“One Dollar” premiere narratively bankrupt

Photo courtesy of CBS

In today’s society, cash changes hands incessantly, and one rarely stops to think about where it has been. With the average lifespan of a one dollar bill being just under six years, a single dollar can touch countless people connecting them to the places they have been.

On Thursday, Aug. 30, the new murder mystery drama, “One Dollar,” premiered on CBS All Access following the path of a one dollar bill as it makes its way around a small town in a fictional postmodern Pennsylvania.

Throughout the show, the numbers 8157 appear on the dollar as it travels between the variety of characters living and working in this mill-town at the time of a murder, signifying a loose connection between the narratives of their individual lives.

Although this may seem like an interesting concept at first, the show only uses it as a cool gimmick to jump through the many characters introduced in the first episode. A lot of the transactions did not have any immediate importance to the plot and gave off the impression that some of the characters were not fully introduced. The abundance of storylines caused some of the less vital characters to lose credibility and not leave a lasting impact on the plot of the first episode.

With the plethora of characters in “One Dollar,” from the very beginning a few separate story lines begin developing which demonstrate a divide in the rusty town, Braden, based on wealth and class. Scenes cut back and forth between the everyday life of people working paycheck to paycheck and the billionaire class enjoying social functions.

The first episode, which is named after Garrett Drimmer, one of the mill workers and a single father who can barely afford daycare for his young daughter, shows how he struggles making ends meet forcing him to take more hours at the mill and eventually getting called into some shady business with the foreman late at night.

At the same time we are introduced to the wealthier side of Braden through a private detective hired by a rich contractor to investigate the murder at the mill. This also introduces a romantic sub-narrative involving the daughter of the contractor. Along with the private detective comes an interesting dynamic with the chief of police hinting at possible racial conflicts.

Even though the pilot is somewhat lacking when it comes to plot advancement, Director Craig Zobel (“Compliance,” “Great World of Sound”) begins to lay the foundation for an impressively deep cast of characters and converging storylines.

There is a lot that could go right with this show if taken in the right direction. Top notch acting from big names like John Carroll Lynch (“The Founder”) as Bud Carl, the foreman, and Philip Etinger (“Compliance”) as Garrett Drimmer sets “One Dollar” up as an intriguing detective mystery with a hint action and drama.

“One Dollar” is another addition to the growing murder mystery genre. Opening with too many characters and not enough action makes it difficult to keep interest in the array of narratives. Still, given time to flesh out the plot, “One Dollar” could easily develop into the show that keeps you coming back to find out who is behind the murders and to see where the dollar will go.