All the way back in 2002, a sheepish “X-Files” writer named Vince Gilligan (future creator of “Breaking Bad”) created a buddy cop show called “Battle Creek” for CBS. In the decade that followed, the script floated off into obscurity, while its writer went on to make one of the most popular television shows of all time.

“Battle Creek”

B
Season 1, Episodes 1-3
CBS
Sundays at 10 p.m.


Now, over a decade and a half later, CBS, Gilligan and David Shore (Emmy-winning creator of “House”) revisit Gilligan’s pilot to deliver a solid, by-the-numbers buddy-cop show whose strength stems from its own lack of ambitions. “Battle Creek” doesn’t reinvent or challenge the “good cop, bad cop” formula of procedurals, but it seeks to embody the conventions in its own style. In that way, it’s akin to a light-hearted, episodic inverse of “True Detective,” with the tough and street-wise cop cast as local detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters, “30 Rock”) who can’t stand his new partner, Special Agent Milt Chamberlain of the FBI, an idealistic do-gooder played by Josh Duhamel (“All My Children”). Both leads have their laughs, working most effectively when they’re together. One of the best scenes in episode three is when Agnew and Chamberlain agree on Chamberlain’s government sanctioned car being “super-duper dope.”

However, they both also have their moments when the more cartoonish sides of their characters stiffened the performances. In episode one, for example, Agnew threatens a suspect by claiming that he and Chamberlain plan to make his life “miserable”, which Chamberlain humorously denies. Although this scene began funny, Duhamel felt wooden when quoting Shakespeare to Agnew — “prick him does he not bleed?” Meanwhile, Winters maintains several solid deliveries and the right voice for humor, but some of his rants and threats feel a bit forced.

While we haven’t spent too much time with the supporting cast, Kal Penn (“Harold and Kumar”) was a great standout as the snarky Detective Fontanelle White. Liza Lapira (“Crazy Stupid Love”) also impressed in episode three when she discovered the truth of Chamberlain’s demotion to Battle Creek. Only three episodes into the series, it’s understandable that the rest of the cast has yet to have any stand out moments, though Holly (Aubrey Dollar, “Weeds”) looks to become more of a principal should the series continue beyond this season.

Right now, it is tough to figure out what direction the show could be heading in. The good thing about using a formula is that even if the variables are in the same place, the values placed into them can yield an immeasurable amount of results. “Battle Creek” could easily become another generic CBS cop show, but the potential promised by Gilligan’s pilot and Shore’s specialty in episodic narrative make “Battle Creek” just interesting enough to keep an eye on.

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