You’ll like it if you already like: Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon…
Likely timeslots: monday at 10 after The Voice, wednesday at 8.
Among the trends in this year’s pilot season, there’s the female partnering. Our Bad Boys spin-off fits perfectly in this category, as well as Cagney & Lacey‘s reboot for CBS, ABC comedies Most Likely To & Man of the House, CBS’s I Mom So Hard & Chiefs, and The CW’s big bet on Charmed, The End of the World as We Know It and Supernatural‘s offshoot Wayward Sisters. Whether it’s a #MeToo consequence or something that was bound to happen no matter what, it’s a great year for actresses on broadcast networks, especially those on the diversity spectrum, and the casting war is in full force. NBC definitely has with Gabrielle Union & back-from-the-dead Jessica Alba the strongest pairing out there! A series pick-up is looming on the horizon. But is this pilot worth their talent and worth our time?
First things first: who’s this Syd Burnett in the Bad Boys‘ universe we’re not all familiar with? ‘cos let’s be honest: this franchise that started in 1995 is not exactly fresh and there are talks about a third movie for ages but they can’t get it off the ground for some reason. I guess a lot of relatively young people never heard of it, and that might be a problem. Special Agent Sydney “Syd” Burnett, introduced in the sequel Bad Boys II in 2003, is the sister of Detective Lieutenant Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) who was romantically involved with Marcus’ partner, Detective Lieutenant Mike Lowrey (Will Smith). At the time, she was an undercover operative with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Clearly, there was no urge or any demand to make something around this character and from what we know, the idea of this TV series comes from Primary Wave Entertainment, which manages Gabrielle Union. I could get cynical here but I won’t. She’s great, we need more shows with black empowered women at the center, especially now Scandal is soon-to-be gone. And yes, it’s another spin-off/ reboot and we’re fed up with them but that’s the way it works now, networks are desperate and bla bla bla. It’ll change someday…
Bad Girls -that’s the tentative title but NBC also has Good Girls so unless it gets canceled, they’ll have to change it- is exactly the female buddy cop show you’d expect from the logline. If you’re looking for something in the vein of Lethal Weapon, well they’re your girls! There’s a lot of action, funny dialogues right in the middle of a life-and-death situations, a dose of family scenes when it comes to McKenna’s intimacy with her husband and step-kids where Syd is invited to join but don’t feel capable of because she has issues, and of course a distracting case of the week. The writers chose to deal with the kidnapping of a young boy with his mother and our investigators looking for him, betting on the maternal instinct of both the heroines and the viewers. They know exactly what they’re doing, obviously aiming at a female audience pushing all the right buttons, when Lethal Weapon is more male-friendly. It’s not manipulative. I’d say it’s fair game. But it’s also a bit too easy and expected. With actresses that are so beautiful and sexy -and characters that are written not to be threatening to other women- it’s not leaving a male audience behind, on the contrary. The potential is big.
The show is less effective when it comes to the emotional ongoing story about Syd’s past, that almost doesn’t feel needed and more like the writers’ saying “we’re not just a procedural!” To sum it up in a few words: Syd was tortured and left for dead. What happened to her back then? She wants to find the man who wanted to kill her and that’s the reason why she came to Los Angeles in the first place. Honestly, this part of the pilot is the least interesting, it’s not subtle at all and the cliffhanger is somehow disturbing, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, it depends a lot on how they’ll handle it in the future. In my opinion, it would have been more interesting as a mid-season or end-of-the-season cliffhanger. It throws a dark shadow over the Burnett/McKenna duo that is unnecessary so early in the show’s life, especially since they really work well together on paper. It adds layers to the characters from an individual perspective but they could have done it differently.
If you’re asking about the men characters in the show, let’s just say they are mostly used as a comic relief for now. LAPD homicide detective Ben Walker (Zach Gilford) is a smart man with a smarter mouth who comes from money, while LAPD homicide detective Ben Baines (Duane Martin) is also described as smart and competitive. They’re both referred to as “the Bens.” And don’t be afraid, they’re not here to rescue the girls and save the day. By the way, a door is left open for Martin Lawrence’s Marcus to return if the actor feels like to at some point (and doesn’t ask for too much money). We’re said he’s in Cuba and always ready to help Syd if she asks for it… Having him for a few episodes would certainly translate into a ratings’ surge. It’s even more true with Mike’s Will Smith, but he’s barely mentioned.
Bad Girls is an action-packed, humoristic, character-driven procedural that hits the right spot at the right time and comes off as a no-brainer pick-up for NBC. It’s very much Lethal Weapon Female Edition, though it might be a little darker; it rarely surprises you but it’s doing the job with wit and efficiency, embarking you quite easily on this journey. You almost forget it’s a spin-off!