Yes, I really like "Battle Creek," the terrific CBS show that debuts Sunday (March 1). Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
On a network that's
been overrun with cops and crooks, can “Battle Creek” stand out?
Probably. The show
has a comfy time slot – 10 p.m. Sundays, starting this weekend –
and a big build-up. It also has key differences, starting with its
Other cop shows have
focused on big cities; by comparison, Battle Creek, Mich., is a town
of 52,000. “If anything, it's higher stakes,” said
producer-writer David Shore. “Everything is a lot more personal.”
But not typical.
“Some of the crimes you see are ones you wouldn't see on any other
show,” said Josh Duhamel, who stars with Dean Winters.
The second episode,
for instance, is entitled “Syruptitious”; it's about a
maple-syrup ring. The sixth, “Cereal Killers,” starts at the
city's annual “world's longest breakfast table” celebration.
There's droll humor
here, in a variation on the standard buddy-cop show shows. “They're
not buddies – to say the least,” Shore said. They are:
-- Russ, a police
detective, rumpled and skeptical, using faulty equipment and good
instincts. He's played by Winters, who's used to being banged around
as Mayhem in insurance commercials.
-- Milt, a newly
arrived FBI man, blessed with perfection in looks and in technical
back-up. He's played by Duhamel, who fits neatly. “Josh is a pretty
man,” Shore said.
They were envisioned
12 years ago by writer Vince Gilligan. “I was thinking about the
time-honored trope of putting opposites together,” he said.
The Battle Creek
setting was sort of arbitrary, he granted. “I was fascinated by
the name, because it's got the words 'battle' in it,” he said. “And
yet they make cereal there.”
“battle” it was named for was minor – four people involved, one
wounded – but Battle Creek has bigger claims to fame. It had the
first headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventists. It was where corn
flakes were created, spawning the Kellogg and Post giants. It was key
to the Underground Railroad; Sojourner Truth spent her final 16 years
in Battle Creek, which has a giant statue to her.
Some of that was
discovered gradually by Shore (“House”) who is in charge, now
that Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”) is busy with “Better Call Saul.”
The “Battle Creek” show is filmed in California, but Shore and
some of the actors took field trips to the town they were portraying.
Kal Penn, whose
parents emigrated from India, was “surprised by how diverse it is.”
Duhamel, who grew up in a similar-sized town (Minot, N.D.) was
surprised to find a unit for gang-related crimes.
Both talked about
the overall charm. “It's really beautiful, especially in the
downtown,” Duhamel said.
Shore (who grew up
in London, Ontario) agreed. “I've always loved middle-Americans,”
he said. “They've had hard times, but they remain optimistic, they
Duhamel, as Milt,
seems to fit that mood; Winters, as Russ, provides counterpoint.
Duhamel calls Winters “a New York City kid who has an edge. He grew
up completely different than me.”
Now they play cops,
with Penn (“House”) and others, including Janet McTeer as the
police commander. “The main reason I'm doing the job, obviously, is
that these guys had all been cast and they said, 'We have to have
someone who's as tall as us,'” McTeer joked.
She's 6-foot-1 and
regal, a British star with two Oscar nominations. Winters is 6-1 1/2;
Duhamel is 6-3 1/2 and married to rock star Fergie. They're big
people, in a fictional version of little Battle Creek.
-- “Battle Creek,”
10 p.m. Sundays, CBS, starting March 1