Over the last three decades, the quintessential ’80s cop/buddy action classic ‘Lethal Weapon’ has gotten three official sequels along with innumerable knockoffs and parodies. Now, 30 years later, it also gets a spinoff TV series. If the franchise itself were a character that could speak, I picture it groaning, “I’m too old for this shit.”
Of course, the “shit” would have to be censored, because we’re on Fox at 8 PM and naughty words are a no-no.
Where to begin here? First off, McG is an Executive Producer on the show and directed the pilot episode. That tells you a lot already. Damon Wayans (Sr., if that needs to be clarified) takes over the role of Roger Murtaugh, the aging cop reluctantly partnered with suicidal hothead Martin Riggs. The latter, the most crucial role, is played by a guy named Clayne Crawford, who’s had small recurring parts on TV shows like ’24’ and ‘Justified’ but never headlined anything notable before. He’s no young Mel Gibson, but he’s adequate for a TV substitute. He tries to make the part his own by bringing an element of Southern Good Ol’ Boy to it, which is a needless change but probably a better decision than directly imitating Gibson. Shame the show didn’t have the balls to give him a giant blow-dried mullet, though.
Set in the present day, the pilot episode feels the need to dramatize backstory that was abbreviated through dialogue in the movie. We open with happy-go-lucky former Navy SEAL Riggs working as a lawman in Texas, chasin’ bad guys in a pickup when he gets a call from his pregnant wife informing him that he better get to the hospital quick because the baby is coming. An ecstatic Riggs pulls over his truck, grabs a rifle from the back, and proves himself to be the greatest marksman sniper in the entire world by taking a shot at the bad guys from something like ten miles away and immediately causing them to roll their truck. Whoo-hoo! Riggs leaves his partner to clean up the mess, ’cause he’s got a baby to meet!
Well, fuck, on her way to the hospital, Riggs’ wife is T-boned by a big rig and killed instantly. Baby too. Ain’t that the pits?
Cut to six months later, in Los Angeles. Shortly after his 50th birthday, Roger Murtaugh returns to work at the LAPD following recovery from a heart attack. His doctor told him to avoid stress. You’d think his captain would give him a desk job or something, but no, he’s immediately sent out to the field to deal with a bank robbery in progress. The robbers are trapped in the bank and have taken hostages they’re threatening to kill. Before Murtaugh can send in a SWAT team, a crazy white guy shows up, struts into the bank carrying some pizza boxes, behaves like an asshole, and murders all the robbers, saving the hostages in the process. Murtaugh is dumbfounded at first, but that’s no civilian. It’s his new partner. Say what?!
Oh yeah, one of the robbers had a bomb with a countdown timer. Riggs saw it but left it running, and it blows up the bank behind him after he leaves. Ha ha…
You know the drill. The death of his wife left Riggs very, very sad and very, very crazy. He wants to die so he can join her in the great beyond, but he can’t off himself or it would disappoint the wife, so instead he’s just outrageously reckless, hoping to get killed in the line of duty. Murtaugh’s too old for this shit and doesn’t want anything to do with him at first. Eventually, as they work their first case together, they bond. Before the hour is over, they’re the best of friends.
That first case involves a staged suicide that leads them to a drug smuggling operation at the city docks. Somehow, this results in a car chase during which Riggs and Murtaugh crash a Grand Prix race in their police sedan, with Riggs jumping between speeding cars while racers continue zipping around them as if this were a routine obstacle.
Because… McG, that’s why. He still has some sway with the Formula One people since the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movies.
Cars are crashed, things blow up, and a bad guy gets hit by a bus. More plot nonsense happens and the episode climaxes with a shootout in a warehouse. Riggs and Murtaugh are cornered with only one bullet left in Rog’s gun. Riggs volunteers to sacrifice himself to draw out the shooter so Rog can take his shot, but Murtaugh shoots him in the foot instead, which triggers a ridiculous Rube Goldberg chain of actions that allows amazing sniper Riggs (hey, that detail got called back!) to get a new gun and take out the last baddie. Hooray!
Wrapping up, we learn that Riggs got his job in the LAPD because his father-in-law is the City Attorney and pulled some strings to get him on the force despite his obvious mental illness issues. Is that information actually important? I feel like one of the TV writers must have obsessed over that plot hole for 30 years, until finally getting a chance to answer the mystery of how a lunatic like Riggs could be an active police officer. I hope he feels better now.
A running gag throughout the episode has Murtaugh repeatedly begging his wife to give him a blowjob but always getting interrupted before it can happen. (Yes, this is an 8 o’clock show. Really.) Dammit, just as he’s about to get those sweet lips wrapped around his dangle, Riggs shows up at the door to apologize for being such an ass, and the wife invites him in for dinner. Don’t worry, Rog, there’s always your 60th birthday to look forward to. Har har…
Episode Verdict / Grade: C
Listen, the reality of the matter is that this show could have been absolutely atrocious. It’s not absolutely atrocious. It’s just really dumb and, yes, pretty bad, but it could easily have been worse. It looks very slick and polished, includes some goofy action scenes, and the leads have pretty good chemistry working within the formula (though I never, not even for a second, bought that Riggs was actually suicidal).
Honestly, this is probably the best that a 30-years-too-late TV remake of ‘Lethal Weapon’ made by McG could be. No, that’s not saying much. But if such a thing has to exist, this is the least offensive version of it.
That doesn’t mean I’ll watch again, though. In fact, I’ll be very surprised if it survives a whole season on the air before Fox pulls the plug.