I watch my fair share of CBS crime shows, like Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Elementary and Vegas, so I am well familiar with the detective-show-with-a-twist format that the network regularly produces. So I figured that Golden Boy was just another New York-based cop drama, but what I got was so much worse.
How, you may wonder, could it be worse? Well, let's start with the fact that the entire series is told in flashback. It's the How I Met Your Mother of crime shows. We see that Clark (Theo James) has gone from beat cop with a dead partner to commissioner of the entire city without gaining a wrinkle on his pretty James Franco-looking forehead. In the future, we see that Clark is being interviewed by Richard Kind about his fast rise, but unless it took a matter of months, how has this man not aged a bit? (And really, the time-lapsed look at the construction of the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center really seemed unnecessarily annoying). And as we've learned from HIMYM, this sort of flashback always results in trouble and the dragging out of events in many needlessly annoying ways. This can only lead to future frustration, but I'm hoping that this show gets cancelled long before that becomes an issue.
Clark risks his life in the line of duty and after his partner dies, he gets his pick of jobs, so he decides on homicide, even though he's told by his superior that the homicide detectives will not take too kindly to his lack of experience and cocky youthful bravado. And naturally, that guy is right. Clark's partnered with Owen (Chi McBride), who only has two years (as he kindly reminds us repeatedly) to go before retirement and just wants to go about his business peaceably until then. He doesn't like this little wunderkind trying to stick his nose in everyone else's business. And then there's Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro), the other cocksure homicide detective who doesn't like this young'un trying to usurp his territory and spends the premiere trying to put him in his place. Bonnie Sommerville also works there as Arroyo's partner, but she doesn't seem like she's allowed to do all that much. And somehow Holt McCallany went from the title role in an FX series to waving and making some random comment for about 30 seconds of screen time on this show.
Outside of work, Clark is dealing with some unresolved stress and anxiety issues about being shot at, which he takes out at the gun range and by beating up the druggie losers that his sister Agnes (Stella Maeve) is hanging out with. And the problem isn't necessarily just that Clark is eager to solve cases, but that he's mostly an asshole about getting the job done. He ignores the cold case that he's assigned by his partner, noses in on Arroyo's case and goes around the law to find evidence and get information and then seems shocked when this lands him in trouble and on the front page of a newspaper. And he honestly looks confused that the entire city doesn't just forgive him for whatever wrongdoing he has committed because he was involved in a shoot-out that one time. But apparently they eventually do because how else would he end up as police commissioner?
The acting here is adequate, though James speaks in a bizarre and stilted way that sounds exactly like an Englishman attempting to do a New York accent. McBride is of course his normal imposing self, and probably far better than this show deserves as the sage old detective, and Alejandro actually works as an NYPD cop with an attitude. If the two of them actually got to play out their "feud" other than just glaring at each other, it might have helped a little.
The big problem is that this "original" take on tired old material doesn't work whatsoever. Aside from the aforementioned inevitable future logistics problems, it just isn't exciting. It's a handful of detectives solving a murder of the week... which we've only seen about a hundred million times before. At least Blue Bloods has great family stuff, Hawaii Five-0 has some fun and NCIS has a likeable cast... even CSI has cool crime scene special effects. Here, there's a lead who seems like an ass and his sister who we're hoping/predicting dies within a few weeks and a bunch of detectives who seem like they'd rather be any place other than here. And that only makes me want to watch anything other than this show.
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