March 1, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Battle Creek”


BATTLE CREEK:  Sunday 10PM on CBS – Change the Channel

While not the worst show of the season, BATTLE CREEK may well be the most disappointing.  The light procedural combines the talents of two of TV’s premier writer/showrunners, Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan and House‘s David Shore, with a cast that includes Josh Duhamel, Dean Winters, Janet McTeer (!) and Kal Penn–just to amp up the pedigree some more, the pilot was directed by X-Men auteur Bryan Singer–and all of them together have brought forth an hour that would be considered piffle on USA Network.

The premise is the nine trillionth repeat of the one about mismatched buddy cops.  In fading Battle Creek, Michigan, the town’s leading detective is old-school, street-smart, by-the-gut Russ Agnew (Winters), who is appalled by the arrival of a satellite FBI office that consists of high-tech glamour boy Milton Chamberlain (Duhamel).  Would it surprise you to know that Chamberlain is a stickler for rules and perpetually camera-ready, while Agnew’s wardrobe is disheveled and his facial expression is a constant snarl?  That these two polar opposites end up as partners, and that each of them turns out to have strengths that complement the other’s, making them a formidable team?  If any of that seems like a delightful twist, you may be the audience for Battle Creek.

The routine murder solved in Battle Creek‘s pilot is nothing compared to the mystery of how so much talent managed to create something so forgettable.  The pilot tries to create some interest as to just why a showcase detective like Chamberlain has been banished to the eyesore of Battle Creek, but never makes the puzzle very compelling.  To be sure, there’s some minor entertainment value here, probably an inevitability given the high level of the cast and writers.  Duhamel and Winters are accomplished in performing their respective clichés (Duhamel has a real gift for fatuousness), and McTeer and Penn bring some color to their sketchy supporting roles on the force, but everyone is operating at perhaps a quarter of their capacity.  The show feels like something the cast and crew put together in their off-hours, when they weren’t working on their real projects.

Certainly if any broadcast network can provide a welcoming home for Battle Creek it’s CBS, and it’s no worse a fit with lead-in The Good Wife than CSI and The Mentalist have been.  Perhaps it will draw an audience, as the network’s other procedurals do.  Watching the series, though, mostly provokes an overwhelming frustration at the waste, the godawful waste.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."