We’re going to talk about the Lethal Weapon television show. But first, two undisputed facts.
FACT NUMBER ONE: The original Lethal Weapon movie is so good. Still, today, provided you can compartmentalize the Mel Gibson of it all, which I suggest you really try to do, because the movie ends with two men basically fist-fighting to the death in the driving rain in a front yard that is lit with multi-colored Christmas lights, and one of the men is Gary Busey. Don’t let anything ruin that for you. You deserve nice things.
FACT NUMBER TWO: Reboots, generally speaking, are bad. At the very least they are not great. Especially movie-to-TV reboots. The biggest recent success story in that category is probably Fargo, and that’s not even really a straight reboot as much as it is using the title and tone of the original to tell new stories. Most of the rest end up feeling like cynical nostalgia-based cash grabs, even if the people on the set making it are giving it an honest attempt. It’s just something that’s hard to do well and easy to do poorly, and the whole thing usually ends up being a quickly canceled boondoggle. So, again, bad.
Based on those two facts, I don’t think anyone would have given you grief about writing off the Lethal Weapon television show before it aired on Fox last year. But I am going to tell you something and I need you to hear me out: The Lethal Weapon television show is a lot of fun. Way more fun than you think it is. Way more fun that it has any right to be, to be honest.
A big part of that is Clayne Crawford, who plays Martin Riggs opposite Damon Wayans as noted cranky dad Roger Murtaugh. It is not easy to take a familiar role associated with a famous/infamous person and make it your own, but he does it, somehow. The beats of the character are the same (dead wife, lives in a trailer on the beach, has about 85 percent of a death wish), but the character is just different enough that it doesn’t feel like a Mel Gibson impression. Think less “manic wiseass” and more “cool and detached wiseass.” Whatever he’s doing, he appears to be having a blast with it just about all of the time. Also, he has a great mustache. I mean, a really great mustache. Maybe the best on television since Ron Swanson. Look at it up there in the picture at the top of this post. Just sitting on his upper lip like some sort of giant mutated caterpillar. It’s insane that the entire show isn’t just people walking up to him on the street to compliment him on it.
But let’s also clarify something: This is not a big fancy prestige drama. This is not a “gritty” reboot. This is a full-on network cop procedural, where the good guys run around chasing bad guys for 55 minutes and then have dinner together at the end. It’s more Burn Notice than True Detective, which I mean very much as a compliment, because sometimes you just need that kind of show. It’s more comfort food than three-star Michelin dining, which I also mean very much as a compliment, because tacos from a food truck can be delicious as hell. I think the best way I can explain is all is to point out that the show pulled off the near impossible cop show trifecta in its first season. It had:
A “We’re not that different” scene…
… an “ENHANCE!” scene that featured a criminal getting identified in the reflection of a Christmas tree ornament…
… and a scene where someone was taken off a case and forced to turn in their badge and gun.
This is basically the Holy Trinity for me.
(An important note: The man taking away Riggs’ badge and gun in that scene is not the chief. It is the City Attorney, who is also his former father-in-law. I bring this up as a roundabout way to inform you that the actual chief is played by Kevin Rahm, who you probably know better as Teddy Chaough from Mad Men. This show is stuffed with people you will recognize from other things. Jordana Brewster from the Fast & Furious movies is a therapist. Tom Lennon from Reno 911 is the new Leo Getz. Hilarie Burton from TRL and One Tree Hill is a law enforcement officer. There’s a lot going on.)
The truth is, sometimes I wish the show wasn’t even called “Lethal Weapon.” There’s so much baggage that comes along with that association, and while some of that baggage contains warm feelings and a recognizable hook to make the show stand out a bit, some of it contains lead brick expectations. And the show is only like the movie in the framework, really. Change the characters’ names and move Riggs from the beach to, say, a cabin in the woods, and you’ve got any other post-Lethal Weapon buddy-cop show. Then I could recommend this show to people without a rambling 10-minute justification that includes multiple use of the word “actually.” You’re killing me here, Lethal Weapon. Don’t make me be the Actually Guy. I’m trying to help.
Let’s close this out with two more undisputed facts.
FACT NUMBER ONE: It is okay to watch comfort food television. I worry sometimes that people lose sight of that. Especially people like me, who write about television for a living and feel a weird responsibility to point you in the direction of “the good shows” in a wildly oversaturated market. So, yes, Bojack Horseman is incredible and The Leftovers should have won a dozen Emmys. It drives me nuts that The Americans and Halt and Catch Fire have low ratings. Get me started on any of those things and I’ll keep going until I tucker myself out and fall asleep mid-sentence. But a fun and well made procedural can be great, too, for an entirely different set of reasons. There’s room in your life for both. Do not get so wrapped up in a hunt for quality that you deprive yourself of a mustachioed Clayne Crawford firing a bazooka while leaning out the window of a speeding car. Or whatever your own personal version of “a mustachioed Clayne Crawford firing a bazooka while leaning out the window of a speeding car” is. Again, you deserve nice things.