LONDON: Watching Apple’s new comedy detective show “High Desert” is an exhausting experience. Not in a bad way, but simply because this chaotic maelstrom of a series doesn’t let up for even a second. Even outlining the show’s premise is energy-sapping.
At the heart of the story is Peggy (Patricia Arquette), a drug-dealer-turned-frontier-reenactor who, faced with her imminent eviction from the family home she shared with her late mother, must come up with some cash, quick. She chases down a debt owed to one of her friends by a private investigator before realizing that she fancies a turn at his line of work, and browbeats her way into his (mostly unpaid) employ. Before long, she’s targeted a local spiritual guru with a missing wife, links to the mafia, and a compound of (she thinks) stolen artwork, as the solution to all her problems. Phew.
On paper, it’s a mess. But “High Desert” mostly works, thanks in great part to Arquette’s chaotic, staggeringly charismatic amateur sleuth. Whether she’s bullying PI Bruce Harvey (Brad Garrett) into taking her on, sidling up to Guru Bob (Rupert Friend) to sneak around his house, or attempting to extricate herself from her (briefly) imprisoned ex-husband Denny (an entertaining Matt Dillon), Peggy is a chain-smoking, quick-talking force of nature with so many schemes on the go that it’s a wonder she can see straight.
At times, “High Desert” threatens to outmaneuver itself, with so many narrative balls in the air at any given moment. Three episodes in, and it’s just about being held together by the sheer force of Arquette’s screen presence, and some brilliantly unlikeable performances from the supporting ensemble cast. Friend, in particular, is a joy, particularly given how underused he seemed in the recent “Obi-Wan Kenobi” show. Can “High Desert” maintain this sense of absolute chaos for the remainder of its eight-episode run? If Peggy (and Arquette) remains at the heart of it, it just might.