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WGN America's Imported 'Carter' Gives Jerry O'Connell Something To Do
August 7, 2018  | By Ed Bark
 

Dripping with likability but yet to land The Big One, Jerry O’Connell (top) takes the work where he can get it.

Lately, this has meant voice-overs and guest-hosting five episodes of The Wendy Williams Show. By those standards, the Canadian import Carter is something of a mega-event for him. O’Connell’s the title character, and WGN America is the U.S. carrier, beginning on Tuesday, August 7 at 10 p.m. ET.

He could do worse and has. You could do worse, and have. Carter, derivative of Fox’s well-reviewed but short-lived The Grinder, is a semi-passable detective dramedy in which O’Connell plays actor Harley Carter, otherwise known on the small screen as ace sleuth Charlie Carter. But a scandalous brawl on an awards show red carpet sends Harley into “hiatus” mode and back to his native burg of Bishop, Canada while his Hollywood future on Call Carter hangs in the balance.

WGN America made all 10 Season One episodes available for review, but watching the first three was more than enough to pass judgment. Carter is basically a crime caper of the week, with Harley acting as “consulting detective” via a mayoral appointment after he more or less lucks into solving the opening night’s murder mystery. His reluctant partner in crime-solving is childhood friend turned detective Sam Shaw (Sydney Tamiia Poitier). Another old pal, bearded Dave Leigh (Kristian Bruun), is also deployed while grouchy police chief Angus Pershing (John Bourgeois) huffs and puffs to no avail.

The premiere hour also introduces the Asian couple that raised young Harley after his mother Anne went missing -- and remains so. Dot Yasuda (Brenda Kamino) enjoys firing her shotgun rather aimlessly while husband Koji (Denis Akiyama) shockingly has confessed to killing someone named Albert Childress.

“If I can look at this like it’s my TV show, maybe we can figure this out,” Harley reasons while Sam becomes exasperated for the first of many times.

Rob Lowe went much the same route in The Grinder as the star of a long-running, but recently canceled legal drama who thought it would be easy enough to be a real-life attorney. This greatly vexed his brother (played by Fred Savage), who had been toiling with limited success in various courtrooms. Lowe’s celebrity status oftentimes impressed the local yokels, and O’Connell’s character is likewise lionized by some of the townies. 

He finds all of this rather intoxicating while brushing off reports that his TV show might get along without him. “The studio’s bluffing,” he assures hapless agent Vijay Gill (Varun Saranga). “Jimmy Smits? He’s like 80.”

The cases arousing Harley’s interest are at best moderately involving. In Episode 2, a troubled young man insists that his mother was murdered before being incinerated in a paint factory fire. Episode 3 centers on a farmhand who’s found dead and mutilated in what purportedly is a tractor accident.

O’Connell makes for an amiable amateur gumshoe who knows when to push and realizes when he’s shoved. “You don’t talk about my dark years, and I don’t talk about that hip-hop album you dropped,” sidekick Dave warns him. Point taken.

Tamiia Poitier, daughter of Sidney Poitier, is OK as Harley’s balky enabler while Bourgeois has a few amusing moments as the easily riled chief. Viewers choosing to go along for these rides won’t encounter anything too penetrating. Carter goes no deeper than its title character acting rather pleased with himself. “Twist ending. Called it,” he crows in Episode 1. No worries, though. There’s nothing here that will tie you in knots.

 
 
 
 
 
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