Thursday, March 16, 2017

Coming Apart in America: How Lethal Weapon on Fox Displayed No Moral Code

What has happened to our critical thinking skills? I ask this as a general question relating to the world around us, but I also must ask this question regarding the very value system we hold. The fact that I must ask these questions regarding television programming may seem silly. After all, does one need critical thinking skills to watch television? I would argue that it would be helpful. We are now a people entertained by a rape culture on Game of Thrones, destruction of the soul via Breaking Bad, overall darkness on everything from Criminal Minds to Law and Order: SVU and let's not forget the heart-tugging pull of cheering on a serial killer in Dexter.

I have worked in media my entire career and I enjoy a good television series. This past year, I enjoyed everything from The Crown on Netflix to This Is Us on NBC, The Americans on FX to Lethal Weapon on FOX.  Please note, there were two reasons I responded at all to Lethal Weapon. Like many people alive over the last thirty years I witnessed all four of the original Lethal Weapon films and to varying degrees they were entertaining. When I heard about Lethal Weapon being licensed as a series last year I noticed Clayne Crawford would be taking on the role of Martin Riggs. Crawford has had an interesting career. He spent much of the last 15 years doing episodic guest-starring roles and it culminated in a significant four year stretch on the Sundance Channel's little seen series, Rectify. Rectify was a deeply conflicted series about life, death (literally), relationships, redemption, love and so much more that constitutes the day to day and the year to year of life itself.

When Lethal Weapon premiered in September, 2016 the pilot was a mindless, but entertaining one hour. I enjoyed it so much, I placed it into the DVR for recording. There, I admit I enjoyed the pilot. The series would move back and forth over the course of season one with some good episodes, but several muddled and bad episodes. Much of the time it was near obvious that some of the writers didn't even know who Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh were. Try watching some of these episodes again. Actually, I wouldn't force anyone to sit through the catastrophic disasters that constitute episodes 10 and 13. In fairness, these two episodes were the worst of the season. Bad guest star acting preceded by misguided writing and throw in some hazardous editing and you have a badly bloodied rendering of what Mel Gibson/Danny Glover/Richard Donner presented as entertainment during the eleven year period from 1987 through 1998.

If you know the back story of Martin Riggs you would know that his wife died suddenly as she was headed to the hospital to deliver her unborn child. Riggs always suspected his wife's death was not an accident. Fair enough. Even though the average person would never think being destroyed by an oncoming truck would be a murder. Riggs though is not your average human and he has worked as a police officer and had his fair share of encounters with the Mexican drug cartels. Ok. We can buy that.

The finale of season one may very well be one of the worst hours of television programming in the last year, if not the last ten years. The finale was not a display of the chaotic wisdom of Martin Riggs. This was a Martin Riggs unleashed from any moral fiber, any sense of a value system, any sense of I am a member of an American law enforcement agency. Hello Venezuela! "Dirty" Harry Callahan, made famous by Clint Eastwood in five films during the 1970's/1980's himself wouldn't have orchestrated such illegal, unethical and highly immoral acts on behalf of justice. Yes, he does let a murderer off the hook in Sudden Impact, but that wasn't this. Charles Bronson glorified vigilantism in a series of Death Wish films, but even his character displayed a sense of calm while doing it and he certainly didn't torture anyone or leave a humans body on a running train track. Yes, our warm and fuzzy Martin Riggs decided to kidnap an assassin (a very bad guy), torture him (although, he only broke a couple of fingers) and then not just kill him, but let him die a splattered death in a subway of Los Angeles. Where is that by the way? Los Angeles is not known for its public transportation system, so maybe that is why no one was anywhere near two of LA's finest while all of this was happening.

The entire season ending episode was over the top. There wasn't a single moment that was believable in the episode. I'd like to know how many people involved in this series in one way or another condemn the "overreach" of law enforcement? How many people involved in this series believe law enforcement agencies are basically racist? Do any of the producers, actors, writers think police officers are violent? Having written that, there is no thought as to the real blue lives working our towns, cities, counties, states and the nation at-large. Let's face it, sophisticated elites in San Francisco, New York and the beltway aren't watching Lethal Weapon.

Has anyone noticed that Riggs and Murtaugh are working in Los Angeles? That's your MAD magazine stupid question of the day. This is a city comprised of 49% of a Hispanic population; and yet the only Hispanic on the entire force is a former gang member portrayed by Richard Cabral and he's not in every episode. Outside of Miranda Riggs (Floriana Lima), who is now deceased, there isn't one redeeming Hispanic on the entire show. Now that we know her father, Ronnie Delgado (Tony Plana) is going to prison that even eliminates him. I looked up the Los Angeles police department and their detectives don't spend nearly as much time on the Mexican drug cartels as this show would have us believe.

Another question for the series team. Does anyone on or involved in this series want to control the border? You can take a guess what those numbers would be. The drugs are going to keep pouring in. If you want to get a realistic portrayal of the evil perpetuated by drug cartels, rent Sicario. By the way, the character portrayed in Sicario by Benicio del Toro is a paid assassin, but we know he's a paid assassin. Martin Riggs he isn't. He isn't a police officer.

Mexican-Americans should be highly offended by this series. The only Mexican-Americans this show knows are cartel members and they all manage to be on the dumb side. As a country, the United States should be so fortunate to have a series of dumb cartel members. Check the heroin/opioid overdoses in the U.S. The folks of West Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio and much of the rest of the country would like to get their family members back.
Lest one think I am being unfair to this show, if you have a brain that works you will know I am not being unfair to the show. This is just some of what happens in the near laughable 44 minutes. See the next paragraph for a wild and fuzzy ride.

Riggs kidnaps an assassin and he does all of this by himself decked out in all black. He shoots everywhere and yet no one gets killed. He blows out the back of a van. He hides the suspect in his illegally parked trailer and then conveniently takes him to a cabin in Lake Arrowhead. It's California and this would take hours to get there, but he's there in a heartbeat. His partner has his phone located and he then is there in moments. Poof! Then the kidnapped suspect gets loose in a second, runs through the woods, gets shot at by Murtaugh and jumps into running rapids full of large rocks. Murtaugh says no one can survive this. Sure. Guess who we see again? Surprised yet? Then we find out Riggs' father-in-law knew about this all along. What the heck? Why do that? We liked Ronnie Delgado. The writers destroyed any semblance of Miranda's family with one awful moment. Why on earth would they do that? Riggs gets kidnapped. Murtaugh gets kidnapped. Riggs manages to get past four members of a Mexican drug cartel with a piece of tin foil 1/3rd the size of his index finger and by the way, none of the Mexican drug cartel members appear to be from Mexico. We even seemingly have someone who appears to be of Chinese descent involved. Riggs goes to Mexico. Yes, he goes to Mexico to kill a drug cartel leader and Murtaugh follows him there. These guys never call for back-up. Of course, now that they are doing something illegal, they can't. These are Los Angeles police detectives. This is all against the law and neither of these individuals would survive any of this. James Bond and all of his gadgets wouldn't survive any of this. Lest I forget, Riggs calls the cartel leader to explain that when he kills him (so, he will commit murder and manage to be away from his job for days at a time - where are the tax dollars going?) he will look him in the eyes. For some odd reason, Riggs is wearing this absolutely ridiculous cap and a pair of white sunglasses and it's dark out. Oh sure, no one will be suspicious of this silly-touristy American. In this particular part of Mexico one would assume there are no tourists, so his presence rings no bells? The final episode made the entire series look silly.

On another note regarding the character of Roger Murtaugh. We have seen throughout season one the great love of family displayed in the Murtaugh household. Roger and Trish love one another. They even like one another which is sometimes the more difficult aspect of a day to day relationship. They are solid and thoughtful parents who love their children deeply and dearly. Roger Murtaugh will now sacrifice everything in life to travel to Mexico to assist his highly dysfunctional, troubled and now murderous partner kill someone? Yet, no one at FOX or Warner Bros. has a problem with any of this? Highly unethical, illegal and immoral behavior, but these "dudes" are cool?    

If all of this weren't bad enough, some of the shows fanbase (thank God the ratings for Lethal Weapon dropped significantly from its premiere and has laid flat ever since) think this show "kicks ass" and Riggs is a "bad Motherf----."  Cue the music from Shaft now! Check out the Twitter feeds for the actors, the series, the writers and the fanbases, including one from Italy. Italy? Yes, that Italy. Home of Michelangelo and the Vatican. What the heck is going on in Italy? Fortunately, the series has already been pulled from New Zealand, Norway and a few other countries. No wonder why Americans looking to relocate to New Zealand has sprung up 70%. Yes, I did like this show at one point!!!!

You also have to be highly suspect of those people either seeking real solace or for that matter, pretend solace in the supposed loneliness and sadness of Riggs. The pretenders want to grab the attention of an actor on social media. Folks, this isn't rocket science. It usually goes with "thanks so much for being who you are, my marriage ended or my spouse died or my life is sucky and you make my life better because of your character and acting." If this were the case, psychotherapy in America and the world beyond would be unnecessary. Maybe we could alleviate substance abuse issues - just force everyone to watch Lethal Weapon. Actors, writers and producers are either dumb enough to believe this or they just want to believe it for the sake of ego. The reality is most of these people want their faves to follow them on Twitter or Instagram. It's the nature of the beast.  

When you have a "fun" character like Riggs leaving a man (I don't care how bad he is) on a rail track and this is seen as fun and just, then the country is in even deeper trouble than some people think.

Next time someone brings up the country coming apart, think of Lethal Weapon on FOX.  It may seem simple on the surface, but this is how it unravels. Little by little.

Let's hope they don't get a season three.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2017