In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by ITV. Will air this autumn
It would be wrong to think of Fox’s Lethal Weapon as a remake, reboot or reanything of the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover movie franchise. What it is is a bog-standard, TV buddy-buddy cop show circa 1986 that happens to have elements of the movies and modern production values. In fact, in the fundamentals of the plotting of its first three episodes, it’s a lot closer to LA Heat than it is to Lethal Weapon.
At this level, it’s not that funny and it’s not that exciting. Jokes are along the lines of wondering which of Riggs and Murtaugh is more like Starsky and Hutch. Because that’s what buddies do, right?
‘Lethal Weapon’? Most of the time it’s standing around shooting, frequently in slow motion and with a bit of CGI, and that’s about it. Where’s the running through the streets in a manic frenzy chasing people, with no self-regard? Where’s the emptying of magazines of semi-automatic rounds with machine-like rapidity and deadly accuracy at impossible distances? Where’s the Jailhouse Rock and the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Even then, such is the sheer mundanity, the Olivier Megaton-grade perfunctory nature of the action, it seems designed purely to take advantage of some unwritten rule that there needs to be a certain number of car chases per scene for the show to qualify for certain tax breaks. No one in the production unit seems to care that by the third episode, trucks’ buckled bonnets are perfectly intact by the next shot and Clayne Crawford’s Martin Riggs can empty his 9mm Beretta by firing just four shots. Does no one count their rounds these days?
But Lethal Weapon is nevertheless a cut above the average cop show. Crawford is the show’s main asset and the show’s wise to focus on him as much as it does, since Damon Wayans can do comedy but drama is not his strong point. Particularly embarrassing is the near smirk Wayans tries hard to avoid when he hears in the third episode that the wife of a dear friend has died of cancer.
But as well as Crawford, there’s the addition of a Los Angeles v Texas dynamic. While mostly this has focused on the Texan Crawford’s gentlemanly manners, we’ve also seen the California need for therapy as well as legal pot businesses make appearance in episodes. It’s novel at least to have some kind of cultural details in a show like this.
Perhaps more importantly and something that feels like it’s fallen in from another show altogether is Crawford’s suicidal tendencies, which have been a focus since the first episode. While a lot of this has been cobbled together from the movies, including Crawford shooting his own TV when a TV commercial reminds him of his late wife, some of it is new and gets explored in greater detail, particularly thanks to the addition of a father-in-law character who, of course, is equally bereaved.
So three episodes in, I stand by my original conclusion: “…this feels like an adaptation that either only loosely understands its original material or doesn’t feel it can fully exploit it in a primetime show. Whichever it is, it also can’t create something of its own that’s as good or even half as engaging.”
Lethal Weapon will probably be my weekly brainless popcorn show and I could well stick with it, particularly if the equivalent of Rene Russo’s character turns up – maybe that’s going to turn out to be Jordana Brewster. Who knows? But I wouldn’t recommend the show unless you happen to have a popcorn-deficit, too.
Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? Probably, but it would be smarter to swap out Wayans than Crawford
TMINE prediction: Sure to last longer than Rush Hour and could even get a renewal for a season or more