Some mystery novels make a fairly smooth transition to television.
Michael Connelly’s Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), and Elmore Leonard’s Justified instantly come to mind.
As do the light mysteries on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel, including the Aurora Teagarden films—again from Charlaine Harris; Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series; Suzi Weinert’s garage sale series; and Kate Collins’ flower shop series.
This, of course, doesn’t count the numerous successful movies based on solid crime fiction.
But sometimes that magic just doesn’t work, even for TNT, which has a good record of delivering involving series and movies with a mystery approach.
After watching twice the first three episodes of Good Behavior, based on Blake Crouch’s novels, I am still on the fence as to whether this new TNT series will be able to make viewers care about these characters, or the plots. Good Behavior debuts November 15, with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. on TNT.
One thing for sure, Good Behavior is no Rizzoli & Isles.
Nor do I think it has the staying power of Major Crimes—my favorite—or The Closer.
What Good Behavior does have going for it is Michelle Dockery, who dons an American accent and various wigs to play con artist and ex-con Letty Raines.
Letty Raines is about as far from Lady Mary, the character whom Dockery played on Downton Abbey, as you can get. Letty is anything but the buttoned-up, posh upperclass Lady Mary. But Lady Mary always had a subversive streak—remember her brief affair—though nowhere near as felonious as Letty.
Letty has recently been released from prison and she really does try to do better.
She would like to have a relationship, or at least be able to see, her 10-year-old son, who is being raised by her mother, Estelle (Lusia Strus). And she is trying to show up for those mandatory check-ins with her parole officer, Christian (Terry Kinney), who understands her a lot more than either realizes.
But Letty is at heart a thief and a con artist, and she always well be, despite those self-help empowerment tapes she listens to constantly.
She can’t resist indulging in stealing valuables from wealthy patrons at uber-expensive hotels.
A bit of jewelry, a bit of cash, some expensive perfume, some couture frocks and Jimmy Choo shoes—Letty just loves to steal, but she also keeps some things for herself to enjoy.
She’s in the middle of one of those heists when she gets a call that the hotel guest is returning. She barely has time to hide in the massive closet before the door opens. While there, she hears hit man Javier Pereira (Juan Diego Botto) being hired to kill the guest’s wife.
Letty wants to do good. She really does.
So she sets out to stop the hit, which makes her an adversary of Javier, who forces her to team up with him, and pulls her into even darker crime than she can handle.
Dockery’s no-holds-barred performance keeps Good Behavior on track. She is mesmerizing to watch as she goes through the different sides of Letty and makes the banterlike dialogue seem effortless.
Botto is certainly easy on the eyes and his calm exterior hides an amoral interior, which the actor well uses. Character actor Kinney is always delivers his best and his Christian is a man riddled with guilt, doubt, and the need for redemption.
The chemistry of Dockery, Botto, and Kinney works well, making us believe in their complicated relationships.
The scenes in which Letty and Javier try to find a charging station for their stolen Tesla are terrific.
The problem with the episodes of Good Behavior that I saw is the source material. Good Behavior is better as a novel than on the screen. Author Blake Crouch’s Good Behavior combines three novellas—The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab. In the book Letty Raines is Letty Dobesh.
Good Behavior reads better than it views. In the novels, Crouch is able to show why Letty is worth rooting for. Unfortunately, the episodes I viewed make it hard to care about any of the characters. Crouch is listed as one of the series writers and as an executive producer.
I love the antihero, the person you shouldn’t root for but have to. Dockery’s performance almost achieves that but the scripts soon become the same—Javier has another assignment, Letty wants to stop him, Letty can’t.
As a viewer, I need more than what Good Behavior is offering. The series Wayward Pines, based on Crouch’s trilogy, was a better example of the author’s work.
I’ll give Good Behavior another chance. But frankly, I can’t wait for Major Crimes to return.
Good Behavior debuts November 15, with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. on TNT. It will regularly air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Photos: Juan Diego Botto as Javier Pereira and Michelle Dockery as Letty Raines. Photos courtesy TNT