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The broadcast networks are stuck in a kind of cruel trick played on them by the slow revolution they didn’t see coming, didn’t react to and have barely addressed since. They haven’t made a serious Emmy-contending drama in ages, while cable and now streaming have passed them by and any venture into ambitious dramatic territory generally leaves them with no ratings and only a faint hope of getting rewarded with the aforementioned Emmys.
The networks really can’t win.
AIR DATE Sep 21, 2016
So they have finally reverted to the “safest” scenario: delivering unto the masses very familiar franchises or easily digestible concepts. In the end, the goal is palatable entertainment that goes down nicely.
At least on paper.
In execution, when you give the people something they are very, very familiar with — say a television version of the Lethal Weapon movies called, not surprisingly, Lethal Weapon, then the end result is often a deeply flawed imitation of an original that was no great shakes either.
That’s not exactly a victory to be proud of, but it does explain Fox’s Lethal Weapon pilot, starring Damon Wayans (My Wife and Kids, In Living Color) as Roger Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford (Rectify) as Martin Riggs.
If you really wanted to watch this, Fox has given you exactly what you should have expected. That is not a compliment.
Lethal Weapon is ridiculous and predictable, a super familiar story with new leads reminding you of old leads, and modern personalities that are really dated personalities. It’s a copy of copy of a copy and praying for something fresh out of that is, well, pretty ridiculous. So what you get is what you expected and the question then is: Are you okay with that, and if so, why? Lethal Weapon is precisely the kind of show Fox should be making, but if you’re willing to watch it — every week — what does that say about both your available time and your standards?
And so, yes, this is tricky. Fox did what it was supposed to do. But if you’re excited about that, something is really off with you. This is not a great drama. It’s not even a good drama. It’s a predictable story told predictably with just the kind of flash that director McG (one of four executive producers who mashed this together, including writer Matt Miller) knows you’ll love — absurd chase scenes piled upon insane crashes, and a moment where Riggs sits up, laughing, after being shot twice. Because that’s what people do when they’ve been shot in the shoulder by a high-powered sniper rifle and then again in the foot at close rage by a pistol — they are gleefully happy, laughing with delight at their fate.
Of course, if you wanted realism of any kind you’d be over on a cable channel somewhere, not watching a 2016 interpretation of a movie franchise. And that’s really the problem with the likes of Lethal Weapon — the masses demand familiarity because they don’t want to bother with all the hundreds of other overwhelming offerings, and yet when you give it to them it tastes stale and they are displeased.
On the other hand, maybe the masses will love this show and be very, very pleased. That’s a bigger issue for another time.
Before then, know this — Crawford is an excellent actor who did phenomenal work on a series called Rectify that you really should watch, but only if you really hate Lethal Weapon. Because if this is your kind of show, you shouldn’t go anywhere near Rectify.
The point is: He’s a wonderful actor and good for him for getting a job in the big leagues on a network. Unfortunately, this is what happens on those jobs.
Cast: Damon Wayans, Clayne Crawford
Written by: Matt Miller
Directed by: McG
Premieres: Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET/PT (Fox)
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