DEPUTY” RIDES THE MAVERICK CRIME DRAMA TRAIL ON TV
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“DEPUTY” ON FOX NETWORK When it comes to creating crime dramas for television, the undisputed champion is now, and probably for the foreseeable future, Dick Wolf, who has made a cottage industry of the “Law & Order” franchise. The opening blurb for every episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is the disclaimer: “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Notwithstanding this claim, heinous crime true stories likely provide inspiration for any series.
The relevance of fiction applies heavily to the premise of the new FOX crime drama “Deputy” in that there is supposedly a 150-year-old arcane county charter that provides for the succession of a duly elected Sheriff who dies during the term of his office.
Apparently harkening back to the Wild West days, the longest-serving member of the mounted posse gets elevated to the position of Sheriff until the next election. This is where cowboy hat and boots-wearing Sergeant Bill Hollister (Stephen Dorff) comes into the picture.
The opening sequence establishes Hollister as an old school maverick law enforcement officer in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who doesn’t mind kicking down doors in the pursuit of justice.
At a review panel, led by Undersheriff Jerry London (Mark Moses), the Sergeant is dressed down for being recalcitrant, insubordinate and having a disregard for the chain of command. Winding up his defense, Hollister informs the panel that if the Sheriff “wants his star, he knows where to find me.” A short time later, after Hollister is involved in a deputy-involved shooting during a hot pursuit, high-ranking officials show up at the crime scene.
Hollister’s first instinct is that he’s somehow in trouble with the brass, only to find out the Sheriff died of a heart attack and now he has to be sworn in as the acting Sheriff due to the county charter.
Dumbfounded, Hollister can only say “you’ve got to be kidding me,” and Undersheriff London is quick to say “I wish we were.” By now, it’s obvious there’ll be tension between the new Sheriff and the suits on the tenth floor of the Hall of Justice.
Here’s the thing about fiction coming into play for “Deputy.” The arcane charter provision does not exist. Hate to break this news, but the county charter empowers the Board of Supervisors to fill the vacancy until an election can be held.
Does this imaginary foundation for the story matter at all for viewers? Not likely, but it would seem more believable for a rural area of just about any state in the Mountain Time Zone.
But here we are in modern-day Los Angeles, and Sheriff Hollister is now in charge, even though he appears unwilling to conform to what’s expected of the leader of one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.
To his surprise, Hollister has to accept the fact that he has a driver and personal bodyguard in the diminutive Deputy Brianna Bishop (Bex Taylor-Klaus) who will crimp his style as the lone cowboy accustomed to chasing bad guys in his Ford Bronco or on a horse.
Clashing with the Undersheriff comes with the job, but Hollister also has to contend with his trauma surgeon wife Dr. Paula Reyes (Yara Martinez), who deals with her husband often at the hospital, making him wait his turn to stitch up his latest wounds.
One of the few friends Hollister has in the department is Detective Cade Ward (Brian Van Holt), a Marine veteran with PTSD who grew up in a foster home, and now with his wife is looking to become a foster parent to children of a criminal he killed in the line of duty.
The first episode is titled “Graduation Day,” allowing Hollister to preside at the swearing-in ceremony of new recruits, one of whom is the son of his former partner who died on the job.
Notably, Hollister is the godfather of the new deputy, Joseph Harris (Shane Paul McGhie), and he’s soon confronted by the mother who pleads for the Sheriff to fire her son because she fears for his safety, thus setting up another storyline that plays out in unexpected ways.
Stating the obvious, the blunt-talking Hollister makes a point of saying he’s not a politician. But given his defiance of the establishment and ideas on policing, one has to wonder if he’ll eventually stand for election. Interestingly, the first episode has Hollister diving into a contentious political agenda on a controversial issue that shows no sign of abating in the current climate.
Many viewers just want an hour’s worth of entertaining escapism and would probably agree with legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn who said: “messages should be delivered by Western Union.”
“Deputy” intertwines the personal stories of key players along with plenty of action from a Sheriff unwilling to sit behind a desk.
The longevity of this series may rise or fall on how much to invest in Stephen Dorff’s maverick who admittedly cuts a charismatic figure with his irrepressible swagger.