The Lethal Weapon movies are a popular franchise, so I imagine most of you potential viewers out there are already familiar with the premise of FOX’s new drama, LETHAL WEAPON. Martin Riggs loses his family and goes into a self-destructive tailspin. He is then partnered with Roger Murtaugh, a man who should start taking it easy because he’s getting older. The two of them solve some action-packed cases together, with some character development along the way as their pairing solidifies both professionally and personally.
These two men were famously portrayed by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and the premise and personalities are carried over as the series reboots for the small screen. This time around Clayne Crawford (Rectify) plays Riggs and Damon Wayans (In Living Color) takes Murtaugh. The foul language has been cleaned up, the fights are less bloody, but the fun and tone of the series is much the same, and while the pilot presents a brand-new case, it feels very familiar to those who have enjoyed the movies.
What this means is that LETHAL WEAPON is not like your typical cop show. Sure, there may be a case of the week; I really don’t know how else they could keep the story going. But at least in the pilot, a lot more screen time is devoted to solidifying the characters of Riggs and Murtaugh, both together and separately, than to working the job. I really appreciate that, and hope they are able to keep it up, if not at the same level, then at least continue doing better at it than most crime procedurals.
There’s also guaranteed action. Lethal Weapon is an action movie, and LETHAL WEAPON will be an action show. Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t just going to interview witnesses and look for DNA. They are going to get involved in car chases and fist fights and gun showdowns. This makes for a more fast-paced, tense, thrilling ride than what you get on those shows like NCIS and Law & Order.
What LETHAL WEAPON fails at is in casting its two leads. Neither actor is bad, but because they’re continuing famous roles, they will be compared to the original actors. And neither one stacks up to their predecessor. In the past, that might have been blamed on the fact that the best actors would only work big screen gigs, but that is no longer the case. I think better stars could have been found, or perhaps keep one of them but find someone else that fits well with him.
What I’m saying is, the main problem is that their chemistry leaves something to be desired. I don’t buy any depth to their friendship with the current way it is portrayed. Even if you like their individual performances, this show depends very much on the dynamic in their partnership. I thought it came too easy and felt too forced. It took me out of the moment a lot. Which is a shame, because both played very well with Keesha Sharp (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), who is Murtaugh’s wife, Trish.
Speaking of supporting actors, LETHAL WEAPON also stars Kevin Rahm (Mad Men, Desperate Housewives) as Murtaugh’s old partner and their new boss, Avery Brooks, and Jordana Brester (the Dallas reboot) as Dr. Maureen Cahill, a possible love interest for Riggs (at least until they cast Lorna Cole). I have no complaints about either one of them. I’m less thrilled with Johnathan Fernandez’s (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) Scorcese, not because of the performer, but because I’m worried the character is there to shoehorn in the more formulaic police stories.
So, my conclusion is that LETHAL WEAPON has a good pilot, even if the leads may be a bit miscast, but I’m concerned about it sustaining complex character quality over time, especially given Scorcese’s inclusion and the neat way they ended episode one. LETHAL WEAPON premieres tonight on FOX.