A show about an arrogant billionaire who decides he can take over the Chicago police force is likely to turn a few viewers off, and even if the premise alone isn’t a problem, there isn’t much that stands out at first glance. It looks a little corny really, with super tasers and drones leading the fight on crime. It would be bad enough to throw a billionaire at the problem, but APB looks as though it really wants to suggest that a ton of money and an eye in the sky is how you solve the crime problem. Actually, it probably is… the suggestion was supposed to sound more ominous.
A cop show that has a lot of tech wizardry behind it and a decent sense of humor will definitely have some appeal, but it’s hard to blame anyone for staying away from APB when it looks so much like an effort to polish an utter lack of charm by the piling on of gadgets.
But, then you get past Justin Kirk‘s initial intro to Gideon Reed, and the overworked death of Reed’s best friend, and we get the Kirk that became such a magnetic draw in Weeds. The show still throws things at you in the simplest terms, with cops being overly, and too overtly, nay-sayers, because where’s the tension in a bunch of officers who say, “Ummm… yeah, give me a lot of awesome gear?” It also can’t keep from laying things on pretty thick, though some of that can be excused as the unfortunate demands of establishing episodes. The difference, between what you actually get and the easy-to-imagine throwaway version of the show, is that APB understands that you better be on board with the characters.
Most importantly, while the Reed character could easily go in a lot of directions, the show chooses to approximate the very general sense and sensibility of Castle, both in terms of his approach and demeanor, and his relationship with the actual cop of the dynamic duo, Amelia Murphy (Natalie Martinez). But, the show is smart enough to pepper in supporting characters who can truly pull things up instead of just leaving them as window dressing. From Kevin Chapman, always one of the better notes of Person of Interest, to Nestor Serrano as the mayor that Gideon has to wrestle with for control of the police force, to Ernie Hudson’s solid and oddly lovable police sergeant.
It may not be the praise the show is looking for, but where it shines is simply in its avoidance of the all the things you expect it to do wrong. It’s comfortable with its gimmick, and though it gets a little showy at times, it doesn’t spin that into a reason to talk down to you. Instead, it just lets some decent characters react to being in a new, odd situation. The mayor may not be on our side, but he doesn’t twirl his mustache. He perhaps threatens to do so, but there is a distinction. Moreover, though Reed may be arrogant, and admits it, he has reason to be, and in the end, he just wants things to work. It’s the engineer in him, more than the billionaire, who shows up at the station.
Of course, this is a show that is going to need more to work with, because rolling out some new tech every week is going to go stale in a hurry, and motorcycles aren’t exactly a new idea, no matter how much tension we try to build into a situation. That’s going to mean we pull in some long arc ideas, which may go wildly wrong.
For now, the show is surprisingly fun, and Kirk and Martinez should be able to carry it along nicely if they get the right room to maneuver. We have to hope that Matt Nix can weave some of that Burn Notice charm into the character interplay, but there’s reason to believe he (and the other writers) will.