January 26, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Lucifer”


LUCIFER:  Monday 9PM on FOX – Change the Channel

It’s fun to imagine the development meetings that preceded FOX’s order of the new procedural LUCIFER:

Series Creator Tom Kapinos:  The Devil, Satan himself, is the show’s main character.

FOX Executive:  Wow!  So what does he do?

Kapinos:  He runs a nightclub, and he consults with the LAPD on murder cases.

FOX Exec:  Wait… what?

Kapinos:  Yes, his partner is a buttoned-down homicide detective, and he’s abrasive yet charming, and the two of them have a bantering rapport.

FOX Exec:  You mean all the Prince of Darkness wants to be on Earth is basically the quirky but brilliant investigator character from Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Elementary, Castle, Rosewood, IZombie, Second Chance, The Blacklist, and every second procedural on TV?  Why would that be?

Kapinos:  [Shrugs]

FOX Exec:  We’ll buy it!

In fact, Lucifer is yet another property based on a comic book series (DC in this case), so the conversation probably didn’t go quite like that.  But based on its pilot, the premise is just that weirdly thin.  Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis, recently from USA’s Rush) runs a club with the help of beautiful demonic bartender Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt), and apart from the occasional menacing visit from the angel Amenadiel (D. B. Woodside), warning him that his Dad would like him to return to Hell, he’s unmolested by otherworldly personnel.  Lucifer has rakish charm and the ability to make anyone divulge their most deeply hidden desires.  Well, almost everyone:  he’s unable to get into the head of LAPD detective and single mom Chloe Decker (Lauren German), a by-the-book cop who’s supposed to be made interesting by the fact that she started her career as a soft-core starlet.

Lucifer is brought into Chloe’s orbit when a woman he knows is murdered in his presence, and he jumps into the role of her sidekick, fascinated by the fact that she can resist his supernatural charms (although by the end of the pilot, she’s already melting before his more human aspects).  In case all that isn’t cloying enough, Chloe’s cute-as-a-button daughter instantly adores Lucifer, and he acquires a therapist (Rachael Harris) with whom he’ll exchange sex for insights.

The only thing vaguely interesting about all this is how close this Lucifer is to Hank Moody, the protagonist of Kapinos’ Californication.  Like Hank, Lucifer is rude yet ruefully perceptive, with a quip always at the ready, knowledgeable about showbiz but drolly distanced from it, and possessed of an all-encompassing appeal to the ladies.  Supernatural abilities aside, there’s not much separating the two.

Unfortunately, Kapinos is on network television this time, so if anything, Hank Moody was a more transgressive character than this Satan is likely to be.  (Lucifer is quick to tell a mean little girl that there’s a special place in Hell for bullies.)  Kapinos’s abilities as a writer don’t extend to constructing effective murder mysteries (the solution to the one in the pilot is abrupt and barely logical), and the procedural elements are half-hearted.

As Lucifer, Ellis is still giving the same performance he did in Rush, only this time with an accent.  German is likable as the cop, but her character is bland, and no one else has much to do.  Len Wiseman, who directed the pilot, can’t disguise the limited budget, and the stylistic devices that indicate the supernatural appearances of Amenadiel are old-hat.

Lucifer will have the advantage of an X-Files lead-in for its first few weeks, and that may be enough to make its ratings look shiny.  There’s little to suggest, though, that there’s a series here able to support itself.

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."