After viewers got a look at TNT”s new crime drama series, King and Maxwell (Mondays at 10 EDT), they evidently decided it’s watchable but not a must-see. The customer is definitely right in this instance. After pulling in 3.5 million live-plus-same-day viewers in its first week, the show drew 2.8 million for last week’s episode. That 20 percent drop is far from catastrophic in itself, but the show’s lackluster performance reflects something more fundamental: personable actors wasted in weak execution of an uninspired concept with weak screenplays.
The show centers on two D.C.-based private detectives who used to be U.S. Secret Service agents. It’s based on a series of novels by David Baldacci, which I have not read, and good shows have been based on weaker foundations. Unfortunately, King and Maxwell seems to have been assembled with reference to all the current cliches of TV crime drama. For example: Romin’s character, Michelle Maxwell, is athletic, attractive though now middle-aged, smart, and practical. In this regard she is all too reminiscent of characters such as Jane Rizzoli in TNT”s Rizzoli and Iles, Ziva David in NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigation Service, Fiona Glenanne in Burn Notice, and countless others.
Maxwell evinces a rather superior attitude toward Tenney’s character, Sean King, who is troubled and somewhat thoughtful, the introvert to Maxwell’s extravert—another crime drama cliche pairing. King was fired from the Secret Service after the presidential candidate he was guarding was assassinated—though it turned out that he was set up as the fall guy in a conspiracy (another cliche). He then went into an emotional downward spiral and became an alcoholic (another cliche) until he was rescued by his lawyer. The central character with a complicated and troubled personal life is, of course, a staple of contemporary crime dramas—and I, for one, wish it weren’t.
The two central characters engage in the occasional spot of banter with each other, though not much wit is shown—nor, oddly, much affection. King and Maxwell are both single (another common element among protagonists of contemporary crime dramas), and they’re both quite appealing, which makes it seem rather odd that they don’t go at it like a couple of rabbits recently released from long stints in solitary confinement. In a British cop show they certainly would, which is a cliche of its own across the Pond. Another reason to be proud to be an American.
The Quirky Assistant character is Edgar Roy, an autistic savant who was once suspected of being a serial killer. Also in the mix are two FBI agents, Rigby and Carter, who dislike private detectives butting their noses into crimes that the agents see as being the government’s exclusive business (cliche) and hence continually make trouble for the two detectives (cliche). Although it’s far from original, this aspect of the show does have a good deal of resonance these days, when the government seems to have its hand in everything and public officials and police seem to assume that no one has a right to do anything without their permission.
That element, though far from unique in contemporary crime drama, could make King and Maxwell more interesting in the weeks to come. That would work to the show’s advantage, as does the fact that cable networks are more patient about allowing new series sufficient time to find their audience. If the detectives were a little less ordinary, this could be a nice time-waster.