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Character's condition makes The Bridge tough to cross

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Above, Demian Bichir (left) and Diane Kruger in The Bridge.

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Above, Demian Bichir (left) and Diane Kruger in The Bridge.

SOMETHING old, something new, something bordered and something grue... some — that about sums up The Bridge, an intriguing but irksomely flawed new drama.

The "new" is the cop show's setting, which straddles the international divide between the southern United States (Texas, to be precise) and northern Mexico. It's ground that has not been mined by TV screenwriters before, and it offers itself countless layers of social, political and cultural details and differences that could be explored over the long term.

The "old" is the conceit of the detective who's brilliant despite obvious challenges and limitations, a device that has been fodder for dozens of TV shows from Longstreet (blindness) and Ironside (lower-body paralysis) to Saving Grace (multiple addictions), Monk (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and Homeland (bipolar disorder).

In this case, one of the series' two central characters suffers from an extreme (but, in the early going, at least, unexplained) personality disorder that may or may not enhance her investigative abilities but certainly cripples her in every social situation.

The "bordered" element is obvious, of course; the "gruesome" arrives in The Bridge's first few moments, when a body is dumped -- literally -- on the U.S.-Mexico border. There's a line across the highway that marks the division between the two countries; the corpse's head and torso are on the American side, and the abdomen and lower extremities are in Mexico.

When police arrive en masse, there's an inevitable jurisdictional dispute. El Paso P.D. detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), the aforementioned afflicted cop, insists the positioning of the body makes this a U.S. case; meanwhile, Det. Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) of the Chihuahua State Police is intrigued by the situation, but not enough to get into a turf fight over it.

Ruiz heads home to his comfy bed, but is awakened by a middle-of-the-night phone call from Cross, who informs him the body on the border actually belongs to two women -- the top half is a Texas judge with strong anti-immigration leanings, and the bottom belongs to an unknown young woman of Mexican descent.

The plot thickens, and the two detectives are forced into a working relationship that neither wants or views as in any way potentially productive.

The premi®re episode of The Bridge lays out a multi-layered storyline with fascinating potential -- class warfare, international politics, divergent attitudes toward policing and corruption, a journey inside the mind of a serial killer -- but it stumbles badly when it comes to explaining Cross's condition (the press notes for the series state she has Asperger's syndrome, but that isn't revealed onscreen) or placing it into a context that makes it anything other than off-putting.

And that's too bad, because it's enough of a distraction to disrupt an otherwise compelling drama. For some, perhaps, it'll be enough to prompt an early tune-out, and that'd be a shame, because this does look like a Bridge worth crossing.

-- -- --

Camp clumsy: There's a moment in the premi®re episode of the summer-themed new NBC series Camp (which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m., also on Global) in which a teenage boy is dropped off at the titular lake-country getaway, despite having expressed to his mother, in no uncertain terms, that he absolutely, positively does not want to spend part of his summer there.

Having watched the first two episodes of Camp, I know exactly how he feels.

Camp, a series about an all-American seasonal tradition that was actually shot in Australia, is a product of middling ambitions unrealized by indifferent scriptwriting. It features a fairly likable cast, led by Aussie native Rachel Griffiths in a role that's a marked departure from the dour sorts she played in Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters, but this trip to Camp gives them pretty much nowhere interesting to go and nothing of consequence to do.

The central premise is that Mackenzie Granger (Griffiths) has been left to run the cash-strapped Little Otter Family Camp after her husband dumped her for a younger woman.

She's trying to keep the camp afloat while fending off the advances (both financial and physical) of Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser), the annoying but unavoidably sexy owner of an upscale camp on the other side of the lake.

Their lives become entangled in ways she hadn't anticipated, and back at Little Otter, all manner of that-time-at-family-camp memories are being created as campers and staff begin their annual intermingling.

Everything that happens is predictable; nothing that transpires is surprising; everyone at this lake is stereotypical. There isn't much art or craft to what has been created at Camp.

It isn't completely without charm, but even as a light, off-season diversion, there isn't much to recommend an extended stay. It's an hour that would be better spent outdoors making your own summer-vacation memories.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 D3

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Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM CDT: adds missing text, adds fact box

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