Frankly there are only two candidates in my heart for the best television series of all time.
The first is “The West Wing”. This is partially sentimental as well as qualitative. We watched it when my daughter was a baby and had very little money. In the pre streaming days, recycled DVD box sets. We bought Season One and then sold it on eBay to buy Season Two and so it went. There was also the idealistic presidents in Jed Bartlett and latterly Matt Santos. In the dark days of the Bush administration (and let’s pray to whatever deity you fancy that we aren’t heading into an even gloomier place with Trump on the horizon), the combination of a goodly leader combined with our getting by on a shoe string to create some special memories. We were borderline narcoleptic and the biggest decision was whether it was a one episode, two episode or three episode evening. Invariably we went for two, got tempted into three and then fell asleep somewhere along the way.
Roll on five years and it was time for Walt and Jessie. I picked up the first episode of “Breaking Bad” as a freebie on ITunes and we were hooked immediately. Again in those pre streaming days, getting hold of each series was a dirty job and we knew just the people to do it. It was magnificent television and nothing has replaced it. I admire “Better Call Saul” but it still doesn’t quite pack the killer punch of Vince Gilligan’s previous series.
Which brings us to “Bosch” – now we’re streaming!
“Bosch” is available on Amazon Prime and it is well worth checking out. Based on Michael Connelly’s series of LA crime thrillers, the titular hero is Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch. Harry is a veteran homicide cop with damaged and brutal past. His mother was a murdered prostitute (shades of James Elroy already) and his father was absent. After her death Harry was placed in care homes which have scarred Harry long and deep. He served time in the military (In Vietnam in the novels and Afghanistan in the TV series) and he is a bit of a maverick (aren’t all TV cops after all). Harry was a tunnel rat. We visited the Cu Chi tunnels when in Vietnam. As a six foot four bloke, I could only get through the opened up for tourists mega tunnel. The Vietnamese sized tunnels were terrifyingly claustrophobic and I have the utmost respect for anyone who fought in them.
The storyline is standard police procedural – murder investigations, LAPD and City politics, cop on cop relationships. Connelly is heavily involved in the series and it has his complete approval.
There are a few things that set it apart from your everyday US police drama.
Firstly the casting. Harry is played by the fantastically named Titus Welliver as the lead. He’s got a very strong supporting cast full of familiar character actors such as Amy Aquino, Steven Culp and Lance Reddick. The names won’t ring a bell but trust me, you’ll know them when you see them.
The next differentiator is the portrayal of the City of Angels. I went to LA back in the eighties and frankly until I watched Bosch, I didn’t care if I ever went there again. The TV series really captures the widescreen vastness of the city, from the San Fernando valley and Laurel Canyon through to the waterways and viaducts featured in Hollywood films from “Grease” to “Chinatown”. Harry hangs out in the old time joints too. He goes to Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous and Du-Pars for cocktails, breakfast and ribs. The city has character and it feels like it is part of the action, the way that Manhattan does in so many East Coast movies. This Los Angeles isn’t just urban sprawl.
Next up is Harry’s pad which again makes the most of the location. The back story to the character is that he sold a story to the film industry. Intriguingly for readers of the books, the story he sold was “The Black Echo” which just happens to be the first of Connelly’s “Bosch” books and rather cleverly in a scene where his daughter is looking around his place it appears on a bookshelf.
But back to Harry’s place and what a place it is. Glass fronted and built over the canyon, it provides the perfect views of the city at night for Harry to contemplate his lot, whisky in hand. The house is on Blue Height’s Drive and it really is something to fall in love with. It’s a cantilever house which cocks a snoot to any impending earthquake. After years of lusting after Scandi-Style living in Borgen, Wallander and the Bridge, it’s nice to have a crush on somewhere different.
And finally we’re onto Harry’s passion which is the clincher for me.
The shot above is of Harry’s 14 year old daughter Maddie checking out her father’s place. She’s standing between two gorgeous Walsh Ohm 4 speakers with the rest of Harry’s set up to her right. We’ve got a Marantz 6300 turntable and a MacIntosh 240 tube amplifier. How do I know? Well because there are already hifi forums dedicated to Harry’s set up, complaining that the speakers are toed in too far (they are) and that there is no speaker cable (there isn’t).
And what does Harry play on his turntable? Jazz and lots of it. Harry barely registers CD’s (occasionally with a grudge) and downloading and streaming is still a very long way away. Harry’s taste in jazz is the classic too – Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis and onwards. When Maddie comes to visit, he drops Art Pepper’s “Patricia” on the old Marantz deck. Rather sportingly, considering her callow years, she admits to liking it. I’m not sure she does really, as I recognise that look on her face when I play my daughter something and it is “here he goes again but I better humour him and tell him that I like it”.
If that tickles your fancy, there is a whole playlist of Harry’s favourites over at Spotify.
I’ve just picked up “The Black Echo” to read and it is off to a good start. In the meantime, check the Season 1 out at Amazon (Season 2 to follow in March). It might not be up with “Breaking Bad” and “The West Wing” but it is still damn fine television.