This evening viewers on FOX will be treated to a reboot of the classic buddy cop action movie series Lethal Weapon. The franchise began in 1987, stretching to encompass four movies in just over the course of a decade. The lovable but crazy Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson, hid a dark, wounded soul under his silly antics and devil-may-care attitude, while Roger Murtaugh, several years Riggs’s elder, was just attempting to maintain his sanity and health on the way to retirement. No one can forget his catch phrase, oft-uttered by Danny Glover, that he was simply “too old for this s—-“.
Taken on its surface, there’s little difference between the movie and television counterparts. Riggs may be less crazy and suicidal, but he’s still a wounded warrior. Murtaugh, played by Damon Wayans, Sr., may appear much younger, this time, around, but he’s still worried about his health and sanity while balancing a full family.
From all accounts, the television series attempts to pay homage to its movie roots, yet still strives to separate itself from the franchise in an attempt to present a fresh, more modern take. Below is the breakdown of what’s different with some of the most recognizable characters from the franchise.
In the movie, Riggs was a member of the Special Forces before joining the LAPD. Married to his wife, Victoria, they had a wonderful marriage of 11 years before she tragically died in a car “accident”. Martin spiraled into a deep depression and pretty quickly became known for displaying a total disregard for his own safety.
Clayne Crawford’s version of Riggs takes the same familiar path, but with a few tweaks thrown in. In the television series, Riggs is still ex-Special Forces, but this time, it’s narrowed down to the SEALS. Instead of joining the LAPD after the military, he joins a department in Texas. He meets and marries Miranda, but she dies sometime later, along with his unborn child. It’s a slightly darker twist on the story, to be sure, and after this tragedy, Riggs is transferred to Los Angeles, whereupon he is partnered with Murtaugh.
In the movies, we don’t get to see the happy days before his wife’s death, but we get a glimpse here. What’s unknown is whether the accident suffered by both wives is a result of a botched assassination attempt against Riggs. In the franchise, this isn’t revealed until the second movie, so we might have to wait a bit before – or if – that similarity is unveiled.
Upon first learning that Damon Wayans, Sr. was playing the part of Murtaugh, my first thought was that he looked too young. Part of Glover’s ability to sell the part of a near-retirement officer was that he looked the part. Surprisingly, Danny Glover was in his early 40s when he initially took on the role. Wayans? He’s in his 50s but doesn’t look it.
The directors have chosen to fast-forward Murtaugh’s medical issues by giving the television version a minor heart attack from the outset. Wayans, a comedian at heart, isn’t able to completely restrain some of his comedic nuances, but it likely isn’t enough to scuttle the show. After all, he’s given plenty of dramatic performances in his career, and giving Murtaugh a little more of a lighter side won’t be entirely a bad thing. Another difference is that there’s no mention of Murtaugh’s military career, something that was the crux of the first film.
His family has the same number of members, but his children’s ages are all changed, as well as their names. Carrie, the youngest from the movie, is a newborn. Nick is now Roger Murtaugh, Jr., with a desire to enter the military. Rianne undergoes a minor name change to Riana, but nothing much more is known about her character.
Since we’re on the subject of the Murtaugh family, Trish deserves her own section, as her changes are quite significant. In the movies she’s portrayed as a homemaker, taking care of the kids and house while her husband attempts to survive each day with Riggs as a partner. This means there’s little interaction seen between her and Roger, almost all of which takes place in their home.
In the television series, however, Trish is a District Attorney. This sets up a whole new dynamic between the spouses, as not only is she likely to be working with them on some cases, there’s also an immediacy factor at play when she can jump on Riggs at the office right when he gets back from placing her husband in danger (again).
Stephanie Woods/Maureen Cahill
Another major character change comes in the form of the department’s psychologist, Stephanie Woods. Throughout the movies Riggs constantly twists and turns her efforts to get inside his head, making her the butt of quite a few jokes. The end result is that, when he does finally come to his senses and reaches out for help, she is so convinced he is acting that she goes off the deep end herself.
Gone is Woods. Now we have Maureen Cahill, who appears to be nothing like her movie counterpart. She’s serious and driven and is also apparently a hostage negotiator. While Riggs falls under her purview as a patient, they’ll also likely butt heads in the field, since he has a tendency to break away and go lone wolf, which is the furthest thing you’d want in a hostage crisis.
Having been a fan of Lethal Weapon since the first movie release, it will be very interesting to see if the franchise can make the jump to the small screen with any sort of longevity. The changes to the characters, especially the supporting characters, are welcome and give a much broader canvas on which to paint the story. Here’s hoping they find someone as memorable as Joe Pesci if they include Leo Getz on the show.
For more on the movies and television series, see our Lethal Weapon wiki!