USA Network’s new series, Common Law [Fridays, 10/9C], puts a truly odd new spin of the cop-buddy show – it’s lead characters, Travis Marks and Wes Mitchell, used to be the precinct’s top homicide team – until they got sick of each other. Now, they bicker and brawl over the slightest differences of opinion – leading their new agey boss, Captain Sutton to order them into couples’ therapy!
The premiere opens with Travis [Michael Ealy] and Wes [Warren Cole] in a group session – the other couples think they’re gay [!] – run by the sexy Dr. Ryan [Sonya Walger]. They’re answering some questions, like where Travis got his name – but not before the name Alex comes up – and Dr. Ryan suggests a de-inhibiting exercise just as their phones ring and they have to go to work. On the way, we learn why they’re in couples’ therapy – Wes pulled a gun on Travis for refusing to apologize.
The victim is Toby Whittaker, a judge’s son – and the ADA in charge [Andrea Parker], wants to make sure they don’t get the case because of their reputation for bickering and fighting with each other. Seems it makes them unreliable – since objected to the other’s testimony in court. They protest they’re not like that anymore and get the case.
Suspects include Toby’s brother Zach and his dealer [who also deals in high-end cars at a posh dealership]. This leads to a disreputable Samoan named Money – who has an unusual connection to Travis – and gives us a hint that Travis knows a few languages [to hear, if not to speak].
In the course of their investigation they walk into the middle of a convenience store robbery which leads to a window-breaking brawl back at the station. At one point, Dr. Ryan puts in an appearance outside office hours. They get – if you’ll pardon the phrase – totally nuts.
The premiere was written by Cormac Wibberly and Marianne Wibberly and I’m guessing they’ve had some experience with couples’ therapy or know someone who has. Some of the premiere’s best scenes are in the therapy sessions – no doubt given more weight by the performance of Sonya Walger.
Andrea Parker steps up in a role that reminds of the frosty Miss Parker from her days on The Pretender – only on the side of the law. Although it’s apparent from interviews that she only appears in the pilot, the chance of having her back at some point almost qualifies the show for renewal.
Unfortunately, in order to pack as much information as possible into the premiere, the Wibberlys hit one extreme too many with that knock down drag ‘em out in the station. It tips the balance between humor and drama a bit too heavily to the comedy side – and feels as much an exercise in slapstick/pratfalls as a fight.
Other than that, the mystery is reasonably solid and the clues fairly played. The chemistry between Ealy, Kole and McGee is terrific. Plus the great Jack McGee owns the show whenever he’s onscreen – and that’s not a bad thing.
The members of the therapy group look to be regulars and the moments in therapy provide character insights and considerably more drama than expected. I expect therapy group will ask some important questions along the way – and as therapy actually begins to help Travis and Wes, maybe some important answers will result.
Overall, common Law’s premiere is uneven but entertaining. It has a lot of potential and as it looks for ways to fulfill it, we get Michael Ealy and Warren Kole going at it full tilt. That means the series can only be even more fun as it progresses. And I expect the learning curve will be steep.
Final Grade: B-