CBS Adds To New TV Formula With 'Golden Boy'

Feb 26, 2013
Originally published on February 26, 2013 8:44 am
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Real life crime and court scenarios are often plot lines for television shows. And since there aren't enough new hit dramas this season, CBS is staying competitive with its old standbys, crime procedurals, like "The Mentalist" and "NCIS."

TV critic Eric Deggans says the network is also trying something new, with a show that premieres tonight.

ERIC DEGGANS: In some ways, the new drama "Golden Boy" seems like a serious Hail Mary pass for CBS.

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DEGGANS: Theo James plays Walter Clark Jr., the youngest police commissioner in New York City's history. He was promoted from patrolman to the top job in just seven years. The first episode starts with a flashback, as he trades stories with a newspaper reporter.

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DEGGANS: Once upon a time, CBS had a rule book for cop dramas like "CSI" and "NCIS." Case-of-the-week. Team of crime solvers. Maybe a charismatic older star, like Tom Selleck, Ted Danson or Mark Harmon.

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DEGGANS: On these shows, most stories wrap up in one episode. That makes it easier to air repeats and sell the show in syndication. But "Golden Boy" works differently. At 28, Theo James is a much younger star than 60-somethings like Harmon and Selleck. And even though there's a murder of the week to keep procedural fans happy, every story links back to the bigger tale of how Clark got to the big chair.

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DEGGANS: "Golden Boy" is CBS' attempt to stretch its formula to new places, like the Sherlock Holmes revamp "Elementary" and Dennis Quaid's 1960s crime drama "Vegas." And it couldn't come at a better time.

Rival NBC tried something similar a few weeks ago, with a Jekyll and Hyde remake called "Do No Harm."

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DEGGANS: It debuted with the lowest ratings ever for a new network series, and then it got cancelled. ABC's "Zero Hour" featured Anthony Edwards in his first series role since leaving "ER" 11 years ago. But it got the lowest rating for a new scripted series in that network's history.

So what are people watching on TV these days that isn't football or a reality show? How about flesh-eating zombies?

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DEGGANS: AMC's "The Walking Dead" is a gory drama about a zombie apocalypse. It keeps breaking viewership records with complex, character-driven stories that demand viewers watch, week after week.

Comforting as it may be for TV networks to keep giving us crime-of-the-week shows we can check into at will, those series also draw older viewers advertisers could care less about.

I'm not sure a new drama about New York's youngest police commissioner solves that problem. And I'm certain CBS won't be comforted by the fact that my 70-something mother got hooked on the show after a few preview episodes. But they have to try something. Because the future of network TV just might depend on finding a bridge between the comfort food that used to draw big crowds, and the edgy, explicit work that pulls them in today.

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WERTHEIMER: Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

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