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Scoundrels: Season One

David James Elliott and Virigina Madsen keeping their hands visible at all times in the premiere episode of ABC’s Scoundrels. [Photo: ABC/Lewis Jacobs]

Scoundrels: Season One 3 out of 4

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It's not hard to see what entices dramatists to create shows centered on crime families. Not only are such families tragically ripped apart and thrown back together by run-ins with the justice system, victims seeking vengeance, and competition, but by their individual struggles with the morality of their way of life and the responsibilities of kinship. The nascent elements of comedy in such a family's story are not so immediately apparent.

Enter light-hearted dramedy Scoundrels, the pilot for which is something of a scam. It introduces the members of the West family with little vignettes about how deceitful they all are, with the exception of fresh-faced lawyer Logan (Patrick Flueger, who does double-duty as Logan's idiot twin, Cal—a role he plays with relish). After West patriarch Wolf (David James Elliott) is sentenced to the slammer for five years for an undisclosed crime, his wife Cheryl (the oddly feline-looking Virginia Madsen) decides their lifestyle isn't worth the risk and cashes her family out of the crime game; the episode ends with her telling the family that they are going to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Watching how the Wests attempt to navigate the straight and narrow could be hilarious, but there's little indication from the pilot of how future episodes will be structured or how much of a role Logan, Wolf, or the family's own personal police stalker, Detective Mack (Carlos Bernard), will play in the show.

Hopefully they'll be around a lot, if only to balance out Leven Rambin's broad ditziness. The former Grey's Anatomy star plays eldest daughter Heather, a wannabe model whose whining is only tolerable when diluted by, say, little sister Hope's (Vanessa Marano) on-the-nose snark. The rest of the cast fares better, but without knowing what the show is trying to be (will the Wests be tempted to return to crime? Will they genuinely try to be good and fail?), it's impossible to tell if they'll be put to good use.

Cast: Virginia Madsen, David James Elliott, Patrick Flueger, Leven Rambin, Vanessa Marano, Carlos Bernard Airtime: ABC, Sundays at 9 p.m.

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