by Deborah Harter Williams
Damn, I really wanted to like this show. It’s a great set-up: two former, tarnished Secret Service Agents now partner as private investigators. Jon Tenney as Sean King was enough to draw me in. As Fritz Howard on The Closer he was ironic, smart, strong and sexy. On Brothers & Sisters he used those same characteristics to good effect as a con-man doctor going after Nora Walker’s affections and checkbook.
Rebecca Romijn is Michelle Maxwell (ignore the j and say the main ingredient in Caesar salad). She may have started as a fashion model and barely clothed super hero in X-men films, but she showed real acting chops and a sense of humor about her own persona when she played Alexis (formerly Alex) Meade on Ugly Betty.
The characters are from David Baldacci, author of 25 books since he abandoned law and wrote his first novel Absolute Power. He has six King & Maxwell novels to date and is creative consultant on the show. Shane Brennan is executive producer and you may recognize the flavor of NCIS: Los Angeles here – thumbs up on chases and technology, thumbs down on snappy dialog and man/woman relationships.
After watching the first three episodes my hopes started to fade. Where I was looking for bantering I got bickering. Romijn did some weird sped-up karate moves that made her look like a cartoon character. Tenney got beat up a lot, although he did it with a Jim Rockford kind of insouciance.
Over the top was the order of the day. The characters were one-dimensional or maybe one-and-a-half. Sean, the recovering alcoholic, forgets to bring his gun and thinks Michelle is a slob. She is super-jock one moment and blatant vamp the next. The Odd Couple as PIs?
Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack, Roseanne) is their FBI nemesis, Rigby. This is an actor with a great impish quality and the ability to be verbally telling you one story while his eyes tell you another – a prince of subtext. The crime here is that they don’t let him use it. As Rigby, he just plays grumpy and talks to himself.
Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy) is Edgar, a high functioning autistic savant, who is pivotal in the first episode and then gets adopted as the couple’s sole employee. Unfortunately, in the second and third episodes he doesn’t get to do much but grunt at his computer.
I was just about to give up. Then I remembered that Rizzoli & Isles was kind of stiff and obvious when it first started. Then either they got a new director or the actors found the right pitch because suddenly it clicked. And so I decided to try one more episode.
Episode 4 was “King’s Ransom”. (You can catch it on the TNTdrama website.) King & Maxwell get brought in when a child is kidnapped. Catherine Bell (JAG, Good Witch, Army Wives) guest stars as a security expert. Written by Shelley Meals and her writing partner Darin Goldberg (Wild Card, Dawson’s Creek, Rizzoli & Isles), this episode is head and shoulders above the others.
Clearly they get the banter and buddy thing – and subtext. Edgar has a wonderful restrained scene with the brother of the abducted child featuring a pencil sharpener. King & Maxwell actually worked as a team with both smarts and affection, partnership rather than put-downs. Bell and Tenney made me believe that there was important history between their two characters without revealing many details. I’ll be watching for more episodes from these writers. The potential is there…and I want it to work.
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