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Feb 25, 2015   Comments Off on ‘Battle Creek’ Review: Good Characters, Hopeful Future Battle Creek, News and rumors

When it comes to the art of procedurals, no production entity has the model more locked down than CBS, and one of its most prevalent factors is in the way it treats the first season of any new show in the genre. Instead of taking the typical approach of introducing characters in the pilot right before diving headfirst into deep background that may come at an audience too much too fast, the eye instead opts for an approach that essentially amounts to making 6-12 episodes of just more pilots. By using this method of repeated first act storytelling over and over again, a new audience can jump in mid-way through a first season and not be entirely lost concerning specific relationships, and this is exactly the kind of approach that was needed for the network’s latest venture, Battle Creek.

Created by House’s David Shore (who also serves as showrunner) and Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan, Battle Creek centers on the police force tasked with protecting the Michigan town of its namesake. Unfortunately, due to a less than top-ranking among the finest areas in the country, law-enforcement is hopelessly outdated from an equipment perspective – especially to the dismay of Detective Russ Agnew. Luckily for the force (but to the further dismay of Agnew), everything changes when the F.B.I. opens a satellite office in the city of Battle Creek, headed by the recently transferred and uptight Agent Milton Chamberlain.

The best way to think about Battle Creek from the perspective of it having Vince Gilligan’s name attached to the creator credit (Gilligan wrote the original script for the series in the early 00s, prior to Breaking Bad’s creation) is to compare it to Shawn Ryan’s post-Shield career. When the famed writer departed FX and moved to Fox and CBS for Lie to Me and The Unit, many expected him to carry along the gruff, hardcore exterior found within the series that put him on the map. But, what die-hard fans got instead was a Shawn Ryan that understood the playing field he was in. No one could openly swear or be too morally ambiguous (at first) because he wasn’t writing for basic cable anymore. If one’s going into Battle Creek expecting Breaking Bad on CBS, they’re going to be sorely disappointed and actually wind up missing out on what’s otherwise a series full of extremely well crafted personalities and a lot of potential.

It may lack Gilligan’s moral ambiguity and, at times (in the initial episodes), try to imitate Breaking Bad’s shooting style of random close-ups on obscure, inanimate objects, but the new series does come to the table with the kind of well constructed identities one would expect from both him and David Shore – who, in fact, brings his own set of strengths to the table. House, for all its excellence, was still a medical procedural by definition, and that’s what makes Shore a great choice to command the ship that is Battle Creek. While it may contain characters not as ground-breaking as the pill popping doctor with a limp, Shore’s able to subtly slip in moments of character development while working to establish the premise of the series over and over again until being fully hammered home. By doing so, the series is able to keep audiences engaged just enough to keep going until the big reveal comes – and if the progression of the first six episodes is any indication, that first big reveal is indeed coming by the finale.

Most shows are not in Battle Creek’s situation of having two of the hottest names in television coming off two of the most iconic series in history that allow a network to easily grant a direct to series 13-episode order, but that doesn’t mean the show doesn’t take full advantage of its reality. Instead of trying to cram way too much story and serialized plot into a pilot, the show instead just works in the beginning to establish characters, and that makes them interesting, which in turn makes the show interesting. The whys and whats of the premise will come out over time, but for now, what CBS has is a winning formula with a crew that knows how to get things done.

Battle Creek premieres Sunday, March 1st at 10/9c on CBS. [Source]

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