except, in the case of Walter Sherman, his focus is more on “finding” than it is on “solving,” though as we learn in the first episode, what he ends up finding isn’t necessarily exactly what he was looking for, so I expect “solving” will be a frequent occurrence.
The series’ greatest strengths right out of the gate are Geoff Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan. Stults’ laid back and charismatic nature, and the dynamic he shares with Duncan on screen certainly add to the appeal of this series.
Watching the series premiere, it isn’t difficult to see where the writers are trying to go with this show. It’s the set-up that doesn’t quite gel in the premiere, but this is an issue that can right itself over the course of the next few episodes. I want to give The Finder the benefit of the doubt in suggesting that this is just a weak pilot and that we’ll see improvements as the show moves forward. It helps that the series has the loosely-connected support of Bones, which may prove to be vital in keeping viewers interested enough to stick with it beyond tonight’s premiere. Should that be the case and The Finder manages to stick around, there’s a good chance for this series to find its footing and settle in to fit in among Fox’s other drama-procedurals.
The Finder premieres Thursday, Jan. 12 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
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