Toward the end of the pilot episode, Lethal Weapon‘s Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) find themselves in a precarious position. A sniper has pinned down the unlikely duo behind a well-lit position, Riggs has been shot, and Murtaugh only has one bullet left. Another gun with plenty of ammo is nearby, but it’s within spitting distance of the shooter. Hence Riggs’ half-cocked plan to use himself as bait while Murtaugh fires the kill shot. “Are you insane?” Murtaugh whines. “He will kill you!” Crazy or not, Riggs doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, it’s what he wants, and his sadly sweet smile says it all: “I miss my girl.”
Lethal Weapon shouldn’t work despite scenes like this, and if CBS’s decision to cancel Rush Hour — a poorly executed adaptation of another buddy cop film franchise — is any indication, the likelihood that Fox will nix it after one season is high. (After all, Peak TV is alive and well, so axing a dozen new scripted shows on broadcast, cable and streaming television won’t make that much of a difference.) Yet the scene (and others) works so well, and for several reasons, that creator Matthew Miller’s version of Richard Donner and Shane Black’s classic characters deserves more than a passing glance. Lethal Weapon neither tries nor wants to reinvent the wheel. Nor should it.
Like the 1987 Lethal Weapon, the show finds a younger, fresher Martin Riggs paired up with Roger Murtaugh, a senior detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Crawford’s Riggs has moved to California from Texas to start over after his wife, Miranda (Floriana Lima), and their unborn child were killed in a car accident. Wayans’s Murtaugh, on the other hand, isn’t just some old man fearing retirement and senility, but a heart attack survivor whose already sizable family has added another member for him to worry about.
Captain Brooks Avery (Kevin Rahm), Murtaugh’s former partner turned boss, assigns him Riggs despite familiar complaints made in a formulaic familiar scene. “Look, it’s my first day back. I don’t want to have to babysit some adrenaline junkie with PTSD!” Yet Riggs’ transfer comes complete with unknown friends in high places, so Murtaugh has no choice but to oblige. The result: The bank robbery and high-speed chase scenes repeated to death in the promos, countless near death experiences relished by Riggs and loathed by Murtaugh, and constant will-he-or-won’t-he suicidal contemplation.