Reviewed by MICHAEL SHONK:


MARLOWE. “Choices.” TV pilot, ABC / Touchstone Pictires, 2007. Cast: Jason O’Mara as Philip Marlowe, Adam Goldberg as Detective Frank Olmeier, Amanda Righetti as Jessica Reeder, Sherman Augustus as John Welan* (this is the onscreen credit but the character was called Thomas in episode). Guest Cast: Jamie Ray Newman as Tracy Faye, Clayton Rohner as Matthew Denzler, Lisa LoCicero as Stephanie Church, Jose Yenque as Ernesto, Aja Evans as Shauna, Marcos A. Ferraez as Zack Battas, Michael B. Silver as Charles Difrisco and Lisa Pelikan as Laura Devin. Directed by Rob Bowman. Crew credits not on this apparent work print but listed in ABC’s press release (source: Futoncritic.com). Creators and executive producers: Carol Wolper and Greg Pruss. Executive Producer: Daniel H. Blatt, Daniel Pipski, Phil Clymer and Sean Bailey. Producer: Jason O’Mara.

   “Choices” was a TV pilot and possible first episode for a proposed weekly TV series featuring Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe. Luckily for all Chandler and Marlowe fans it did not sell.

   Set in present day (2007) Los Angeles, former cop Marlowe has been a PI for eight years, has a young beautiful secretary who went to the Effie Perrine Secretarial School, exchanges banter with his pal L.A. Detective Frank Olmeier and has a friend Thomas who is a club owner with all the right connections. Unfortunately, the show’s attempt to modernize Marlowe left the character with more in common with standard TV PIs than Chandlers’ Marlowe.

   “Choices” has its positives. The mystery was better than the average TV drama. The plot was a Chandler favorite: Marlowe is hired by a rich man to solve a family problem and is forced to dig deep inside the sad sleazy lives of the L.A. rich and powerful to find the truth.

   But there is little else for those looking for Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The cast performs well but Jason O’Mara’s upbeat Marlowe will not replace George Montgomery let alone Robert Montgomery in the hearts of Marlowe fans. The soundtrack is too modern and light. Rob Bowman’s direction never really gave the story the feel of the city. The script is overburdened with TV PI tropes.

   It is currently showing at YouTube:

   The story opens as Marlowe is following a man. Funky music plays on the soundtrack as Marlowe drives down the busy L.A. streets. Not surprisingly Marlowe does exposition with standard voiceover narration. Harry Orwell did it better.

   A rich man is convinced his wife is having an affair with womanizing millionaire Adam Denzler. He hires Marlowe to prove it. Rather than follow the wife, Marlowe is following Adam. But poor Marlowe gets interrupted when a car pulls out and hits the front fender of his car.

   Marlowe knows where Adam lives so he parks outside Adam’s home and waits. A young beautiful woman, Tracy Fay enters Adam’s home. Moments later Marlowe hears a woman’s screams. He runs into the home finding Tracy covered in blood and Adam dead by the pool.

   The cops arrive lead by Detective Frank Olmeier. Marlowe and Frank exchange allegedly clever banter. Faster than you can say James Rockford, Marlowe decide to quit the now open police case and rushes off to get paid. So, he did not discover if his client’s wife had cheated on her husband or even if she had been involved with the womanizing Adam. Marlowe does not care. He just wants paid and to get back to his office for a drink.

   While waiting for his client to join him Marlowe exchanges sexual innuendos with the client’s wife. There is no doubt the wife is unfaithful, but Marlowe doesn’t care as long as he gets his money.

   Marlowe is at his Hollywood office with secretary Jessica taking care of him and office business. They are interrupted by – surprise – Tracy, the bimbo Marlowe met at Adam’s murder. Like the typical femme fatale, Tracy begs for Marlowe’s help.

   Marlowe returns to the scene. The cops are still there. Marlowe easily cons a neighbor for the tape from her security cameras that got the license plate number of another car at the scene of the murder.

   He teases Frank about the cops not getting the vital tape. But whiny Frank reminds his PI friend how unfair the cop life is. Cops have to deal with hassles like warrants and due process that PI Marlowe doesn’t have to deal with. (One of my top pet peeves about screenwriting is the lazy idea that PIs are above the law and don’t face the same rules cops do.) Buried in paperwork, Frank convinces Marlowe to go question the suspects starting with Adam’s brother Matt who is the sole beneficiary of the family millions.

   Matt is a likable beach bum who was happy with his allowance and letting his brother run the business. Conveniently (a word that can not be used too often in describing Marlowe’s detective work) visiting Matt’s beach house are a few of the suspects we will meet later including Charles, a shady club owner and a local politician enjoying the company of one of Tracy’s female friends.

   Marlowe visits his friend Thomas. We learn Tracy is a club girl, a woman who goes from nightclub to nightclub in search of rich and powerful men.

   Tracy had told Marlowe that she and Adam were in love. Marlowe’s doubts about Tracy increase when he finds her partying at Elements, a nightclub owned by Charles who had been at Matt’s beach house.

   Marlowe takes the drunk Tracy home where she tries to seduce him. He resists. When he returns to his car he finds someone had tossed a brick through his car window warning him to stop seeing Tracy.

   Marlowe and Frank hang out at Marlowe’s office sharing information between wisecracks. Marlowe gives his warning brick to Frank. Frank shares the news that the other car that had been seen leaving the murder scene belonged to … Sandra Bullock, the famous actress. Sandra had parked her car at the nightclub while she ate at a nearby restaurant that had no parking available.

   It is at this point the required twists and TV mysteries clues begin to introduce themselves to Marlowe. Marlowe discusses the future with the nightclub valet who knows who had borrowed Sandra Bullock’s car but is not telling. Once Marlowe apparently leaves he watches the valet run to a payphone and call someone. Marlowe calls Frank and tells him to trace the phone call.

   Frank had traced the valet’s call. The person who had taken Bullock’s car and was at the murder scene was Zack Battas who was also the man who delivered the brick to Marlowe. Zack is in love with Tracy who had dumped him. Marlowe meets with Zack and his friends in a back alley for the mandatory smart ass PI gets beat up scene. Marlowe wakes up in a creative but totally unbelievable death trap set by Zack and friends.

   Back at his office so secretary Jessica can take care of him, she also reports on the legwork she did about Adam’s companies. The plot continued to grow more interestingly complex.

   Finally after some scenes that deal with the murder mystery, Tracy arrives at Marlowe’s office so they can have sex. After Tracy leaves Frank calls with news that Tracy had been arrested in the past for assaulting an old boyfriend.

   Marlowe confronts Tracy who claims her attack on the old boyfriend was self defense and that the boyfriend beat her. Angry, Marlowe hits the wall knocking some pictures off the wall, including one with a major clue.

   Marlowe starts facing down suspects, eliminating each but finding more and more evil that breeds among the rich and privilege. Marlowe beats a confession out of one suspect but gets shot (whew, I was worried “Choices” might have missed a TV PI cliché).

   The twists keep you guessing about the mystery until the end. But if only that had been enough, instead we are forced to endure the pretentious moralizing voiceover trying to convince us that the city had a role in this ordinary murder caused by typical human greed.

   While this pleasant TV PI mystery has its moments, it was a failure in its attempt to update Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. Where was the lone knight walking down the mean streets? The major reason for the character to use voiceover narration is to reveal exposition without the need of other characters. It keeps the PI a loner and an outsider. The real Marlowe would not have had the standard TV support group — close friend cop and the secretary with a crush. Only Thomas the friend that has all the right connections fit Chandler’s Marlowe’s world.

   This clueless adaptation never understood that even a modern version of Marlowe would have a strong moral center. Modern times would not have corrupted Marlowe.