Tuned In: CBS police drama 'Golden Boy' a sophisticated and complex tale

It tweaks the cop genre with flash forwards and more layered characters

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The CBS cop drama "Golden Boy" (10 p.m. Tuesday, KDKA-TV) tweaks the traditional police show to make this new prime-time entry significantly better than many broadcast network series.

"Golden Boy" is more complex than what viewers often see on many CBS hour-long shows. It does not display the verisimilitude of, say, TNT's "Southland" but "Golden Boy" offers more sophisticated storytelling than CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" or "Criminal Minds."

'Golden Boy'

When: 10 p.m. Tuesday and March 5, then moves to 9 p.m. Friday on March 8, CBS.

Starring: Theo James, left, and Chi McBride.

Airing in the "Vegas" time slot of 10 p.m. Tuesday for two weeks -- don't worry, "Vegas" fans, your show returns March 12 -- "Golden Boy" will migrate to 9 p.m. Friday on March 8, replacing "CSI: NY," which had its season (series?) finale on Friday.

For "Golden Boy," British actor Theo James (BBC America's "Bedlam") sheds all vestiges of his native accent to play New York cop Walter Clark Jr.

In Tuesday's pilot, viewers see Clark take out a robber and save his partner in a case that sets him on a course to become the youngest police commissioner of New York City seven years later.

"Golden Boy" flashes forward seven years at the beginning and end of each episode to show the older Clark and how he's been influenced by his past, which plays out in the bulk of the episode that's set in the present day.

Executive producer Greg Berlanti ("Everwood," "Arrow") used a similar framing device on the short-lived WB drama "Jack & Bobby." It's a nice touch that gives "Golden Boy" a grander sense of scope even as the heart of the show is set in the police procedural present familiar to executive producer Nicholas Wootton, a veteran of "NYPD Blue."

After Clark's heroics, police department leaders offer him the posting of his choice. He wants to be a homicide detective and he's assigned to work with a veteran officer, Don Owen (Chi McBride, "Pushing Daisies"), who's only two years away from retirement.

Clark, getting ahead of himself, doesn't think this is good enough and tries to trade up. That doesn't fly and now he's offended Owen. Clark also attempts to bond with Detective Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro, "Southland") but quickly discovers Arroyo is a snake.

The "Golden Boy" pilot definitely makes Clark out to be an ambitious, potentially ruthless character. His relationship with his wayward sister, Agnes (Stella Maeve), seems like an attempt to up his likability factor but the second episode more strongly suggests he's a well-meaning guy at his core. (His niceness gets slathered on a bit thick in episode two, as if you can see notes from CBS executives insisting that Clark be softened.)

Clark is observant and has smart instincts but he's impulsive and careless. This brings him into conflict with Owen, who has the makings of a terrific teacher if Clark can cool his hothead impulses. And Clark's eagerness forces Owen to up his game.

"You got into this squad on your guts but it's patience and maturity that will get you to belong," Owen tells Clark. "You've got neither. Learn 'em or get out, junior."

The scenes between Mr. James and Mr. McBride make "Golden Boy" shine. The pair have a terrific father-son, veteran-newcomer chemistry that deepens every scene they share.

In addition to softening Clark in episode two, the Arroyo character gets hardened. It's as if CBS executives didn't trust their instincts when they ordered "Golden Boy," a more nuanced show for the network, and then went flailing about to make the series more black and white and less gray. This doesn't ruin "Golden Boy" but it is a disappointing backpedal from a promising premiere.

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Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published February 24, 2013 5:00 AM


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