The next report card is for the new television series Lethal Weapon, based on the film franchise of the same name.
But first, a little backstory...
I was first introduced to the film franchise with Lethal Weapon 4, oddly enough. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a bit of a stickler for watching films in the proper order, making sure I don't miss even the first 30 seconds of a movie or a television episode the first time I'm watching it, and so on. In 1998, however, a friend of mine wanted to go to the movies and we hadn't decided on what to see, but at the last minute, he pitched the idea of Lethal Weapon 4. Being 11 years old, I hadn't seen the previous films as I just didn't get around to it, but I naturally wasn't going to protest, so I saw it and it was just okay. For years, I had ingrained the idea in my mind that I disliked the movie and thought it was a generic action film, so I put off watching the other three in any capacity as I thought I would hate them and equate them to things like The Transporter and The Fast and the Furious as just mindless action nonsense. Thankfully, I sat down one day a few years ago and watched the first Lethal Weapon and enjoyed it so much, I watched #2, #3 and #4 within the next 48 hours. It surpassed my previous generalizations and assumptions by a long shot, and now I hold it in high enough regard that when I heard the TV show was happening, I was skeptical for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was because I just went through this with Minority Report and Rush Hour—two shows that I thought sucked hard even though I really enjoyed the movies they were inspired by.
Is this another one of those, or is it on par with the original film franchise? Let's start the review of episode 1, "Pilot".
Thankfully, the story is the same. Roger Murtaugh is a veteran cop who is too old for this shit (although they have to avoid saying that, since it's on network television, which sucks) and he's paired with the loose cannon Martin Riggs, who is suicidal after losing his wife and their unborn child. The two form a bond and eventually, Riggs finds a new family in Murtaugh's. Also, they're cops, so they take down bad guys, if you didn't figure that out already.
In theory, if I liked the originals and their story, I can't dislike this. It's the same thing. The only thing that will play a factor is how they pull it off. So far, this feels rushed because they only had 45 minutes to do what the first film did in 110 as well as three more films afterward.
So here's the thing—I can't dock the show points for most of the characters, as the ideas are the same. However, I do have some bones to pick.
First, why are certain characters given new names? Martin's deceased ex was Victoria Lynn, but now she's Miranda? I'm totally okay with Floriana Lima being cast in the role, as she's beautiful and she quickly was able to make me feel sympathetic about her character's death in one scene, but there's nothing that prevented her from being named Victoria Lynn Riggs instead of Miranda Riggs.
The same applies to Jordana Brewster as Dr. Maureen Cahill. She's a beautiful woman, a good actress, and I like her character—yet she should have been named Dr. Stephanie Woods, which was the department's psychiatrist in the four films. They can adjust some character elements (like possibly having more of a romantic relationship with Riggs in the television show than in the movies), as they need to stretch some things out, but I can't see a benefit of changing the name. That would be like making Roger Murtaugh's family not being Trish, Rianne, Nick, and Carrie—wait a minute, Rianne is now Riana, Nick is Roger Jr, and Carrie went from being the oldest to a newborn baby with no name?
The acting is something else that doesn't quite click. I do enjoy Keesha Sharp as Trish Murtaugh quite a bit, but I think she might be the only improvement to the originals. Damon Wayans is a good actor, yet he's no Danny Glover as Murtaugh. I know nothing of Clayne Crawford, but he's no Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs.
We don't have Leo Getz yet, but that might be a good thing, so long as they find someone to properly portray the character and fit into the show down the line at some point. Scorsese seems to be filling part of that vibe right now, and I'm not digging him yet, nor do I really have an opinion one way or the other about the captain or chief or whatever his ranking is. He's just a guy.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): B+
It's a television show, which means it's not going to look as good as a movie, but it's also a 2016 show, which means it's not going to look as bad as a film from 1987. These things basically balance each other out. It's fine for what it is and hopefully the production quality doesn't downgrade after the pilot.
MUSIC & SOUND: C–
Boy do I miss Michael Kamen's score. Do yourself a favor and listen to the soundtrack from the films rather than the generic placeholder music here from Ben Decter and Josh Kramon. "It's Probably Me" by Sting and Eric Clapton is one of my favorite songs, and I didn't expect that to be anywhere near this show, but the main themes should have carried over as they had such versatility. Here is the song "In Memoriam Victoria Lynn" which shows how sad Riggs' theme can be, while this version is happier but keeps the same character beats.
This show had nothing of the sort, and everything was just bland. There wasn't anything offensive or "bad" about it, but seeing how they already had a great score to work with and chose not to is disappointing. Change is only good when it improves upon what came before it, not when it makes it worse.
TONE & ATMOSPHERE: A
ACTION: They had car chases, a sniper scene, some shootouts, and a hostage situation. Yup, that's on par.
COMEDY: There were mainly two sources of comedy from the films, which were 1) the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh, 2) Leo Getz. Since we don't have Getz on the show yet, it all falls on the principle premise of the show, and it worked rather well. It still felt like the chemistry between the two was nowhere near as good as the film, but maybe it'll get there eventually. At the very least, it still works conceptually, even if the execution needs tweaking.
ROMANCE: The nature of the series is pretty much a 50/50 split between Murtaugh's solid marriage and Riggs' complete void due to his depressing circumstances. That carried over well in the pilot and it looks like they understand the tone they should be going for. I'm curious to see if and when they introduce Rika Van Den Haas (side note: Patsy Kensit sure was hot, wasn't she?) and Lorna Cole (side note: Renee Russo sure was sexy, too, wasn't she?) for Riggs in the future. I'd love to see that happen down the line maybe in season 2 and 3 if the show gets that far.
FINAL GRADE: B
I thought this was going to be much worse than it was, but I was also hoping it would be much better than what the final product turned out to be. If this had a different name attached to it, I wouldn't have given it a chance. The downside when it comes to carrying on the legacy of something that came before it means that I also compare it to the films and it doesn't measure up. Basically, I have to imagine if you liked the films, you should give this a chance because you might like the show as a sort of "parallel universe" version that might be watered down and not as good, but it's still better than watching a straight ripoff. I'll be giving it a few more episodes before I choose whether or not to keep it on my weekly viewing list. There's definitely potential, although I'm not sold quite yet...and now, I just want to watch the movies and listen to the soundtrack.