Kristoffer Polaha got a slick Portland haircut at Bishops yesterday. The LA-based actor was in town for a pilot screening of Backstrom, a new PDX-based crime comedy (crimedy?) series in which Pohala provides a quirky foil to Rainn Wilson’s snarling, misanthropic police detective (check out the trailer here).
Polaha tells Portland Monthly that he missed out on the free beer to which Bishops patrons are entitled. But we’re not worried—Pohala will be back. In fact, he says he makes “a point to stay here” whenever he travels to Backstrom shoots—which, by the way, take place in Vancouver, B.C.. Sure, Portlanders are pro at complaining about the local filming snub, but judging by the line of people who braved the rain to stand in line for Thursday’s Fox Tower screening, it doesn’t seem like we’re taking it too personally.
The show, which will be shown Thursdays on Fox starting Jan 22, centers on a Portland Police homicide investigation unit that aims to clean up a much bloodier version of our fair city. Where Pohala’s character, forensics expert Sgt. Peter Niedermayer, is a bit milktoasty, Wilson’s Backstrom is both caustic and brilliant, a Dr. Gregory House of homicide investigations. Polaha isn’t offended by the House comparison: “We’re working with an established formula: there’s a brilliant but offensive addict in charge. We’re also using an established format: it’s a procedural crime show, but we take it to a new level.”
Polaha describes Backstrom as a “hopeful show set within very dark parameters,” centering on black humor like his character’s goofily elaborate reenactments of an episode’s homicide. The show geeks out on technical forensics information, resulting in near-constant research for Polaha of specialized terms like coital cephalalgia and subarachnoid hemorrhage. “I have a pretty disturbing search history because of this show,” he says.
Backstrom comes on heavy, treating issues from substance abuse to racism to homicidal violence. Polaha says that the show’s narrative focus will prove refreshing: “TV has explored every avenue that people deem taboo, and maybe it’s no longer about what we can push. Now it’s about story: how can we push the story?”
Fans of Rainn Wilson’s performance on The Office should keep an eye open for another kind of homicide: “It was amazing watching Rainn play Backstrom because it felt like he was performing an act of murder. Like he was literally killing Dwight Schrute by playing this incredibly different character. Seeing that will be a treat for fans of Rainn and The Office,” says Polaha.
Catch the premiere of Backstrom at 9 pm on January 22, on Fox.