Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Animal Kingdom" No, Not the One at Disney

It was hard to glean the exact premise of this show from the trailers, so I checked out the two-part premiere on Tuesday night. Our story begins with the protagonist, 17-year-old Josh, finding himself with nowhere to go when his single mother dies of a heroin overdose right in front of him. He calls his grandma Janine, who hasn't seen him in over a decade. Granny kindly agrees to have Josh move into her Southern California beach house.

Once there, Janine immediately drops the last 3 letters of Josh's name and refers to him as J. J's three uncles also live with Granny Janine. There's fresh out of prison Andrew (nickname Pope), who's also his dead mom's twin brother. (Fans of Southland will recognize him as Detective Sammy Bryant). Long-haired Craig is the middle child and the baby of the family is Deran (not sure if it's pronounced like "Darren"). Baz, a family friend, seems to live there as well. To welcome J, Janine throws a barbecue/pool party, at which there's lots of alcohol, weed, and jumping off the roof into the pool. The uncles also take J surfing.

Unbeknownst to J, Granny Janine runs a family business with an iron fist. Her sons and Baz dabble in armed robbery and smash-and-grabs, hence Pope's prison sentence. They're a stealthy bunch; they wear all black and ski masks or motorcycle helmets to hide their faces. At the end of Part 1, they rob a local jewelry store. However, everything goes sideways, as heists are wont to do. Craig is shot in the arm by store security; one of the guards is hit and killed by the getaway car. The next day, the dead guard is identified one the local news as a police officer who was moonlighting.

The heat is now on for the Cody clan. Granny Janine orders Craig and Deran to disassemble the getaway car and toss it in the ocean. She has no idea about her middle child's injury. Craig can't go to the hospital for his gunshot wound thanks to those pesky police notification policies and quickly develops a raging infection. Deran decides to just set the damn car on fire since his brother can't help take it apart. J has already given one of the stolen watches to his girlfriend. His pissed-off uncles tell him to get it back. By the end of the episode, I'm sure J is thinking he might have been better off on his own or in foster care versus living with this bunch.

Granny Janine, nicknamed Smurf for unknown reasons, almost but not quite gives Gemma Teller-Morrow a run for her money in the crazy bitch department. Uncle Pope is pretty open about hating J because Smurf is letting him sleep in Pope's room. He follows J around, menaces the kid while he's in the shower one morning, and tries to hit on the teenager's girlfriend.

J leaves something to be desired as a main character. His personality is flat, to the point that we see him passively sit on the couch next to his mother's corpse as the paramedics try desperately to revive her. There's no emotion in his voice when he calls Granny Smurf to let her know that her daughter is dead and he needs a place to live. J's girlfriend Nicky even remarks about the kid not shedding a tear at his mom's funeral. J also doesn't seem to have the sense to be scared of creepy Uncle Pope.

The tone and premise of the show is like Sons of Anarchy crossed with Point Break. It's also apparently based an Australian movie by the same title. Boring J notwithstanding, this seems like it might be the thing to fill the Reaper-shaped void in my weekly TV schedule.

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