There is a group of character actors that have been kicking around for decades, doing good work in long arcs on episodic shows and popping up on the big screen, who are definitely worthy of top billing.
Titus Welliver is one of them. After years of memorable supporting parts on shows like “The Good Wife,” “Lost,” and “Sons of Anarchy,” and films including “Argo” and “The Town,” it’s a pleasure to see his world-weary mug and hear his sonorous baritone front and center on the new Amazon series “Bosch,” which begins streaming Friday.
It’s the first drama for Amazon, and a solid start. “Bosch,” based on the best-selling Michael Connelly series of books, may not set the TV world on fire in terms of storytelling or innovation. It’s another cop show, after all, but it is a quality cop show.
Welliver plays the smoking, swearing, rule-breaking title character, whose full name is Hieronymus Bosch, like the painter. He’s an LAPD homicide detective and war veteran, with the trademark cynicism we’ve come to expect from characters like that. But Welliver never overdoes the hard-bitten routine, showing plenty of vulnerability, easy humor, and sex appeal.
When we meet Bosch, he is on a stakeout with his partner, J. Edgar (Jamie Hector, Marlo Stanfield on “The Wire”) in pursuit of a potential murder suspect, whom he shoots — he says and believes — in self-defense. The first few episodes intersperse his trial for that shooting with a couple of other cases, his life at the precinct, and a budding romance with a rookie cop played by Annie Wersching (“24”), with whom he has an easy chemistry.
While “Bosch” is not a procedural in the case-of-the-week sense, since it has an ongoing story line arc to its 10-episode season, its straightforward storytelling and character makeup feel familiar. There is the scrappy partner who always has Bosch’s back and the philosophical coroner who provides exposition in the morgue and muses on life over drinks. There is the angry captain who is happy to see Bosch twist in court and the supportive lieutenant who wants to hold Bosch’s feet to the fire but looks the other way at his insubordination since it yields results.
A veritable parade of stalwart “Hey, it’s that guy/gal!” actors play those supporting roles, including Alan Rosenberg (“L.A. Law,” “Cybill”), Amy Aquino (“ER”), Lance Reddick (“Fringe,” “Lost”), Steven Culp (“Desperate Housewives”), Abraham Benrubi (“ER”), and Troy Evans (“ER”), among others. And Jason Gedrick (“Dexter,” “Desperate Housewives”) shows up in the second episode as a pivotal — and atypically scruffy and menacing — character.
This is the kind of show that when Bosch’s superior, played by Aquino, learns that he is working cases when he’s not supposed to, she warns him that he could be taken off the homicide beat. “You’ll be doing auto theft in San Pedro, living on Pop-Tarts and instant ramen in a rented room,” she barks at him. You get the idea.
“Bosch” may not be reinventing the wheel, but it’s a sturdy ride.