Scoundrels -- TV Review



Cheryl West has had a very bad day: She was coitus interrupted by a police raid; her hubby is going to jail for five years; she has got one idiot daughter with scantily clad model photos in her room and an idiot son who was involved in a home invasion; and her smart daughter refuses to attend school. The one bright light in her gene pool? Smart son Logan, who will be admitted to the California bar that same day.

That's a lot of dysfunction for one family, but the Wests of ABC's "Scoundrels" are not like most clans. The family business is petty crime and thievery, but it's not working that well for them anymore, if it ever did. Cheryl (Virginia Madsen) is about to demand that the entire group go straight. "Just because we're Wests doesn't mean we have to be criminals," she says, somewhat nonsensically.

At first, it's hard not to like "Scoundrels," based on a New Zealand series. It has Madsen as Mom-in-charge, and she brings a warmth and soulfulness to a role that could have been lost amid the shuffle of many quirkily obvious "characters." Plus, it comes from the creative minds of two "Nip/Tuck" alumni, and if Ryan Murphy's "Glee" is any indication, that portends well. Finally, the first episode's frenetic rush of activity and intersecting story lines can make "Scoundrels" seem like a crackerjack new series.

Alas, there's an essential elusive element missing that prevents it from really hitting the mark. It's got a stuffy sense of pretension about it, as the story takes self-conscious stabs at being clever and hip and, well, like a cable series. Instead, those stabs translate into undaring and cheap theatrics that often go sour, particularly in dealing with the elderly. Alzheimer's played for laughs? An Asian grandmother who kung-fus attackers into submission? Ugh. It's as if there's a black hole where the funny should be.

By the end of the episode, none of it even makes any sense -- who wants to return to a series week after week in which all the dark colorful leads are striving to be as normal and boring as possible?

There's nothing really wrong with "Scoundrels," but it's just hard to see what's special about it, either.

Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Sunday, June 20 (ABC)
Production: ABC Studios
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Patrick Flueger, Leven Rambin, Vanessa Marano, Carlos Bernard, David James Elliott
Executive producers: Francie Calfo, John Barnett, Lyn Greene, Richard Levine
Creator-writers: Lyn Greene, Richard Levine
Co-executive producers: Lisa Melamed, Rick Cleveland, Michael R. Goldstein, Michael G. Larkin, Ken Topolsky, Bruce Cervi, John Lansing
Supervising producer: Joy Gregory
Producer: Stewart Lyons
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Director of photography: Xavier Perez Grobet
Production designer: Joseph P. Lucky
Costume designer: Kathleen Detoro
Casting: Ulrich/Dawson/Kritzer, Liz Dean, Kiira Arai
Based on "Outrageous Fortune," by James Griffin and Rachel Lang