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Friday, May 6, 2011 4:07 am
Reading the Screen: The Finder pilot episode
Posted by: David Pitt

a-mystery-month-tag3I mentioned a while ago (here, in fact) that Bones was going to be spun off into a new series, The Finder, based on the Locator novels by Richard Greener. A couple of weeks ago the “backdoor pilot” aired as an episode of Bones. Brennan and Booth needed help finding a stolen treasure map, and they enlisted the aid of one of Booth’s former colleagues, Walter Sherman, a former military cop who, as a private citizen, locates missing people or objects. 

In the first Locator novel, The Knowland Retribution, Sherman is described thusly:

Walter Sherman was in his mid-fifties, of average height, and, like most men his age, at least twenty pounds heavier than he wanted to be. He wore his hair long in the back, but carefully combed and not so long as to attract attention.

 
(That quote comes from Google Books’ online preview of its e-book edition of the novel at books.google.com.)

Geoff Stults, who plays Sherman, is in his mid-thirties, square-jawed, very fit. I can see how the producers would think an overweight guy in his mid-fifties might not be the best candidate for a series lead, but they could have stuck a little closer to the character in Greener’s books. Maybe found a good-looking actor in his forties, who’s fit but not chiselled?

If you’re curious about Stults’ interpretation of Walter Sherman, I can sum it up in two words: Tony DiNozzo. Stults looks quite a bit like Michael Weatherly, who plays Tony in NCIS, and Stults plays Sherman in almost exactly the same goofy, quirky way (with many of the same physical mannerisms). I don’t mean that as an insult to Stults: if there wasn’t already a Tony DiNozzo on television, Stults’ performance would be fresh and engaging. But NCIS has been around for a long time, and it’s awfully hard to watch Stults as Sherman and not make that connection.

Granted, this is only the pilot episode, but there doesn’t seem to be much subtlety to the characters. Walter, who served in Irag (in the books he’s a Vietnam veteran), is brain-damaged, which explains his unique ability to locate people who don’t want to be found, and his extreme paranoia, which compels him to grill people on why they’re asking simple questions, and to badger waitress to make sure she’s given him decaf coffee, and suchlike.

A big deal is made of this brain damage; Walter’s friends refer to it several times, and near the end of the episode there’s a rather ham-fisted scene in which Walter explains that he doesn’t want to get help for his brain damage, because that might take away his unique “finding mojo.” I’d prefer to think his ”second sight” comes from intelligence and intuition, but, hey, brain damage is also an explanation.

The supporting cast is played by Michael Clarke Duncan, as Walter’s “legal advisor” Leo, and Saffron Burrows, as his bartender-slash-pilot, Ike. Leo is a peace-loving giant of a man who carries a book around with him, and Ike mispronounces common words (“enablizer,” she says at one point, and “demeanior” at another). The characters do appear in the books, but they’re a lot more like real people there. But, again, this is only a pilot episode – maybe they’ll get fleshed out as the series rolls along.

I don’t know whether The Finder will go to series, but I suspect it will. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing, but I do know this: if you’re a fan of Greener’s Locator novels, you’d better forget what you know about them and treat the series as something entirely new and different. (And if, as I speculated in my previous post, The Finder is Fox’s way of snagging the Jack Reacher fans, it’s a serious misfire.)

Did you see the pilot episode? What did you think?

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