justin matchick sends his condolences to the widow…
ABC’s new programming strategy for their midseason premieres seems to be “bore me to death.” Between Zero Hour and Red Widow, ABC is now 0-for-2 with its midseason replacements. Whereas Zero Hour was an aggressively stupid show, Red Widow is aggressively mediocre. Every aspect of the show comes off as being so middle-of-the-road it’s depressing to see such an interesting concept bogged down by a heavy-handed script.
Red Widow stars Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) as Marta Walraven, a San Francisco housewife who comes from a family of Russian mobsters. Her husband Evan and brother Irwin are also involved in the crime world, running a smalltime drug smuggling business out of their boat. After Irwin angers local crime lord Nicholae Schiller (Goran Visnjic) by stealing his cocaine shipment, Evan decides it’s finally time to break ties with the crime world before Schiller can get his revenge. Before any of this happens of course, Evan is shot dead in his driveway in front of their youngest son, leaving Marta and their three children to fend for themselves.
Everything started to make sense when I found out show creator Melissa Rosenberg’s biggest claim to fame prior to this was being head screenwriter for all five Twilight movies. She wrote the script for the first two episodes of the show, which both aired tonight, and they are just as needlessly clunky as the Twilight films. It’s difficult to have any sympathy for a character when they have the personality of an old potato. Scenes which should act as a punch to our collective gut fall flat and come off as corny. Drama and tension are replaced by the urge to look at your watch and wonder when it will all be over.
Nothing is particularly bad about any of the acting, but then again nothing is particularly good about any of it either. Clifton Collins Jr. (The Event) sleepwalks his way through a role as FBI Agent Ramos, who was trying to make a case against Evan, while the only standout seems to be Rade Šerbedžija as Marta’s father Andrei. Andrei, a powerful Russian crime boss operating out of San Francisco, is the kind of character that makes me wish some intrepid writer had written a pilot with him as the main character instead of a man on the sidelines.
The second hour of the show, “The Contact”, actually shows some improvement over the first episode, but not nearly enough to be considered anything more than average. Marta must do some work for Schiller now in order to keep her family out of harm’s way, while also trying to find out who really killed her husband. The scenes are a little bit better paced and the writing is tighter and punchier, but there is still a general feeling of “same-old, same-old” when it comes to the overall plot.
In an alternate universe, Red Widow could have been a hit TV show. The subject of the Russian mafia, when they are portrayed as being on the “good” side, is not really touched on in most modern television shows and movies and really could have been much more intriguing. The struggle of a family desperately trying to leave a life of crime behind and constantly facing road blocks should be an excellent source of drama. But Red Widow just takes the easy way out, gives us a story that is both uninspired and hokey, and leaves us with yet another uninspired network drama.