The Week in TV

What to watch (and not watch) this week in TV: Red Widow, Golden Boy and more

What to watch (and not watch) this week in TV: Red Widow, Golden Boy and more

Austin Photo Set: News_WeekinTV0225_Red Widow_Feb 2013
Radha Mitchell plays a housewife who turns to working her husband's drug trade after he is killed in Red Widow. ABC

In our (abridged) weekly roundup of what's worth seeing (and what isn't), an uncommon antihero cop and a gun-wielding widow. Plus: The Bible!

Golden Boy
Premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBS

There’s something to be said about the stodgy old Tiffany network trying to reinvent the very genre that’s brought them their ratings gold. Bravo, then, to CBS for this cop drama that centers on the meteoric rise of the unlikable, smug and rapacious Walter Clark (English actor Theo James, who struggles mightily with the American accent).

The story flits back and forth between the future, where Clark is the youngest police commissioner in New York City’s history, and present day, when he’s a hotshot police officer who parlays his publicized heroism into an early promotion to homicide.

Clark is like a cop who learned how to be a cop by watching them on TV: he uses his tragic, impoverished upbringing as a shrewd PR weapon, knows when to call the press to rally support around his efforts and wears his sense of entitlement proudly. He’s good and he knows it. And he’s kind of a jerk.

But the show wants to have it both ways, with its unlikable antihero and its cases of the week, wedging a prestige cable drama character into a rote police drama. Those hybrid setups can work (The Good Wife comes to mind), but they have be even-handed, the serial and the procedural equally as important and compelling. Not so here. C+

Red Widow
Premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC

Is there room on ABC for another drama about a woman seeking hard-won retribution? This adaptation of the Dutch series Penoza makes a very promising case. Because unlike Revenge and Scandal, two very fine dramas in their own right, Red Widow isn’t at all fluffed with the suds of a soap opera — here, there’s some definite grit.

Marta (Radha Mitchell) is a housewife who comes from a family of Russian drug traders (cliched, yes, but stick with it). Most of her family, aside from her father, her brother and her husband, are not in the game, though they don’t mind reaping the benefits selling drugs offers.

But after her husband is killed after getting mixed up with the dealings of the murderous crew run by Nicholae Schiller (Goran Visnjic), Marta is forced to join Schiller and carry out her late husband’s work. It’s a darker, grimmer foil to what Weeds was.

The pilot has a strong, atmospheric sense of impending doom — those grey San Francisco skies are like mood-altering drugs to the proceedings. And Mitchell stands out here as a commanding, controlled lead who reveal layers of Marta in flickers, like how she confidently shifts from panic-stricken to gun-wielding in seconds.

The premiere is a slow burn, but sets up an intriguing narrative about learning hard lessons about the true cost of expensive living. It could easily veer off, but so far, it’s keeping its edge. A-   

Also on this Week:

Bunheads
Season finale Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC Family. The surprisingly rich dramedy about ballet dancers ends its first season.

Portlandia
Season finale Friday at 9 p.m. on IFC. Fred and Carrie’s irreverent adventures in the pacific northwest come to an end.

The Bible
Series premiere Sunday at 7 p.m. on History. Yes, the Good Book gets the TV miniseries treatment.

Enlightened
Season finale Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on HBO. The endearing drama that both respects and sends-up philosophical gobbledygook ends its second season.

Vikings
Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on History. Why stop with Biblical times? Keep the fictionalized adaptations of history rolling.