TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Like many of us, our critic at large John Powers has more time these days to catch up on serial TV. He's watching the recently started new seasons of two popular series, Amazon's "Bosch" and "The Good Fight" on CBS All Access. John says that, in their different ways, both are about loyalty to the truth.
JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: It's one of life's peculiarities that, while actual crimes are scary and disturbing, crime stories somehow tend to be comforting. We go to them for relief, for escape, which is why I've spent my recent socially distant nights devouring two good shows about the endless battle against evildoers. The more old fashioned of the two is "Bosch," whose sixth season dropped on Amazon on April 17. Freely adapted from Michael Connelly's terrific series of novels, it stars Titus Welliver as the title hero, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, a man as dogged as he is direct.
As the new season begins, Bosch and his partner J. Edgar - that's Jamie Hector - are assigned to a murder case involving ransom for stolen caesium, an element used in dirty bombs. The clues point to an alt-right group that believes its members are not subject to U.S. law. Soon Bosch and J. Edgar are competing for evidence against an FBI team that bigfoots their murder investigation in the name of stopping domestic terrorism.
Now, Bosch is a classic cop show, yet what makes it good is the way its episodes branch out. As the action races around LA from dive bars to glassy hilltop homes to gorgeous old movie palaces, we follow scads of niftily drawn characters - the veteran cop who watches his dearest friend have a heart attack, Bosch's likable female boss who keeps being undercut by their precinct commander, the hard-to-read police chief who's running for mayor. And outside the station, there's the slippery, brilliant civil rights attorney Honey Chandler - that's Mimi Rogers - who's like a cross between Gloria Allred and Johnnie Cochran.
What holds all this together is the gray-sideburned character of Harry Bosch, whom Welliver endows the bit of Humphrey Bogart's bruised romanticism, even if his bantam rooster strut may be closer to Jimmy Cagney. Smart, prickly and occasionally insubordinate, he embodies the upside of old-school masculinity. His innate sense of honor makes him the sort of nonsuperhero you're happy to watch season after season.
Here Bosch is talking to his daughter Maddie, and without giving away department secrets about dirty bombs or alt-right terrorists, he tries to keep her out of harm's way.
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TITUS WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) You going to be in the office all day?
MADISON LINTZ: (As Maddie Bosch) I usually take a walk somewhere for lunch, feel the sun on me.
WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) Order in, wherever you want. I'm buying.
LINTZ: (As Maddie) So it's not just a homicide case you've caught?
WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) Just stay inside next couple of days. Go home right after work, yeah?
LINTZ: (As Maddie) You OK?
WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) Tired. Get going. Love you.
LINTZ: (As Maddie) Love you. Dad?
WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) Yeah?
LINTZ: (As Maddie) Be safe.
WELLIVER: (As Harry Bosch) Always.
POWERS: The crimes are more insidious in the fourth season of "The Good Fight." It stars a magnificent Christine Baranski as attorney Diane Lockhart who, in this spinoff from "The Good Wife," has become a partner in a historically black law firm led by heavyweight actors Audra McDonald and Delroy Lindo.
This jaunty series isn't merely the Hope Diamond of the CBS All Access service but TV's smartest and funniest portrait of liberal horror at the Trump years. Perhaps for that reason, this season's first episode is a hilariously trenchant slice of alternative history. The Hillary Clinton-loving Diane wakes up to discover that Donald Trump's victory had been merely a bad dream, an uncommonly vivid one. Here, she talks about it with her assistant Marissa, played by Sarah Steele.
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CHRISTINE BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) Have you ever had a dream that is so real that it takes you a long time to just wake up?
SARAH STEELE: (As Marissa Gold) No.
BARANSKI: (As Diane) I dreamt that Donald Trump was our president.
STEELE: (As Marissa, laughter) Really? How did that go?
BARANSKI: (As Diane) So, I mean, what happened? How did he lose?
STEELE: (As Marissa) How did he not? Don't you remember the polls? It was a landslide - 3 million votes.
BARANSKI: (As Diane) Same as in my dream.
STEELE: (As Marissa) Trump had 3 million more votes in your dream?
BARANSKI: (As Diane) No, Hillary did.
STEELE: (As Marissa) Then how did he - well, whatever. It's a dream; doesn't have to make sense.
POWERS: By the second episode, the world has returned to normal. It's the Trump era again, and Diane has been put in charge of the firm's pro bono section. In trying to protect a small restaurant from a developer, Diane comes across something known simply as Memo 618, which allows wealthy and powerful people to have special privileges in court, and so Diane begins digging to find out what this mysterious memo actually is and who's behind it.
This is a chilling theme for a season, especially at a time when millions worry about the corruption of our system of justice. Yet even as the show tackles such a serious issue, every episode is filled with fun, be it the appearance of enjoyable new stars like Hugh Dancy or John Larroquette or sharp bits of satire on everything from corporate sensitivity training to the DNC's attempt to woo black voters. Despite its liberal leanings, the show's irony cuts in every direction. Take that season opener in which Clinton won in 2016; rather than becoming the triumph that Diane expects, the episode is all about that victory's dire consequences for, among other things, the #MeToo movement. Harvey Weinstein was, after all, a big Hillary fundraiser.
The episode's most lethally funny joke is not about Trump but the Obamas. As with "Bosch," what makes "The Good Fight" reassuring is that it revolves around someone whose moral compass is strong. Baranski's microdosing Diane can sometimes be silly or knee-jerk, yet when justice really needs defending from those who it subverted, she - like Harry Bosch - will be there fighting for truth with the spine of the purest steel.
GROSS: Critic at large John Powers reviewed the new seasons of "Bosch" and "The Good Fight."
Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Jane Mayer, The New Yorker's chief Washington correspondent. Her latest article, "The Enabler-In-Chief," is about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and how and why he's enabled President Trump in spite of their differences. I hope you can join us.
(SOUNDBITE OF DJANGO REINHARDT'S "I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS")
GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham with assistance from Charlie Kaier. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Mooj Zadie, Thea Chaloner and Seth Kelley. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF DJANGO REINHARDT'S "I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.