Michael Clarke Duncan sure is great. I’d say, without a doubt, that it’s his presence here that elevates The Finder from a ‘just ok’ to a ‘fun and watchable.’ Try and imagine the show with some other hulking actor in the role of Leo. Maybe that equally huge guy who plays a similar role with Robert Forester in Jackie Brown (I just googled him and apparently his name is Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, so there you go). It’s Duncan’s warmth and unique comic presence that makes this show a nice piece of lighthearted fun.
And considering the last two pilots I just slogged through, I really, really, really appreciate being able to use the word ‘fun’ and meaning it.
But on to the show. The Finder is one of the eight bazillion shows on right now where a handful of kooky characters solve a case of the week with plenty of fun and quirkiness and good chemistry. In this case, everything revolves around Walter Sherman (played by the for-the-most-part unknown Geoff Stults), a reclusive veteran with a signature knack for… finding things. Accompanying him are Duncan’s Leo Knox, who apparently was convinced by Walter not to kill someone a long time ago, and has since turned his life around and become Walter’s sidekick. Add in a wayward compulsive thief and an FBI agent and you’ve got something that feels very much like the fun, throwaway type of show you’d see on USA.
Sadly, The Finder does have one glaring flaw- the actual character of Walter. Stults is charismatic and has a decent sense of timing (the scene with him and Duncan chatting up the parole agent at breakfast is the exact kind of goofy buddy-comedy humor you’d want here), but the way the character is written seems kinda clunky. What is a ‘finder?’ In the opening sequence we see him snatch up a guitar stolen from John Fogerty and the rest of the episode hinges around finding the body of a pilot who crashed his plane, but what we never actually see is how Walter pieces this stuff together. In that opening sequence, all we see is Walter agreeing to find the guitar, and then magically knowing exactly where the guitar is. Even when we actually get to see Walter’s thought process intercut with him explaining his solution, the thought process is just him playing with toy planes. At one point, Duncan’s character explains that Walter’s brain simply works in a different way, but I ain’t buying it.
And how are they going to do a case-of-the-week thing, exactly? In this episode the missing person has a specific tie to Walter’s past, but you can’t do that every time. Will the friendly FBI agent supply the plotlines? Will it all be random chance? Apparently his character has some compulsive need to find things, but it really feels like they’re going to have to start grasping at straws pretty soon if there’s no real, tangible reason for Walter to keep doing this. That’s the beauty of the cop, the private detective, the lawyer, and so on- the case-by-case thing is actually part of the job.
I have one more nitpick while I’m here- even though Stults has a fun, easygoing onscreen presence, his character occasionally comes off like a little too much of a prick. Yes, he’s a recluse with a screwy brain, but even a screw-brained recluse would know to at least tread lightly around a young man who just lost his father. In the pilot we get Michael Clarke Duncan handling nearly all of the emotional beats up until the very end, where Walter finally comes around and understands how the young man is feeling. I don’t want to rag on this show (and I did spend the bulk of this review nitpicking it), but it could be so much more engaging if it just fixed a few character points.
So, as to an overall recommendation? If you’ve got nothing to watch on Thursday nights at nine, and you enjoy a lot of the programming on USA, then go right ahead and check out The Finder. It’s lighthearted and fast-paced and it’s got Michael Clarke Duncan. And Michael Clarke Duncan sure is great.
Whelp, it’s just about that time again- see you all next time!