"The Bridge," an excellent new murder mystery from FX, instantly lends itself to comparisons with AMC's "The Killing."
Both drama series are adapted from popular Scandinavian shows. Both are initially tied to the discovery of a female corpse. And both explore their cases, with novelistic leisure, through the eyes of two detectives who take strikingly different approaches to their jobs.
On the other hand, brace yourself for a major climate change. Unlike "The Killing," which wallows in the cold and soggy environs of Seattle, "The Bridge" whisks us to the border territory between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, where it's so hot and arid and dusty that viewers might suffer from parched throats. Our advice? Stay hydrated.
Another significant difference: Based on the first three episodes made available for preview, "The Bridge" has a sturdier narrative construction, contains a few more intriguing wrinkles and appears to be much better suited for the long haul. At least that's our hope.
We begin on the bustling span that connects the U.S. and Mexican cities. It's night time, and suddenly, all the lights and surveillance monitors go down. Very creepy.
When power is restored, the body of an American judge known for her anti-immigration views is splayed on the pavement. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), a relentlessly driven member of the El Paso Police Department, arrives on the scene. So does Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), a veteran of the Chihuahua State Police. But who has jurisdiction? How will their responsibilities be divided?
We soon learn that things are not as they originally seemed and that the corpse has been altered in a gruesome manner. Eventually, more bodies pile up, and it becomes apparent that a savvy serial killer with political motives is at work.
Our lead detectives make for an interesting study in contrast. Cross, who has Asperger's syndrome, goes about her duties with laserlike focus. She's uptight, fearlessly blunt and pretty much devoid of empathy or tact. A colleague calls her a "bona fide whack job."
Ruiz, meanwhile, has the laid-back approach of a veteran who has seen it all. Charming, but also cunning, he's smart enough to know that Cross' by-the-book approach doesn't always go over well in Mexico's world of ruthless drug cartels and shady politics.
It's a pleasure to watch them play off one another, and it's fascinating to see how "The Bridge" ambitiously moves beyond a simplistic serial-killer saga to become a gritty, complex exploration of cultural differences, class issues and border tensions.
The whole enterprise is bolstered by interlocking -- and timely -- storylines that delve into illegal immigration, drug trafficking and prostitution. Moreover, it's blessed with plenty of impressive support performances. Among the standouts: Matthew Lillard as a boozy journalist covering the story and Annabeth Gish as an American socialite who is beginning to learn that her late husband had some shady business dealings in Mexico.
FX may have struck dramatic gold again. This series is mesmerizing. It sucks you in like a good book and has you yearning for more.
But a word of caution: We've seen serialized crime thrillers start off well, then fail to live up to their promise. We can only hope that "The Bridge" is able to hold our attention throughout the summer and avoid a collapse.
STAR-SPANGLED CELEBRATIONS: If you can't make it out to Independence Day festivities, don't worry: TV has you covered.
On "Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular" (8 p.m., NBC), there will be plenty of pyrotechnics igniting the sky over the Hudson River, along with performances by Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and others. Nick Cannon of "America's Got Talent" is hosting the show, which will encore at 10 p.m.
And then there's "A Capitol Fourth" (8 p.m., PBS), which has Tom Bergeron ("Dancing With the Stars") presiding over a fireworks extravaganza from the West Lawn in Washington, D.C.
The guest list includes Barry Manilow, Megan Hilty ("Smash"), Darren Criss ("Glee") and Candice Glover ("American Idol"). In addition, Oscar-winning composer John Williams will conduct a selection from his "Lincoln" score.
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When: 10 p.m., July 10