USA Network’s Eyewitness: An Engrossing Murder Mystery. Michelle’s Review

EYEWITNESS -- "The Larson's Dog" Episode 108 -- Pictured: Julianna Nicholson as Helen Torrance -- (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network)
EYEWITNESS — “The Larson’s Dog” Episode 108 — Pictured: Julianna Nicholson as Helen Torrance — (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network)

USA Network’s recently debuted series Eyewitness, based on an original Norwegian project called Øyevitne, is a nice departure from the supernatural/sci-fi/superhero fare that I normally wallow in. The 10-episode anthology series at times is tight procedural that threatens to spiral out of control with it’s multi-level conspiracies and double crosses but somehow maintains equilibrium throughout the 10 episodes.

The folks at Universal Cable Productions (UCP) have put together a nice team of folks to run this project. It’s created and executive produced by Adi Hasak (creator, “Shades of Blue”), Scott Peters (“V,” “THE 4400”) and Jarl Emsell Larsen. They even managed to snag Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke to kick things off by directing the first two episodes.

Watching the premiere, you can’t help but think of Twilight. It has that familiar, relentlessly overcast, grayish look about everything. There’s hardly any color and certainly no vibrancy to this world. That’s not to say that it isn’t sharply filmed, it certainly has a better and cleaner look than the first Twilight.

Six episodes into this series and I’m still trying to figure out if this is a character study or just an interesting murder mystery. This show wears its procedural and conspiracy desires on its sleeve at the expense of the expense of drawing compelling characters. Several of the people we’re supposed to root for are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but it seems like they have easy ways out. A simple drug deal gone bad ends up being part of a larger conspiracy involving the FBI, biker gangs, heroin dealers, pedophiles, informants and a mystery involving Helen’s mysterious past.

The show is headed up by former Law and Order: Criminal Intent star Julianne Nicholson who plays a small town Sheriff with a mysterious past. Even though she plays against type, she carries herself well and you can’t help but buy into it. She’s not the tough cop with a heart of goal archetype. She’s just someone trying to make a difference. Amanda Brugel (Orphan Black, Covert Affairs) is Sita the messed up sister of FBI Agent Kamilla Davis (Tattiawna Jones). Sita is one of those annoying “can’t do right” characters that drags everyone down with her. I wanted to reach through the TV and strangle her.

EYEWITNESS -- "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Julianne Nicholson as Helen Torrance, Amanda Brugel as Sita -- (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)
EYEWITNESS — “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Julianne Nicholson as Helen Torrance, Amanda Brugel as Sita — (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)

Eyewitness wants us to believe and feel for two boys Lucas (James Paxton) and Phillip (Tyler Young) who are trapped in a terrible situation. The two teens were out filming Lucas’ dirt bike exploits when they witness the murder of some gangbangers. You would think it’d be easy to tell the cops what happened, especially since Phillip’s foster mom is Helen. However, it’s television so nothing is that simple. They started making out when everything went down.

I understand why coming out in a small town like this could be really bad, especially for a popular kid like Lucas, but come on, he’d rather stay in the closet than try and do the right thing when 3 people were murdered and oh yeah, the killer is still out there? You’d rather stay quiet when you know the killer wrongfully targeted and killed a classmate? Yeah, that’s the ultimate in selfishness.

EYEWITNESS -- "The Lilies" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tyler Young as Philip Shea, James Paxton as Lukas Waldenbeck -- (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)
EYEWITNESS — “The Lilies” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Tyler Young as Philip Shea, James Paxton as Lukas Waldenbeck — (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)

The show never even explains why the entire town would immediately assume Lukas was gay and why he treats Phillip like crap in public. There’s not a moment in the first few episodes where it appears that Lucas is out and proud. The two could have simply told the truth, without saying they were in the cabin experimenting with gay sex.

Lucas is pretty much a stereotypical homophobic ass throughout the first half of the season and isn’t at all sympathetic. Especially considering his paranoia about people immediately assuming he’s gay because he knows Phillip has no basis in reality.

Eyewitness is an interesting animal, while I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the characters and the way the mystery unfolded there is something about it that managed to hold my attention and kept me on my binge.

Final Grade B