'APB': TV Review

Justin Kirk as the billionaire savior in Fox's 'APB'
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2/6/2017

Fox's new cop drama stars Justin Kirk as a tech mogul and billionaire whose best friend is murdered.

The press release that came with Fox's absurd new police drama, APB, had a note from the executive producers that read: "Character driven, action-packed and thought-provoking ... we are incredibly proud of this show and truly believe it is the police show for the 21st century."

And therein lies the problem. Everyone clearly had their eye on what a 21st century cop show should look like, and the answer was "drones and a cool app." What APB wants more than anything is to be the high-tech police procedural that uses technology to solve crime in a way that will come off as more relevant and cool than all the TV shows and movies (especially Blade Runner, Robocop and Minority Report) that came before it — despite the fact that those premises already addressed with actual intelligence, foresight and a billion fewer cliches what the future would and could be.

APB is just an empty, run-of-the-mill cop show that separates itself from the hundreds upon hundreds of previous TV cop shows by having an app that citizens of Chicago use, thus circumventing 911. That's not an advancement of the genre — it's just stupid.

APB doesn't want to put in the hard work to create a series like, say, Southland, television's last great cop show (which ended in 2013) that might eventually be considered "the police show for the 21st century." APB has a shortcut. Meaning, it's not interested in the story, the acting, the whole package — that might imbue it with qualities that would later be regarded as the things that made it great. Nope, it wants to be the show with technology: super-protective flak jackets, amazingly fast and bullet-proof new Cadillac patrol cars, high-tech (meaning bigger and badder) Taser guns, the aforementioned drones and, of course, a handy app.

So, like super-dumb ideas before it (see: Pure Genius on CBS, electing Trump as President of the United States, etc.), the plan was to throw a billionaire at the problem to fix it. In this case, we get Gideon Reeves (Justin Kirk of Tyrant and Weeds), a tech engineer and billionaire whose best friend is murdered in a Chicago liquor store and not only does 911 fail to respond, but six weeks after the murder almost nothing has been done by the overtaxed 13th Precinct of Chicago. So Reeves, a snarky rich white guy who suddenly has awakened to the notion that the infrastructure of the country's big-city police departments might be broken because something bad finally happened to him, embarrasses the mayor in a hokey ploy that allows him to take over the 13th. If you're thinking, "That's ridiculous," here's how quickly APB wipes away your worries: "Mr. Reeves, a civilian can not take over a police district," the mayor says, in session. "Actually they can, with a special appointment from this committee," replies Reeves.

Fixed!

So we're off and running with APB, which then immediately stumbles into a series of eye-rolling incidents that set up a chemistry-free connection between our billionaire savior and a plucky street cop named Theresa Murphy (Natalie Martinez, Kingdom), and a not very memorable cast, except for Ernie Hudson, who could use a lot more to do. There's lots of drone footage, and we learn that you don't have to be a real cop — just a billionaire — to fire Tasers from a drone at assailants in a building. It's a fantasy where nobody, apparently, thought of the many disastrous situations that could result (which sounds awfully familiar to everyday life — a problem APB might have to deal with as a good chunk of the country has billionaire remorse).

Another problem: Where Pure Genius was annoying and ridiculous as it sought to inject fanciful high-tech ideas into a tired medical procedural, APB doesn't really have much cool stuff to add to an otherwise been-there-and-bored-with-it police procedural.

It does have Kirk, who is such an excellent and likable actor (even when he's being a jerk) that APB is almost endurable just by his presence. But this is a show that overlooks bigger issues (systemic crime and how it happens or what helps it grow; police abuse of power; the importance of oversight on power — not to mention how citizens would really react to what is essentially a high-tech company taking over their policing without consulting them), so you can't take APB even half-seriously. The only way it would be watchable is if it was some kind of Robocop deal — and that's a 20th century idea.

No, this is just another in a very large pile of not-very-good ideas that got turned into a TV show. Go play with one of your apps instead.

Cast: Justin Kirk, Natalie Martinez, Ernie Hudson
Executive producers: Matt Nix, Trey Callaway, Len Wiseman
Premieres: Monday, 9 p.m. ET/PT (Fox)

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