The Finder: Finding Its Feet, But Still Plenty Of Fun!

THE FINDER:  The one-hour procedural centering on a remarkable man with an extraordinary ability to help people find the unfindable premieres Thursday, Jan. 12 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  Pictured L-R:  Mercedes Masöhn, Geoff Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Maddie Hasson.  ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Patrick Ecclesine/FOX

FOX’s The Finder [Thursdays, 9/8C] premieres this evening and, though cast changes have clearly resulted in a bit of unevenness, the series first episode, an Orphan Walks Into A Bar, has the kind of mix of breeziness and dark undercurrents that have its parent series, Bones, a hit.

An Orphan opens with Walter Sherman [Geoff Stults] running down John Fogarty’s favorite guitar – with a bit of assistance from Deputy U.S. Marshall Isabel Zambada [Mercedes Masohn] – as an amused Leo Knox [Michael Clarke Duncan] looks on. After Fogarty plays Favorite Son, it’s Miller Time [well, maybe not Miller…] back at Leo’s bar/restaurant, Ends of the Earth.

Cue the entrance of Walter’s newest customer – a teenage boy named Cooper [Brett Davern] – arrives at the bar after paying Willa Monday [Maddie Hasson] for a ride on her bike after his car breaks down.

Cooper wants to hire Walter to find his father, who’s gone missing – apparently crashed into a swamp – but Walter tells him to be sure, because sometimes, when you look for someone/something, you find something you’d have been better off not knowing. But Cooper is adamant and Walter takes the case.

In the backdoor pilot that ran on bones last season, there were three characters, the third played by Saffron Burroughs. The three leads had an easy chemistry and it was with some disappointment that I learned of the decision to go in a different direction.

The two female leads on the revamped show, however, look to have a lot of potential [even if one is sketched in pretty quickly in the premiere]. Willa, a sullen teenager who works at Ends of the Earth is on probation, and future episodes will explain how a minor on probation can be working in a bar [suffice it to say, she can’t serve alcohol or be at the till].

It is hinted that Willa may have a little Roma in her and there’s a sub-plot that gives her a very Roma-ish reason not to take off – which her probation officer would love because it would give an excuse to pop her back into juvie. Walter’s defense of the girl begins with a simple statement, ‘She works hard,’ and builds into something completely unexpected.

Deputy Marshall Zambada, on the other hand, is mostly a plot device in the premiere. There’s chemistry between her and Walter, but one of the side effects of the brain damage that’s allegedly given Walter his unique ability to find anything is that he doesn’t really do well in the relationship department. That plays out in one of the more amusing moments in the premiere.

Walter’s warning to Cooper, about finding out things you might not have wanted to know, plays out in an equally unexpected, though less amusing, way.

An Orphan Walks Into A Bar does, indeed, have a similar kind of pacing and breeziness/darkness to that found on Bones, but it’s much less cerebral – without losing the keen intelligence Bones fans will expect. The humor is a bit lower of brow, but Leo classes up the show with some intriguing philosophical references and a very forgiving, mellow attitude.

Walter is more than a little cynical [with an abovementioned exception] and, thanks to his brain trauma, seriously lacking in social graces – or any kind of filters, for that matter. If it occurs to him, he says it without regard to what effect it might have.

The Finder also looks great. The cinematographer’s palette is heightened a wee bit, but the scenery he has to work with is gorgeous to begin with. And Ends of the Earth is seriously cool bar.

If the episode feels a bit uneven when Willa or Isabel are onscreen, it’s because Hasson and Masohn don’t yet have the rapport that Stults and Duncan [who have worked together – even before the Bones ep that spawned the show] have. They do have good chemistry with both so I expect that, as they are developed further, things will fit together quite nicely.

If An Orphan Walks Into A Bar doesn’t quite knock it out of the park, it’s still at least an ground rule double with no one out and the clean-up hitter coming to bat.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the show work out its kinks and realize its potential.

Final Grade: B

Photo by Patrick Eccelsine/courtesy Fox Television