Monday, September 18, 2017

TV on DVD Review: Lethal Weapon - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Chemistry, characters, banter, depth, action, fun
Cons: A few episodes don’t work quite as well as most
The Bottom Line:
Classic film franchise
Reimagined for TV
Becomes a great show

“The City Will Cover This.  Tell Them to Put It On My Tab.”

Over the last few years, there are been several TV shows attempted based on popular movie franchises.  And most of them seem to bomb.  Yet, I still tune in to those that interest me, hoping for the best.  That optimism was rewarded with the first season of Lethal Weapon.  While a little uneven, overall, I enjoyed the show.

The setup is the same as the movies.  We meet Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) on the day they become partners for the LAPD.  Riggs is a recent widower who lost not only his wife but their unborn child when they are killed in a car crash on the way to the hospital.  Murtaugh is a family man with two teenage children, a baby, and a wife.  Oh, and he’s just coming back to work after having a heart attack.  Riggs’s recklessness when it comes to the cases they are assigned constantly frightens Murdoch.  While Riggs is seeing Dr. Cahill (Jordana Brewster), the police department therapist, his depression isn’t getting better.  Their captain (Kevin Rahm) doesn’t know quite what to do with the duo, although he can’t argue with their results.

And results they do get.  Over the course of this season, they tangle with drug smugglers, gun runners, track a burglar in Murtaugh’s neighborhood, investigate the LAPD for misuses of power, and even find themselves on opposite sides with Murtaugh’s wife Trish (Keesha Sharp), a defense attorney.

Meanwhile, Riggs runs across clues that his wife’s accident, which happened in Texas, wasn’t quite the accident he thought it was.  Can he piece together what really happened to her?

Those with fond memories of the movies will be impressed.  They have done a great job of capturing the heart of the films while expanding the show as needed for TV.  They introduce new characters, most of whom work.  There’s one who gets on my nerves, but he’s a minor character, so I don’t mind too much.  When the show is working correctly, the banter between Riggs and Murdoch is fun, and they even get some good action scenes in for a TV show budget.

I’ve really come to appreciate how a TV show allows for more character development, and this season is a perfect example of that.  While we feel for Riggs in the movie, we get more time to explore what he is going through here.  That makes certain scenes and episodes heavier than others.  It’s not all quips and explosions, but I appreciate that balance, and when done well, it’s wonderful.  Riggs doesn’t get over the death of his wife quickly, but he wouldn’t in real life.  If you take these episodes as a year in the life, his continued grief is actually very realistic.

Note that I do keep qualifying things.  There are a few episodes that fall flat for me.  The banter seems forced and the action is okay if there is any at all.  Of course, I’m willing to forgive them on the action front since this is a TV show, and they have to work within a budget.  That means some episodes have to scale back on the action to allow for the budget in other episodes.  It’s not that these episodes are truly bad, they are just noticeably less than the show when it is firing on all cylinders.

Another thing I have to praise is the chemistry between the cast.  By the end of the pilot, Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford will erase any notion of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.  They make these characters their own.  And Keesha Sharp is fantastic as Trish Murdoch.  Her role has been expanded from the movies, and she helps provide a much-needed emotional centers to the show.  We need her warmth to off-set the grief that Riggs is feeling.  The entire Murdoch family is wonderful, in fact.  They are obviously a family that cares deeply for each other.  Oh, they have issues that create some good sub-plots, but underneath is that love.  And they have incorporated Riggs into their family rather easily.  Those scenes are fantastic.

And in case you are wondering, Thomas Lennon makes one appearance here as Leo Getz, Joe Pesci’s character from the franchise.  He’s a ton of fun as well.

The season was only 18 episodes long, and they are all preserved here in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include a featurette on “Reloading Lethal Weapon” as well as an extended pilot episode, deleted scenes, and outtakes.

When season one of Lethal Weapon was working, it was lots of fun mixed with heart and great characters.  And the show worked more often than not.  If you missed this show, I suggest you catch up quickly before season 2 begins.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. Surf N Turf
3. Best Buds
4. There Goes the Neighborhood
5. Spilt Milk
6. Ties That Bind
7. Fashion Police
8. Can I Get a Witness?
9. Jingle Bell Glock
10. Homebodies
11. Lawmen
12. Brotherly Love
13. The Seal is Broken
14. The Murtaugh File
15. As Good as it Getz
16. Unnecessary Roughness
17. A Problem Like Maria
18. Commencement

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