Spring 2015 Review: Battle Creek

6 Mar

Battle Creek

Battle Creek is a cop drama which is the joint product of two heavyweight television creators – David Shore, who was behind House, and Vince Gilligan who created Breaking Bad and co-created its spin-off Better Call Saul. And for all that talent, what Battle Creek amounts to is, well, nothing.

Here’s the set up. Dean Winters plays a big detective fish in a small pond, the king of the chronically underfunded Battle Creek police department. Battle Creek, a mid-sized town, seems to have a disproportionate amount of crime, and its cops are strapped by their lack of resources – in the a bust in the opening scene of the show, both their recording equipment and tasers don’t work. The FBI swoops in for the rescue in the form of the preternaturally perfect Josh Duhamel. The golden child, he’s good-looking, great at just about everything, and brings a winning attitude along with access to forensics and proper equipment that the department desperately needs. Everyone else at the department is overwhelmed and excited by Duhamel personally and the resources he brings but Winters is struck by jealousy and a nagging obsession that there has to be something wrong with Duhamel for him to be sent to Battle Creek. Who is this outsider, he wants to know, why is he so friendly and consistently unfazed, and why is he getting all the credit for what they could have been doing with proper resources.

Of course, they’re partnered up and banter back and forth, Duhamel relentless upbeat, Winters the constant cynic, with their contrasting approaches making them a formidable team.

Battle Creek is not a particularly serious police procedural. It’s light, and makes active attempts at humor. It’s really not far off from an USA procedural, and much closer to USA or Fox than to the rest of the CBS procedural family. Nothing is all that serious. It’s purposefully silly and humor is mined from just how strapped the Battle Creek department is versus how flush Duhamel and the FBI are.

There’s really not even a lot to say about it. There’s just nothing to it. It was watchable, but eminently forgettable. Everything is competent enough but no more. There’s simply no hook to keep a viewer interested in coming back week-to-week. Battle Creek doesn’t appear to have been crafted with the kind of care one would expect of Shore or Gilligan. There’s no ambition. It’s the same problem that often haunts USA shows, but it doesn’t have the sense of fun or style that propels the better USA shows, though it’s certainly going for it.

Will I watch it again? No. There’s really no need to. Battle Creek came in and out with a whimper.

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