Advertised as the new police procedural of CBS, Battle Creek was launched with some very high expectations. After all, the network promoted it as a show by the creators of Breaking Bad and House. However, Vince Gilligan created and sold this show to CBS long before Breaking Bad and David Shore, the executive producer of House is now shepherding it. Battle Creek has combined all elements of a typical TV cop show, but plays them in a slightly different way. It works best when you least expected and a mild manner is adopted for solving crimes.
To the surprise of the police force of Battle Creek, Michigan, an FBI agent, played by Josh Duhamel has been reassigned and none is more surprised than his new partner, Russ Agnew. Played by Dean Winters, this character is cynical and jaded and keeps wondering why the sleek Milt Chamberlain played by Duhamel is in Battle Creek. Agnew notes that the handsome agent must have done something suspicious or bad as he was assigned to Battle Creek, even though he cannot stop bragging that he has indulged in golf with President Obama. The backstory of this character runs beneath the usual plots of a cop show such as a waitress stabbed to death.
Even though Winters and Duhamel’s characters rub each other the wrong way, the cops seem to do good work. The police department of Battle Creek is mediocre and is headed by two-time Oscar nominee and Tony Award winner, Janet McTeer. The gruff role of the police commander could have been taken from series such as The Closer or Major Crimes. Another prominent member of the sleepy police department is Kal Penn of House. Their department is running out of resources fast thanks to globalization, which can be judged from the fact that instead of a legitimate wire system, Agnew and his team have to use a baby monitor for catching the culprit.
Chamberlain brings with him a little excitement in the form of a double homicide, which he and Agnew have to investigate together, much to the chagrin of the latter. It’s immediately obvious that their methods are as different as night and day and its baffling that any of the old-school techniques used by Agnew have worked in the past. Nonetheless, the officers are able to set their differences aside long enough to track down the baddie. However, there is still a long way for the duo to go before they can be considered as buddies. In their individual roles, both Duhamel and Winters are thriving in their roles and give some great performances.
At its best, this police procedural reaches for the whimsy and witty of another CBS series that’s out-of-the-way such as Northern Exposure. But, the downside is that most of the time, Battle Creek comes off as a slightly jauntier version of the many cop shows that are overrunning the network. The show is expected to improve a bit with every episode so we are keeping our fingers crossed to see what it will bring.