wed 21/08/2019

Wild Bill, Episode 1, ITV review - an American in Lincolnshire | reviews, news & interviews

Wild Bill, Episode 1, ITV review - an American in Lincolnshire

Wild Bill, Episode 1, ITV review - an American in Lincolnshire

Rob Lowe plays top cop in goofy crime drama

Rob Lowe as Chief Constable Bill Hixon

All is not well in Boston, Lincolnshire. Unemployment, immigration concerns, Brexit frustration, and the highest murder rate in the country. How do you solve the problems of contemporary Britain? Send in an American. And not just that. Bill Hixon (Rob Lowe) is the best: educated to Doctorate level, with the accolade of being America’s top Metropolitan police chief three years running. But Bill is also impatient, and lacks some basic people skills (not to mention he can’t grasp British irony and sarcasm). He’s also brought his teenage daughter Kelsey (Aloreia Spencer) with him. We gather that Bill is not just here to reduce crime. He’s leaving a hurtful past behind.

Such is the premise of this new fish-out-of-water crime thriller, starring and executive produced by Rob Lowe (The West Wing, Parks and Recreation). Wild Bill is a speedy, occasionally funny and gruesome drama that uses the American outsider character as a way to unravel British social problems. Reducing crime is top of the list, and Bill claims he can modernise British policing by applying American-developed algorithms (“21st century policing is only about numbers”), which cross-reference murders against everything from sporting events to weather. His disillusioned colleagues are skeptical. One of them expresses his disdain by pulling Bill over for speeding (on a bicycle). Others are resentful for missing out on promotions. Bill comes off as indifferent to the human cost of his tech-driven approach, but he’s burdened by his own mysterious guilt. “I only came here to get my life back”, he confesses, when the A-game façade momentarily fades.

When a severed head is found in a freezer, shedding light on a case that’s been open for ten years, Bill is forced to leave the computer and get engaged. The victim appears to have been an innocent, well-loved student and daughter. However, Bill’s probing reveals sinister undercurrents: a drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, links to a Russian gang, and inter-familial affairs. The story zooms along, leaving little time to develop characters. One of the best is Bill’s deputy and only real friend, DC Muriel Yeardsley (Bronwyn James), who is tough, likable, and isn’t just there in service of satire or horror. As the plot strands are heaped on top of each other, the absurd takes over. It’s the result of a show that can’t quite combine its goofy and gloomy parts.

The mystery surrounding Bill’s past, and how this plays out in his relationship with his daughter Kelsey – the show’s only moments of tenderness – offsets the absurdity. Kelsey manages her situation only by being more sarcastic than the British. She’s also very smart, and uses it to undercut her Dad’s seriousness. Bill tries to stay in control (“It’s my job”), but he clearly admires his daughter’s maturity. It’s a necessary touch for Bill, who easily strays into stats-obsessed mania. And thankfully the show has these softhearted touches. It’s too much of a whirlwind otherwise.

The mystery surrounding Bill's past offsets the show's absurdity

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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