Eldon Chance is a middle-aged neuropsychiatrist and malcontent who demonstrates severe risk-taking behaviour, endangering the safety of himself and loved ones in the name of vigilantism. His enablers include an antique-restoring bruiser and an obsessive cop willing to work outside of the law.
That was a feeble attempt at the sort of case summary that used to open episodes of Chance (Universal Channel/Hulu) but the second season shies away from this structure so we won’t worry too much about clinical accuracy. It is, however, a fair summary of a rather bizarre crime-fighting programme.
Hugh Laurie plays the titular Chance and is engaging in the role of another troubled medical professional – but this time he’s allowed to swear. His henchman/friend/Sun-Tzu-quoting guru is played by the brother from My Name is Earl, Ethan Suplee, and their warmly-combative relationship provides the hook of the series, rather than their quests to take down various psychopaths and corrupt officials – and actually, nearly everyone in the show demonstrates some psychotic impulse.
Chance isn’t a first-rate drama but it is good entertainment. There is an undeniable appeal in the everyman who takes justice – rather than the law – into his own hands to defend the innocent. Netflix have been thrashing us with this idea throughout multiple seasons of their Marvel products, but there are only 20 episodes of Chance and none of them is as boring as The Punisher, of which I, a Marvel fan, must admit to watching only two-and-a-half episodes. There’s a lot of knowing black humour to temper what could be yet another bleak show (such as The Punisher) and remind us that Laurie is, after all, a comedian.
The themes also chime with another current theme of television: the brokenness of mankind/society leading to senseless violence, the finest examples of which are to be seen in Fargo and Mindhunter. But no risk, no reward, and the characters in Chance consistently demolish their lives through violent acts in the search of peace. A paradox! Well, if there is a third season the calm won’t last long.
Usually the Christmas telly provides a few choice gems for a TV critic to ramble on about but this must be the most moribund year on record. The only thing one has gleaned is that polar bears are cute and Walder Frey does a bloody good impersonation of William Hartnell. The Dr Who special was, of course, all about beginnings and endings, so let us leave the past behind and give the female Doctor (or the Doctor as played by a female actress) a fair chance.