“Rogue” is an unfortunately distinctive name for such a me-too crime series — one that mistakes nudity, violence and profanity for edge and daring. DirecTV has cut its teeth with shrewd acquisitions — including the final season of “Damages” and “Hit & Miss” — but this original effort to play in the pay-cable game skews toward the ho-hum, guy-oriented offerings on Cinemax, without quite the unabashed sleaze factor. While that might be a way to further bond the satcaster to male subscribers, there’s nothing remotely rogue about it; more like just following the crowd.
Thandie Newton lends some star power to the proceedings as Grace Travis, introduced in the chaotic, disjointed two-hour premiere as an undercover cop who has won the trust of a ruthless mob boss, Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas). When a deal goes wrong, though, her young son becomes collateral damage, driving a wedge between the cop, her husband (Kavan Smith) and daughter.
Hell-bent on some mix of justice and revenge, Grace continues to play a dangerous game by seeking to stay in the mob’s orbit to unearth the killer, along the way discovering both the good and bad guys have potential moles within their organizations, to be filed under “Hard to find good help these days,” and “Hey, who doesn’t have headaches?”
Created by Matthew Parkhill, “Rogue” employs six casting directors in three locales and still comes up with a rather indifferent bunch of regulars beyond Newton, who is the latest in a line of TV detectives with impossibly good cheekbones.
Other than having an African-American woman as the protagonist, though, this feels like any number of similar movies and series, where cops must decide how far they’ll go (do cocaine? Shoot a guy the boss has tied up?) to protect their cover and get the job done. More fundamentally, the show’s naughty bits feel particularly gratuitous. So if a scumbag cop is going to have a confidential informant, she might as well have sex with him and walk into rooms naked. Think of it as more bang for the buck.
The disappointing part of “Rogue” is that DirecTV had exhibited some taste and desire to play in the big leagues via its acquisitions, only to fall back on a tired mob premise.
Granted, the metrics used to measure success for these exercises defy simple ratings, as distributors provide original content in part to solidify their hold on subscribers.
Still, with the bar set so high in the premium space, it’s less clear whether mediocre programs yield such benefits. Although Sarah Palin helped place the term “Going Rogue” in the political lexicon, after spending a few hours with this working mom, “Skipping Rogue” might be the preferred option.
(Series; Audience, Wed. April 3, 9 p.m.)
Cast: Thandie Newton, Marton Csokas, Ian Tracey, Joshua Sasse, Ian Hart, Kavan Smith, Matthew Beard, Claudia Ferri.
Filmed in Vancouver by Entertainment One and Green Room Entertainment. Executive producers, Nick Hamm, John Morayniss, Michael Rosenberg, Steven Marrs, Chris Long, Patty Ishimoto; co-executive producers, Robert Petrovicz, Isibeal Ballance; supervising producer, Matthew Parkhill; directors, Brian Kirk, David Frazee; writers, Parkhill, Jesse McKeown; camera, Kieran McGuigan; production designer, Ricardo Spinace; editors, Alex Mackie, Andrew John McClelland; music, Jeff Toyne; casting, Corinne Clark, Jennifer Page, Kelly Valentine Hendry, Victor Jenkins, Libby Goldstein, Junie Lowry Johnson. 120 MIN.