How ABC's Stumptown lost its edge and went from marvelous mayhem to meh
Maybe a network suit, or some over-fed slightly indolent focus group decided there just wasn't enough mush in 'Stumptown'
'Stumptown' began with such glorious mayhem, one could be forgiven for thinking it emerged from Showtime or HBO's stable of grotesque ribaldry rather than ABC's.
The show had it all, a relatable protagonist, with more shades of grey than an EL James daydream; and proverbial prop people and sidekicks that had that impeccable human virtue...the mortal flaw. But most importantly it had a car stereo that spouted forth amazing music at the most inappropriate times.
The first four episodes of 'Stumptown' were a revelation: Crisp writing, great acting courtesy the amazing Cobie Smulders (Dex Parios), Cole Sibus (Ansel Parios), a soundtrack to die by, and a cameo worth a leading role tag from Donal Logue (Artie Banks). This was a show not just worth watching, but actually imbibing and expounding on without a hint of pretentiousness. This was a show stripped down to its marvelous bones, exposing a skeletal system at once thrilling and poignant.
A troubled vet, her wise-beyond-his-years younger brother, a former warm-hearted sexploit hiding a dark past, over the top violence, and snappy one-liners...what's not to love. In fact, the show was penciled in towards the top of MEA WorldWide's Top TV Shows of the Year list. And then something happened. Maybe a network suit, or some over-fed slightly indolent focus group decided there just wasn't enough mush in 'Stumptown'; there just wasn't enough heart syrup in this bare-bones, gritty show. And so out went the soundtrack, and in came the emotion (and not of the fun slightly scary, but overtly passionate kind).
Suddenly Dex is a weak-kneed teenager getting all gooey-eyed over an ex-lover who waltzes into the show, Ansel becomes a spoilt brat, Grey and Miles (Jake Johnson and Michael Ealy respectively) lack even a smidgen of toxic masculinity to make them remotely interesting, and Artie just disappears, presumably taking the all-star car stereo with him.
Stumptown went from refreshing to dull in the space of 80+ minutes. So while it's more appealing to 'Grey's Anatomy' fans and young adults now, the show sure as hell isn't going to score with a slightly more mature audience, and by that I mean people who understand that though life's a pool of mud, it can also be fun to roll around in it once in a while.
If the writers had anything to do with this change (which is highly doubtful) then they need to understand that we don't need another aww-inducing mush-fest (god knows there are enough of those around). What we want is a show that treats its viewers like adults and makes sure its characters understand that having an edge doesn't necessarily mean cutting yourself with it all the time. 'Stumptown' was that show, now it's not. Whatever's gone wrong...fix it! And for heaven's sake, bring back the car stereo!