Theo James stars as Walter William Clark, Jr., the youngest ever New
York City police commissioner at the age of 34. Yet, this show isn't
about him being the police commissioner, which would have been better.
This show is instead about how he became the youngest ever commissioner.
You only see him as commissioner, only in the sense of him in his fancy
office telling the story of how he became commissioner to a reporter,
played by Richard Kind. It's like Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar,
except Theo James doesn't have to put on old age makeup. Theo James
still gets to be his young, sexy self. It remains to be seen if the show
will flash back-and-forth between Walter Clark being commissioner and
him still being a detective on the rise. If writer and creator Nicholas
Wootten (NYPD Blue and Law & Order) is smart, he will structure the show like Lost
and have the commissioner storyline be a storyline running concurrently
with the detective storyline, which relates or parallels it. If Wootten
is really smart, he'll only focus on the commissioner storyline and
forget the detective storyline. If he isn't smart, he'll do what the
pilot episode does and setup a structure similar to How I Met Your Mother.
The show opens with Clark as commissioner briefly. Quickly, it rewinds, literally rewinds, to seven years prior to when he was promoted to detective after he performed a daring rescue by stopping an armed robbery at a check cashing place, saving a woman and his fellow officer who got shot. Clark is given a choice of where he's assigned and he chooses the homicide unit. At 27, he's the youngest in the unit. Instead of starting slow and building credential, he puts his hand in various cases, whether asked or not. He rushes into situations and jumps into investigations.
Some people take a liking to this and others don't. Kevin Alejandro (Southland and True Blood) co-stars as Tony Arroyo, a slightly older detective who at first laughs off Clark's eagerness and brashness but then immediately warms up to him. Chi McBride (Boston Public and Pushing Daisies) also co-stars as Don Owen, an older and clearly veteran detective who warms to Clark too, but Owen has to be the stern taskmaster or at times the Morgan Freeman from Seven (1995). He sometimes has to tell Clark to slow down or think about other things than just his ambition or career.
All of this is interesting on paper, but as it plays out, it feels not much different from any other CBS procedural. Of the top 25 television programs, a large chunk is CBS procedurals, particularly police procedurals. Several of which take place in New York and all of which follow the same formula. Some of those shows have a hook or some kind of angle. One or two stand out. Some like CSI: NY just bleeds together with the others.
Golden Boy has an angle that could make it stand out, but it chooses not to use it. It would rather pretend to have an angle, different from the rest, if only to justify CBS adding yet another police procedural to its schedule, which the network has proven to be a profitable standard. The angle is having a hunky, young guy in a powerful and important position. It's more akin to Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989), but with far less humor and more brawn than brain.
Realistically, if the show were doing an actual series about a New York police commissioner, having Walter Clark would be a stretch. The current NYC commissioner is Raymond W. Kelly and he's 71 right now. He's been commissioner for decades, but he first started at age 50. There have been others to get the job who were younger, but realistically the character of Walter Clark is still ten to twenty years away from true consideration.
Yet, CBS doesn't want a show about a 50 or even 70-year-old as the star of a Friday series. The network would prefer someone like Theo James, an English actor who's known in England for the series Bedlam, which he was marketed as the sexy, new thing. Here, CBS gets to do the same. Yes, James affects a decent, New York accent and, yes, he's good in his action scenes, given his muscular build, but I'm not yet convinced of him as an actor. Even if he's okay as an actor, he could get away for years on his gorgeous face.
Greg Berlanti, who wrote for Dawson's Creek and created shows like Everwood and Arrow, knows how to find young, gorgeous faces or individuals, particularly men with rock-hard bodies. Like Stephen Amell in Arrow, often having six-pack abs trumps having intelligent acting ability. The show in general seems to prefer the muscular over the mental. It would rather see Theo James running around, waving a gun and tackling criminals than being in that commissioner's office dealing with city-wide issues.
Not since Batman (1966) has there been a TV series with a police commissioner as a regular character. Let alone the protagonist! Given the many issues that Commissioner Kelly has had to handle over the decades like terrorism, civil liberties, crime rates, brutality, etc., having Clark be the commissioner and deal with those issues or related ones would have been vastly more interesting.
New York City has already had an African-American commissioner. In fact, NYC has had two. Instead of the so called "Golden Boy," the show could have had a Hispanic or Asian commissioner. It could have had a female commissioner or a gay commissioner. Golden Boy in that regard doesn't take any risks. It wastes its angle. It merely devolves into a lame or run-of-the-mill procedural that CBS has done time and time again.
One Star out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesday at 10PM on CBS.