CBS’s mid-season show, “Golden Boy,” a crime drama about a brash cop's turbulent journey to become the youngest police commissioner in New York City history, doesn’t reinvent the shield, but it does offer more promise than puffery.
This is not another paint-by-numbers procedural that CBS has mass-produced for the past decade. “Golden Boy” follows the impressive career of Walter Clark, played with a beguiling intensity by Theo James. After a heroic firefight that saves dozens of lives, Clark is promoted to homicide detective, and has to navigate the murky politics of police work, especially when dealing with the devious senior detective Tony Arroyo ("True Blood's" Kevin Alejandro).
"Golden Boy”—using the effective storytelling device patented by that other CBS hit, "How I Met Your Mother”—is a plot-driven drama that mercifully uses the homicides as a backdrop to explore the lives of the protagonists AKA the people we actually care about.
Clark is the archetype that this genre loves: an arrogant, trigger-happy rookie that has the intelligence, perception and dumb luck to back it up, even if he’s all fight and no finesse. He was saddled with a "junkie mother" and a "mobbed-up father" and had to fight like a dog to get ahead.
Led by James, (who looks like James Franco’s edgier brother), and supported by the always awesome Chi McBride, an actor that could bring a gritty gravitas to a Cialis commercial, Golden’s debut has all of the pieces of superior cop show. Future episodes will determine if they are successfully assembled.
Unlike CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” where all of the characters are varying degrees of squeaky clean, Clark and his partner McBride’s Owen seem capable of profound good and staggering bad. The future scenes, where an older, more polished Commissioner Clark is being interviewed, entice the audience by touching upon the loss he’s endured in the seven years since he made detective, and teases a grisly murder-suicide involving Owen and Arroyo. The interviewer wonders what kind of man he is. “Inside me, there are two dogs at war: one good, one evil,” Clark ominously begins, and we have to wonder which one won.
“Golden Boy” is a about the battle between a "master politician" and a "savvy cop," the past and future, good and evil. With strong writing, clever production, and capable cast, I think this dog is more bite than bark.
Get Golden on Tuesdays on CBS at 10 pm EST.