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Common Law: Characters Welcome; Plot, Use the Back Door

Common Law S01E01: “Pilot”

I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be easier for everyone if detectives Wes Mitchell and Travis Marks just requested new partners. According to their co-workers, in the past, the duo have derailed cases by arguing over testimony details in court, come to physical blows with such regularity that when it happened in the office during the pilot, everyone in the immediate vicinity just kind of shrugged and went back to work, and finally, apparently, Wes once pulled a gun on Travis for reasons we haven’t been made privy to yet.

It was that last incident that prompted their boss, Captain Phil Sutton, to force them into couples counseling to mend their failing work relationship—and it was during a group therapy session that we first met Wes and Travis. The “are they or aren’t they a gay couple” joke would have been funnier if: 1.) We didn’t already know the premise of the show going into the pilot thanks to every promo for the series currently on television and 2.) those jokes about how gay couples in therapy are weird and straight couples in therapy are standard were actually, you know, funny. The introductory Dr. Phil quote also made me cringe because, well, it’s Dr. Phil.

Common Law’s pilot definitely had some issues to overcome; I won’t even try to argue that it didn’t. While I thought the commercials for the show looked awesome from the start, the premise itself—two detectives forced into couples counseling to save their careers—made me cringe, and one of my biggest concerns is that the joke the entire series rests on will get really old really fast. I was already somewhat over it by the end of their first session, but the introduction of Jack McGee as the detectives’ quirky, therapy-loving, TMI-sharing boss at least justified it. In the real world, the two clashing partners would have probably been reassigned but in USA Network’s sunny version of the LAPD, extenuating workplace circumstances made the situation somewhat believable. I mean, in the real world, White Collar’s Neal Caffrey would have been dragged back to prison at least four times by now.

USA prides itself on developing compelling characters, and everything else about a series is almost relegated to an afterthought. Common Law is no different. In the pilot, Wes and Travis had a case to solve, but it was hardly the most interesting aspect of the show. A judge’s former-heroin-addict son was found stabbed to death in an area known to be frequented by dealers. His brother’s Boy Scout knife was found nearby and witnesses claimed that the two had an argument prior to his death and the good son told the prodigal son that he wished he would just die and spare the family from his repeated rehab-related drama. All evidence pointed to the brother, but Wes and Travis are super detectives who, despite their animosity toward one another, work really well together.

You know, when one isn’t throwing the other through a window in their Captain’s office.

Michael Ealy and Warren Kole were absolutely fun to watch and their characters are, for now, enough to keep me interested. The case itself was standard cop-show stuff and could have easily been exchanged with any other case on any other procedural series, but Wes and Travis were developed quickly and efficiently during their introductory episode: Wes is an ex-lawyer who joined the police force after sending an innocent man to prison. He’s a neat freak who doesn’t like it when Travis eats in his car. He compulsively cares for his lawn when something is bugging him. Travis was left on the steps of a fire hall as an infant and the firefighter who found him named him after the Cabbage Patch doll that was left with him. Don’t say “aww.” Travis hates when people say “aww.” (I said “aww.”) He’s the chilled-out alternative to Wes’s uptight personality and the unofficial ladies' man of the partnership.

The counseling scenes were certainly the highlight of this episode, if only because they allowed Wes and Travis to pick at each other and reveal all of their fun little personality quirks without forcing it. Hopefully the cases will catch up to the rest of the show, but in the meantime, I could do with less Dr. Phil and more epic bromance.


Case Notes and Follow-up Questions

1. “Why do you work with this guy?” “One therapist says I’m attracted to abusive relationships.” It shows, Travis. It really really shows.

2. “Psychobabbling sociopaths.” Nice.

3. The Travis Marks approach to talking a suicidal individual off the ledge: “Should’ve picked a higher building. Might end up a vegetable. You’d LIVE. But you’d be a vegetable.”

4. Do you think the couples counseling angle will get old? Is it already old?

5. General thoughts and concerns? Travis’s trailer was pretty cool, right?

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I thought the plot was great, a Starsky & Hutch in therapy. Most buddy cop shows are boring and focus too much on car chases, shootouts, etc., instead of the friendship of the cops. Starsky & Hutch (1975) was WAY ahead of its time in exploring this, as was Route 66 (1962). Shows like Houston Knights had the same theme -- cops who hated each other eventually became best friends - but they did not explore the emotional angle. Even fantasy shows like Merlin have found out that the way to keep the audience is not by action but by bromance.



Suggestion to the writers -- don't make this all comedy because it won't last. Add drama such as plots involving their pasts, let them take a bullet for one another, let them have a serious talk once and awhile instead of always smashing through plate glass windows. If you do, you will have a winner! Remember, the key is bromance, not comedy.

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1. And that's what it'll provide. Quotables that I'll scribble down somewhere and memorize so that I can casually toss them out there during real life conversations and sound witty and fun.

2.See 1.

3. See. 2

4. I think it was old before it was ever young. And yet...it works somehow. It's brainless fodder that will amuse me on a friday night after a week's worth of gritty, action packed, and gruesome crime shows. It works. They throw in every cliche about therapy, about relationships..about everything and they do it with bordering on cheesy one liners. And it works.



5. It's not nearly as charming and sexy as White Collar. It isn't as witty and intelligent as Suits. It's not as real and blunt as In Plain Sight. Nor is it as somewhat actiony and cute as Covert Affairs...but it works. It's not brain food. It's not something you'll miss if it's gone but it's something you'll sort of enjoy while it's here because it's mindless tv pleasure. And Michael Ealy and Warren Kole are pretty. It's fun to watch pretty people. And it's a classic odd couple arrangement...those are fun. And the lines are so cheesy that they are hilarious...and they bicker like a married couple...so they've told us a million times in 48 minutes...but it's fun. It's fun. That's what it promises...it promises fun. So I'll keep watching it because it makes me smile.
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I think this show needs as much therapy as it's characters do! The only reason I finished the pilot was because I was invested in seeing if they could pull it off/ come together.



Michael Ealy was a mess! Really I slept with everyone and can't get beyond myself. He was like a low rent Mike Lowery (Bad Boys) . I think the guy probably has potential as an actor, but the way that character is written, the show won't last.



Oh well, USA has a lot of shows I can't stomach, so I'll add this to the list
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i liked it, like... a lot, i truly and thoroughly enjoyed it, i wonder why can't we just watch a show and just enjoy it because it's fun anymore, i mean yeah ok same formula, true, but... so what?, you know?, it is fun to watch, you laugh, you have action, cool characters in my opinion, and well acted i thought, i mean you believed Michael Ealy and Warren Kole were those guys. Again i might be like 110% wrong here but why can't we just enjoy a show anymore?, we just start thinking "oh no, it's so formulaic", or "seen it before", or "cliche", or "script was weak", this is just me, but wasn't part of watching tv having fun?, watching something that put a smile on our faces, just yknow, forget about everything for those 45 minutes?, instead of just enjoying shows a lot of people now have forgone just having fun watching, traded (again) having fun watching for criticizing, yknow sometimes when you're taking a picture of something, at a wedding graduation or whatever, and you want to capture that moment when whoever turns and looks at his/her family and waves from up there?, and you want to capture that moment?, and we miss enjoying the moment because we were looking at the camera just so we could get it right (i know i know, kinda long), with shows it's the same, well at least i think, we waste time looking for cliches instead of just sitting back and actually enjoying. y'know how they say the web has made critics of us all?. Remember those times when you started watching a show and then you snapped back into reality and realized you'd been sitting there for almost an hour with a grin on your face because the show was so good? (and we know not all shows in the last decade have been good), that's how i think it should be. Again, this is just me and i'm probably dead wrong, just my two cents, later :)
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I agree. And it's on a good night. After a week of intense crime shows, and confusing legal shows, and gut wrenching doctor shows,and headache inducing supernatural shows...sometimes it's nice to just watch something so simple and so fun, and that doesn't involve thinking so much. It's like a tv show that gives you a break from tv shows. And the actors are cool. I like them both. It promised a fun odd couple premise with a bromance that involved two guys on equal footing for a change with their own serious and sort of tragic backgrounds, witty lines and repitoires and it delivered what it promised. I like that. I like the show. I'll keep watching. and I agree with you.
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I agree, it was fun, in spite of some of the annoying crap we had to endure. Bad premise not well executed but really great fun. Thought I was going to hate it five minutes in, and my wife who hates everthing was ready to pounce, having already fired off several rounds over its head. But then it just clicked and we both just thought it was fun, because it was, good call...
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YES! the trailer was the coolest thing on the show! it's not that i didn't like the show, i just loved the trailer that much
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I thought it was pretty weak, the concept could be funny...but the pilot just didn't grab me, in fact it bored the crap out of me. Oh and I don't like the character that Mercedes Masom (sp?) plays. She comes off as a weak ditzy girl where as I feed that the actress is a strong capable woman. It's just not suitable.
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This is like the movie other guys, stereotypical casting

looks funy but just not interesting, had to switch half way thru, just couldn't hold the interest!
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I liked it. USA knows how to give is great characters and these two really work with the premise of the story.
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Once again, I think USA has another future hit in their hands. The pilot was pretty good: case-of-the-week was a little cliche, but the characters themselves were very fun to watch. Like USA's log says, "Characters Welcome" and I definitely welcome Travis and Wes. Even their Captain and Shrink had me going a little. Well done!
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I wanted to like it since USA is usually reliable for good summer series, but the pilot was weak. Apart from the overplayed cliches of "my 2 best detectives are pains in the ass" or "oh, we thought you were gay..." the script was pretty weak as well. I'll give it another go next week, but if I feel the same way I'll just wait for Burn Notice and Suits to return.
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I will give it a go. I think USA Network has more shows on its schedule that I watch (white collar, Burn Notice, Fairly Legal, Royal Pains, etc.) than any other US Based network so for the quality of the network alone I tend to give their new shows a shot.
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USA does a great job with escapist shows. They develop their own reality and ask you (not demand, like Alcatraz, Terra Nova, Missing, AHS and a plethora of other utterly crap shows) to view it with the knowledge that this is their universe and anything can and usually does happen. You see this well done in Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, Suits, Royal Pains and to a lesser extent, Fairly Legal, Necessary Roughness, Covert Affairs and lastly very very far down in what was In Plain Sight. Things can happen in this world that can't happen in reality and us watching this we tacitly accept this.



Now Common Law for me at least in this early knowledge of the characters and plot is right on the border between a decent USA show and a great one. It is largely going to be dependent on the characters they show us and if we like them or not. We put up with the craziness and absurd reality of Psych because we like Shawn and Gus, same with White Collar and Neil, Burn Notice and Michael, Sam and Fiona. So it is going to depend on whether we can like the characters of Wes And Travis.



And in doing so we have to accept that Travis can shoot a 3/4 of a million dollar car and then shoot one of those stupid fan, blowing in the wind guys (and really who hasn't thought about shooting one or taking a knife and cutting holes in it to make it stop.) And we also accept that Wes was a hugely successful lawyer and apparently gave that up to be a cop. And still has a good relationship with his wife despite divorce and is obsessive about his lawn. But we are also going to have to accept them as duo.



Both characters are kind of trite, there isn't really anything new about them. One is the super serious guy, the other is the rebel. We have seen this time and again in many shows and movies. So the originality of it is going to be lacking. But do they work well. Thus far I would say yea. It is kind of ridiculous, but it hasn't rubbed me the wrong way yet. The key to the series is going to have to be the couples therapy and whether or not they can pull it off.



Now in a way yes and in a way no. The sessions are going to be funny, but will they get annoying. Possibly. I am sure the ride alongs with the doc are going to be hilarious however. But the thing is. I can see too many potential plots within this. I see somewhere along the line that Wes and the Doc are probably going to hook up. Which again is kind of trite and it has been done before. What will ultimately bring people back every week is going to be the interaction of the two detectives.



But for me it is ultimately ends up in a comparison with the rest of USA's shows. And with that I would say is where it shows its weakness. It didn't inspire a must watch feeling in me. Not like the rest have. But it does have potential, it isn't an instant I will not watch this like Necessary Roughness is and In Plain Sight was. I will give it a standard three episodes.



And Travis' trailer was pretty cool. As far as trailers go. Plus Mercedes Mashon from The Finder, however is she going to be on this long, Isn't she supposed to be on an ABC show in the fall





Great Review MaryAnn, thanks.
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I thought it was a weak pilot, especially compared to say the Suits or White Collar - the concept is based on a very tired cliche and nothing in the story / dialogue of the pilot was promising. The case of the week was completely unoriginal so the episode felt really long... The best were the four main characters, I liked them a lot and the chemistry was good... But unless the writing improves I am not sure I'll keep watching.
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i loved it ...would definitely be following it..i even found those psychobabble "dits" not so bad as it gave me clue to whats coming.



Travis is someone u give a warm hug coz it will make him feel better and Wes is like someone you have give a funny hug coz it might make him smile. So the show to me is like how they learn to give each other those hugs while satisfying their quest for justice!.



I need a hug!.
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i thought it was good. Many later on it will be more epic, but for now a good pilot.
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I'll give it a few more episodes. The pilot didn't blow me away but USA shows tend to need a few episodes to really find their voice. Going back and rewatching the Psych pilot makes me cringe even though I love that show and have seen every episode. The only exception has been Covert Affairs, I thought it was a great pilot and has carried its original tone well.
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A decent show, not great not ba, could go either way with time. It has potential to get great but also as said it is edging a line of getting quickly oldin its jokes. However since i lost many shows Awake ( deep drama) The Finder ( yes i Loved and the finale was what theseries should have been all along).... So i ll stick to it and to USA with upcoming returns Suits, White collar, burn notice, Covert affairs, Common law

I guess USA rules my tv summer
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IMO The Finder always felt like it would be a perfect fit for the USA with it's quirky tone and characters, too bad it was on the wrong network...
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I fell asleep while watching it, and yes, it might've been because I was exhausted. But I won't watch it over again with a clear head since the bantering and the story didn't attract me at all.
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I liked it too. I didn't mind the dr. Phil quote that much after the initial cringe - it set the tone for what this show is about. A really idiotic relationship. I thought the characters were good enough to keep watching, I enjoyed the episode. I like their therapist as well, or rather, how they react to her. I would definitely give this one a chance.
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I liked it, it was a great first step towards what could be an awesome tv show
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