With few exceptions, the premise for each new buddy cop TV show or movie feels a bit similar to the last one that you saw and the one before that. Despite that, the genre has, for the most part, avoided becoming completely boring. Amazingly. There are just some genres — like horror and gross-out comedy — that stand the test of time and keep drawing an audience. There’s comfort in the familiarity, I suppose, and the contrasting humor, violence, and tension does seem like a winning formula — when in the right hands. And that’s the key.
One of the genre’s greatest franchises, Lethal Weapon, will be making its return on Wednesday September 21, not to the big screen, but in the form of a television series on Fox. Wild man Riggs and a slightly less grizzled Murtaugh are still the focus, only now they’re played by Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans. The chemistry between Crawford and Wayans has been praised by The New York Times and our critic, Andrew Husband, was pretty high on the show, so there’s hope that the television show will do the popular movies justice. Lethal Weapon likely won’t break any new TV ground in the genre, but hopefully it can build upon successful TV buddy cop shows like Cagney & Lacey, Psych, and Bones, among the many others.
Rather than simply watching the show and mentally checking off each buddy cop cliché it lovingly embraces (which you secretly adore), why not make a drinking game of it? With any luck by the time Lethal Weapon — or the buddy cop movie/TV show of your choice — ends, you’ll have a nice buzz going and have cracked the case — both beer and crime — wide open.
The Odd Couple Crime Fighters
It’s an unwritten screenwriting law that the partners in any buddy cop show or movie be as different as possible. They might both wear badges, but that’s where the similarities end. One’s black, one’s white. One’s old, one’s young. One does things by the book, the other’s a wild card. One’s a family man, the other spends his nights drinking at the local strip club. You get the picture. The approach has been done with just about every combination out there from dogs to zombies, with varying levels of success.
Sure, the pair will start off despising each other, tossing out insults like “young punk” and “old man,” but as the body count rises and the shell casings start to fly, they’ll eventually grow to respect one another. There’s a good chance by the end of the movie, one of them will get shot and be wheeled out on a stretcher while the other mutters something sentimental like, “You’re alright after all, kid” Aww. Odd couple pairing — crack open a beer.
Retirement Is Almost In Reach
Lethal Weapon‘s Roger Murtaugh speaks for every buddy cop movie veteran when he remarks, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.” There’s a good chance that one of the cops in a buddy cop movie is going to be significantly older, and if that’s the case, they’ll undoubtedly be counting down the days until retirement. He or she has a boat somewhere to sit on and domestic beer to drink. The last thing they need is some rookie showing up who wants to reopen a cold case from 15 years ago. Chances are he’ll make it to retirement, but he’ll be forced to track down some serial killer first. Somebody was about to retire — take two swigs and both yell and acknowledge that you are “Too old for this sh*t!”
(Bonus: If Roger says that line, immediately quit the game, turn off your TV, and go sit atop a mountain and reflect on how we are living in an amazing time.)
“You’re sending me where?!”
Maybe his partner was killed, maybe he’s too much of a hotshot rebel and needs to be straightened out. Perhaps he’s on special assignment to infiltrate a class of kindergarteners. The location’s not all that important, the point is, somebody’s getting relocated and they are in for a bit of culture shock. If one of the cops isn’t a fish out of water in the first film, it’s a given they’ll both be going on some exotic assignment should there be a sequel. Unconventional assignment — take a shot from one of those little bottles that they have on planes and in hotel mini-bars.
The Chief Is Getting Pissed
“You two. My office. Now!” It’s a phrase that I’d be willing to bet is uttered in some form in 90 percent of the shows and movies in the genre at least once. “But what about all the laid back police chiefs who trust in their officers?” you ask. Those chiefs don’t exist. Any police chief, captain, or commissioner in a movie is going to be 10 times more grizzled than even the most ragged of Murtaughs. Chances are he’ll look like he’s on the verge of a heart attack and his natural inside voice is one that sounds like shouting. There are two things you can pretty much bet on for any buddy cop movie police chief: his office is a mess and he’ll threaten to remove our heroes from the case and have them writing parking tickets until their kids are in college. Angry boss — one swig of boxed wine. From the box.
Their Car Will Eventually Become A Bullet-Riddled Bucket Of Bolts
No buddy cop show or movie is complete without a car chase. It provides a chunk of action and gives the pair a chance to either bond or end up hating each other even more, depending on where in the movie the chase occurs. It’s a guarantee, though, that the nicer the cop’s car — or boat — the more destruction it will incur during the chase. If there happens to be a sidewalk café in the neighborhood, it’s most definitely getting run over. The duo might get their man in the end, but by the end of the chase that car is going to be nothing but a bullet-riddled shell of a vehicle, probably resulting in the cop who drove the car saying something like, “Damn, I just got it detailed last week.” Destroyed police vehicle or other expensive property — chug half a craft beer that you probably paid too much for.
Just How Deep Does This Conspiracy Go?
Deep. Probably all the way to the top. Corruption conspiracies and buddy cop movies go together like teen virgins and slasher flicks. The corrupt police captain, working with the corrupt mayor, who’s working with an illegal crime syndicate to launder drug money through the children’s hospital cliché has been done too many times to count over the years. Early entries in the genre like Lethal Weapon made use of the storyline when it was somewhat still fresh, but it’s since grown stale. Then again, there are movies like Hot Fuzz that turn the trope on its head and make nearly everyone in the town part of the corruption. Which is, if you think about it, a secondary benefit of the trope besides cheesy fun — films that play with the conventions to deliver something memorable. Uncovered conspiracy — drink some black coffee. You need to clear your head if you’re going to get to the bottom of this.