Adapted from a Turkish series, “Game of Silence” tiptoes around the events that set the story in motion, setting up an elaborate revenge plot with an overabundance of twists, many of which don’t hold up to close scrutiny. In that regard, this serialized NBC drama — tonally similar to the program it replaces, “Shades of Blue” — is sort of an anti-binge proposition, where it’s easier to get drawn into the episodes if the viewing is spread out enough to overlook some of the absurdities.
The premise starts promisingly enough, and in a way, brings to mind “Stephen King’s It,” where a group of young teenage friends are brought together by a terrible ordeal, only to be forced to reassemble once they’re grown up. Here, it’s an accident that results in a quartet of 13-year-old boys being locked up in a juvenile facility, where they’re preyed upon by those in charge.
Exactly what happened goes largely unsaid, but the implication is clear long before the word “rape” is ever used. Flash forward a quarter-century to the present, and Jackson Brooks (David Lyons) has established a successful career for himself, working as an attorney in a corporate law firm and engaged to one of his colleagues (Claire Van Der Boom). Yet a chance encounter drags him back into what happened years ago, and the lives of his friends, including pals Shawn (Larenz Tate), Boots (Derek Phillips) and Gil (Michael Raymond-James), who is now involved with Jessie (Bre Blair), the girl who had been a young Jackson’s first love.
The chance to strike back against the warden (Conor O’Farrell) — now a well-established politician seeking higher office — guards and other inmates who abused them would, frankly, seem to be fraught with drama, along with the pain and anguish that the men have labored to keep buried. Yet the series (adapted by David Hudgins, working with “CSI” alum Carole Mendelsohn) further complicates its mix of flashbacks with events that transpired between the two pertinent time frames, as well as an elaborate corruption/drug plot.
As a consequence, the key players are forced to become a kind of “Mission: Impossible” squad, with Jessie volunteering to infiltrate the warden’s campaign and Jackson having to constantly excuse himself from meetings to deal with this flood of contamination from the past. Despite a fine job casting the show — including the principals’ youthful alter egos — the story becomes less convincing as the layers and collateral damage pile up over the nine episodes previewed (with only the finale withheld).
Granted, NBC deserves credit for rolling the dice on some of these more ambitious dramas after its turn toward procedurals, and seeking to compete in a serialized universe that, at least qualitatively, has become a staple of cable. Lacking the presence of “Blue’s” Jennifer Lopez to help garner sampling, the network also wisely pushed back the premiere to give the program an airing behind “The Voice” in advance of taking over “Blue’s” Thursday berth.
In terms of hooking viewers, the pilot puts a reasonably good first foot forward. Yet however much the network might yearn to emulate the success of another series with “Game of” in the title, “Silence” isn’t golden enough to occupy that exalted seat.