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The Best Show Genuinely Almost No One Has Heard About

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 21, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 21, 2023 |


There’s a long-running joke on the Podjiba podcast (which will be returning from hiatus very soon) about Spectrum Originals, the Peak TV attempt by the cable company to launch its own original content. With the exception of the Mad About You continuation that absolutely no one saw, most people have probably never heard of any of these programs. The first season of a cop show called L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, did re-air on Fox during the pandemic. There was also a six-episode show from Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife/The Good Fight) called The Bite that starred the likes of Audra McDonald, Taylor Schilling, and Phillipa Soo, which I believe is no longer available anywhere. It only had six reviews, which is crazy for a series from the showrunners behind Evil. Spectrum Originals also had a Ted Kaczynski series starring Paul Bettany and Sam Worthington that was a continuation of a Discovery series, as well as a Josh Hartnett series if anyone was wondering where he was in 2020.

The point is: I never would have heard of any of these series either, but for the fact that Dan — a former Spectrum subscriber — would often bring them up to playfully mock them, although I don’t think he’d ever seen any of them either. In fact, there were only two of the scripted series that managed second seasons: the aforementioned L.A.’s Finest, and the highest-rated of all the Spectrum original series, Joe Pickett. Granted, being the highest-rated Spectrum Original doesn’t mean a lot; it means it was probably seen by 612 people who accidentally stumbled upon it late at night while searching for something randy.

Besides The Bite, which I will probably never be able to watch, the only Spectrum Original I’d ever been interested in was Pickett for one very simple reason: Michael Dorman. Those few of you who were able to watch him in For All Mankind or worshipped at the altar of maybe the best little-seen series in the last 10 years, Patriotthe best show of 2017 — will understand why he was such a pull. As the title character in Pickett, he’s very good — it plays to all his strengths: a little quirky, a little sad, a little folksy, and endlessly empathetic. To me, Michael Dorman is a Wilco song come to life. If Jeremy Allen White had not been perfectly cast in The Bear, Michael Dorman would have been the ideal backup.

Pickett is sort of a cross between Yellowstone, Big Sky, and, weirdly, I want to say Veronica Mars, in part because it’s a season-long murder mystery but also because of the show’s intimate vibe. It’s a cozy-ish, neo-Western murder mystery, only it is set in the backwoods of Wyoming, played here by Calgary, Alberta. Pickett takes a job as a game warden in Saddlestring on the outskirts of the Yellowstone National Forest. It’s his lifelong dream to be a game warden, although the gig proves much more difficult (and bloody) than he anticipated.

In the first season, for instance, he awakens to find a dead man with an arrow through his chest in a pile of tree limbs out in his front yard. He’s determined to get to the bottom of it, which opens up a big conspiracy involving poachers, oil pipelines, developers, and the advice of the outgoing game warden, played by a beardy David Allan Grier.

Along for the adventure are Joe’s kids and his wife, Marybeth (Julianna Guill), who is probably why the show gives me Veronica Mars vibes. She’s a lawyer who put her career on hold for Joe’s big dream of becoming a game warden, although she ultimately is as involved in the murder investigation as Joe, while also occasionally handling legal matters for troubled locals. She is also there to help Joe navigate some difficult childhood traumas, particularly in the second season.

I don’t want to oversell Joe Pickett, based on the CJ Box novels and which comes from brothers Drew and John Erick Dowdle, who also co-created the Waco series. It’s engrossing, Dorman (and Guill) are compelling, and the series sometimes feels weirdly familiar, like Wynonna Earp minus the sci-fi (it is also filmed a few miles from where Earp was shot). Spectrum stopped producing originals after renewing Pickett for a second season, but Paramount+ kept it going so binge-watchers have about ten days to catch up to the second season finale, not that the Internet is likely to spoil a show that no one watches. It’s unlikely, but if enough people find it in the coming months, maybe it’ll even land a third season. It deserves one.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, ‘Joe Pickett’ wouldn’t exist.