“Am I crazy or is this like watching a five-car pileup in slow motion?” a curious Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) asks the room. He’s referring to Martin Riggs’ (Clayne Crawford) disheveled demeanor regarding the return of DEA Agent Karen Palmer (Hilarie Burton) — one of several romantic foils the Lethal Weapon television series has thrown his way since premiering last fall. Yet the question, and the implication underlying it, could be one some might have asked about the show itself. After all, with so many reboots, remakes and revivals slated for 2017, who in their right mind would want to watch a condensed, episodic version of a classic film franchise?
Judging by its improving ratings and the increasing likelihood of a second season, it turns out many people enjoy watching Lethal Weapon. As they should: Crawford and Wayans’ chemistry resembles Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s, the show is a lot of fun. Or to put in another way, FOX’s Lethal Weapon is an enjoyable adaptation of a past property that simultaneously stands on its own while not sullying its source material. The same can be said for fan-favorite character Leo Getz, the federal witness played by Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2 who was re-imagined by Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!, The Odd Couple) in the most recent episode.
“I was definitely super worried about it,” Lennon told Uproxx. “I talked with the show runner [Matt Miller] about it beforehand, and he said nobody was doing impressions of anything from the film series. I guess what they wanted to bring to it wasn’t necessarily the Joe Pesci-ness of it, but the humor and annoyance of the Leo Getz character.”
Sure enough, Lennon’s Getz follows in Wayans and Crawfords’ footsteps by paying homage to their characters’ previous iterations. And like the two series leads, this Leo stands far apart from what came before, thanks largely to Miller’s insistence on avoiding impressions and Lennon’s penchant for comedic improvisation. So instead of Pesci’s con man, who flouted several jobs throughout three Lethal Weapon films, Lennon’s version works as an ambulance-chasing lawyer whose likeness and taglines (“Leo Getz You Off!”) adorn Los Angeles-area buses and billboards. And he’s just as funny and annoying as his cinematic counterpart.
Consider his first interaction with Riggs and Murtaugh. While the latter’s “five-car pileup” joke was meant for something else entirely, it inspires his partner to find Getz in a nearby emergency room waiting area. Despite announcing their affiliation with the LAPD, however, the two cops find themselves completely ignored by the “weasel” as he pitches his wares to several patients. “Yes detectives?” Getz finally acknowledges them while carefully combing his mustache. “Perhaps we could kibitz in my office, please?”
By “office,” of course, Getz actually means the other end of the hallway — where a coffee vending machine stands awaiting the lawyer’s thirst and someone else’s change. “It’s done!” Murtaugh whines while Getz, stalling for time, stands hunched over the “black and creamy” coffee. Leo ultimately tells the pair what he did, and didn’t see during the episode’s opening scene — a hit-and-run at a small donut shop earlier that morning. Seeing as how one of Palmer’s fellow DEA agents, a potential witness, and a third bystander are dead, Riggs and Murtaugh suggest Getz may be next.
Though different in terms of the character’s life-threatening predicament in Lethal Weapon 2, this Getz’s newfound notoriety mirrors the film thematically. In other words, Leo is an annoying pain in the ass whose life now depends on Riggs and Murtaugh, and whose supposed value to the investigation requires them to oblige. “Throughout the show we’ve tried to preserve the original integrity of all the original characters and the original soul of the movies, but with our own little slant on things,” Miller tells us. “We’re not wanting anyone to do imitations of the original actors, in the same way that Damon and Clayne bring their own flavors to their characters. It’s about preserving the spirit of it, but getting people who are engaged in who they’re playing and how they’re playing them.”
“Thomas is such a comedic genius,” Miller continues, “that I just knew he was going to bring something new to it. He has his own rhythms and energies, in the same way Clayne and Damon do when compared to those who came before them.” Indeed, watching Lennon bring Leo Getz to life on the small screen is akin to witnessing an earlier meeting of these characters in a parallel universe. A place where he ultimately becomes a thorn in Riggs and Murtaugh’s sides, but the ways and means by which Getz accomplishes this are totally new — though utterly fun.
Lethal Weapon‘s adaptation is by no means the same as Fargo‘s, which reinvented the Coen brothers’ film across two acclaimed seasons. Then again, Noah Hawley pushed his show far beyond its Oscar-winning predecessor due to the movie’s genre-blending nature. Miller, on the other hand, updated a popular action movie series for its closest cousin in the television world: the police procedural. Yet with series regulars like Crawford and Wayans, and fantastic guests like Lennon, Lethal Weapon succeeds in becoming more than just another one of the many reboots Hollywood is offering.
Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.