It’s rare to have it all in Hollywood. For a brief moment, dancing in unison with her daughter, Kyra Sedgwick’s Jane Sadler, an overworked TV producer, achieves it all. However, like all Hollywood stories, this momentary bliss doesn’t last. “Ten Days in the Valley” treads over quite a bit of familiar territory. We’ve seen many a kidnapping story before, as well as many stories about the dark underbelly of Los Angeles. However, there’s still quite a bit of spunk and interest in the latest entry to this genre. Much of that is due to the talents of Emmy winning leading lady Kyra Sedgwick.
Jane Sadler (Sedgwick) tackles every task quickly and with efficient vigor. A TV producer and divorced Mom, Jane juggles many different hats in her life. Following a fight with her ex-husband, Pete (Kick Gurry), Jane is called to re-write a scene for her show while her daughter, Lake, stays with her. When she goes to check on Lake, she realizes her daughter is missing. Jane, along with her friend Ali (Erika Christensen) call upon the police to obtain Lake from Pete, who has a history of doing this. However, the investigators soon let Jane know that Lake isn’t with Pete. Now pronounced missing, Jane turns her attention to her daughter’s investigation, led by John Bird (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and away from her controversial police drama show.
It’s incredibly refreshing to see Kyra Sedgwick back on TV. From the opening moments, Sedgwick perfectly imbues the character with the right amount of grit and energy. One sees how someone as tough as Jane made it in the TV industry. However, she never reads as a “tough mother” cookie-cutter stereotype. It’s fascinating to watch her hurriedly run into a writers room, still commanding the space. The tropes of the grieving mother have been well worn over TV, with even a whole channel devoted specifically to that character (we’re looking at you, Lifetime). However, Sedgwick remains a top-tier actress and evades such pitfalls. It will be fascinating to watch Jane navigate these tricky waters in the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, no one else in the ensemble rises to meet Sedgwick’s vigor and skill. Kick Gurry, in particular, overplays every moment as if he’s auditioning to be a morally skeptical ex-boyfriend in “Days of Our Lives.” While Gurry overacts, almost everyone else feels comatose in their roles. This colors the show as more of a routine procedural than it needs to be. With future episodes focusing on multiple potential suspects, hopefully, some members of the ensemble will step up following meatier scenes.
The sun-soaked, yet seedy and dark underbelly of Hollywood makes for an obvious, yet entrancing setting for the show. While lines of how palm trees suck away nutrients are quite on the nose, there’s something cool about seeing the world in which Jane feels simultaneously overextended and at home. There have been plenty of shows that failed to dramatize a darker view of Hollywood (Christensen’s own “Wicked City” being among the most recent). However, the show manages to make this less kitschy and more effective. The directing also does a good job of contrasting the warm, yet the dark home life of Jane with the harshly sunny exterior of Los Angeles.
The main challenge of the show will be how it continues to dramatize this kidnapping. While interesting, it’s still hard to build ten episodes off a premise that we’ve seen plenty of times before. What sticks out in this iteration is Jane and the way she tries and balances all the different parts of her life. The more the show explores her character and the fictitious cop show she’s producing, the more unique and biting the show could be. Hopefully, this is the direction the show moves in. Kyra Sedgwick can only carry it for so long if the material isn’t there.