Alibi V.25 No.45 • Nov 10-16, 2016 

Idiot Box

A Good Bad Girl

“Good Behavior” on TNT

TNT adds to its slow-growing lineup of crime/action series with “Good Behavior,” a moody drama based on the “Letty Dobesh” series of novellas by author Blake Crouch. Crouch is best known as the writer behind the Wayward Pines books, which were turned into a sci-fi/horror/mystery series by FOX and executive producer M. Night Shyamalan. Though considerably less twisty than the FOX series, TNT’s show does end up traveling some unexpected roads.

English actress Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley from “Downton Abbey”) stars as Leticia Raines, a self-destructive thief, pickpocket and all-around con artist who has just been let out of prison in North Carolina. Annoyed by her substance abuse counselor and unable to hold down a job, Letty quickly finds herself slipping back into old habits. While pilfering rooms at a ritzy hotel, Letty hides in a closet and accidentally overhears an unhappy husband hiring a sexy Spanish hitman (Juan Diego Botto) to bump off his wife. Letty thinks long and hard about doing the right thing but has a hard time actually getting around to it. Will she save a stranger’s life, or take the selfish route to protect herself?

Dockery manages the sexy part of the role just fine and seems happy to play around with Letty’s theatrical penchant for adopting wigs and accents in order to con people. How convincing the aristocratic actress actually is as a skanked-out, fresh-from-prison junkie is another question. (That skin is probably way too good, for starters.) But she deserves a lot of credit for choosing a tougher, considerably less glamorous assignment for herself.

The pilot for “Good Behavior” is oddly paced. The setup is there for your basic TV trope of the antihero with the secret heart of gold. But the story is in no hurry to push its main character toward the obviously ironic title. Letty changes her mind several times. She falls off the wagon and starts drinking again. And quits again. She goes to visit her estranged son, now in the custody of her unhappy mother, but is kicked off the property. She finally does the right thing, but screws it up pretty badly. By the end of the first hour she’s backsliding into hard drugs and suicidal thinking. Although it feels a bit aimless at times, “Good Behavior” gets points for zigging when you expect it to zag.

The pace and the storyline pick up by the show’s second hour-long episode in which Letty suddenly finds herself working for evil, sexy killer-for-hire Javier. By the third episode most pretense of TV show convention is out the window, replaced by a freewheeling sketch of America’s seedy underbelly. What starts out looking like the typical caper-of-the-week—kinda like TNT’s previous “con men do good” series “Leverage”—starts to twist its way toward “Breaking Bad”-style bleakness. “Good Behavior” has a long way to go before it hits that level of dark delight, but it’s got potential. Get past the conventional setup and you’re likely to find yourself pleasantly, uncomfortably surprised watching our antiheroine figure out which direction her moral compass actually points.

“Good Behavior” premieres Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7pm on TNT.