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2 new shows fall into the smart-dumb TV category

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Two new crime dramas have come to streaming. "Bosch: Legacy" debuted Friday, and a series version of "The Lincoln Lawyer" comes to Netflix next week. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says they are two good examples of what he sees as an interesting TV genre.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I have a theory about certain kinds of television shows that I have given a name - smart-dumb TV. OK, a less prickly name might be smart conventional television - shows in well-established genres like police or legal dramas but with a little extra creative heft that makes them, well, smarter. The Prime Video series "Bosch," about a dogged, unconventional police detective played by Titus Welliver, was a perfect example. And now Amazon has created a spinoff called "Bosch: Legacy" for its new Freevee service, centered on Bosch's work as a private detective. Here, he explains to a buddy how his life off the police force is different.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BOSCH: LEGACY")

TITUS WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) I miss catching killers. Don't miss the department. I do standard PI stuff - background checks, surveillance, sneak and peek, runaway kids.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Still a mission for you, isn't it? Everybody counts, or nobody counts.

WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) That hasn't changed.

DEGGANS: He winds up working with a brassy defense attorney, played by Mimi Rogers, who was nearly killed in her own home in "Bosch's" last season. Here, he's talking with her about a case and asks an obvious question.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BOSCH: LEGACY")

WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) I got to say, I can't believe you're still living in this house. Somebody tried to kill you here.

MIMI ROGERS: (As Honey Chandler) Somebody tried to kill you in your house.

WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) I only got shot at. You got shot.

ROGERS: (As Honey Chandler) This is my [expletive] house. I'm not going to let those [expletive] chase me out of my own home. [Expletive] them.

WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) OK.

DEGGANS: Yeah. There's a lot of cursing in this show. But it also moves slowly, building complex stories arching over several episodes. We catch up with Bosch's new life, the defense attorney overcoming PTSD and Bosch's daughter, who's now a rookie police officer. Based on characters from Michael Connelly's novels, it offers the satisfaction of a police drama with a little bigger scope.

That's also true of another drama soon to debut on Netflix based on another set of Michael Connelly novels called "The Lincoln Lawyer." Also once a film starring Matthew McConaughey, "The Lincoln Lawyer" series stars Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller, a defense attorney trying to explain to a judge why he took more than a year off from his practice.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LINCOLN LAWYER")

MANUEL GARCIA-RULFO: (As Mickey Haller) I was in an accident, sort of. I had multiple surgeries and took painkillers, got addicted to them. That's over now. I got help, got claims for whatever concerns you may have about my reputation.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) It's my reputation I'm concerned about. I'm the one that has to sign off on you.

DEGGANS: The judge eventually allows Haller to take over another lawyer's clients when that attorney is murdered. He's plunged into a mystery that involves one of those cases - defending a tech billionaire from what seems to be an ironclad murder case. Again, in this show, we get a lot of the typical trappings of a TV legal drama. Haller is a driven, talented workaholic with two ex-wives. He often works from his Lincoln SUV, hence the show's name. He has a gruff but loyal and effective investigator and a driver who's a recovering addict, just like him.

But the show spins these familiar elements into a mystery that's most interesting and tough to predict, a bit like high-quality TV comfort food. This is the best thing about the smart-dumb TV offered by both "Bosch: Legacy" and "The Lincoln Lawyer." It's the kind of TV you recognize but a little elevated - crime stories that are perfect for those of us who love the genre but need a little more challenging narrative than your typical "NCIS" or "Chicago P.D." episode can match. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.