[07/25/12 - 08:18 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Golden Boy" (CBS)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Nick Wootton; directed by Richard Shepard; TRT: 42:29)

The network's description: "GOLDEN BOY is a drama about the meteoric rise of an ambitious cop who becomes the youngest police commissioner in the history of New York City, and the high personal and professional cost he pays to achieve it. As he's interviewed for a story about his career, Walter William Clark, Jr. (Theo James) flashes back on his hard-fought journey from street kid to the most powerful man in law enforcement. After only three years as a beat cop, Clark's heroics on the job make him bold enough to ask for and receive the unheard - of promotion to Homicide Detective, angering the members of his new department who are eager to see him fail. Clark's disappointed to be partnered with veteran Detective Don Owen (Chi McBride), a gruff lifer just two years shy of retirement. He would rather team with First Grade Detective Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro), the alpha dog in the squad who's just as ambitious as Clark, but without a moral center.

Arroyo's partner is Detective Deborah McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville), a tough third-generation cop and the only female detective in the unit. Also on the team is Detective Joe Diaco (Holt McCallany), well-connected with tremendous resources which Clark might find useful. Though laser-focused on moving up the ladder, Clark's soft spot is serving as the sole caregiver and supporter of his sister, Agnes (Stella Maeve), a teenager demonstrating increasingly dangerous behavior. Keenly observant and politically savvy, the Golden Boy bases his career decisions solely on his need to succeed as quickly as possible, and he'll find that his epic journey will be filled with consequences. Greg Berlanti, Emmy Award winner Nicholas Wootton and Richard Shepard, who directed the pilot, are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television."

What did they leave out? Ryan Phillippe was originally cast in the lead role before subsequently bowing out and being replaced with Theo James.

The plot in a nutshell: "You a master politician or just a savvy cop?" a reporter (Richard Kind) asks 34-year-old William Clark, Jr. (Theo James), the youngest police commissioner in the history of New York City. For the answer, we go back seven years to the heroics of a then 27-year-old Clark, who as a patrolman improbably manages to take down two armed gunmen and resuscitate his partner, all despite being shot himself. Lauded as a hero cop, he's rewarded with a gold shield and an assignment of his choosing. Much to everyone's surprise he selects the city's homicide task force, home to some of the most experienced and respected cops in the department.

With only three years under his belt, Clark is bound to look foolish in said company. He nevertheless presses for the job, his eyes filled with ambition. And so, as expected, Clark finds himself the odd man out at his new post at the 39th Precinct, tasked with cases "so cold not even the cold squad will touch it" and support duty to the resident supercops: Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro), Deb McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville) and Joe Diaco (Holt McCallany). His only friend, if you can call it that, is his new partner - the amusingly sardonic Don Owen (Chi McBride, doing his Chi McBride thing) - who's counting his days until retirement and advises Clark to watch, listen and keep his hands in his pockets.

This of course isn't good enough for our eager Detective Clark, who manages to elbow his way into Arroyo and McKenzie's latest high profile case: Treshon Clay, an NYU scholarship kid who was shot at an Upper West Side nightclub. Said efforts quickly brand him as a pariah with Owen as Clark appears ready to trade anything to climb the department ladder. The only thing that seems to bump Clark: his sister Agnes (Stella Maeve), whose choice to move in with her "smack peddling drummer junkie" boyfriend Jackson (Nick Kowalczyk) troubles him. Ultimately, Clark proves he's got the skills to run with the big boys, even if some rules have to be bent to do it. The cost of his hubris though, while low at the moment, will prove to be - as evidenced by our closing visit back to 34-year-old Clark - far more than he could imagine.

What works: It's got a genuinely compelling hook, an interesting lead in Brit Theo James and a distinctive take on the usual procedural machine. Sure it's more or less cops solving crimes as usual, but there's an added dimension in that there's a constant moral accounting go on. The show for instance twice references the fable that there are two dogs inside every man: one's good, one's evil. The one who wins is the one you feed the most. Clark then is frequently seen feeding the latter, questioning a suspect when he's ordered not to, breaking into another's to find clues and so forth, all in the name of the greater good and his unbridled ambition. It's an appealing morality play, especially when coupled with its "Jack & Bobby"-esque bookends that drop hints about what's to come.

Credit goes to James for holding all of the above together, somehow making Clark likeable despite his prideful tendencies and giving gravitas to their origins, with McBride and Alejandro servings as his figurative dogs: the former's Owen routinely pokes holes in Clark's ego ("What am I Morgan Freeman?" he quips as reporters catch Clark on his first day on the job. "Open your own damn door.") and calls him out on his unsavory choices; and latter's Arroyo is brimming with the type of haughtiness that appeals to Clark's darker leanings. Collectively, they give a unique edge to the proceedings, one that's more than welcome to the procedural genre.

What doesn't: I only wish the case of the week was stronger. The culprit presents him/herself early and with little restraint, making it less of a who-done-it and more of a how-can-we-prove-it. While the point is to ask how far Clark will go to do just that, I hoped for a more memorable foe - this being his first homicide case and all - and not the usual cipher. By that same token, Somerville's McKenzie and McCallany's Diaco both surprisingly get little to do while Maeve's Agnes is presented more as a touchstone for Clark to hold onto rather than an actual character. Here's hoping they get more to do going forward, considering the strength of the principals.

The bottom line: A solid start to what could be a great series.

  [july 2012]  


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