There's a 'Bridge' to exciting drama on new FX series

"The Bridge" has a stellar cast, leads and all, including Ted Levine (left), Demian Bichir, and Diane Kruger. (BYRON COHEN / FX NETWORK)
"The Bridge" has a stellar cast, leads and all, including Ted Levine (left), Demian Bichir, and Diane Kruger. (BYRON COHEN / FX NETWORK)
Posted: July 11, 2013

* THE BRIDGE. 10 tonight, FX.

* CAMP. 10 tonight, NBC10.

* ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Streaming on Netflix beginning tomorrow.

A BODY found bisected on the border between the United States and Mexico touches off something bigger than a jurisdictional dispute in "The Bridge," an addictive new drama premiering Wednesday on FX.

Adapted by Penn grad Meredith Stiehm ("Cold Case," "Homeland") and Elwood Reid from a Scandinavian series, "The Bridge" isn't so much about the span that connects Juarez and El Paso as it is about the disconnect between the two cities, one ranked among the world's deadliest, the other with fewer than two dozen murders most years.

It's also about the apparent lack of outrage that greets those statistics.

"I don't need your body. Just this morning, I got nine heads - parking lot at City Hall," Chihuahua state police detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir, "Weeds") tells his American counterpart, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds") when she attempts to get territorial with him.

"Why tell me that?" asks Sonya, looking genuinely puzzled.

Why puzzled? Because, in the manner of so many modern heroines, from Emily Deschanel's Temperance Brennan on "Bones," to Claire Danes' Carrie Mathison on "Homeland," Sonya is so brilliant and beautiful that she must necessarily be a bit clueless.

In this case, her cluelessness is a function of Asperger's. So, on her way to notify next of kin, she gets a reminder from her protective boss (Ted Levine, "Monk") about making eye contact but runs into trouble nevertheless. And she really doesn't understand that a woman (Annabeth Gish) trying to cross the bridge to get her dying husband to a hospital might have a higher priority than the purity of a crime scene.

Sonya's condition sometimes feels a little too TV-friendly, especially when a later episode reveals her ability to divorce sex from emotion (which some might regard as a superpower). But Kruger's beauty and the character's openness make a beguiling combo, especially in her dealings with the seemingly more relaxed Marco, for whom such transparency would be an unaffordable luxury.

As odd-couple partners go, they're wonderfully imperfect.

Wednesday's 91-minute pilot is full of surprises, large and small, and sets the scene for a larger story that, not surprisingly, includes Gish's character as well as a pair of El Paso journalists (Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios) whose uneasy relationship in some ways mirrors that of Sonya and Marco.

I'm maybe less enthusiastic about the possibility of yet another serial killer - loose in a city where one's likely to go unnoticed - but there are so many interesting things at work in the first three episodes of "The Bridge" that I'm more than willing to cross the next when I come to it.

NBC goes to 'Camp'

Until "Glee" came along, I'd never heard of the high-school phenomenon known as "show choir," and until "Camp," the new dramedy premiering on NBC tonight, I'd never heard of a "family camp" where kids, instead of going off into the woods to make lanyards for their parents, were actually accompanied by them.

But then my camp experience was limited to an all-concrete, day-only operation adjoining the Coney Island boardwalk.

So I'm not quite sure what to make of Camp Little Otter, where a few kids' parents seem to be of the helicopter variety while others remain far, far away.

Filmed in Australia but set next to a lake somewhere in the U.S., "Camp" stars Rachel Griffiths ("Brothers & Sisters") as Mackenzie Granger, Little Otter's owner. She's trying to keep her life, and business, going after her husband and co-director (Jonathan LaPaglia) left her for the most stereotypical of younger women.

As annoying as this is, it does leave her free to entertain the attentions of the even more annoying camp director next door (Rodger Corser) while distracting her enough to keep her from noticing that her son, Buzz (Charles Grounds), is growing up. And that one of her employees has a crush on her.

The younger campers and counselors all have dramas, too, some interesting enough to make me wonder why Little Otter needed so many adults in the first place. None, though, is so compelling that I've stopped regretting the loss of ABC Family's much better "Huge," which starred Nikki Blonsky as a rebel in a weight-loss camp.

Netflix peels 'Orange'

Netflix continues its aggressive drive into original programming with the release tomorrow of the 13-episode first season of "Orange Is the New Black," its new series from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan.

Based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, "Orange," which has already been renewed for a second season, stars Taylor Schilling as a trendy Brooklynite who ends up in federal prison when a drug-related mistake from her past comes back to haunt her.

"Oz" it's not, but like the more violent HBO drama, which began with Lee Tergesen playing a character many supposedly law-abiding viewers could identify with and then drew them into the lives of a wide range of inmates, "Orange" uses its white-bread heroine as a jumping-off point to tell unexpected stories of women we might be less surprised to find behind bars.

Schilling's Piper, engaged to the supportive Larry (Jason Biggs) and dodging the attentions of her former lover (Laura Prepon) as well as more aggressively amorous inmates, displays a nice comic sense as she encounters one prison Catch-22 after another. The supporting cast is a strong one (and if you haven't seen Prepon since "That '70s Show," she may surprise you).

But it's Kate Mulgrew, as the inmate who rules the prison kitchen with an cast-iron fist, who steals every scene she's in, and should leave Netflix's streaming subscribers begging for more.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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