After a charmed run with comedies, Amazon’s first stab at drama, “Bosch,” doesn’t quite deliver. Adapted from Michael Connelly’s L.A.-centric novels, the series has the texture and tone of an old-fashioned detective yarn, casting Titus Welliver in the kind of role James Garner would have played in his heyday. But the transition from page to screen — overseen by Eric Overmyer, who casts fellow alumni from “The Wire” in key roles — proves too talky in places and clunky in others. Good casting and a strong sense of L.A. noir make the series watchable enough, but four episodes in, this page-turner feels undercooked.
The well-traveled Welliver (whose roles range from “Lost” to “Deadwood” to a memorable cop turn in “Brooklyn South”) plays Harry Bosch, an ex-special-forces officer turned LAPD detective who’s something of a dinosaur in his corner-cutting approach to the job. As a consequence, he spends the first few episodes defending himself in court after shooting a suspect, subjected to a grilling by an attorney (Mimi Rogers) who conveniently brings up whether the character’s psychological baggage prompted him to pull the trigger.
Bosch is introduced listening to a Dodgers baseball game alongside his young partner Jerry (Jamie Hector), and when he isn’t chafing at his bureaucratic superiors, he quickly tumbles into a relationship with a rookie patrolwoman (Annie Wersching). What really drives the story, though, is the discovery of bones in Laurel Canyon dug up by a Golden Retriever, putting Bosch on the scent of a long-dormant murder case. Plus, there’s that creepy guy in the van (Jason Gedrick), who will figure in the ghoulish doings to come.
Connelly shares a credit with Overmyer on the premiere directed by Jim McKay, and even if you haven’t read the books (the series is culled from several of them), it’s easy to feel the fidelity to their style. The problem is that a lot of those touches come across as heavy-handed, from an amoral Los Angeles Times reporter (hey, aren’t they all?) nosing around in Bosch’s business to the hard-bitten dialogue, such as Bosch snapping, “I’m too old a cat to be f***ed by a kitten.”
Even Bosch’s personal quirks — he smokes cigarettes and shoots suspects — all feel designed to paint him as a throwback to a simpler age, circa “Dragnet,” before plaintiffs’ attorneys, advocacy groups and amateur videographers hounded the LAPD’s every move.
The slim material is elevated in part by having actors like Lance Reddick, Scott Wilson and Alan Rosenberg on hand in supporting or guest roles. Still, it’s all somewhat handcuffed, including Welliver’s performance, by the long bouts of jargony dialogue and general flatness, which, even with premium-cable latitude, makes the show feel like just another time-killer from TNT.
The serialized narrative does create a tug through these episodes — an asset, given the binge-’em-all launch strategy Amazon has borrowed from Netflix — and there’s always the chance “Bosch” will grow stronger as the plot thickens.
At least initially, though, the series simply illustrates the gap that often exists between beach reading and a television show — and this old cat doesn’t deserve another life.