USA Network is no stranger to dangerous series ideas, and they’ve got another one in store for you that’s hitting on Friday, May 11th 10/9c. Common Law is a buddy cop show, except that they aren’t buddies. In fact, our two heroes in the law are undergoing forced couples therapy as a last ditch effort to help them get along. Of course, we only go to such lengths because they’re so good at their job, and for some reason work far better together than we suspect they will apart. Or, you know… whatever.
You can see where this is a tricky show simply in its premise. Much like other USA efforts (Necessary Roughness, Fairly Legal, etc.), there’s something about the initial reaction to the setup that doesn’t exactly jump out as a sure thing.
Taking things one step further, the show doesn’t go the usual route in taking its comedy/drama stance. It’s rather more comic than most things with cops, but it doesn’t lean all the way to one side like PSYCH or even The Good Guys. That not only shifts a viewer’s experience somewhat, but requires a different kind of humor driving things.
Our story follows Travis Marks (Michael Ealy) and Wes Mitchell (Warren Kole) as they try to keep the powers that be at bay so that they can continue doing their job. They have an impressive record, but they can’t stop fighting with each other. Generally, the brass might not care, but once people start pulling guns on each other, someone is bound to take notice.
The fact that, whatever else may be true, these characters need to pull off the tough, and perhaps slightly crazy, aspects of their personalities means that there is little room for light comedy, or anything that might be looked at as an antic. This is especially true given that the casework side of things has some legitimate claim to the dramatic realm, even if it is far toned down from the stock options out there with acronyms for titles. This adds to the danger of the show, because it’s hard-pressed to aim at an established market.
All of this makes the show difficult to recommend, not because you don’t want to, but because it is such a curiosity that it demands a certain knowledge of your audience that it’s nearly impossible to have.
That said, the writing is solid, and Ealy and Kole are doing their best to deliver. Because of the premise, these aren’t characters people are likely to fall in love with in a hurry, which is a rough way to go with a series, but both actors manage a nice balance of displaying some manner of likableness, while living up to the negative traits that have gotten them into this mess.
We also have some great, and extremely necessary, support from Sonya Walger (LOST‘s Penelope) and Jack McGee. Walger plays the couples therapist who is trying to help our detectives, and it’s a role that could easily become nonsensical by way of a meaningless, shtick distraction. She gives us something we can work with, and helps to legitimize the premise, which wasn’t a sure thing by any stretch. Meanwhile, McGee plays Captain Sutton, and as the show progresses, his character is going to be one of the biggest sells. Having come out the other side of certain rage issues, his positive reaction to many years of therapy lead him to give the counseling order.
The show lives and dies by the ability it has to connect audiences with these two characters, and their situation, and the simple truth is that it isn’t going to happen for many by the time the pilot ends. The comedy is fun, the episodic arcs keep things moving, and there is a certain charm to the idea that we’re celebrating people who don’t get along, but this is a show that viewers are going to have to stick with for a few episodes before it can really grab them.
I predict that once this gets rolling its going to deliver, but that’s nothing more than an educated guess. I can see the style of writing at play, which gives the show every chance, and it obviously fits so comfortably into the USA realm that it doesn’t seem a stretch to think that it will all come together. Burn Notice, to stick with USA examples, took a few episodes to really get its feet underneath itself.
Don’t get me wrong, the pilot is solid, and I highly recommend checking it out, it’s just that it isn’t a straight-forward effort. What may turn out to be most interesting about the show is how the dynamic is kept alive. A show like this needs a progression, and there are a lot of possibilities open to us. We’ll probably eventually be forced to wonder if counseling, if it works, doesn’t have a negative effect on their impressive record.
Overall, while not as immediately impressive as other USA offerings, I have high hopes for Common Law. It’s certainly different, and approaches things in a unique way. Some viewers may have to let the shtick go, and give the show a chance to establish itself, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.
I have to rate it somewhat based on prediction. We’ll see if it comes together the way I think it will.
Check out a trailer below, then head over to the forums for a few more images and other clips.
Plus, I have a great Common Law Prize Pack Giveaway coming soon, so stay tuned.
Common Law is about two cops with a problem – each other. Despite their differences, they are incredible detectives. When things come to a head during their “seven-year itch” as partners, their captain forces them into couples’ therapy to save their “work marriage.” Despite being an odd couple, Travis Marks (Michael Ealy) and Wes Mitchell (Warren Kole) are incredible at what they love most – enforcing the law – and have a seven-year track record as the LAPD’s best detectives in the Robbery-Homicide Division.
As their constant bickering begins to have a major impact on their work, their new-age captain (Jack McGee) sends them to couples’ therapy to bring back the flame in their relationship. Tough-as-nails therapist Dr. Ryan (Sonya Walger) is brought in to help them understand and resolve their conflicts and confront their demons in order to enhance their ability to work together solving crimes.