It’s with some apprehension I viewed the newest US drama to hit our screens -it comes to us via flashy director McG, whose music video career led to a big screen version of Charlie’s Angels.
McG again adapts a previous Hollywood for the small screen version of Lethal Weapon, helming the first 2 episodes.
Martin Riggs, originally played by Mel Gibson, is now portrayed by Clayne Crawford, while Damon Wayans is the new Roger Murtagh, originally Danny Glover.
It’s an obvious recipe for episodic TV: crime procedural, buddy story, action, and humour. The biggest challenge is in living up to the film’s legacy and pulling it off with a network budget.
Riggs is now a reckless Texan and ex-Navy SEAL, happily-married with a baby on the way -but a car accident tragically wipes out any semblance of family, nicely setting him up as a man with little to live for.
Murtagh has just turned 50 and recovered from a minor stroke, living a respectable family life when Capt. Avery (Kevin Rahm) partners him up with the incoming Riggs, for reasons that are entirely forgettable. Hey, all that matters is they are joined at the hip, right?
Their startling meeting takes place during a bank heist, possibly at a Hollywood backlot, in which the unhinged Riggs demonstrates he has a death wish. Murtagh isn’t looking forward to babysitting this adrenalin junkie, but we are off and running with two polar opposites.
From there things progress to a popcorn car chase, various hostage scenes, weapons fired, and a family dinner in which Riggs shows a chink in his armour.
The casting of the two leads is imperative here, and Crawford is sensibly not out to emulate Mel Gibson. He manages to add his own cray-cray to the role. Damon Wayans may lack Glover’s gravitas but he is very comfy with the script’s humour. Without stunts on a Lethal Weapon scale, this will indeed need to draw upon their chemistry.
Female characters are given little to distinguish themselves with in the pilot. Jordana Brewster plays a psychologist who will probably be assigned Unresolved Sexual Tension sooner rather than later while Keesha Sharp plays Murtagh’s wife Trish, ready for oral sex in her opening scene (good luck with that in an early evening time slot). Kevin Rahm strikes me as a little on the youthful side to work as the duo’s boss Capt. Avery.
As a cop / buddy vehicle this nevertheless pulls it off with some success, thanks largely to its 2 leads. But therein lays it’s biggest challenge.
It’s a delicate dance between living up to a movie franchise, week in, week out, whilst managing to also make it your own.
Good luck with that.
Lethal Weapon airs 8pm Sunday on Nine.