FOX’s new series The Finder is based on The Locator books by Richard Greener which I haven’t read so I can’t say much on that subject at this time. The series was created by the same creator/exec producer as the popular series Bones and he used the show to introduce The Finder as a backdoor pilot. Basically, Bones produced a normal episode for them only with the The Finder characters prominent in it. This way the creators of The Finder received an instant test audience to see if the show was viable on its own. However, The Finder is not really a spin off in the same sense shows like NCIS are spin-offs. Sure, Bones and The Finder share the same universe but that is about it. If there was no Bones backdoor pilot and you put them up next to each other you really wouldn’t be able to see the resemblance.
This is one of the most obvious yet sneaky moves made by FOX lately but it might have paid off. The Finder did premiere with so-so ratings but its lead-in Bones underperformed as well so it could just be a matter of external factors keepings the fan base away from the television that night. Since both shows were down it’s too early to judge if this is a bad sign for Finder or not. If The Finder can rise up to Bones’ average audience share, and scare up some more, then it’s got it made as a Thursday night television show that competes against powerhouse Grey’s Anatomy.
The story centers around Walter Sherman, an ex-military, PTSD suffering, savant played by Geoff Stults. After a combat injury Walter gains Sherlockian level observation skills but he has the tack of a fifth grader (which makes the character similar to Bones’ Dr. Brennan but that is where the similarities end). Walter also has a compulsion to find things and once he’s on the trail he won’t stop until he finds the item, hence the title. Other characters make the obvious comparison to blood hounds and worry he will run himself to the ground.
He’s accompanied by his own Chewbacca in the form of Michael Clarke Duncan’s Leo Knox. Leo basically owes Walter a life debt and so faithfully follows him around acting as financial advisor, Jiminy Cricket, and steam roller. Michael Clarke Duncan is great and really underappreciated, he pulls off the subtle, Zen-like, traits of Leo despite being, well, Michael Clarke Duncan. He’s a big, intimidating looking man and one hell of an actor.
The love interest (because there is always a love interest) is Mercedes Masohn ‘s Deputy US Marshal Isabel Zambada. Walter helps her with catching felons and she gets him information. There is a sexual relationship between them, a friend’s with benefits situation, which is positively underplayed.
The main cast is rounded off with the troubled gypsy teen, Willa (Maddie Hasson), a seemingly pointless addition to the cast from the backdoor pilot. She is the ‘daughter never had/just needs someone to believe in them’ cliché and might be a possible grab at pulling in younger audience members. At first she reminded me of Zoey Carter from Eureka, styling and all, but Zoey was better acted and had more depth in her debut episode. Still, some promise here as long as they avoid the obvious cliché pitfalls.
As for the show itself, the tone is very similar to Bones as to be expected. With a smaller cast and no ‘outsider’ character the story can skip the ‘breaking in’ period of story arcs. Since everyone already knows each other it’s just a matter of showing those relationships to the audience. Dropping the viewers into a show without the benefit of story arc exposition required from having a character get to know other characters is always a plus in my book.
There is also a strong comedic element of quick witted dialogue and visual (non toilet humor) gags in the pilot which I hope carries into the series. I am a sucker for snappy one liners as long as those speaking them can pull off the timing and Stults and Duncan play off each other quite nicely. There is something about Walter’s socially recluse scrawny neurotic to Leo’s gentle giant who could kick your butt that works wonderfully together in that ‘odd couple’ way.
In the pilot they had a celebrity guest star, John Fogerty, and it’s unclear at this time if this was a one-off because Fogerty wrote the theme song or if the series will employ more guest stars to jazz up the place. Could be interesting. Fogerty was looking for his favorite guitar, makes you wonder what other celebrities might need located.
On the technical side, the pacing of the pilot episode was off but this is the pilot episode. The writers and director had more exposition and groundwork to lay than usual so hopefully that’s a one-off. The ending was also very ‘scooby doo’ but again, that could be pilotitis (yes, I think I just made that word up). Thankfully everything else in the pilot was spot on from the camera work to the set pieces. Let’s hope they keep that up.
Overall, the pilot did its job and peaked this viewer’s interests. The show has lots of potential which it has already touched on (always a good sign). Next week it will have an American Idol lead in so hopefully it can get those ratings up. I should have an episode specific review of the pilot with more details up soon, so look for that too.
Here’s a question, if you could have the The Finder find you anything, what would it be? And no, your dignity after your 21st birthday party does not count.