Lethal Weapon is the next beloved film to take a crack at being one of the only franchises ever to succeed as a television adaptation. If the show wants that crown, it’s going to have to get a lot better, real fast, because the pilot is only passable action entertainment – but utterly unnecessary.
Ex-Navy SEAL-turned-detective Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) is suicidal and riddled with grief after losing his wife and unborn child in a car accident and decides to move from Texas to California to get a fresh start in the LAPD. Riggs gets partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.), an officer just returning back to duty after a serious heart attack. Murtaugh’s heart condition and Riggs’ reckless disregard for his own life immediately put the duo at odds – and hijinks ensue.
The debut episode follows a huge portion of the plot beats from the original Shane Black Lethal Weapon film – so much so that Black gets a writing credit on the pilot episode. Crawford and Wayans Sr. have some pretty respectable chemistry, but as an audience you constantly have to compare them to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and there’s really no contest – Gibson and Glover were lightning in a bottle.
Crawford handles the humorous parts of Riggs’ personality quite well, but doesn’t even get close to nailing the suicidal, crazy side that Gibson trademarked in the role. Crawford’s Riggs mostly comes across as a mildly depressed bi-polar rather than actually insane. On the other hand, Wayans Sr. is pretty inspired casting for Murtaugh and does a nice job of being the heart of the show, along with Murtaugh’s wife and kids. This version is also not “two days from retirement” like Glover’s Murtaugh, but the writers remedied that with the heart condition angle, giving the character some urgency to play it safe, while also being fatherly to Riggs.
Fast & Furious alum Jordana Brewster is on the other side of the action this time in her role as Riggs’ psychiatrist, a role integral to the films and will most likely continue to expand beyond the few scenes in the Pilot that establish her character and relationship with Riggs. Many of the supporting cast show up for one line or two so they appear next week and be like, “Hey remember me?
McG directed the episode and it feels very much like a flashy, action-packed McG show – his short-lived Fastlane (also from Fox) comes to mind. The action in Lethal Weapon is ridiculous and completely lacking any grounding. During one high-speed chase the duo finds themselves unexpectedly in the middle of the Long Beach Grand Prix (?!) with Formula 1 race cars careening by – that’s just one of the many laugh-out-loud silly action beats in this episode.
It’s not that Lethal Weapon is necessarily terrible or unwatchable, it’s just that it’s completely unnecessary. We’ve seen this pilot done better on the big screen with better actors and writing. Unless subsequent episodes have some tricks up their sleeves to justify the show’s existence beyond being just another buddy cop show with the Lethal Weapon franchise tag slapped on it, the show will most likely go the way of other failed TV adaptations like Fox’s last season cancellation Minority Report.
Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays at 8pm, exclusively on Fox.