Battle Creek: Bad Cop, Good Cop Show

Dean Winters and Josh Duhamel star in the CBS cop show Battle Creek.
Battle Creek (Photo: Monty Brinton / CBS)

It’s Good Cop/Bad Cop via Goofus & Gallant on the new CBS procedural Battle Creek.

Show

Battle Creek, which debuted on CBS Sunday at 10pm.

Premise

Battle Creek Police Detective Russell Agnew (Dean Winters) has a new rival when super cleancut Special Agent Milt Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) gets relocated to the new FBI branch office. The pairing results in an Odd Couple that’s actually funny, playing on the dynamics of Good Cop/Bad Cop (or Goofus and Gallant).

Lineage

The show was co-created by Vince Gilligan (Breaking BadBetter Call Saul, and the X-Files, to name a few) and David Shore (NYPD BlueDue South, and House). The pilot was co-written by the creators and directed by Bryan Singer. That’s a pretty strong combination, especially when added to the CBS Procedural Industrial Complex. Gilligan pitched the show 10 years ago (before he was THE Vince Gilligan) and it has been in a holding pattern in the meantime.

What Works

There is a lot to love about this show. The casting of Dean Winters is perfect for the Agnew character. He gets to draw from his experience on the first season of Law & Order: SVU, the All-State Mayhem commercials, and as Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock. The difference with Agnew from the other characters is that he is good at his job, even though he has to approach the work with a duct-tape-and-twine approach. Meanwhile, Duhamel seems to be channeling a cross between Twin Peaks‘ Agent Dale Cooper and Ned Flanders without getting bogged down with a Pollyanna outlook on human nature. The two do an okay job of playing off each other, but I am curious to see how the relationship grows over the course of these first few episodes.

What I am also curious to see develop is the tension between both officers’ methods in crime solving. Agnew, working for the cash-strapped BCPD, relies on his instincts more than tools, mainly because the tools aren’t available or don’t work if they do (i.e. the tazer that provides a neck massage because the batteries are too weak). Duhamel has the full arsenal of the FBI at his disposal, allowing for gas chromatography and 3D crime scene positioning reports. I’m intrigued at the potential conflicts and comedy that can come from resource privilege.

What Doesn’t Work

Battle Creek is still a CBS procedural, though not as glossy as other recent entries to the lineup. The series will be episodic, though there is an arc introduced along with Chamberlain as to why he was forced into his Battle Creek role.1

The main concern is that the powerhouse names attached to the pilot are not directly involved in the upcoming episodes. CBS has committed to airing all 13 episodes, but the network has had an incredibly difficult time launching mid-season series the last few years. The show had an okay debut ratings-wise, so fingers crossed that the quality holds up next week.

Verdict

The pilot episode was pretty good and I will definitely check out the next few episodes of Battle Creek. Yes, it plays pretty heavily on cop show tropes, but it never felt like the tone or content moved into cliché territory.

  1. The Golden Boy may not be so golden…  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv