‘Lethal Weapon’ loses its unique charm in the transition to TV

Meet the new Murtaugh and Riggs.

Two and a half stars

Lethal Weapon Wednesdays, 8 p.m., Fox.

Like CBS’ short-lived TV-series version of Rush Hour from earlier this year, Fox’s new Lethal Weapon series lifts the basic concept from a popular film franchise, but forgets that the key to that franchise’s success is the unique chemistry between its two leads. CBS’ Rush Hour didn’t have Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and Fox’s Lethal Weapon doesn’t have Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Instead, it has Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as LAPD detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, respectively, and that change in casting, along with the need to sustain an ongoing series, turns the show into a fairly generic police procedural with a few wisecracks and some over-the-top action.

As they are in the movies, Riggs is a loose cannon with an apparent death wish, who rushes into dangerous situations without thinking (partially because he’s still distraught over the death of his wife), and Murtaugh is a mild-mannered family man who reluctantly goes along with his partner’s reckless schemes. Naturally, by the end of the pilot they realize that they make a perfect team, even if Murtaugh might be getting too old for this sh*t (a famous line that gets a brief reference in the episode). Of course, that line has to be cut off, because a Fox show can’t be as profane or as violent as any of the Lethal Weapon movies, and at best the show is a neutered version of the movies that themselves became increasingly toothless as the series progressed. Crawford and Wayans are likable enough, but they aren’t Riggs and Murtaugh; they’re just the stars of TV’s latest variation on the tired buddy-cop formula.

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