Scott D. Pierce: 'Scoundrels' tries to go straight and get laughs

Published: Wednesday, June 16 2010 6:00 p.m. MDT

Patrick John Flueger, left, John Lawlor, Vanessa Marano, Virginia Madsen, David James Elliott, Leven Rambin, Flueger (again) and Carlos Bernard star in "Scoundrels."

Bob D'amico, ABC

Enlarge photo»

The West family is on a first-name basis with the police force.

As ABC's summer series "Scoundrels" opens, the cops are joining the Wests for breakfast. Sort of.

"Why don't they just move in and save on gas?" asks teenager Hope (Vanessa Marano) as she's rousted out of bed because the police are at the door.

And then, as the breakfast cereal is being poured, she inquires, "What'd we steal this time? The raisins?"

No. But there's a reason the cops are on a first name basis with the Wests. They are indeed crooks.

So ... the family that steals together, congeals together?

Husband/father Wolfgang "Wolf" West (David James Elliott) is the head of the clan, and he's raising his kids to join the family business. His wife, Cheryl (Virginia Madsen), is supportive.

Their 20-something twin sons, Logan and Cal (both played by Patrick John Flueger) are opposites. Logan is about to join the bar; grungy Cal is more likely to be hanging out in a bar. The plan is for Logan to be the family's lawyer, while Cal will be the next criminal mastermind.

Despite the fact that he's not all that smart.

Speaking of not all that smart, there's 20-something daughter Heather (Leven Rambin), whose goal is to become a supermodel. Weirdly enough, she might be smarter than she acts.

Hope — who's still in high school when she chooses to go — is the smart one.

They're crooks, but they're relatively nice crooks. When police Sergeant Mack (Carlos Bernard) questions whether Cal might have been involved in a violent crime, Cheryl takes offense.

"I know what you think of this family, sergeant," she says. "But we do not beat up old ladies."

"That's right. I forgot. West code of honor," Mack replies. "No violence, no drugs. Just forge a few bad checks, rip off a few overpriced hotels."

Yeah, that sort of thing.

And, later, Cheryl takes Cal to task — after she almost runs him over with her car — when she thinks he broke the family code.

"There's two rules this family lives by. One, we do not invade homes. At least not while people are in them," she says. "And, two, we never, ever use violence!"

Weirdly enough, the Wests seem like a very functional family. All families have their idiosyncrasies, right?

However, cracks are developing beneath the surface of this outwardly united clan. First and foremost, Wolf heads to court expecting a four-month sentence for his latest relatively minor crime.

Instead, he's sentenced to five years in prison.

(Weirdly enough, this is the second time in nine months that a network show opens by sending the husband/father to prison. "Scoundrels" joins CBS's "The Good Wife" in that odd category.)

And, in his absence, Cheryl is extremely concerned about her children. The direction their lives are taking. The direction the family is taking.

So she decides to go straight. And take the family with her.

This is where the drama comes in. Slathered on top of the comedy.

It's a somewhat awkward juxtaposition at times.

Some of the comedy — which arises from the situations, not jokes — is good. So is the drama.

Whether they'll work together as the show moves forward remains to be seen.

RECASTING: David James Elliott was cast in "Scoundrels" after Neal McDonough was dropped for refusing to do steamy scenes with Madsen.

How steamy? Well, the first episode starts with Elliott and Madsen — a married couple — in bed. And it's pretty steamy for a TV show.

McDonough — who describes himself as a "family man" — also refused to do steamy scenes during his stints on "Desperate Housewives" and "Boomtown."

He's got principles. In this case, they reportedly cost him about $1 million in salary.

There aren't a lot of actors who would do that.

If you watch

What: The comedy/drama "Scoundrels"

When: Premieres Sunday at 8 p.m.

Channel: ABC/Ch. 4

The bottom line: This is not a bad show, but it's not altogether successful at being either a comedy or a drama.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS