Whenever I think of Jason Priestley, I’m reminded of the innocent face of his character in the original Beverly Hills 90210, working at the Peach Pit or hanging with Luke Perry or arguing with his hot sister. He’s always come across as a bit of a dweeb and nothing Priestley appeared in since has made me think differently. Until now. Now Priestley is no longer Brandon Walsh. He is Richard Fitzpatrick, one of TV’s most amoral characters. And he’s brilliant.
To stand out among TV’s bad boys is a tough task. You have David Duchovny’s Hank Moody, a bad boy with a heart of gold. Then there is James Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington, the criminal with a good streak. Joel McHale’s Jeff Winger makes a lot of questionable judgement calls but tends to see the light eventually. The crown arguably belongs to William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher, who will (and probably has) try to sell one of his kids for booze money. Yet Priestley’s Fitz might even eclipse the patriarch of Shameless.
Fitz is already that lowest of TV trope Neanderthals: a used car salesman. He’s very good at his job, but also has a moral compass so dysfunctional it might as well be buried in a lead chest in the Bermuda Triangle. Really, this man has no ‘skaam’ and nothing is beneath his drive for self-preservation. Alas, that very drive has brought him a lot of trouble or, as his equally corrupted father states, he’s a “sh**bag whose luck has run out.” It would have been hard to feel sorry for the hard-drinking, drug-pumping and womanizing Fitz, were he not so damn charming.
Things take a strange turn, though, when a new employee shows up: a guy called Larry. Larry quickly ingratiates himself with the people at Ftiz’s work and even manages to buy a part of the business, making him Fitz’s partner. This doesn’t sit right with Fitz, not the least because Larry appears to be all about saving Fitz. But he’s not just a do-gooder. He may literally be Fitz’s conscience, manifesting into a person because he cannot stand Fitz’s awful ways anymore. The title sequence of the show may well serve as a view inside Fitz’s head.
So what we end up here is one real bad boy who is unconscionable, because his conscious is now the nice guy trying to save his life. It’s a strange concept, but works very well and the show runs with it. Call Me Fitz is not clean – though there is no nudity, expect plenty of harsh language and no end to the questionable situations Fitz dreams up. He’s not above trying to kill Larry and every episode just becomes more bizarre and excessive. The pilot is actually quite tepid, but after that things switch gears quickly – especially as we get to know the oddball cast that include Fitz dysfunctional family and the closest thing he has to a friend, the former special ops stoner mechanic who can hold a thought about as long as a goldfish.
Call Me Fitz is just about the polar opposite of Beverly Hills 90210. It is vulgar, crass, amoral, ridiculous and maybe just one of the most original things on TV these days. It’s Shameless, but without all the ‘aw’ moments that family dramas can bring out. Even Californication finds a moral high ground. But Fitz just keeps on digging – and that makes for some good entertainment…
Last Updated: September 23, 2014