When looking at USA's current crop of original programming, it's easy to see how Monk set the tone and the standard for the cable network. Monk did a lot of things well, among which was tackling heavy topics in a decidedly un-heavy way. Working as a detective, Monk often spent his days surrounded by death and violence, and yet the show managed not to dwell in the gore and the darkness of it all, opting for a lighter tone as opposed to something grittier. Since then, we've seen other shows on the network find the lighter side to serious subjects, while also following USA's character-driven theme. In that respect, Common Law looks like it will fit right in at the network. What's more, it's a fun series and offers glimpses of the kind of buddy-cop dynamic we've seen in films like Lethal Weapon.
Created by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, Common Law stars Michael Ealy and Warren Kole as as Travis and Wes, two police detective partners who function well as detectives, but are polar opposites in personality and can't seem to get along lately. In an effort to get them to resolve their issues, their Captain (Jack McGee) sends them to couples therapy, which has them attempting to sort out their problems in a group therapy scenario. That's where Dr. Ryan (Sonya Walger) comes in, as she's attempting to help them understand each other better.
The pilot episode gives us an indication of how the show will work, as Travis and Wes attempt to solve a murder mystery and also take time out to sit in group and hash out their problems with one another. Between these two focuses, we see that they're actually good cops, and more importantly, they don't hate each other. Quite the opposite, in fact. They come off more like two brothers who know each other especially well and would likely take a bullet for one another, if it came to it. They just can't get along. Travis is the more care-free of the two, often impulsive and occasionally mixing business with pleasure by fraternizing with some of the good-looking women who work at the precinct. Meanwhile, Wes is a compulsively neat, divorced attorney who still associates with his ex-wife. Differences aside, both are likable enough and seem competent at their jobs, despite the occasional bout of bad behavior.
The "grown-ups" in their world are Captain Sutton and Dr. Ryan. Having had a positive experienced in therapy, Sutton genuinely believes that Wes and Travis' couples therapy is just the thing they need to fix their problems. As a fan of Jack McGee from Rescue Me, I'm happy to see him back on television and in another authoritative role. And then there's Sonya Walger, who plays the therapist Dr. Ryan. I get the sense that she's going to have almost as much "power" over Wes and Travis as Sutton does, which could make things interesting. The therapy-twist to the series may be a bit odd, but it's what sets Common Law apart from any other show focused on cops or a cop partnership, and I'm especially interested to see how the cops' relationship is further explored from a marriage perspective.
Common Law's pilot episode has a lot going for it, including great chemistry between Kole and Ealy, which makes Wes and Travis a charming, exciting duo to watch. But I've only seen one episode, and it's hard to say whether that will be enough to carry the show, or how it develops as the series begins to settle into a groove. I do think things get off to a good start and given time, there's definite potential for Common Law to be another great USA series.
Common Law premieres Friday, May 11 at 10:00 p.m. ET on USA.