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TV Critic’s Corner

Surfers of anarchy

Ellen Barkin in “Animal Kingdom.”
Ellen Barkin in “Animal Kingdom.”(Eddy Chen/TNT)

Animal Kingdom 9 p.m., TNT

This series adaptation of the 2010 movie “Animal Kingdom” is remarkably confident from the start. The story unfolds naturally, the hand-held camerawork is quite effective, and the acting is aces.

No, this isn’t a new Prestige Drama, but it is another fun, addictive, and somewhat absurd summer series in the manner of “Ray Donovan.”

Like a surfer “Sons of Anarchy,” the TNT drama follows a crime family in Southern California led by a boss lady named Smurf, played with an iron fist — and sometimes super creepy incestuous overtones — by Ellen Barkin (pictured). She is the leader and den mother of the thieving crew, which includes her three sons and her adopted son and protégé, Baz, played by Scott Speedman. The guys, all tanned pretty boys, pull off heists, then get wasted with Mom and their girlfriends around the family pool or go off surfing.

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We meet the gang through the eyes of Smurf’s grandson J (Finn Cole), a 17-year-old who goes to live with her and his uncles after his mother ODs. He’s a quiet kid, and he takes in the seductions of the crime lifestyle as well as the drawbacks, which include explosive family dynamics. His Uncle Pope, played by the always potent Shawn Hatosy (“Southland”), is particularly troublesome. Just released from prison, he’s angry at everyone and particularly displeased about having a new kid around the house.

They’re not a sympathetic collection of characters, but they can be compelling in their twistedness. J may be the only one to root for, with Baz in second place, mostly because of Speedman’s naturally likable presence. I’m in for now.

The premiere, by the way, is two hours.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.