×

TV Review: ABC’s ‘Stumptown’ Starring Cobie Smulders

The promising new drama also stars Jake Johnson, Michael Ealy and a grimy Portland, Oregon.

With:
Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, Camryn Manheim and Michael Ealy.

A disaffected veteran with a taste for whiskey, gambling, taking unnecessary risks and one-night stands is a familiar archetype, but chances are that the person you just imagined fitting that description was a grizzled man. In “Stumptown,” ABC’s new drama based on Greg Rucka’s graphic novel, that character instead comes to us in the form of a ferocious Cobie Smulders, and is better off for it.

Broke and in denial of her lingering PTSD, Dex (Smulders) is busy trying not to circle the drain while supporting her brother (Cole Sibius), who has Down Syndrome. Then she gets enlisted by her unfriendly neighborhood casino owner (Tantoo Cardinal) to track down her kidnapped granddaughter — who, as it so happens, is also the daughter of Dex’s ex-boyfriend, who died in her arms in Afghanistan. It’s a tangled web, and one Dex has zero patience for even as she has a hard time resisting it (much to the chagrin of her concerned best friend, played by a criminally underused Jake Johnson). It isn’t too long before she collides with local police who don’t approve of her off-book methods, but at least one of them (Michael Ealy) is impressed with her skills. Flirting, violence, an infinitesimal growth ensue. With only one episode to go on, it’s hard to say how “Stumptown” will handle its upcoming cases of the week, or if it will shade Dex out beyond her cliched basics. But there are a couple standout elements of the show that point towards a more promising season than not.

For one, “Stumptown” immediately looks and feels different than a typically sterile network drama. Dex’s corner of Portland, Oregon is grimy and lit with cheap fluorescent bulbs. Director James Griffiths, whose resume is otherwise packed with comedies, will even occasionally break up the flow of the action with handheld shots to keep things as disorienting as they feel for Dex as she careens from one disaster to the next. Giving the show its own restless and grim visual language that mirrors the graphic novel’s own is a quick and smart way to establish “Stumptown” as its own animal. A running gag involving Dex’s car randomly playing tracks from an old mixtape is occasionally transcendent — the frenetic cold open set to “Sweet Caroline” is a hell of a way to open a series — and sometimes gimmicky, but at the very least, it provides some badly needed levity for the otherwise dour Dex to grab onto.

“Stumptown” would be smart to give Dex more jokes to crack, or at least some sharper wit beyond expressing her own ennui, because of the actor portraying her. As seen on “How I Met Your Mother” and beyond, Smulders is an extremely sharp and capable performer who’s especially good at finding humor in characters who take themselves just a little too seriously. Watching her whale on petty crime jerks who never see it coming is genuinely satisfying. But if “Stumptown” wants viewers to invest in Dex for years to come, it won’t just lean on Smulders’ charisma, but draw inspiration from it to make Dex feel like more of a person and less of a logline.

“Stumptown” premieres Wednesday, September 25 at 10 pm on ABC.

One episode watched for review.

TV Review: ABC's 'Stumptown' Starring Cobie Smulders

Production: Executive producers: Jason Richman, Ruben Fleischer, David Bernad, Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Justin Greenwood.

Cast: Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, Camryn Manheim and Michael Ealy.

More TV

  • 'Grease' Spinoff Series Ordered at HBO

    'Grease' Spinoff Series Ordered at HBO Max

    HBO Max is clearly hopelessly devoted to “Grease.” The streamer has issued a straight to series order for “Grease: Rydell High,” a spinoff of the original John Travolta and Olivia Newton John 1978 musical. The new series will be set in and around the world of Rydell High, the school which Danny and Sandy attended [...]

  • TV Ratings: '9-1-1' Down, 'Prodigal Son'

    TV Ratings: '9-1-1' Down, 'Prodigal Son' Steady for Fox

    After three weeks hovering around the 1.6 rating mark, “9-1-1” dipped in week four to tie with “The Voice” as the top show on Monday night. The disaster series wrapped its tsunami arc to a 1.4 rating and 6.4 million total viewers, shedding roughly 1 million sets of eyeballs from last week. In better news [...]

  • A autora Carla Faour, a diretora

    Globo Presents ‘Second Call’ at Mipcom

    It’s been rare in recent decades that Latin American free to air tv has ventured into social drama as the realism needed to handle the genre has often been deemed to gritty to be entertaining. That’s not been the case for Brazil’s Globo however, which has moved waves and dales, which reaping prizes, with series [...]

  • Ronan Farrow NBC News Expose

    NBC News Chiefs Under Fire as Ronan Farrow Book Dishes Weinstein Dirt

    The long-awaited publication of Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” has unleashed a furor within NBC News. “Catch and Kill,” set for release Oct. 15, portrays NBC News and its leaders as compromised while Farrow pursued the story of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein — because [...]

  • Shepard Smith Fox News Exit

    What Shepard Smith's Exit Means for Fox News

    For a figure who strove to present the news as evenhandedly as possible, Shepard Smith had become extremely controversial by the time he announced his departure from Fox News on Oct. 11. Indeed, it was his equanimity that made him controversial. Smith, the host of Fox’s hard-news 3 p.m. hour as well as anchor of [...]

  • Looking For Alaska is an 8-episode

    TV Review: 'Looking for Alaska'

    It was probably just a matter of time before John Green and Josh Schwartz became collaborators. Green, whose novels include “Looking for Alaska,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and “Paper Towns,” has become known for writing teenagers filled with so much restlessness and existential melancholy that they can hardly stand it. Schwartz, whose shows include [...]

  • Hunter Biden

    Hunter Biden Says He Made No 'Ethical Lapse' in Emotional ABC News Interview

    In an interview that prompted tears, Hunter Biden sat down with ABC News’ Amy Robach, stating that he made no “ethical lapse” by sitting on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and rejected President Donald Trump’s notion that he and his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, have engaged in any wrongdoing. “I don’t [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content