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GOLDEN BOY: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Rookie Fails To Advance...
Poor Theo James. Golden Boy, the television series that chronicled the meteoric rise of former hood Walter Clark, Jr. from street cop to detective to Police Commissioner in seven years time didn't even last half a season. This was going to be James' breakout role on the American scene, after his scene-stealing turn as the luscious Turk Kemal Pamuk in an episode of Downton Abbey. You remember, the man who deflowered Lady Mary Crawley and then dropped dead immediately after?
The pitfalls and perils of American television. Some Englishmen manage to find hit television shows in the States (Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary), while some flounder (such as James). Granted, Miller had built-in cache as Sherlock Holmes while James had to create a character from scratch.
I've already covered why I think Golden Boy flopped (a somewhat dull and opaque lead, better secondary characters, and surprisingly dull crimes). Now it is time to look over the series as a whole, to see what was the best and worst of James' (failure to) launch board.
First, the official ranking of Golden Boy Episodes, from best to worst.
Role Models (8/10)
Vicious Cycle (8/10)
The Price of Revenge (7/10)
Young Guns (7/10)
Just Say No (7/10)
Next Question (6/10)
McKenzie on Fire (5/10)
Beast of Burden (4/10)
Average Score: 6/10
Now, on the whole I think the show itself started well. After the second or third episode the focus wasn't so much on the future Commissioner Clark, keeping the flash-forwards to the opening and closing of the episodes. We then got an above-average police procedural where the cases were excuses to explore both the interpersonal relationships and office politics of the 39th Precinct. The growing and intense rivalry between James' Clark and Kevin Alejandro's Christian Arroyo was well-acted. The overall story though, had some rather clichéd moments: the wise mentor, the hotshot rookie, the bitter antagonist.
We already were having problems with Golden Boy in that, despite the show's best efforts, the most fascinating character wasn't the lead. I was becoming more interested in Arroyo's journey, his crumbling fall from his unquestioned role as King of 39th to having his power diminishing to this kid. You can't have a good show when the actions of the main character aren't as interesting as that of the villain. I already had some difficulty with the closing moments of almost every episode hinting that "something" was going to happen to Chi McBride's Owen. We didn't need almost repetitive reminders that a major character might meet a shocking end. Leave that to the season finale, I say, not at almost every turn.
It was only as the season progressed that Golden Boy started turning into a bit of a soap opera. In particular the love triangle between James' Clark, Trieste Kelly Dunn's Margot Dixon (the reporter who begins an affair with Clark), and Eric Morris' Deputy Mayor Holbrooke (who happens to be her soon-to-be ex-husband). The crimes, already not the most original, began to fade further in the background as we focus on Holbrooke's machinations to stop Clark and Dixon's romance. The story of them wasn't horrible, but it was taking a great deal of time away from both his work and how he rises to the heights of power. How he was able to rise to Police Commissioner when he didn't seem to be the best policeman (whatever his flaws, Detective Arroyo was a better detective than the pretty Clark) didn't seem as important as how he got into Margot's bed.
As the show kept moving, it started becoming less about Clark's education in the ways of power and more about Clark's way with women. Again, there is nothing wrong with giving Clark a girlfriend. There IS something wrong with giving him a girlfriend who somehow keeps getting involved with powerful figures, who in turn keep making crimes for him to investigate.
I found the succeeding episodes were becoming more ludicrous in terms of both crimes and stories. Some of the crimes were easy to solve, and what was supposed to be a subplot of Clark's romantic escapades instead was becoming THE plot. The focus, already given to a lead character who was still stubbornly a mystery at the end of the season, got overshadowed by a fascinating villain which in turn got lost with a not bizarre but at times hard-to-believe romance.
I think in the end the reasons why Golden Boy failed to last a whole season are many. It isn't because the cast didn't have talent. If anything it is a loss that Alejandro's Arroyo will have no more stories, for despite the show's best efforts he was my favorite character in his flaws and talents. The lead character was a mystery which gave us few if any clues. The crimes weren't altogether interesting. The stories got bogged down with a secondary story taking over.
Finally, for a show about police, we were never able to solve the mystery of William Clark. On the whole, I don't think Golden Boy was a bad show, but I can see why it failed to catch on. You can't build up a show where your lead remains a little out of reach, no matter how beautiful the packaging.
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