Friday, September 23, 2022

Panhandle, on Spectrum

Pretty soon, we’ll all be living in Florida or Texas, because they are the only states with any jobs. Hopefully, we won’t dilute the local culture. Bell Prescott named his pet alligator Moseley in honor of the state’s first governor, so he is about as Floridian as it gets. He is also an agoraphobic basket-case who took an advanced criminology degree online, in hopes of solving his wife’s murder. Her cold case heats up in Carla Kettner & Nicholas Stoller’s Panhandle, which premieres Monday on Spectrum.

Ever since the murder of his wife Vida, Prescott has been unable to leave his family home outside the dying town of Boggsville. When her body was found in the swamp, the lazy county sheriff just assumed it was methheads. Unfortunately, Sheriff Grant is now supposed to handle all of the town’s real law enforcement. Cammie Lorde is the only police the community has left, but she is only supposed to write speeding tickets to fund the failing town’s municipal government. Nevertheless, she responds to the call from Prescott’s estate, when the recluse finds a suspiciously blue corpse in his shrubbery.

Against protocol, he starts analyzing the body. Initially, his presumptuousness annoys Lorde, but she grudgingly admits he might somewhat know what he is doing. Reasonably, he assumes the new body is related to his wife’s murder, which indeed turns out to be the case. The twitchy Prescott needs Lorde’s help to pursue his investigation, so he offers up his files solving numerous regional cold cases in exchange for her cooperation.

Inevitably, the course of their sleuthing will lead to some uncomfortable revelations for Prescott. He will try to confront the mental projection the grieving Prescott regularly summons of his late wife for company, but he is still (mostly) aware that she is only in his head (like Michel Huisman in
The Flight Attendant).

is a lot like a Carl Hiaasen adaptation that didn’t have to pay Hiaasen a cent. There are plenty of gators, guns, and distinctly Floridian attitude. It wouldn’t be the same show if it were set anywhere else, which was a good part of its intention. The battery of directors also keep it moving along briskly, while not letting the humor overwhelm the mystery business.

Luke Kirby is more neurotic as Prescott than he is portraying Lenny Bruce on
Miss Maisel. He is even more neurotic than Tony Shalhoub’s Monk—an obvious comparison—while somehow managing to be less shticky and annoying. His dysfunctional chemistry with Tiana Okoye’s entertainingly cynical Lorde is definitely the engine driving the show, but there is also some terrific support from Lesley Ann Warren. She contributes some delightfully boozy flair as Prescott’s gun-wielding mother, Millicent. Plus, there’s Mosely, who gets at least as much screentime as Elvis the alligator did in Miami Vice.

The first four (out of eight) episodes provided for review are consistently funny, while the overriding mystery develops a fair amount of intrigue. The one note of caution to note might be the way Kettner and Stoller are casting Prescott’s expat Cuban in-laws in a potentially villainous light. Nevertheless, the series has a keenly swampy sense of place and Kirby’s meltdowns and kvetching are compulsively watchable. Solidly recommended thus far,
Pandhandle starts streaming Monday (9/26), via Spectrum.