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Lockdown, Lowdown… Ringside Report Looks Back at the TV Show Stumptown

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

Having spent the entire series building up who or what her mother was, the finale to season one was that she opens the door and standing in the doorway, unseen by us is – mom.
So, what do the network do next? Cancel the bloody thing…

I swear to God, I was incandescent…

For 18 episodes I bought in and invested myself in the story of a female private eye who operated, as they always do, on the margins of both morality and the law. Given her sex there was always the misogyny that accompanies the narrative and she managed to deal with that admirably. Tangled love life with a fawning man who loves her but never quite gets her, is also a standard trope with which we got some traction. And then a brother with downs added a new dimension and I thought, you know standard fare though there may be, this has something a little bit different – abandoned by the mother. That sounds like a new trope – how will that pan out?

Now I do not bloody know!

Based on comic book characters created by Greg Rucks, Matthew Southworth and Justin Greenwood, and broadcast between 2019 and 2020, just in time for the pandemic – remember that, if not, more of that later – Stumptown, a nickname for Portland, Oregon, was a great addition to the genre. ABC produced it and d cast as Cobie Smulders Dex Parios, our principal protagonist. Her brother, Ansel, played by Cole Sibus is by her side as she, a vet, struggles with PTSD. The PTSD comes from her time in military intelligence in Afghanistan where she lost her lover and college sweetheart in an explosion. She was also injured in the blast. Her back story included heavy gambling debts and an inability to hold down any form of employment, so she becomes a private eye. Local detective, Miles Hoffman played by Michael Ealy, helps her out with cases and doe eyed Grey McConnell played by Jake Johnson is her crutch and part-time carer for her brother whilst she goes off to investigate things! And he owns the bar out of which she operates. So, plenty of opportunities to watch him follow her around!

The complexities of the make up of the show included Johnson being an ex-con, which added a new dimension as he would be on the fringes of the law and a helpful contact to get his way back in for information and in the development of some cases. He also employed Dex’s brother in the bar which made things slightly more complex but also more up to date than most PI dramas.

And, whilst her own mother appeared to be out the picture, one mother she could not escape was of her former boyfriend. Tantoo Cardinal played by Sue Lynn Blackbird, a native American who owns a casino in tribal lands – the connection with Dex is clear twice over –pops up now and again to demand help and warn Dex of many threats.

Just to add more to the mix, Dex was bisexual, and I think this was one of the first times that bisexuality was truly played out in a major US crime-based series.

This was a series that had plenty, therefore, to offer: bisexuality, a major character with downs, a female vet dealing with PTSD and a mother that was missing from their lives. Added in was the idea that Dex would only take on cases that the police were not going to pursue, and it made the cop/PI relationship a little more mutually supportive. Made a real change from the constant “stay out of the investigation” warnings form the grumpy male, middle aged, white detective we would normally see – though we still got that on occasion.

And the reason for the cancellation? COVID. Bloody hate that thing. It had actually been scheduled for a second season but due to COVID and what it brought with it, ABC reversed their decision, and, to date, there does not seem to be a network or streaming site willing to pick it up – PLEASE DO!!!

British television is a curious affair. Begun through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) it is funded through the universal license fee. In essence, if you wanted to watch the television, you had to pay the license fee. The BBC got it all and is state run, albeit at arms-length. Then came along commercial television in the form of Independent Television (ITV) in 1955. Designed to bring a bit of competition to the BBC, it was paid for through advertising but still free to air… well they didn’t add another license fee to it. By the time that I was born, 1965, there was BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. And that was it. It was still years before Bruce Springsteen would moan that there were 55 channels and nothing on but here in the UK, we kept this going until, in 1982, we added a fourth channel and in 1997, a fifth. With sparkling imagination, they were called Channel Four and ehm Channel Five… In between came Sky and we understood what Springsteen meant. And so, my childhood and leading up to early adulthood we had three options… But the programs made were exceptionally good. And so, here is some critical nostalgia as the lockdown has brought a plethora of reruns, new formats and platforms and old classics trying to make their way back into our consciousness as broadcasters flood their schedules with classics… or are they classics at all? Let me take you through an armchair critics’ view of what we have to see, to find out… Welcome to the Lockdown Lowdown…

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