A cursory glance at Fox's recent development history reveals that the network is desperate to launch a police procedural with legs that can likely take over for the long-running Bones when it (finally) signs off this year after 12 (yes, 12) seasons. It's where the Minority Reports, the Almost Humans and Backstroms come in to play.
This fall, despite a growing list of failures and only a few relative "successes" with last year's freshmen class, including Rosewood and Lucifer (success meaning they were renewed for second seasons), the network is trying again, this time with a remake of the 1987 film Lethal Weapon.
The good news is that the series isn't attempting to hide its true nature behind time-traveling Revolutionary soldiers or private pathologists. It is what it is, and that's a mismatched buddy cop series with wild and crazy antics, some big explosions and one dude who's too old for this sh*t. The chemistry between leads Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, while not as immediate as it was on the big screen between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, certainly starts to appear by the end of the hour.
Of course, the bad news is also that it is what it is.
In the almost 30 years since the original film was released, the buddy cop drama has become a staple of TV, and a rather uninspired one at that. It's why Fox has tried to put a spin on its recent attempts at the genre by adapting well-known properties, introducing science-fiction elements or taking the more comedic route.
But Lethal Weapon's pilot is relatively straight-forward, and it suffers for it. It's relatively non-offensive as it introduces a new generation to these iconic characters, but it's also unmemorable. The hour is carried squarely on the shoulders of Crawford as the broken and suicidal Riggs, but there's no indication that the show won't become another generic cop drama by the middle of the season. It's obviously too early to say for sure that will happen, but there's only so long Crawford's innate charisma can carry scripts that rank merely as mediocre.
By fleshing out Riggs' backstory from the film -- his wife and unborn child's death are actually written into the pilot so the audience can experience it alongside him -- Crawford at least has the opportunity to dig into the tragicness of the character in a way the film could not. It helps to ground the show's more ridiculous moments, like when Riggs interrupts a bank robbery to deliver pizzas and save the hostages before the bank explodes. But again: How long before this routine becomes tired? How many times can we watch the same beats play out week in and week out?
As anyone who's seen Crawford's more subdued performance on the slow-burning and exquisite Sundance drama Rectify (and, for what it's worth, everyone should be watching Rectify) can attest, Crawford is a talented actor. It's worth celebrating that his star is finally on the rise, especially as Rectify enters its final season this fall, but he's probably too good for Lethal Weapon.
Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.