If ever there was a television creative dream team, it would surely include House, M.D. creator David Shore and Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan. The two have teamed up to create Battle Creek, airing Sunday nights on CBS. Battle Creek is, on its face, a police procedural. Not surprising, considering that procedural drama is CBS’s bread and butter. On the other hand, we’re also talking about David Shore, who took the nominal medical procedural House, M.D. and molded it into a detailed, refined character study. Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is no less ground-breaking than House, and his pedigree also includes some of the best and most poignant episodes of The X-Files ever written. The potential for creative synergy is astonishing. But whether the new series will be able to transcend its procedural roots (at least on traditional network CBS) remains to be seen.
Battle Creek‘s first episode introduces us to its main characters: the rumpled, wiser-than-he-looks detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters). He’s jaded but effective–the department’s star in a wrinkled suit. His burden is to work within a police department tragically caught in the 1980s: antiquated phones, computers, tasers that don’t work, and wires that don’t operate. Technology? Who needs it, right? But Agnew is basically a good guy at heart (although we’re just getting to know him, so who knows what skeletons lie in his closet?) who likes to rely on his smarts, his experience and his keen observational skills. (And if he sounds like Shore’s other creation Dr. Gregory House, that’s where the comparison ends–at least so far).
When Agnew complains to his captain that the department is hampered by its lack of budget, he learns that they are about to get help–just not the sort of help he’d imagined. They will be hosting an FBI satellite office, complete with ace FBI agent Milton Chamberlin (Josh Duhamel). Chamberlin is essentially Ken-Doll pretty Mr. Perfect. He is lucky (at least) and has all the whiz-bang tech that Agnew may secretly wish he had at his disposal, but, instead sneers at for being cheats in the crime solving game.
The two become partners, an unlikely duo (except in TV Land, where that’s what’s expected). They are surrounded by the rest of the Battle Creek P.D., which includes (yay) the wonderfully sardonic Kal Penn (who, of course, played Kutner on House, M.D. until he left to serve a couple years in President Obama’s White House).
Battle Creek has some interesting possibilities. If the show hadn’t been created by Shore and Gilligan, I might write it off right now as another buddy-cop-show CBS police procedural. It has the earmarks, but it also has the Gilligan-Shore pedigree, which counts for a lot. Despite the procedural and buddy-show elements, I like the strangeness of Mr. Perfect Chamberlin: patrician, perfectly-coiffed, able to solve a crime without getting his shoes scuffed or hair mussed. There must be something else deep down (as observed by Agnew) that landed this ascendent FBI superstar in lowly Battle Creek. Part of it must be that he’s simply insufferable (as suggested in the scene when we first meet him), but there is likely more. And hopefully, the darker the better.
I also want to know more about Agnew. Why isn’t he in Detroit or Chicago, where, with his award-winning track record, he might have easily gone? Is he stuck? And if so, why?
So, within this quirky, amusing, often very funny cop drama, I see the murmurings of a beating heart just beneath, and I’m compelled, at least for now, to keep watching and learn what lies beneath Battle Creek. Will it be as compelling as House, M.D.? Or as riveting as Breaking Bad? Too early to say. But it’s got possibilities galore, so I’m sticking around for a while to find out. What do you think? Will you be watching Battle Creek unfold?
Battle Creek airs Sunday nights on CBS. Miss the first episode? Watch it on the series official site.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00U4QWR2O,B003FSTVIG,B0076RDRZU,1550229559]