Highest Recommendation: BOSCH
Time for another TV recommendation from Sharon! Before launching into the details on this one, I must begin with an update on the previous entry on this topic. In September 2021, I wrote about the outstanding Sci-Fi series The Expanse (link to that blog below). At that time, the sixth and final season was still in production with an unknown release date. Well, I am doubly thrilled to report that, 1) the sixth season has been completed and is airing on Amazon Prime right now with five of the total six episodes available to watch, and 2) so far the final season is OUTSTANDING! Rather bittersweet to face the end of such a phenomenal show, but also extremely satisfying. My husband and I intend to immediately rewatch the entire series, a re-viewing that will surely be the first of many in the years to come.
Now, onto today’s recommendation, which is a TV series completely grounded in the modern world and solidly set on planet earth. . . in the heart of Los Angeles in California, to be precise, which isn’t an arbitrary detail, as I shall explain.
Bosch is a TV series centered around a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective. Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch was created by bestselling and award-winning author Michael Connelly, who has written 23 novels focused on this remarkable character, beginning with The Black Echo published in 1992. Connelly is a prolific writer with over 80 million copies of his 36 novels sold worldwide. Prior to Bosch being adapted to the small screen, Connelly’s novel Blood Work was directed by and starred Clint Eastwood in 2002, and The Lincoln Lawyer movie adaptation in 2011 starred Matthew McConaughey.
Michael Connelly is the executive producer of the TV show based on his famous detective, and it is very clear his hand is involved in every aspect of bringing his characters and novels to life, including as a primary script writer. The search for the perfect actor to play Harry Bosch was extensive, so the story goes, but in the end the coveted role was given to Titus Welliver, a successful character actor who had never played a starring role yet was the #1 choice of Connelly from the outset. No one knows a character better than the author, and Connelly’s gut reaction to Welliver as the ONLY actor who could embody the complexity of Harry Bosch was trusted by the Amazon execs. Suffice to say, he was 100% correct!
Harry Bosch has murder on his mind. A former Special Forces officer who has done tours in the Middle East, Bosch is now a tenacious, irreverent, jazz-loving homicide detective in the Hollywood Division of the LAPD. Bosch is faced with myriad challenges as he investigates suspicious deaths and follows trails of corruption – including the dark side of the police department — in his relentless pursuit of the truth. Like any good protagonist he has problems with authority, follows his gut and bends a few rules while achieving the best solved case rate in all of California.
Bosch debuted on Amazon Prime in 2015 with the seventh and final season airing in early 2021. My husband and I stumbled across the series in 2019 while desperately seeking something new and decent to watch — a quest nearly impossible to fulfill these days. Despite the fabulous reviews and rankings, we clicked play on Season One, Episode One not expecting too much. I was sold after the first episode, as I am a bigger fan of procedural cop-type crime shows than my husband. He was fully on the train by maybe episode 3 or 4, but neither of us truly expected each season to continually blow our minds. I can honestly say that while certain seasons present a murder to solve that was more intriguing than others, ALL of the scenarios Bosch and the LAPD detectives investigate are excellent.
As hinted at in that last line, each season of Bosch begins with a specific incident/crime which is then investigated gradually over the course of eight to ten episodes. Along the way, other crimes/investigations intersect, along with personal, social, and political storylines. As would be the norm within any organization such as the LAPD, threads from old cases, recurring characters (both criminals and “good guys”), and power shifts amongst the higher ups weave a rich tapestry of gritty realism throughout the whole series.
Bosch is superbly written and mature in tone. What I do not mean by the word “mature” is an abundance of sex, gore, or spicy language. While there are swear words, rare and discreetly filmed love scenes, and a handful of violent moments, the script does not cheapen the story with salacious, gratuitous episodes. This is not a show that will toss out something shocking merely to titillate. One could say it is more of a cerebral show than an action series. It is written intelligently and trusts that the audience is smart enough to grasp the intricate plot lines. When a dramatic murder or car chase or shoot out or in-airplane knife fight (yes, that happens!) takes place, it has an explicit purpose and remains firmly grounded in reality. In truth, the vast majority of the time is spent in conversation, frequently while driving along the LA streets and highways. The viewer is taken on a journey as the detectives methodically proceed step-by-step in their efforts to solve the case(s). At times it almost tips into being boring, except that with such excellently written and portrayed characters, the viewer is never bored. In fact –hint, hint– it is during those borderline boring scenes when you need to pay very close attention because every time a deep mystery is being revealed, often quite subtly.
There are dozens of trailers and clips available on YouTube, but this one from Season One is terrific and enticing.
WARNING: There is some swearing and a short bloody clip.
This series falls into the general category of cop dramas, of which there are many noteworthy examples. Yet aside from the obvious break from the crime-each-episode format, Bosch is unique in several ways. One way is the pacing, as I alluded to above. If a total adrenaline junkie who requires heavy dramatic scenes one after another, Bosch is not the show for you. Another difference is minimal emphasis on soap-opera style personal issues that tend to dominate most network TV series. Indeed, we learn much of the main characters, and they are extremely “real” with the typical troubles every human deals with in life. However, while issues like divorce, death, office politics, growing children, and so on enter into the story, these side plots never overwhelm. Along the same line, I rarely felt the subplots of politics and social issues were presented in a heavy-handed, preachy way. In the majority of instances, a character’s sexual preference or ethnicity (for example) are simply a fact that has little or no bearing on the story, if mentioned at all. In today’s world of wokeness, that is exceedingly rare!
Bosch is a strongly character driven story. Yes, the crime committed and quest to solve it is the foundational focus, and every season will have you as confused and frustrated as the detectives before the final edge-of-your-seat conclusion. Nevertheless, as brilliantly written as the “who done it and will they be caught” plots are, it is the stellar characters (and casted actors) who will keep you coming back. Leading the list is, of course, the amazing Titus Welliver. And the supporting cast, even those who pop in upon occasion or have minor roles, are all terrific and memorable. That said loudly and clearly, one simply cannot discuss characters in the series Bosch without noting a critical non-human “character.” No, I am not referring to Bosch’s dog Coltrane, although he is fabulous and important! As strange as it sounds, I am speaking of the city of Los Angeles itself.
“He (Michael Connelly) was in this really privileged position to be able to say, there’s certain non-negotiable terms, and one of them is, we have to shoot in LA, and we have to capture LA.” ~Co-producer Tom Bernardo
Unless specifically at a different location, such as several scenes in Las Vegas, Bosch is filmed completely in LA at existing places. The production team was committed to authenticity, filming all over the city without changing anything. “It seems so small, but if we say that our characters are driving down Sunset… we are [actually] on Sunset,” says Bernardo. “We’re not like picking a place out in the Valley that’s easier to handle logistically and passing it off as Sunset.”
The quote above is from an excellent article on this topic, published in LA Curbed in 2019. Another great quote from Bernardo (below) sums up the reasoning behind why this authenticity is so critical, a sentiment I’ve heard Michael Connelly expand upon in several interviews.
“The thing that strikes me is that there’s something about Harry Bosch that is intimately identified with the totality of the city, the whole of the city… he sees it and he feels it, but he’s also at a remove. And he’s alone. He sort of plays into that sort of lone wolf character, and he’s up there by himself, but he’s a guy who can never leave LA—he is LA in so many ways—but [he] also wants a certain distance from it, a certain remove from it, a certain angle on it that most people might not otherwise get.”
I grew up in the mountains near Los Angeles, so know the area fairly well. I never lived in the city, so can’t claim an intimate familiarity with the numerous locations Bosch, Edgar, and the others visit. However, the feeling of the vast reaches of LA with a plethora of diverse neighborhoods is spot on. The city truly does become a character of sorts, every scene dependent upon the surrounding atmosphere. While most viewers would never know if the driving distances were wrong or if a particular restaurant was no where near where the characters said they were, locals sure would! But more than the potential criticisms or Gotcha! moments, it is the attention to detail which is commendable. Furthermore, the attention to detail carries over into every aspect of creating this highly recommended TV series.
Titus Welliver as Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch
Jamie Hector as Detective Jerry Edgar
Amy Aquino as Lieutenant Grace Billets
Lance Reddick as Chief of Police Irvin Irving
Madison Lintz as Maddie Bosch
Mimi Rogers as Attorney Honey Chandler
Sarah Clarke as Eleanor Wish
- Scenes set at the LAPD Hollywood Station are filmed at the real station. Arrangements were made to shoot scenes late in the day after most detectives left for home, although many policemen volunteered their time to play extras.
- In the literary world of Connelly, Harry Bosch is the half-brother of Michael Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer.
- In Bosch’s house high in the LA hills, prints on the wall are based on the fictional films of Connelly’s Bosch books.
- The name “Hieronymus Bosch” is taken from a 15th century Dutch painter. The series production company is “Hieronymus Pictures” and features the face of an owl as the logo, owls being a frequent theme in the real Bosch’s paintings.
- Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar, frequently addressed as “J Edgar”, is a direct reference to FBI founding director J. Edgar Hoover.
- Many of the actors have starred in popular TV shows, including The Wire, Lost, and Star Trek: Voyager. Throughout the series, sly reference to these shows are tossed in, such as when Jerry Edgar admits to binge watching The Wire, of which the actor Jamie Hector was a main star.
- Flashback scenes of a young Bosch are played by Titus Welliver’s son Quinn.
- Bosch’s hilltop, cliffside house of glass is a real house built in 1958. It was previously used for the 1995 classic film Heat by Michael Mann.
- The title song is “Can’t Let Go” written by Jesse Nolan and performed by his “electro/vintage soul” group Caught a Ghost. The jazzy song and funky opening sequence beautifully set the theme for the series.
Bosch is available for free if an Amazon Prime member. I looked but do not find it available on any other streaming services or on DVD.
In other news, while the Bosch series has ended, the story of Harry Bosch is to continue within the cinema realm. It is now official that spin-off series Bosch: Legacy has wrapped filming and will air on IMDB TV (a free streaming service on Amazon) in 2022. The date is not yet announced, but it is known that the new series is helmed by Harry Bosch, his now-grown daughter Maddie, and attorney Honey Chandler. I won’t share links or say more as the details contain spoilers for those who haven’t watched Bosch. Needless to say, I am SO excited for more Bosch and company!!