One reason for CBS’ success in recent years has been its ability to develop a certain kind of crime drama, ones with compelling characters, reasonable doses of bloodshed and mystery, with the latter being just complicated enough to keep audiences engaged but not so much that viewers will end up scratching their heads.
It’s a formula that has applied to such durable shows as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NCIS, and is evident as well in more recent shows like Blue Bloods and Elementary. Aspects of it also appear in the new series Golden Boy, although its premise and its casting make it one of the better attempts at the form.
The series gets “previews” at 10 p.m. Tuesday on CBS this week and on March 5, then will take up residence at 9 p.m. Fridays beginning March 8. CSI: NY had its season finale on Feb. 22; a Blue Bloods episode will air in its time slot on March 1.
British actor Theo James plays Walter Clark, who seven years from now has become the youngest New York City police commissioner ever. (Blue Bloods watchers will note that Tom Selleck plays the commissioner on that show, but in the present day; still, I would be greatly amused if somehow Clark crossed paths with Selleck’s character.) Episodes begin and end in the future, then flash back to the present day, where Clark is a homicide detective on the rise.
Clark is also a young man in a hurry, and his ambition is quite clear to others in his detective squad, including his veteran partner Don Owen (Chi McBride), the equally ambitious Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro) and Arroyo’s detective partner Deborah McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville). The present-day cases illuminate how Clark rises, and what he learns along the way, while the future sequences offer indications of what has happened to the people Clark knew back when.
Executive producer and writer Nicholas Wootton is a veteran of NYPD Blue (as is Somerville, who co-starred on the series’ final season). While his dialogue doesn’t have the poetry of Blue mastermind David Milch, he knows character, and grit, and how to blend police stories with the personal challenges in each character. (Clark, for one, has a younger sister in his charge.)
And Wootton gets to write for McBride, an actor of unlimited range. He is a perfect match for James, an actor of some experience (he was Kemal Pamuk in the first season of Downton Abbey) but who still conveys the callowness accompanying Clark’s drive. The show is not perfect. At times its drawing of narrative parallels, not only between the personal and the professional but the present and the future, are strained. But it has places to go. I will far more readily watch this than I have CSI: NY.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.