There’s a new genre in town, and since the premiere of titles like Broadchurch, it doesn’t seem like we can kick them out fast enough. Several failed efforts have hit over the last few years, and Ten Days in the Valley is the latest version of overdramatizing that genre offered up to American audiences. Ten Days is part emotion porn and part “everyone dunnit,” though it certainly isn’t unique in its model of having a crime of some sort reveal everyone’s dirty laundry. Once the police start poking around, it turns out that everyone has something to hide, and as long as we can gasp about something, it must be worth watching.
In this one, Jane Sadler (Kyra Sedgwick) is an overworked producer who made a name for herself with several documentaries. Her daughter goes missing from her house, but she initially isn’t particularly worried, because she assumes that her ex-husband took her. She’s mad as hell, but not exactly fearful.
The ten-episode mini gives us a day per episode, and the more we peel back the layers, the more we realize that everyone is a suspect, or at least suspicious. Everyone in Jane’s life is connected to everyone else, sometimes in surprising or bizarre ways, and everyone who might have gotten into Jane’s house has some sort of motive.
Oddest of all, and perhaps most interesting, Jane’s latest production is her first foray into fiction and she’s working on a police drama which begins to come together in ways that are unsettling to say the least.
Though there isn’t anything particularly new here, at least in a broad sense, Ten Days is at least making an effort that doesn’t require the audience to check their brains at the door. Sedgwick isn’t quite at her best, but she’s more than capable of working the complexities of her character into something viewers can play along with. As events become more and more of a somewhat surreal web of mad connections, Sedgwick carries the plot with enough charisma that she can anchor events.
The real beauty of this one is that it builds things a little more slowly than most, peppering in the more unbelievable twists with a realistic effort at dissecting the scenario. Wherever the show follows Jane, no matter what road that may take us to, the show is elevated by the sheer weight of Sedgwick’s struggle to make things work. When we move away from her, things tend to feel overloaded with artifice and at times the actors seem unable even to keep a straight face. Kick Gurry, as Jane’s ex-husband, doesn’t fare well when not going toe-to-toe with Sedgwick, and Parenthood‘s Erika Christensen, as Jane’s half-sister is altogether unable to carry the scenes she’s in. To be fair, it seems to be a result of the screwy “maybe I’m hiding something, but no, that makes no sense,” affect she’s trying to sell.
Whether specific details or character moments come through well or not, the fact that the show is easing us in through an elongated entry works well. Where things go after we’re invested might be another story, and the first few episodes give the impression that by episode eight viewers might find themselves in a story that isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks, with so many feints-within-feints that it turns out nothing ever made sense.
Where Ten Days in the Valley falls flat so far is in that it is trying so desperately to add layers that it doesn’t particularly care how crazy things get, or whether or not it’s kicking puppies just to kick puppies. It’s nowhere near as bad as other efforts in the genre, mostly because it doesn’t have investigators who are assholes to everyone, no matter how tenuous the connection to events, but it still wanders dangerously close to the kind of laughable development that kills off most of these shows.