These days Hollywood and older franchises are like Oprah Winfrey and audience prizes: you get a reboot! And you get a reboot! And you get a reboot! If they are not bringing old movie franchises back to the big screen then they are bringing old tv franchises to the big screen, like the recent Baywatch film. *Shivers*
But there is also the new trend of films being turned into television shows and at times with surprisingly positive results. Bates Motel on A&E, based on Psycho, and Hannibal on NBC, based on Red Dragon/Hannibal, are two prime examples. And last year serial show killer Fox, who previously adapted Terminator 2 into the fantastic The Sarah Connor Chronicles before shutting it down after two seasons (sad face), set its sights on adapting the Lethal Weapon franchise into a series. But was it any good and did it do justice to the beloved action comedy buddy cop films from the 1980s/1990s? Here is my non-spoiler review of the first season in four shots:
#1 Spot on casting
In the films loose cannon, borderline suicidal ex-Special Forces soldier Martin Riggs is played by Mel Gibson and straight laced, family man Roger Murtaugh is played by Danny Glover. In the TV series Riggs is played by Clayne Crawford (Smokin’ Aces 2) while Damon Wayans (The Last Boy Scout) takes on the role of Murtaugh. This Riggs is Texan and a former NAVY seal instead of Special Forces and this Murtaugh is recovering from heart surgery instead of just being “too old for this sh–“. Together this odd couple takes on cases for the LAPD and gunfights, comedy and hijinks ensue.
Whoever did the casting deserves a raise. This is Crawford’s first lead TV role and he is immensely watchable. He gives Riggs wit, charm and a carefree, reckless attitude that is fun but also brings a haunted, vulnerable side which adds a welcome layer of depth. Like his movie counterpart this Riggs also lost his wife and has been driven into a deep depression. On the brighter side is Wayans’ Murtaugh who is just plain delightful. Wayans has pitch perfect comedic timing and endless energy and he plays off Crawford perfectly. Jordana Brewster (Fast and Furious franchise) is also refreshing as psychologist Dr Cahill, Keesha Sharp is sweet as Murtaugh’s lawyer wife Trish, Thomas Lennon is a riot as Leo Getz (now a sleazy attorney instead of a whistleblower) and the rest of the cast is solid.
#2 My Wife and Kids and Riggs
In the early 2000s Wayans starred in the very funny ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids which was sadly cancelled after five seasons. In Lethal Weapon his character also has a wife and kids – a teenage boy, teenage girl and an adorable toddler girl – and we get a taste of that family comedy dynamic at which he excels. It provides a breath of fresh air from the all the dead bodies and shoot outs and such. It is also heart warming watching Riggs, who lost both his wife and unborn son in an accident, become an adopted member of the Murtaughs. Aww.
#3 Sweet, sweet action
With a title like Lethal Weapon you are coming in expecting some sweet, sweet action. And it is not bad. Riggs is a sniper shooting, fearless, gun toting, machine of death and destruction. Crawford captures the wild action feel of the character which Gibson immortalised over four films. Wayans’ Murtaugh gets winded on foot chases but he gets in a couple of cool gunfight sequence too. The action varies from movie level epic to quick shoot outs but it is all well shot and exciting. There are a few episodes that left me wanting in the action department but overall you should get your action jones satisfied.
#4 Smaller but bigger
While Lethal Weapon the TV series lacks the scale and big budget sequences of the films it makes up for it with its delving into the characters and their relationships. We get an exploration of Riggs and his wounded psyche and a fleshing out of his relationship with Murtaugh. We also get a lot more of Murtaugh, his wife and their family. The show follows the procedural set up and does not anything revolutionary in that respect other than having slightly above average levels of action.
But it is the engaging, dynamic and cool characters that will keep you coming back for more. As a Lethal Weapon fan, and a fan of good cop shows, I was hooked from the pilot and kept coming back for more. I will definitely be tuning in when the show returns with Season Two on September 26, 2017.
Rating: Lethal Weapon Season 1 gets 4/5 headshots
For more Lethal Weapon action check out my ranking of the Top 4 films here.