Hugh Laurie stars as Ethan Chance, a doctor (here, a neuropsychologist) with one of those last names that can double as a TV show à la Gregory House. Chance — shot with what appears to be the San Francisco grey Instagram filter with extra notice given to Laurie’s thinning hair — is going through a complicated divorce. He’s having troubles with his daughter. He’s feeling cash-strapped and out of sorts.
Enter Jaclyn Blackstone (Gretchen Mol), an old-school femme fatale with multiple personality disorder and an abusive husband who beats the hell out of his wife but can get away with it because he’s a police officer. Ethan Chance — who doesn’t treat patients, only offers diagnosis before referring them elsewhere for therapy — takes an interest in Blackstone that seems to have as much to do with his loneliness and her attractiveness as it does her situation, which may not be what it appears.
Meanwhile, Chance — who is trying to stay afloat financially with divorce lawyers and his daughter’s private school tuition hanging over his head — decides to sell a piece of furniture, which he takes to a dealer, Carl, played by The Wire’s Clarke Peters, who looks like he just walked off the set of Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. Carl introduces him to D (Ethan Suplee), a big guy who seems to have some psychological problems of his own. For instance, he likes to beat up people but only bad people, and maybe sometimes he entraps them into being bad people so he can beat them up. Tuesdays, amiright?
For some inexplicable reason, Chance and D — who looks like The Kingpin’s slow-witted, redneck cousin — buddy up to investigate Jaclyn’s situation, maybe seek revenge upon the abusive husband, and maybe even solve some other crimes while they’re at it.
That’s all there really is to Chance, so far, and it takes way too long to set even that up.
It’s a glum, glacially-paced noir, and I probably would’ve stopped watching midway through the first episode had it not been for the presence of Hugh Laurie. It’s not that he’s good here — in fact, most of Laurie’s comedic and charmingly surly edges have been sanded down into a bland paste — it’s that I can’t imagine Laurie settling for a television series as inert as Chance is in the early going. I can only assume that it will improve because Laurie is in it, even if the only thing that’s interesting about it so far is the mismatched duo of Laurie and Suplee, whose last two decades of work make it difficult to take him seriously as a menace.
That pairing, however, is just enough to keep me watching in the hopes that Chance — based on a mystery novel by Kem Nunn — will deliver on the promise of Laurie’s presence. I am not holding my breath, however. With all due respect, Hulu’s dramatic offerings seem to consist of series that were originally rejected by Netflix. They are competent and intermittently entertaining, but rarely addictive. In the era of peak television, that’s not enough.