Last week, FOX revealed its upcoming lineup for the 2016-2017 fall season alongside trailers for some of its newest series. Among a slew of potential hits and misses, it was a reboot of a decades old action series that floated to the top of conversation. Already considered a divisive decision on the part of the network, the upcoming Lethal Weapon series has still managed to resonate with potential fans.
First announced back in February, the series will pair TV comedy icon Damon Wayans Sr, as detective and family man Roger Murtaugh, with Clayne Crawford, as suicidal brooder with a badge Martin Riggs. If you’re one of the people who watched the above trailer and felt yourself getting a little excited for this freshman show, trust your gut. At the moment, all signs point to Lethal Weapon being one of the most enjoyable new series of 2016.
FOX is Super Into It
It probably won’t come as a surprise to find out that Lethal Weapons parent network, FOX, is extremely hyped on the show, perhaps even more than they are for any show in their freshman slate. As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out:
“If airtime on the press call is any indication of what the Fox execs are most excited about, Lethal Weapon is the new series to watch. Walden described the reboot … as ‘muscular,’ ‘high-octane’ and ‘very broadly appealing,’ noting at one point that director McG and writer-producer Matt Miller ‘delivered exactly what we wanted.’”
Don’t get dissuaded by buzz words like “very broadly appealing,” either, because those words pretty accurately describe the entire movie series from its first entry.
‘Lethal Weapon’ Lends Itself To a Series
Here is the plot of every single Lethal Weapon film: some fella and his gang of assholes do some evil shit which pops up on the radar of forever-detectives Martin Riggs and Richard Murtaugh. Through the natural course of their job — which they take very seriously — the two men shoot their way through a variety of situations making jokes about how crazy Riggs is and how reluctant Roger is until someone coughs up the bad guy’s name in between mouthfuls of blood. More shooting mixed in with some brotherly bonding, roll credits.
Lethal Weapon movies are fucking awesome. They’re also pretty rote. The gunfights aren’t whats propelled the series into action history. They’ve helped, but it’s the relationship between the two leads that’s secured Lethal Weapon its many fans.
One man is bitching about just wanting to get home but secretly loving the violence; the other is trying desperately to get himself killed for want of something he lost. Between the two of them, each has something to keep them clocking in each day. It’s the perfect fodder for a series procedural, because the budding relationship — not the action — can be the focus.
A Series That’s Both Fast and Furious
Let’s be honest, here: the number of action franchises still being taken seriously in Hollywood are dwindling pretty drastically. For better or worse, there’s only one that’s really considered a true powerhouse, and that’s the Furious franchise, one of the highest grossing (and visually distinct) action series in films. And the Lethal Weapon trailer is distinctly aping that style.
And, call me lazy, but that’s not a bad thing. The thought of having a 42-minute action film supplied once a week about 20 times a year is pretty appealing. If the action scenes are punctuated with the development of an amusing and well-drawn relationship — as opposed to Furious (still entertaining) macho posturing, that’s a bonus.
Both Leads Have Action Chops
As the show’s anchor, Richard Murtaugh, a family man who — in the show — is hoping to avoid any stress after a heart attack, there are few actors as well equipped as Damon Wayans the Elder. Most of his career has been spent honing his comedic skills, from his origins on In Living Color all the way through his recent guest spots on New Girl. When the actor was celebrating his first brush with stardom, though, he was more than happy to strap on his action hero shoes. Hell, he was even in a film written by Shane Black, the man who wrote the original Lethal Weapon film.
The show’s resident crazy badass, Martin Riggs, will be played by Clayne Crawford. The man has literally crawled up from the dregs of straight-to-DVD films by putting in a series of increasingly enjoyable performances in some grade-B action flicks that have, honestly, probably served as a kickass primer for his upcoming stint as a traumatized former Marine. Honestly, Crawford has done the crazy action hero once or twice before and he’s quite good at it. The material he was working with to date may not have been the best, but he’s a charismatic actor who acquits himself really well.
Don’t Be Dissuaded By the McG
Okay, so the pilot (and possibly more episodes) of the series may be directed by McG, who may elicit … let’s call it “ambivalence” if you’re a fan of movies, because McG’s last really high profile directorial effort brought the Terminator franchise to what The Guardian called, “an absolute creative standstill.” In the time since, he’s also managed to make Kevin Costner seem unappetizing.
Not to worry, though! The real creative force behind the show is Matt Miller, who’s better known not for his recent failure Forever (admit it, you didn’t know it was a show, either) but for his guiding hand on NBC’s Chuck. As a former executive producer on the cult favorite TV show, Miller has proven he knows how to blend action and comedy naturally.
For that matter, when he’s given good material and (restricted creative freedom) McG does know how to put together an entertaining story, which might be all the skill required to make FOX’s new show come to life.
It Looks Like Good, Solid Fun
Total honesty: don’t expect Lethal Weapon to go sweeping the Emmys next year. Sure, the show may have some depth unseen in the trailer, but depth isnt everything. What seems to have been promised isn’t some high-minded concept, it’s a weekly riff on a previously well-trod, but well-executed idea.
Don’t pretend like Lethal Weapon — awesome as it is — is some kind of hallowed ground. It was white knuckled fun when it debuted and nothing more. To live up to that legacy, all FOX needs to do with Lethal Weapon is find the right mix of action and comedy and the right pair of actors to plant the whole thing on. So far, so good.