‘King & Maxwell,’ well, chemistry works
But that's about all that work's in the new TNT drama
June 10, 2013
In the buddy-crimefighter genre, the most important element is that the two buddies have chemistry, but not too much chemistry. If the buddies are the same sex and seem too into each other, we get the snickery moments in the ’70s series “Starsky and Hutch.” If they’re male and female, we wonder why they just don’t go ahead and, you know, date.
TNT’s new drama “King & Maxwell,” with Jon Tenney and Rebecca Romijn as two Washington, D.C., private investigators based on characters from a series of novels by David Baldacci, gets the amount of chemistry just about right. But too much else is off. The dialogue is obvious, and the plot is absurd.
Since the same criticisms could be leveled at many of basic cable’s personality-driven crime shows, these flaws probably won’t repel fans of the genre, but “King & Maxwell” is unlikely to win any new converts.
The premiere episode, airing tonight at 10, opens with a scene in which Michelle Maxwell (Romijn) chases a bus driven by a man in a beaver suit. It turns out that he’s trying to blackmail their client, whose wife has a “furry” fetish.
The chase is shot with a combination of slow motion and other video tricks that give it a surreal feel that jibes with nothing else in the episode and has no discernible point.
From then on, the episode is by the book. Michelle’s partner, Sean King (Tenney), helps her make the collar by tricking her quarry into surrendering with a laser pointer that the dupe thinks is a rifle sight. Maxwell and King banter playfully about what would have happened if that plan didn’t work. “You were plan B,” he tells her.
Sticking to procedure, the show introduces two conventional, by-the-book lawmen, the FBI agent Rigby (Michael O’Keefe) and his associate Carter (Chris Butler), who will apparently be King and Maxwell’s foils throughout the series. Rigby tells them that a lawyer friend of King’s called him just before he was shot. The lawyer had left a message saying that he had new information about the case of an autistic savant accused of multiple murders.
Throwing logic to the winds, the show tries to get a “Silence of the Lambs” vibe by setting King’s meeting in prison with the accused killer, Edgar Roy (Ryan Hurst), in a run-down room that is dark except for a single overhead spotlight.
With equal subtlety, the show sets up the sexual tension between the partners by having Maxwell commute to work in a single scull and then take a shower in King’s home office. She leaves the bathroom door open to let out the steam. King ogles her wistfully.
In a moderately skillful bit of exposition, King tries to get Roy to talk by telling him his back story: Roy’s lawyer was the only person who would help King after he lost his job as a Secret Service agent when the person he was supposed to protect was assassinated.
Agent Rigby delivers Maxwell’s back story, explaining that she’s also a fired Secret Service agent. He concludes by saying to her, “At least the guy you were supposed to be protecting only got kidnapped, not killed — unlike some people I know.”
Like many crimes in TV mystery shows, Roy’s supposed murders — spoiler alert! — turn out to be part of a conspiracy involving highly placed government officials and top executives at a corporation that produces something the screenwriters don’t like. The principals have to talk a lot to fill in the holes in logic.
Unless the creators have changed their mind since selling the pilot, Roy will probably join up with Maxwell and King. His Rainman-like skills are pretty cool, but an autistic-savant character seems like a strong flavor to add to a show based on the plain-vanilla attraction of its two stars.
Many of us have a blind spot concerning the charms of this type of show. In all fairness, we should admit that its possible that “King & Maxwell” is worse than we’ve made it sound.
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