GOLDEN BOY: Friday 9PM on CBS (special previews on Tuesday 2/26 and 3/5) – Potential DVR Alert
CBS tries to have its procedural cake and eat its serialization with GOLDEN BOY. Think of it as How I Met Your Mother as a cop show: the story is structured, by veteran procedural writer Nicholas Wootten (whose credits include stays on NYPD Blue and Law & Order), as the reminiscences of the newly appointed NY Commissioner of Police, Walter Clark (Theo James), about his meteoric 7-year rise from newbie homicide detective to his current high post. As in HIMYM, there are references to incidents that we would presumably see if the series ran long enough, and indications about the fates of some of the major characters along the way. So although each episode will presumably feature a murder-of-the-week for Walter to solve, it will also serve as an additional piece in the larger story of his ascent to Commissioner.
The show also tries to find a middle ground between what we now think of as the texture of cable drama and the old-fashioned network kind. Walter is a moderately dark protagonist for the lead in a network show (as he puts it, he has two dogs fighting within him, one good and one bad), as cocky and arrogant as he is gifted, and as interested in furthering his own career as in closing cases. Of course, he’s more good than bad–this is CBS, after all–but at least there’s some ambivalence to Walter’s persona.
The pilot, directed by Richard Shepard, is concerned with Walter’s first case in homicide. The crime itself is routine, with little surprise in the identity of the killer or how he’s proven guilty, and the meat of the hour is instead in the characters on Walter’s new squad. Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro) is an equally ambitious cop who will clearly become Walter’s nemesis; Walter’s partner Owen (Chi McBride), is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the squad whose mention of how close he is to retirement doesn’t bode well for his long-term future; Diaco (Holt McCallany), is a flashy guy whose character isn’t yet clear; and Arroyo’s partner McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville), is almost certain to become a romantic interest for Walter. Walter has also been given a troubled sister in the person of Agnes (Stella Maeve).
Golden Boy has possibilities. The cast is strong, and the intrasquad politics gives off a nice whiff of the kind of drama CBS usually offers only on The Good Wife. James, another British actor playing a NY-area CBS lead, thankfully pushes the accent far less hard than Janet Montgomery on Made in Jersey (although Bonnie Somerville could lay off hers a little), and he has the ability to play both the scheming and heroic parts of Walter’s nature.
If network TV is going to be inundated with procedurals–and clearly it is, especially on CBS–it’s at least encouraging to see one that approaches the genre with a new angle. The flashback structure of Golden Boy might turn out to be just an excuse to make a routine cop show look different, but if it actually illuminates the portrait of a super-cop’s rise through insights into his past, the result could be a show worth watching.