'S.W.A.T.': TV Review
If you want predictable, mindless action, try CBS' new regurgitated action procedural offering.
If it's platitudes and predictability you crave, there's no better source than a network television drama.
And with CBS' S.W.A.T., that's pretty much what you're getting — a paint-by-numbers procedural where the good guys are always going to win in the end. With the outcome assured, it's hard to raise the stakes — even if you account for the acting talent involved, and the pilot director with action blockbuster bona fides (Justin Lin).
What's more, reviving a TV series that was previously revived as a movie gets you down to the kind of iteration where viewers are coming for one thing only — mindless entertainment.
CBS, not exactly the standard bearer on diversity, at least cast Shemar Moore as S.W.A.T. team leader Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson, who gets promoted after the team's previous (white) leader accidentally shoots an African-American teenager during an insane, bullet-spewing action spree where the team manages to eliminate all but one of the bad guys (who are armed with automatic weapons galore).
Hondo — that's all he's ever called — is promoted over the "next man up" on the team, David "Deacon" Kay (Jay Harrington), who is also white. Hondo is from the mean streets of Los Angeles, and his promotion is a political effort to calm nerves in a neighborhood that has seen too many cops kill unarmed black kids (but viewers are made to understand that Hondo is also super-qualified for the job, and he gets a scene in the pilot where he tells the wounded kid he took the job in the first place to protect kids like him and, damn it, that's what he's going to do ... also, sorry). To Deacon's credit, he only fumes about it a little bit and then falls back in line, because the S.W.A.T. guys are a team and that's what teams do (although fans of Better Off Ted may want better for Harrington).
Oh, and it's not all a boys club in S.W.A.T. — Christina "Chris" Alonso (Lina Esco) is there as well. And inside L.A.P.D., the team reports to Jessica Cortez (Stephanie Sigman), who has a strong sense of duty and morals — though she also happens to be sleeping with Hondo, because of course and who wouldn't? For a brief time, the pilot for S.W.A.T. tries to play that love interest angle, but unfortunately, that takes real emotion and this is a series mostly about action, not passion (unless your passion is kicking ass, which one of the team members says).
Yeah, platitudes are a big thing here, as expected. "Stay liquid!" gets used a lot. "Lesson one — never be in a hurry to die" is in there. "Let's make him proud!" Yep, one of those. "This isn't racial — it's political" gets tossed in, even though it never seems political in any real way. And then, the ultimate broadcast network cop show cliché, finally: "Take care of business, fellas!" barks Hondo, as cars are flipping upside down and bullets are spraying everywhere.
Of course S.W.A.T. takes care of business. Of course the team beats back crime. Of course Hondo helps bridge the gap on the streets between "black and blue." Of course there's another S.W.A.T. unit at the L.A.P.D. that feuds Hondo's team, because you need workplace tension. Of course every character is a cardboard cutout of a human being.
The job of the show is to solve difficult problems in an easily understood way for the masses who are otherwise cooking dinner or checking their email. Complexity and shades of gray just get in the way. It's hard for the fellas to take care of business if you muck up the lines between good and bad.
But everybody should know that by now. And if you're watching S.W.A.T., you know the drill going in.
Cast: Shemar Moore, Stephanie Sigman, Alex Russell, Jay Harrington, Lina Esco Kenny Johnson, Peter Onorati.
Airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS, beginning Nov. 2.