The series lets us know why Backstrom is so obnoxious — an abusive childhood and loads of bullying, as we learn in the second episode, “Bella,” when Backstrom targets two firefighters who used to torment him as a child. But the backstory doesn’t work well enough to make us feel for (or care about) him. The show also regularly brings up his health issues, as he’s required to see a doctor weekly and characters constantly mention his smoking and drinking. I suppose we’re meant to believe that he is quickly inching toward death, but even that seems shrug-worthy in a character we’re given so little reason to root for.
Backstrom’s schtick is that he “becomes” the criminal and puts himself into their head while interrogating them. He begins a long (and often boring) soliloquy with the phrase, “I’m you,” before launching into who they are as a person, what their motivations are: “I’m a stripper, but what I really want to be is a beautician,” he says during the strip club scene that is required of all crime dramas. It gets old by the second episode.
In fact, almost everything in Backstrom is old by the second episode — if not by the second time you’ve viewed the trailer or seen the poster. It’s a bland CBS procedural that ended up on Fox, a cheap blend of everything similar but better, with drama that isn’t thrilling and humor that isn’t funny.