King and Maxwell: Mondays at 10p.m. Eastern on TNT
Since the turn of the millennium, has there been a more dominant sub-genre of drama on television than the crime procedural? Since 2000 alone, our strongest drama franchises have almost exclusively been in the genre, including CSI (and it’s two spin offs), Law and Order (and its two spinoffs), and NCIS (and its’ spinoff). One subsection of the drama that has been immune to this boom, however, are your private investigator driven shows, an 80’s staple that included such standout hits as Magnum P.I., Simon and Simon, and Murder, She Wrote. It is in that tradition that TNT draws inspiration for it’s newest show, King and Maxwell.
King and Maxwell follows the cases of two former secret service agents who became private investigators: the rational and even headed Sean King (John Tenney) and the cluttered and impulsive Michelle Maxwell. Both became private investigators after missions went horribly wrong (a candidate that King protected was assassinated, while Maxwell’s charge was kidnapped). The two then work together to solve crimes in legally questionable fashion while clashing with the FBI over their methods, leading to a slightly more dysfunctional version of the “case of the week” model.
Tonight’s episode opens with a car chase where Maxwell chased down a suspect driving a bus in a beaver suit to a government building. After being cornered and pointing a gun at Maxwell, King arrests him with the aid of a trusty laser pointer. Ultimately, this lands our titular duo in jail, as they used some **ahem** extralegal methods to catch our criminal. They leave the jail to find that a serial killer’s lawyer was murdered last night.
After confirming Ted’s death, Sean goes to the prison to speak to Edgar Roy, the serial killer in question, while Michelle goes to check out Ted’s house. Both encounter resistance, as Sean can’t get Edgar to speak, while Michelle has to break in and ends up getting shot at while looking for evidence. Our FBI harpies then return to harass our private investigator squad to break the news that Roy has broken out of jail.
Maxwell and King then set off to investigate a defense contractor tied to Roy. This ultimately leads them to an abandoned overpass, where they get into a fight with the contractor’s heavies, before leaving to get answers from an informant and for King to pore over the data, only for King to end up assaulted by a mysterious interloper. The data comes together leading to King and Maxwell meeting Edgar at “The Wall”. After a confrontation, we find out that Ted’s assistant was a mole, leading to our big finish. Finally, King and Maxwell take on Edgar as their bookkeeper.
Now you may think to yourself: that sounds like a lot of action for the procedural genre! Unfortunately, this show cuts corners with the effects budget, such as in our obviously CG’d car chase. Additionally, many of our settings look sparse, including a surprisingly tourist free downtown DC (that for that matter doesn’t really look like DC), a “prison” that looks like an empty warehouse (where one learns that guard-free late night visits in dark rooms are possible – which looks even more ridiculous when you consider that the show visits a more realistic looking police station halfway through the show. There’s also a terrible fight scene where there are more swings and misses than a pitcher’s duel.
The writing also feels mediocre. While the advertising and explicit exposition are supposed to make Maxwell into an aggressive type-A hothead who thinks in the moment, while King is a wily trickster who uses deception, subterfuge, and enjoys the finer things in life. Unfortunately at times the two tend to blend into each other, as we tend to see very little of either the hothead or the wonk in either of these characters. Even worse however, is the writing for our FBI interlopers, particularly Inspector Rigby (Michael O’ Keefe), who is often stuck with the most ridiculous of put-downs and slams (including one about looking for lost dogs). His partner Agent Carter instead gets every canned, banal, detective quote in the book.
It’s a shame that the the show looks like a B-movie and is written in a mediocre fashion, because the actors are really forced to struggle to carry the weight. Both Tenney and Romijn play the mismatched buddy cop partnership very well, often bickering like a married couple, occasionally over the stupidest things (such as a Michelle’s messy rowboat and tendency to shower with the door open). Ryan Hurst does a convincing job playing Edgar Roy, a difficult job, considering that he has to juggle the complexities of Edgar’s high functioning autism who happens to have seen more than his fair share of things that you couldn’t unsee. O’Keefe tries his hardest to channel Rigby’s stern and tight demeanor, but unfortunately seems like he’s on the verge of corpsing through most of his lines.
The Final Verdict: King and Maxwell is fairly serviceable as far as private eye procedurals go, but ultimately does a lot of the little things just wrong enough that it feels like watching an old sci-fi movie and see the strings hanging onto the spaceships. If you can somehow muscle your way through all of the corner cutting, you end up with a show that ends up throwing just enough twists and turns for you (there’s one section at the end where the conflicting mindsets of our principle characters nearly gets them killed) to stay less predictable than the case of the week format usually provides you. The end result is a show that could be watchable if they focus on chemistry in future episodes but becomes unwatchable the minute it throws any action sequence at you.