September 21, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Lethal Weapon”


LETHAL WEAPON:  Wednesday 8PM on FOX – Change the Channel

By the time the LETHAL WEAPON movie franchise reached its 4th installment, it was virtually a TV series anyway, so there’s no reason for moral outrage that it’s now been turned into one.  But FOX’s small-screen reboot fails in the most obvious way:  it copies the superficial elements of the original, without being able to touch what made it an enduring part of pop culture in the first place.

The pilot story is co-credited to original screenwriter Shane Black because it more or less duplicates the movie’s characters and basic story.  Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans in the Danny Glover role) is a solid, professional policeman who’s as devoted to his family as to his job, and who’s trying to take things easy after a recent heart attack.  Into his life like a whirlwind comes Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford, the brother-in-law from Sundance’s Rectify, here attempting to channel Mel Gibson), a brilliantly intuitive madman of a cop who literally doesn’t care if he lives or dies, because of a tragedy that wrecked his life.

In classic buddy-movie style, they get on each other’s nerves while melding together perfectly, solving crimes and dispatching bad guys, barely staying alive.  The movies worked not because they were particularly well-plotted or even original, but because Black hit the right recipe of over-the-top action with comedy and just a touch of soulfulness, in a way anticipating the revolution Quentin Tarantino would cause five years later, when Reservoir Dogs added verbal and structural brilliance to the mix.  And, of course, Martin Riggs became Gibson’s iconic role, the perfect vessel for his own mixture of wild-eyed commitment, steely determination in the face of gruesome violence, gleeful humor and vulnerability.

Matt Miller, who created the TV version (his last show was the immortal detective procedural Forever, which didn’t last nearly that long), and McG, the action veteran who directed the pilot, can’t get the pieces to cohere.  The plotting, crammed into 43 minutes, is even sillier than in the movies (something about a port guard whose murder is passed off as a suicide to hide a drug heist), just an excuse for action sequences–which, this being TV, can’t compare to the scale of their movie equivalents.  Wayans is too cool for the Glover role; he takes on Murtaugh like an actor playing a sitcom dad, as he did for several years.  Crawford, a fine actor, doesn’t give a bad performance as Riggs, but it’s impossible to compete with what Gibson did in the movies.  Crawford doesn’t have Gibson’s particular darting intelligence, able to bounce from slapstick to violence to pathos like a pinball in full flight.  Because this is a TV series that will need a character arc, Riggs has already been given a police therapist (Jordana Brewster), who happens to be gorgeous, and will doubtless be used for tiresome will-they-or-won’t-they? purposes.  (Kevin Rahm has the unenviable role of the team’s grumpy You guys are killing me! supervisor.)

This Lethal Weapon is just another mediocre cop show, no worse than many, but no more memorable than most.  With the pre-Empire slot that made Rosewood a sort-of success last season, though, it may find some viewers, at least for a while.  It doesn’t serve much more purpose than warming up the TV set for real shows.

NETWORK FINAL:  A Tranquilizer Dart At Best

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."