Charm goes a long way in “The Glades,” on its face a fairly by-the-book detective procedural that floats above the bilge on the strength of offbeat humor and breezy attitude. Feeling more like a blue-sky USA show (think “Burn Notice”) than the gritty, dark doings that have populated A&E’s meager forays into drama, the series establishes Aussie actor Matt Passmore as a leading man to watch. Whether A&E can lead an audience into the swamp, alas, might be another matter.
Almost sounding like a New York Post headline, the pilot opens with a young couple stumbling across a headless body floating in Florida’s everglades. Of course, that doesn’t give detective Jim Longworth (Passmore) much to go on — and that’s not counting the inconvenience of the crime, inasmuch as it conflicts with his newfound passion for golf.
Longworth nevertheless plunges into the investigation — almost literally, when a crocodile nips his hand as he sifts for clues. This leads to an encounter with an attractive nurse/single mom (Kiele Sanchez) and much shameless flirting, albeit in a way that makes both, for once, seem kind of interesting and smart.
Longworth’s unorthodox style doesn’t sit well with anybody, from suspects he interrogates to his surly partner (John Carroll Lynch) to the medical examiner (Carlos Gomez), who also happens to be his sometimes golf buddy.
The payoff, alas, proves a little too pat to be wholly satisfying, but the fun is in watching Longworth stagger around this somewhat novel setting — refusing to wear anything but T-shirts, and surrounding the greens where he left his golf ball with crime-scene tape. Credit series creator Clifton Campbell (“White Collar”) with proving again that it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel provided that you grease it with intriguing (or at least diverting) characters.
For all that, “The Glades” is short on elements to lure an aud back — there’s barely enough meat to feed a hungry croc once, much less every week — and A&E doesn’t really have a compatible dramatic footprint with which to introduce it.