Brown Motion Pictures hosted an advance screening Tuesday night of “Briarpatch,” a new television series created by “The Watch” podcast host and screenwriter Andy Greenwald ’99. The show, which premieres on USA Network tonight, is an adaptation of the book by the same title. It tells the story of investigator Allegra Dill, played by Rosario Dawson, who returns to her hometown to solve the mystery of her sister’s murder.
The first episode opens with the detonation of a planted bomb — an explosion that kills Dill’s sister and sets the scene for the rest of the story. As Dill searches for answers surrounding her sister’s death, audience members are introduced to an intriguing cast of characters: the town’s richest man who holds ties to a classified agency, her sister’s secret fiancee and Dill’s boss, who is also her lover. A skillful lie detector, Dill quickly discovers covered-up evidence that complicates the case. The episode concludes with the explosion of another planted bomb, which nearly kills Dill. The viewers are left with a visibly shaken heroine, and the killer still on the loose.
“Briarpatch” is Greenwald’s first TV series after a long career as a television critic. His adaptation of Ross Thomas’ 1984 novel changes the protagonist from a man to a woman because a male investigator in a crime story is an “overused trope,” Greenwald wrote in an email to The Herald.
“I wanted to tell a story that was very much about today — about one woman’s emotional journey, about the lies we tell ourselves and the surreal and shocking things that lurk around every corner,” he wrote.“I don’t believe in darkness for darkness’ sake — dramas need to have comedy in them to better mirror life, which is oftentimes just as odd, hilarious and surreal as it is heavy and tragic.”
Close-up shots of flies, rotten food and escaped zoo animals are interspersed among scenes of Dill’s tense conversations with other characters. Ted Catlin ’20, who attended the screening, described the show’s combination of suspense and stranger elements as “‘Pulp Fiction’ meets ‘Life of Pi.’”
At Brown, Greenwald was a member of Out of Bounds, a student sketch comedy group whose alums include John Krasinski ’01. Aside from honing his comedic chops at midnight in Keeney Quad with the group, Greenwald also met both his future wife Rachel Bien ’00 and Gina Hirsch ’99, the editor of “Briarpatch.”
“My time at Brown taught me to read widely, think critically and, above all else, try and have fun with whatever it was I was working on,” Greenwald wrote.
Zach Even ’20, a managing director for BMP, reached out to Greenwald to arrange an advance screening after hearing him talk about the upcoming series on “The Watch,” a TV and pop culture commentary podcast.
“I really enjoyed (the episode). It’s a very fun show; one thing that (Greenwald) talks about a lot is that he wants to make something that people enjoy watching and doesn’t feel like a chore,” Even said. “I’m curious to see more.”