'Golden Boy' gives off a glint of greatness
Posted February 25, 2013
At this point in the season, gold is apparently too much to expect.
Whatever higher hopes you entertained this fall, surely by now those have pretty much all been dashed. Yes, some decent new shows have joined the TV lineup: Nashville, Elementary and The Following on the networks; The Americans on FX. But nothing has set the electronic world on fire in the way Modern Family, Justified, Homeland, The Walking Dead, Louie and Girls did in recent seasons.
Still, if "great" is beyond us this season, "good" should not be blithely dismissed, particularly when you consider how terrible most of the new shows were (and a few still are). To be sure, Golden Boys will not appeal to anyone looking for the new or the novel; it's typical CBS cop-show candy, gussied up with a told-as-a-flashback coating and a long-arc mystery at the chewy center. But how often do any of us turn up our noses at candy?
CBS did not become the top-rated network for nothing. It knows how to make solid, reliably entertaining shows that please its audience, and it generally builds those shows around first-rate talents.
And on that score, Golden Boy, which centers on the younger-partner/older-mentor relationship between Brit-import Theo James as Walter Clark and Chi McBride as Don Owen, is no exception. Indeed, with just a little luck, Golden Boy will make an American star out of James while giving the always-excellent McBride the long-run success he has so long deserved.
Created by NYPD Blue veteran Nicholas Wootton, Boy immediately puts its dramatic cards on the table. Clark, we're told, is the youngest police commissioner in New York history - but his meteoric ascendance, a reporter reminds him, came at great cost. As his interview with the reporter proceeds, we flash back to his start as a homicide detective, to see how he rose and who and what he lost along the way.
As ambitious as he is smart, Clark wants to be partnered with the squad's star, Det. Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro), but instead ends up with Owen, a veteran nearing retirement. Of course, the more we get to know Arroyo and the other members of the squad - including a detective well-played by Blue vet Bonnie Somerville - the clearer it becomes that Clark lucked out when he was paired with Owen.
Certainly we did. The byplay and the chemistry between James and McBride is the best thing about the show, with James providing youth appeal and an interesting moral ambiguity, while McBride serves as mentor, moral center (albeit a flawed one), and put-down artist. From the moment McBride slams a car door with "Who am I, Morgan Freeman?," you know you're in very good hands.
And that's the feeling you get from the show overall. The flashback structure gives the show a distinctive approach while adding a layer of depth to the weekly stories. The scripts offer a well-balanced mix of office politics, underlying mystery and weekly cop procedural. And the first-rate cast ties it all together with abundant skill.
No, that still isn't enough to win the Boy a TV gold medal. But silver is nothing to sniff at.
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