Gratuitous ultraviolence! Pointlessly explicit sex scenes! Stereotyped villains of every ethnic stripe! Yes, "Banshee" (10 p.m., TV-MA) is a new Cinemax series. And as such, it's not half bad.
With a list of executive producers that includes Alan Ball ("True Blood"), "Ban shee" stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, a handsome and brooding ex-con who assumes the identity of the new (and newly murdered) sheriff of the small town of Banshee, Pa., located somewhere in Cinemax's idea of Amish country.
Lucas takes the gig for three reasons: Because he watched the newly arrived officer get shot before his eyes, he's an impulsive guy, and his ex-partner in crime, Carrie (Ivana Milicevic), also his ex-lover, lives in Banshee, having settled down from her job as a safecracker to have two kids with the local district attorney, Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell).
"Banshee" begins with an elaborately choreographed Manhattan car chase, featuring a collision with an overturned double-decker bus. This ridiculously high- concept calamity adds little to the plot development, but does get your
attention. Lucas barely escapes that mayhem on a stolen
motorcycle that takes him to Banshee, where he meets the wise and enigmatic boxer-turned-bartender Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), who owns the watering hole where the above-mentioned sheriff gets the short end of a Mexican standoff.
It's as if "Banshee" wanted to be a Michael Bay movie before it became a Quentin
Tarantino movie on the way to settling down to become a sexed-up contemporary mystery by way of a Western.
Bad guys include Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), a local operator who controls practically everything worth owning in Banshee and is linked to the local Amish. Lucas is also pursued by Eastern European gangster types. Lucky for him he's got an able partner in Job (Hoon Lee), an Asian-American cross-dressing computer hacker who fronts as a stylish hairdresser. Did I mention the Indian chief? Or the sexually voracious Amish teens?
Having exploited and exhausted every Southern-fried gumbo-swamp cliche with "True Blood," Alan Ball proves there are stereotypes galore north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
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Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.