Sugar TV Review

Colin Farrell leads a unique twist on the noir detective drama unlike any you have seen before.

Plot: John Sugar is an American private investigator on the heels of the mysterious disappearance of Olivia Siegel, the beloved granddaughter of legendary Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel. As Sugar tries to determine what happened to Olivia, he will also unearth Siegel family secrets; some very recent, others long-buried.

Review: Detective stories and noir films are iconic genres in film and literature. Who doesn’t love a grizzled private eye who saves the girl and beds the femme fatale? From The Maltese Falcon to Chinatown, detectives have a long and storied history on screen. With the new series Sugar, Colin Farrell adds another great character to the list. A suave, calm, and skilled investigator, John Sugar is an idealized hero straight off the silver screen. And, like any number of great cinematic detectives, he has a weakness. Having seen the full eight episodes of Sugar, audiences will love or hate John Sugar’s weakness, but it certainly distinguishes this series from anything that has come before it. Full of familiar characters and plentiful homages to the genre that inspired it, Sugar is a fascinating mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Sugar opens with John Sugar (Colin Farrell) on a case in Tokyo. Shot in black and white with a jazzy score, this opening sequence sets the tone for the series that follows. Sugar remains calm even as the tension escalates, and we immediately learn much about him. Sugar speaks multiple languages fluently, abhors violence, and he is always in control. Soon, we find Sugar returns to Los Angeles, where his handler, Ruby (Kirby), preps him for his next case. Sugar is hired by Hollywood mogul Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell) to find his missing granddaughter, Olivia (Sydney Chandler). Sugar feels drawn to the case as it connects to his past, even though Ruby cautions him against taking it on. Nevertheless, Sugar begins his investigation, unraveling a cast of suspects and theories that develop over the series run. Like any good detective tale, some are red herrings, while others are twists waiting to be revealed.

Right off the bat, I was fully invested in this story. Colin Farrell is a charismatic actor and was born to play this character. Sugar loves movies and revels in the classics featuring Jimmy Stewart and Glen Ford. He drinks whiskey and wears Saville Row suits in a stunning classic sports car while driving around Los Angeles. He also charms anyone he meets and has an affinity for dogs and cats. He is the perfect human being. But, like anyone that seems too good to be true, we quickly see his Achilles heel. Sugar deals with some physical trauma as well as flashbacks that echo through the series. We know very early on that there is more to John Sugar than his exterior, and this reveal catches some viewers off guard. I suspected the twist early on, but I still found it fascinating when it played out. I fear some viewers will be disappointed or underwhelmed by this twist, but I found it an unexpected way to tell a conventional detective series in a new light.


While Farrell and Kirby lead the cast, the supporting players are all fantastic. In addition to James Cromwell, Sugar features Amy Ryan as rock star Melanie Mackie, Nate Corddry as David Siegel, Anna Gunn as Margit, Dennis Boutsikaris as Bernie Siegel, and Miguel Sandoval as Thomas Kinsey. More actors are in the cast, but revealing any of them would likely tell you too much. I highly recommend going into this series with as little knowledge as possible, avoiding the trailer if you have not seen it yet. You may be reticent to check out a series if you aren’t a fan of the genre, but I would put trust in Colin Farrell as a lead alone to invest in Sugar. He is so good at this that you need little else. If the first episode doesn’t hook you, I would be shocked.

Created by Mark Protosevich (The Cell, I Am Legend), Sugar is deeply rooted in nostalgia for the genre. Protosevich wrote half the season with David Rosen, Donald Joh, and Sam Catlin rounding out the scripters. Directing duties fell to Fernando Meirelles on all eight chapters. Meirelles, best known for The Constant Gardener, The Two Popes, and Blindness, combines classic black and white photography, copious film clips, and several visual techniques from handheld to stunning landscape shots. Sugar is a beautiful series enhanced by the sultry jazz score by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge. Everything about the series worked for me except the ending. The final episode has the expected “one more thing” moment that every classic detective story has, but it felt rushed to me. There is no indication that Sugar is a limited series, even if it works as one, so the potential for future seasons could change appreciation for the final episode in hindsight.

Appreciating Sugar will rest on how much you appreciate the noir genre and your acceptance of the twists in the narrative that set this series apart from any other detective story that came before it. Based on Colin Farrell’s outstanding lead performance alone, Sugar is a must-watch for fans and non-fans alike. The potential for this to be an ongoing series leaves room for future cases for John Sugar that could delve into new elements of this over-arching narrative. With a great score, beautiful cinematography, and a solid cast, Sugar is a brilliant take on a legendary genre. I cannot wait for audiences to see where this story goes and whether they pick up the clues along the way. This is a fun mystery to try and solve and a thrilling ride to boot.

Sugar premieres with two episodes on April 5th on AppleTV+.

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