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Fox's 'Lethal Weapon' is the Lite Version of the Movies
September 21, 2016  | By David Hinckley
 

It is with a heavy heart, my fellow Americans, that I must report Lethal Weapon has lost some of its firepower in the transfer from big screen to small.

The version of the cop-buddy drama that premieres at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on Fox is still good fun. It just lacks the extra dimension, the exhilarating sparkle, of the four-film movie franchise.

And in this case, by the way, it’s not unfair to judge the TV show against the movie, because the whole purpose of the TV show is to capitalize and build on the movies. Fox is rebuilding, which all networks must do from time to time, and a name as recognizable as Lethal Weapon guarantees fast attention.

Damon Wayans does a decent job as Roger Murtaugh, the often-exasperated family man who finds himself partnered on the job with wild card Martin Riggs, played here by Clayne Crawford.

There’s a solid supporting cast, but Lethal Weapon rises and falls on its leads.

Truth is, the movies were built more on these characters and this relationship than on crime drama, which creates a subtle problem in the transition to a television show.  

Each of the four Lethal Weapon movies had Murtaugh and Riggs resolving a case, which is basically what procedural TV dramas do.

Because movies run 90-120 minutes, without ads, the path to that solution could include all sorts of personal neuroses or even, at times, almost goofball comedy.

We felt like we got to know those guys, particularly in the first two movies, and the journey was the fun. The last two movies were more formulaic, with the fourth veering close to parody.

Much as I hated to admit it, as a major fan, the series was ready for a break at that point, because there just wasn’t much else to say.

Still, the third and even the fourth movie worked because we knew the first two.

The first film, in particular, tunneled down into a darkness within Riggs that seemed almost to devour him. When he went out into the world as a cop who seemed crazy, who didn’t seem to care if he lived or died, it was because we knew on some important level he didn’t.

While the TV series tries to incorporate that aspect of Riggs, it doesn’t have the time to show how it developed. It makes some gestures, but in the end takes a shortcut right to crazy, which isn’t nearly as interesting.

Because Crawford doesn’t convey the depth of the underlying devastation that made Riggs compelling in the first place, Murtaugh, in turn, has less to play off.

The bond they eventually develop was earned. We watched it happen. We weren’t just asked to accept it.

To be fair here, the Fox version of Lethal Weapon all on its own is a solid cop action show, with lead characters that have an interesting story.

But we’ve seen troubled cops before on television. From NYPD Blue to Gotham, it sometimes feels like half the cops we see are troubled. Martin Riggs on Fox comes across as another one of those guys, which just isn’t what made the movie Lethal Weapon so memorable.

If the TV show were coming in under any other umbrella, fast-and-entertaining would be enough.

 
 
 
 
 
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