AMERICAN RUST – Review by Susan Granger

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Just like the collapse of that corroded bridge in Pittsburgh, the cancellation of American Rust – filmed in and around that same city – demonstrates the ruination or what can happen when a crime drama isn’t properly developed or cared for, making it of little use to anyone.

Based on the 2009 stream-of-consciousness novel by Philipp Meyer and developed by showrunner Dan Futterman, the TV series is set in the small, fictional town of Buell, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where the chief of police, Del Harris (Jeff Daniels), becomes involved in the murder investigation of Steve Novick, a corrupt ex-cop.

When first introduced, stoic Del Harris is taking his morning meds, crushing pills before meticulously weighing them and mixing them with coffee. He still suffers from PTSD that’s related to his stint in the military.

The melancholy, good-people-making-bad-choices plot becomes murky when it’s revealed that the prime suspect in the case is Billy Poe (Alex Neustaedter), the son of Grace (Maura Tierney), the local seamstress with whom Del is in love.

That contrived complication strains Del’s struggles to maintain his morality in the midst of a murder whodunnit. Because there’s also Billy’s desperately disturbed pal Isaac (David Alvarez) and, apparently, Steve Novick was selling drugs alongside Bobby Jesus (William Apps) and Jackson Berg (Dallas Roberts).

And, finally, there’s the unexpected arrival of two detectives from Pittsburgh who question Del about the death of his former partner Chuck (Danny Mastrogiorgio), who committed suicide.

FYI: The term ‘Rust Belt’ indicates that the bleak town of Buell was once a powerful industrial sector city that’s now in serious economic decline and decay. And – here – the dark times just get darker.

Problem is: American Rust always seemed like a slow-paced, diluted version of HBO’s seven-part mini-series Mare of Easttown, starring Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce and Jean Smart…complete with working-class financial angst, drug addition, miserable marriages and troubled children.

So it’s not surprising that Showtime’s American Rust got axed after only one season.

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