You go, Crackle.
The free streaming service, currently best known as the home of Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," is making a move with a high-profile new drama called "The Art of More." Like most young TV outlets, Crackle is hoping the series will become its brand-defining breakthrough hit, what "House of Cards" was for Netflix and "Mad Men" for AMC. It's hoping to follow Hulu into yet another generation of TV outlets, far from the broadcast model that dominated only 20 years ago. Crackle and such seem like second cousins twice removed from NBC, CBS, and the other biggies.
Good on you for ambition, Crackle, assembling a series with marquee names, including Kate Bosworth and Dennis Quaid, and with a handsome young star, Christian Cooke, who can do the modern antihero moves with a bit of charm. Crackle also deserves praise for pursuing material that isn't set in one of the three worlds that obsess the broadcast networks — hospitals, law firms, and police stations. "The Art of More" takes place in the elite world of bigshot New York auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's. Like Starz's "Flesh and Bone," which dramatizes life in ballet, and Amazon's "Mozart in the Jungle," which takes on the classical music business, "The Art of More" at least offers novelty.
Unfortunately, the show, whose first 10-episode season is available on Thursday, doesn't offer enough in the way of artful writing, and isn't quite smart enough to serve as Crackle's breakthrough. Created by series-TV newcomer Chuck Rose, it's a decent diversion, as it gives us a sense of how zillionaire collectors operate, how war plunder and fakes can enter the market, and how the houses deal with being stuck between buyers and sellers. But the story lines never rise above network level, with a cast of one-note characters whose motivations, beyond greed, are left unplumbed. Quaid's crude billionaire is paper thin, and so is another collector, an aristocratic Brit played by Cary Elwes.
Cooke, who was the younger brother on Starz's underappreciated "Magic City," plays a rough-hewn Iraq war veteran from Brooklyn named Tom who remakes himself into a Park Avenue type named Graham Connor. He works for the auction house Parke-Mason, where he is trying to nab the business of Quaid's magnate. Bosworth's Roxanna Whitman is his rival for the account, and the two play backhanded games on each other to win. The ongoing story line in the background has Graham's past returning to haunt him. In some painfully generic flashback scenes set in Iraq, we see Graham and some stereotypically Middle Eastern cohorts preparing to take a few antiquities out of the country. Those cohorts are now in New York, and threatening to expose him.
Cooke buries his British accent in a forced Brooklynese, and Bosworth is little more than a cool cucumber willing to con a 90-something collector to get his account. I think they're meant to have chemistry, but, alas, the scenes they have together contain very little snap and not a whole lot of pop.