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Television Review

‘The Glades’ arresting enough without the crimes

Matt Passmore stars in “The Glades’’ as a transplanted Chicago detective whose love is golf. Matt Passmore stars in “The Glades’’ as a transplanted Chicago detective whose love is golf. (Gene Page)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / July 10, 2010

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Grim much? A&E is a reality-dominated channel that zeroes in on hoarding, addiction, bounty hunting, parking nightmares, and, oh yeah, extermination. On the scripted side, A&E has delivered two bleak dramas, “The Beast’’ with Patrick Swayze and “The Cleaner,’’ alongside repeats of “Criminal Minds’’ and “CSI: Miami.’’

So “The Glades,’’ A&E’s new scripted crime drama, arrives like a lemon Gummi bear in a dish of bitter dark chocolates. This sunny series, set in the Florida Everglades, is a lot like CBS’s “The Mentalist’’: Both shows revolve around a wry, charismatic man who effortlessly solves murders. Both star Australian actors assaying American accents with varying degrees of success — Simon Baker in “The Mentalist’’ and Matt Passmore in “The Glades.’’ And both are diverting fluff that don’t take their weekly mysteries too seriously.

Passmore plays Detective Jim Longworth, who moved to the town of Palm Glade from Chicago after getting shot by his captain, who thought Jim was sleeping with his wife. Jim won a big settlement from the Chicago Police Department, so he’s working on the force only because it amuses him when he’s not indulging his first love: golf. He presents himself as a smirky man of leisure, but he’s actually quite pushy and persistent, which leads him into conflict with co-workers (including his partner, played by John Carroll Lynch), but also into confessions with perps.

The plot in the premiere begins with a body found in a swamp with its head chewed off, a discovery that forces Jim to grudgingly abandon a golf game. Like most crime shows these days, from “Justified’’ and “Burn Notice’’ to the “CSI’’ series, “The Glades’’ is ensconced in and distinguished by its location. The journey to the denouement is shaky, what with all the half-baked red herrings, but the setting and the atmosphere — including one comically gruesome scene involved the contents of an alligator’s stomach — do help to compensate.

Ultimately, though, your feelings about Passmore will determine whether or not you cotton to “The Glades.’’ The show rides on his personality, which I found likable enough. He strikes me as a natural lead, able to be convincingly casual onscreen — even a little shleppy in his faded T-shirts. He doesn’t appear to be on a mission to grab our attention.

He’s also persuasive as a romantic lead. He begins chasing after a nurse named Callie (Kiele Sanchez), and their chemistry is flirty without being cutesy. Callie is raising her son alone while her husband does time in prison, so we can’t be sure whether the pair will ever get together. Sexual tension: We’ve seen that played out on TV many, many, many times before, but Passmore and Sanchez do manage to make it fresh. They add some zing to the show — as well as to the network.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog/

THE GLADES

Starring: Matt Passmore, Kiele Sanchez, Carlos Gomez, Michelle Hurd

On: A&E

Time: Tomorrow night, 9-10