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Benedict Cumberbatch stars in limited drama series that packs in too much

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“Eric” is a show with a lot going on.

The limited drama series from Netflix, dropping its six episodes this week, has dirty cops, corrupt politicians, greedy businessmen and child sex traffickers. Set in mid-1980s New York City, it takes on the treatment of the homeless, as well as that of homosexuals in the time of AIDS.

At its core, though, it is a portrait of a man — Benedict Cumberbatch’s Vincent — battling personal demons after his 9-year-old son, Edgar (Ivan Howe in his first screen role), goes missing.

Who, then, is Eric? Fair question.

Eric is the colorful monster dreamed up by Edgar and brought to man-sized life by Vincent, the creator of a popular puppet-based children’s TV show. Eric ALSO becomes the imagined walking embodiment of the latter’s self-loathing. Invisible to others, Vincent talks to Eric constantly, even shouting at the invisible creature in the company of others.

Again, “Eric” is a show with a lot going on.

The tradeoff of the Abi Morgan-created series biting off more than it realistically can chew is that it is seldom boring, at least not for lengthy stretches. It jumps from plot thread to plot thread, all of which will tie together well enough by the end of its half-dozen hours. A little silly at times? Arguably. But not boring.

Vincent’s show is “Good Day Sunshine,” which has been a hit for years but is suffering from declining ratings, and so he and colleague Lennie (Dan Fogler of “The Offer”) are dealing with money men who want to see some changes made.

“We have to bridge the gap between the preschoolers and the elementary kids,” one says. “That’s where the cool kids are.”

However, Vincent is resistant to the addition of elements such as beatboxing, and he voices that to all within the sound of his voice in no uncertain terms.

After heading home with Edgar and buying him a comic book at a store where he gets some booze, Vincent engages in his latest shouting match with his increasingly exhausted wife, Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”), as Edgar hides in his room and draws. Although seemingly afraid there may be a monster living under his bed, Edgar has created myriad sketches of Eric.

Benedict Cumberbatch, left, as Vincent, and Ivan Howe, as Edgar, share a scene in the first episode of Netflix's "Eric." (Courtesy of Netflix)
Benedict Cumberbatch, left, as Vincent, and Ivan Howe, as Edgar, share a scene in the first episode of Netflix’s “Eric.” (Courtesy of Netflix) 

In the morning, as his parents argue about whether he’s too young for Vincent to allow to walk to school on his own, Edgar does just that — although he never makes it to school.

In this time before mobile phones, Vincent never bothers to return Cassie’s call to his workplace that day, and he arrives home to find a cop from New York’s missing persons department, Det. Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III), interviewing his wife.

McKinley Belcher III portrays police Det. Michael Ledroit in
McKinley Belcher III portrays police Det. Michael Ledroit in “Eric.” (Courtesy of Netflix) 

After Edgar’s been missing for 48 hours, a press conference is held, during which Vincent looks into the camera and pleads with his son to come home, to prove everyone wrong who believes he’s dead.



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