Written by Scott Clifford
As everyone and their mother can tell you, Vince Gilligan is the most respected man on television right now. Not only did Breaking Bad bring television as a medium to another level, but he has also shown that a spin-off series can be just as good with the recent premiere of Better Call Saul. Be thankful AMC, because this show is the only reason I watch your channel on a regular basis. With this in mind, it was interesting to see Gilligan be an executive producer for a police procedural called Battle Creek on CBS with David Shore at the helm. It certainly has a different focus than Breaking Bad but that doesn’t that it’s bad. Of course, it doesn’t mean that it’s good either. Would you like to know more?
Things start off with detectives Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) and Fontanelle White (Kal Penn) working on a bust that goes horribly wrong due to faulty equipment from their underfunded police department. Apparently not much is happening in Battle Creek, Michigan besides cereal production and money is really tight for everyone. This issue is sort of addressed when smooth-talking FBI agent Milt Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) is sent to Battle Creek, along with his special access to federal government resources, to take over investigations for the team. This sets up an almost Odd Couple-ish vibe between Agnew, who is the gruff, straight-talking detective who looks like he sleeps in a bed made of dirt, and Chamberlain’s perfectly smooth persona. While it’s not saying much, Duhamel’s acting is miles ahead of his Transformers persona, and he handles the shifting tones of comedy to drama and then comedy again with ease. Likewise, Winters has always been a good actor in my opinion and it’s nice to see him in something more substantial than those All State commercials.
Unfortunately, White (Kal Penn) and the rest of the cast are practically pushed to the side as Agnew and Chamberlain are constantly one-upping each other while solving a somewhat boring double homicide case. Chamberlain has access to a CSI-like forensics team to investigate the crime scene while Agnew drags White with him to interview witnesses who constantly offer coffee cake. Agnew threatens a drug dealer while Chamberlain calmly tells him that he has access to the NSA’s ability to find what he needs on his cell phone and other embarrassing details. Agnew even attempts to ride the line by getting a witness (a pizza delivery guy who turns out to be the killer) to lie for them while Chamberlain happily wonders what Agnew will do if his plan doesn’t work out. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes are entertaining but if you notice, I don’t really care about the case and that worries me. Things end with the pizza delivery guy being caught with pointing a gun at a drug distributor’s head in his house because he blames him for his sister’s overdose. This causes an on-the-nose monologue from both Agnew and Chamberlain of two very different perspectives in order to get the suspect to drop the gun. They succeed but I can’t help but feel that the scene was written at the last-minute like the scripts I wrote in freshman year that I procrastinated on until they were due on the next day.
There is hope for this show though. Agnew and Chamberlain’s budding bromance looks to be entertaining and I feel that the show recognizes that Kal Penn needs to do more since they at least had him be the one who discovers who the real suspect is by the end of the episode. People who have had access to some of the later episodes have told me that the show does get better and that we need to give it time to settle in. I suppose that we’re going to have to keep an eye on Battle Creek for a few more weeks in order to make an informed decision.