Friday, March 6, 2015

Pilot Review: Battle Creek

Battle Creek (CBS)
Premiered March 1 at 10pm

I didn’t realize network television was in the market for another Sunday night police comedy, and I certainly didn’t expect to find one on CBS. I’m sure that this will end up being categorized as a drama even though it really doesn’t fit the genre and definitely emphasizes its silly side more than its serious one. CBS has long been in the business of laugh track-assisted sitcoms and procedural dramas, and this feels like an attempt to merge the two without prompting viewers on when to laugh. That, inevitably, will lead to the show not being nearly as funny as its writers think it is, but that’s not much of a surprise. The talent assembled here is most of all intriguing since they’re an odd bunch with vastly diverse backgrounds. Josh Duhamel anchored “Las Vegas,” while Dean Winters is most known for his recurring guest spot on “30 Rock” (I’m a big fan of that role) and his appearance in insurance commercials, though I think I first saw him on “Rescue Me” as one of Tommy’s many slimy relatives. Kal Penn, back to acting after leaving his gig on “House” for political pursuits, and Liza Lapira, who has bounced around a lot of shows since first recurring on “NCIS,” are joined by Aubrey Dollar, who I loved in “Women’s Murder Club,” Damon Herriman, who played the brilliantly unintelligent Dewey on “Justified,” and, strangest of all, Janet McTeer, a two-time Oscar nominee who was in “Albert Nobbs” and in the final seasons of “Damages.” The show built around this eclectic cast isn’t a terribly strong one, but there are a few humorous moments. Winters and Duhamel do alright together, but this hardly feels like a show that commands attention from its viewers, caught between two genres without enough on either side to make it great.

How will it work as a series? The dynamic that the two protagonists and new partners have is an entertaining one, and I think that will help to propel the show as its characters encounter nuisances like a woman reporting Magnum, P.I. as a burglar and actual crimes that require teamwork to solve them. It should be fun but not heavily worthwhile.
How long will it last? It’s not looking good. Though it did better than the other two new shows I just reviewed – “Secrets and Lies” and “The Last Man on Earth” - in terms of strict numbers, CBS has impossibly high standards which this premiere did not meet. I don’t expect it to survive to the end of the spring.

Pilot grade: C

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