by Ron Wynn
Like many a complex and pressing issue, immigration gets reduced all too often to a soap-opera element in TV treatments. FX's new drama The Bridge, which debuts 9 p.m. Wednesday, has the look of something special.
Based on a Swedish/Danish series Bron, The Bridge spotlights tensions on the Texas/Mexico border through the eyes of two homicide detectives working on what may prove a sensational and controversial case.
Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) represents the laws of the U.S. and Texas, while her Mexican counterpart is Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir). They discover a body left on a bridge between the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, the latest victim of a serial killer who ignores national boundaries in the ongoing quest for victims. It's a split jurisdictional situation.
Their pursuit of this murderer will take the bulk of The Bridge's thematic focus, at least in the first season. But the show is also about a clash of worldviews between the cops. Ruiz doesn't view life in as moralistic a fashion as Cross. Cross also is a loner, while Ruiz is far more outgoing.
The Bridge won't just juggle the two universes through the characters. Nearly half the dialogue will be in Spanish with English subtitles. The producers have given A Better Life Oscar nominee Bichir (who speaks fluent Spanish) additional duties as a language consultant to ensure accuracy and proper use of slang and vernacular.
Kruger hasn't had a showcase this promising since Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, while Bichir had a long-term stint in Weeds playing the mayor of Tijuana. Executive producer Meredith Stiehm's impressive resume includes writing on Homeland and Cold Case. FX is developing an ever-growing list of quality productions, so there's a good chance The Bridge could lead somewhere interesting.
TBS's Conan O'Brien has long been an admirer of the late Johnny Carson. He'll host and introduce a collection of some of Carson's best Tonight Show interviews 7 p.m. tonight on Turner Classic Movies.
The names circulated in pre-release publicity include Doris Day, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin. But Carson's interests and guests ranged far beyond the realm of celebrities promoting films and comedians making their debuts. His couch had room for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, and he included swing-era giants Buddy Rich and Artie Shaw among his frequent guests. He brought on authors, politicians, scientists — a broad spectrum that reflected the fact he was curious about many things.
Let's hope this special isn't totally tilted toward the "celebrity" end, because at its best The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was much more than that — something like America's communal living room, in the days before social media.
Odds and ends
Country Music Television (CMT) has been expanding its reach into other areas for many years. Its newest project Bounty Hunters, which debuts 9 p.m. Saturday, is animated. A trio of bail enforcers faces various challenges while dealing with folks who miss their court dates and/or skip out on their bond. Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall lend their voices to this project.
• Will Sharknado with Tara Reid and Ian Ziering be the ultimate in Syfy's pulp mill of high concept Z movies, or more sucker bait for those who'll watch anything with "shark" in the title? Find out 8 p.m. Thursday.