All pictures courtesy of FOX
Hiz-zah to whoever came up with this wholly original idea for a TV show. I know that whichever executive greenlit this show they call Lethal Weapon over at FOX is losing their mind just knowing how they’ve blown people away with something fresh, hip and all-around cool. Two cops doin’ cop stuff on a weekly basis, but there’s a little friction in their relationship. How did they not think of this before? Seriously, what genius greenlit this? But before I heap on the accolades, let’s dig into the nitty gritty of Lethal Weapon in another 3-week roundup of the new (new?) show.
FOX’s rehash of the 80s movie (seriously, can the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers running Hollywood not think of any original ideas; I’ll give Boomers a break because they came up with this concept 30 years ago and executed it successfully. But Xers can stop reaching back into their childhood to give us the same overdone crap) Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover comes to us as a literal big screen to small screen translation. Before you perk your lips to spit venom at your computer screen and say “Well, what did you expect?” I’d like to kindly point you to last year’s rendition of Minority Report. Yes, it may have been canceled. But at least with that idea they tried doing something different, new, slight to right of the concepts put forth in the movie. Here, the first three episodes of Lethal Weapon have been like watching the first movie over and over on repeat with a little extra Mrs. Murtaugh added in for extra flavor. Let me set the scene.
We opened the first episode with Martin Riggs (played by Clayne Crawford; never seen him before, but he’s been in stuff) playing a wild Texas police officer chasing down some criminals with his partner riding shotgun in a pickup truck. I never can quite get a good accent down just right, but I have to say that his opening lines all seemed terribly over-accented, not to mention overacted. While in this high-speed chase through Texas desert, he takes a call from his wife who is going into labor with their first child as they speak. She is on her way to the hospital and tells him to hurry his butt back home to see his kid come into the world. A “yes, ma’am” kinda guy, he stops the truck and uses the opportunity to show his military sniping skills to take down the guys who thought they had gotten away. His work done, he rushes back to his woman’s side. But it isn’t until he arrives at the hospital does he receive the bad news. On her way to the hospital, his wife got T-boned by a semi, killing both her and the baby. And now...
We cut to Roger Murtaugh on the morning of his 50th birthday and first day back into the office since suffering a heart attack. Played by TV vet Damon Wayans Sr., Murtaugh is far different from Danny Glover’s take in my opinion. He’s slightly funnier but also less straight-man, which plays very well against his wife Trish (played by Keesha Sharp), but not as well off of Riggs. A scar down his chest from the heart surgery he had, he not only awakens to his beautiful wife, but to the realization that they have a newborn to go with their two teenage children—unexpected pregnancy. He actually had the heart attack in the delivery room. Now, Trish makes him wear one of those fancy Fitbit-esque watches to monitor his heart rate because if it gets higher than a certain threshold (“50! Stay above 50!” I know that’s a Speed reference which is a completely different movie but still), he runs the risk of another attack and possible death.
Murtaugh returns to work to find his old partner promoted to captain. While Roger commends the man for his new position, no way he could tether himself to a desk just yet. He loves being an LA detective too much. So, he’s getting a new partner, this new lateral transfer from out of state that his captain wants him to show around. Before he can meet the new guy, he is called in to a bank heist.
As you’ve probably already guessed, Roger meets Riggs at the heist. The free-wheeling, depressed, deathwish Riggs doesn’t bother following protocol but instead waltzes right through the front doors with pizzas for the robbers that didn’t ask for food. He yaps to them about how they’ll want to get away and/or make the news all the while sizing them up with a gun to his head. Quicker than they could think, he yanks the gun from his nearest shooter and takes out the rest of the guys easy. The hostages flee, he strolls out with a slice of pizza, introduces himself and says he’s got the situation contained. And then the building blows up with he and Murtaugh standing less than a football-field’s length away.
There’s the typical Murtaugh and Captain argument about how the guy is unstable all before they end up working their first official case together.
The case: A dead man with a gunshot wound to the head found high in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the neon-orange sunset. A war vet, the man earns the immediate respect (human to human) of Riggs, who finds it strange that they found no car and his boots are clean. In other words, he didn’t walk up there, so how did he shoot himself, as is the examiner's initial conclusion from looking at the body?
A visit to the widow reveals that they were supposed to move out of state in one week. Murtaugh shows his detective skills when he sees the man’s son sitting with a baseball glove that belonged to his father. Apparently, the man was a leftie, but whoever placed the gun thought he was right-handed—why shoot yourself with your non-dominant hand. They track him back to his work at the docks where they find that somebody was importing illegal drugs. But before they get to that conclusion, they get into a wild car chase from the port as it is revealed that somebody knows more about the man’s death than they are letting on. A shady guy hops in a sports car and zooms off only to crash, get out of the car and be hit by a bus. Thousands of dollars of city damage.
They take a break mid-show for some partner bonding because Trish urges Roger to invite his new crazy partner over to the house. She wants to meet him. The meeting goes... emotionally. He reveals he used to be married but lost his wife as Roger explains his new baby. While Trish can see the carefree, suicidal tendencies in her husband’s new partner, she’s also very open-hearted and forgiving and thinks this could be a good thing for her man.
From there, Riggs goes back to the dead man’s widow where he learns that their son has been kidnapped by the cartel from which her husband stole heroin. Standard “drugs for the boy,” but she can’t find the drugs. What she doesn’t know but Riggs and Murtaugh figure out is that one of the guys they talked to at the LA Port was not only the dead man’s rent-a-cop boss but his commanding military officer during his tours of duty. It was that man’s plan to steal from the cartel. He contracted the dead man out to do it, then killed him so that the cartel would think the dead man still had their drugs and the mastermind would escape blame. As soon as Riggs concludes this, he handcuffs Roger to a counter-bar in his beachside mobile home because he wants to go off and play hero/martyr.
Riggs gets to the warehouse and finds the kid being held by the drug guys. Without an exchange, hell breaks loose as Roger comes in after somehow escaping the sand-trailer. The baddies die in the shootout and the detectives come out the hero. They are about to leave when someone starts sniping at them from the roof. The military mastermind shoots Riggs in the arm, causing the off-kilter cop to come up with a sacrificial plan where he will play target for the shooter, which will give away the man’s position, allowing Murtaugh to shoot the guy. Instead, Roger shoots Martin in the foot, causing him to drop to the ground where a gun lies beneath him. A dead shot as proven by the beginning of the show, Riggs grabs the gun and shoots from the ground to the sniper, making the man tumble dead off the roof.
We end the first episode knowing that Martin Riggs has to have weekly therapy visits to keep his job, with a therapist played by Fast and Furious star Jordana Brewster. I’m sure she’ll probably be a potential complicated love interest. We also learn that Riggs’ (ex?) father-in-law happens to be the DA or some kind of high-ranking government official in LA and is glad to have his daughter’s remains buried back in the home of her childhood.
Episode two starts with a butt-chewing from the captain about the amount of damage they caused in the city and the cost. He’s reluctant to give them another case and switches them off homicide for a while. Instead, he gives them a simple noise complaint. A huge party in the hills, a neighbor woman called about the daytime shindig. As soon as they get there, they hear gunshots ring from the suspected house and see the assassin escape. A man that had come to the party house to engage in illegal weapons dealing sees someone that happens to have a hit on their head. He tries to shoot and kills guest star Jason Derulo (initially thought to be the target). After another wild chase through the city, the man ends up exploded and unable to tell them anything.
When they do more tracking of the guns and the party guests and workers, they find that the real target of the entire party melee was actually a young waitress woman. Through some cool forensics detective stuff, they find out that the woman in question (they wanted to find her to question her on what she knew, initially) is also pregnant. The hit is out on her because of what she has seen/done/knows. As, apparently, is always the case for any woman who is in trouble, hers stems from a man she fell in love with. She found out about his illegal arms dealings and ran. So, Riggs and Murtaugh put her into a safe house while they go off and have another family dinner. Murtaugh finally learns that not only did Martin have a wife, but that she was pregnant when she died. Now he feels even worse about flaunting his newborn in the man’s face but is still committed to crowding around the man as part of a new family.
Meanwhile, an ATF agent that had been working on the illegal gun smuggling gets in contact with the LAPD office and works with Martin and Roger. In the end, this agent is revealed as corrupt and one of the dealers; in fact, the very boyfriend (I think) of the woman. He kidnaps/takes her into his custody, and goes to complete a huge gun deal. Riggs and Murtaugh figure it out in the nick of time and get there to stop the thing with a myriad of explosions and bullets. The day is saved, though, this time, Roger Murtaugh has to slip his heart-monitoring watch off because it is going crazy at the fact that his heart is so elevated, and he can’t have it beeping when he and Riggs sneak into the warehouse where the deal is going down.
Episode three starts with the robbery of an armored truck full of drug money. No, not the scratch and sniff, shoot-it-up kind but the sticky-icky, legal in California (medically), Colorado and Washington (state) kind. But apparently, some of it is illegal because the first place Riggs and Murtaugh go (after Riggs is done moping in his beach trailer and shooting his TV for daring to show happy couples) is to the cartel homies and Mexican street thugs. Apparently, they are the ones who took the money, ramming the armored truck with a dump truck and jacking a few million in marijuana profits. A twist, the only witness left alive is a retired cop and driver/security guard of the armored vehicle; the man also played Murtaugh’s training officer back in the day. A little detective work (it’s always a little) finds that some of the drug dealers are dead or in jail but the truck is still missing because the retired cop stole the truck back from the idiot criminals. He was just going to keep the money because, after so many years working on the force, he’s now in poor health and lacking money—partially caused by the sickness and death of his wife of over two decades.
Roger tries to get in some quality date-time with his wife, and Riggs debates whether he can really open up to anybody including the precinct-mandated therapist and his father-in-law, all while they try to figure out what to do to the retired cop. He’s sorry, he confessed to Roger, he knew he did wrong and he knew it was stupid, he was just down on his luck. Still, they have to turn him in. But he gets kidnapped by the cartel that wants their money back. In probably the most uncreative, “OK we can’t think of a better way to get them outta this mess” climax, the case ends with the two going all car chase/chicken on the thugs, leading them on a wild chase through the city as they completely ignore the fact that the thugs have a gun to the ex-cop’s head. Naturally, the thugs hop into their own low-riders and chase full-steam after the money-leaking armored truck until they corner our two lovable idiots. How will they escape? The police cavalry come in at the nick of time, sparing the viewer from anything more creative and memorable. To be honest with you, I had to cook dinner while watching the second and third episodes and found them so forgettable that I had to go back and re-spot-watch them for key plot points. Oh. My. God! Brace yourselves, people, because it’s coming.
What’s my grade? OK, I rarely ever do this, but I’m going to actually give this two grades. My first grade is a D. That’s right, it is one of the lowest-rated new shows I’ve watched in the last two seasons of me running this blog. Why? Many reasons. After having written a very plot and character-driven season two of my own episodic novella series The Writer (check that out at Amazon; look for the link below), I find the storylines of the first three episodes so... meh! It is a show dead on creativity. Not only did they not try something new and different or a slanted angle from the films, but they seem to have watered down the sheer... I don’t know what it is, but something. It’s like the X-factor but for film and TV. Something here is missing, even though the cast is really decent. And whatever that missing thing is feels like The Rock’s and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters from that Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie The Other Guys, only taken semi-seriously (“Aim for the bushes?”). The plots almost feel as if they came from the 90s, they’re so simple. Then, for the first two episodes, I felt it took too long to get into the actual case, which I understand—the first season of my episodic novella The Writer does take a while to pick up and get going because there’s a lot of character, setting and situation set-up—but come on. In both, they didn’t really get to the case until the second act. The action is... sigh! Martin Riggs craziness is summed up by him jumping off stuff: in episode one he jumps off a speeding sports car, in episode two a speeding bike and off a building through the window into another building, in episode three out of an overturned armored truck. It’s cool but repetitive and old-hat. The chemistry between characters and actors is OK, but at some points it does feel like they’re acting, and the directing will neither wow nor depress. It is super-formulaic and worst of all doesn’t have an overarching big mystery/case to occupy the background of the entire season like other recent successful shows such as Blindspot and The Blacklist. Also, I would argue that it doesn’t have the verve and cool vibe of Rosewood, nor the geekiness of Bones or Sleepy Hollow. It’s just very... middling.
However, if you are really into the original movies, as well as you just like a good cop procedural with a few laughs as opposed to something overly serious like Law and Order: SVU, then you might like this, in which case I would give the show a C+. It is not mind-blowing and nothing new, but you can tune in and have an enjoyable experience, just don’t expect a classic.
Should you be watching? Again, with all the things I outlined in my previous two paragraphs, I would have to say no for viewers who are looking for more depth in their shows. That is not to denigrate people who enjoy it. I’d say it is trying to be near the level of Castle, but doesn’t have that same novel idea, wit, and X-factor. But it does work as a good escapism series. Check it out for yourself. You can see the first three episodes now on Fox on Demand or at FOX.com. Lethal Weapon airs on FOX Wednesdays at 8pm, before Empire.
What do you think? Have you heard/seen FOX’s newest incarnation of Lethal Weapon? If not, will you tune in to check it out? If you have seen it, what is your favorite part? Is it one of your newest crazes or is it just an OK show? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).
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If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER, #BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.
Until next time, "Man, I’m gettin’ too old for this shi--”
‘Whoa, whoa! Dude, you can’t say that on national broadcast TV.’
“But it’s my catchphrase. If I can’t say that, I’ll feel neutered. They neutered my catchphrase?”
‘Yeah, it seems like it. Wow! Missed opportunity.’
P.S. Seriously, why am I not a TV executive? Did no one else realize this? How can you have Lethal Weapon without “getting too old for this sh*%?” That’s like in that one PG-13 Die Hard where they said “Yippy-ki-yay mother” and then cut away. What?? Noooooooo (Vader yell)! I’ll think of a better sign-off next time.Amazon
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