Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by Fred Topel
There may be an unprecedented number of television shows based on movies on the air simultaneously: Limitless, Fargo, Bates Motel, Damien and the just ended Minority Report and Hannibal with the upcoming Uncle Buck and shows like Lethal Weapon, Rambo and The Expendables in development. Add to that Rush Hour, based on the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker series.
CBS’s Rush Hour stars John Foo and Justin Hires as Detectives Lee and Carter. The pilot tells how Lee comes to Los Angeles and works with Carter at first grudgingly, but ultimately agrees to stay as partners. A new development is Carter’s chief (Wendie Malick) flirting with Lee. The series was developed by Bill Lawrence and Blake McCormick, with Steve Franks joining the team as producer. We go to speak with the trio after their panel for the Television Critics Association. Rush Hour premieres March 31 at 10PM on CBS.
Rush Hour Interview: Bill Lawrence, Blake McCormick and Steve Franks
There have always been shows based on movies, going back to MASH, but why do you think we’re seeing so many now?
Bill Lawrence: People love movies. No, the answer is the battle for network TV right now. First of all, 70% of a TV show is quality writing, directing, producing, editing, just a good production. The other 30% is getting people to turn out and even check it out in a landscape with 150 scripted shows. I watch a ton of TV. Do you watch commercials?
I haven’t watched commercials for decades. Once I had a VCR I recorded shows and skipped over them.
Bill: I haven’t watched commercials for a long time. NBC used to be able to go, “Hey, this is no big deal. We’ll just put promos on TV.” When I did Spin City, your entire job marketing your show was to call up and say, “How many 18 second spots, how many 30 second spots did we get?” because those commercials would determine, because everybody watched them, whether or not our show does a number next week. I don’t watch commercials and I love TV. Every network goes, “Man, if I can find a title that makes people smile and have a spark of recognition, they go, ‘I want to check that show out.’ And the show then delivers, I’m going to get an audience that otherwise I would not get.”
I love movies and it’s been a good thing. I’ll get to see a lot more than one Rush Hour. I get to see a lot more than one Limitless. Hannibal was great. I was excited about seeing more Minority Report but they don’t all work.
Bill: Well, that’s got to be it. The show’s going to survive or fail on its creative merit past the first episode, but I think what IP means now is a chance to at least in a world that it’s hard to grab anybody’s interest. Look, I’m going to watch Lethal Weapon if it’s on TV next year. I know it’s being developed. I love that movie, that title. Nobody needs to sell me on a commercial. I’m going to seek it out and see if they did a good job. That’s why IP exists right now. I wish, I think Steven and Blake do too, that you could go back to the days that TV created stars and you didn’t have to start by going, “Which big actor or actress do I have to get in this or what big title do I have to do?” Network TV, I think that’s part of the battle. They’re the only ones that your fate is still determined almost entirely by arbitrary ratings.
Blake McCormick: It was interesting because you take something like Limitless or Minority Report. Those are very, very unique and specific stories. The Rush Hour movie was very classic formula already, so it’s not like we had to take this very narrow, specific idea and translate it. It’s just buddy cop comedy, two guys who clash but make it work. That’s just fun. It’s been working for a long time.
There are echoes of the plot of the movie in the pilot.
Steve Franks: Oh, there was outright theft, right?
Did you ever toy with having different plots for the pilot?
Blake: For the pilot, we knew it was going to be, it almost had to be: cop from Hong Kong comes to L.A. for what he believes is one case and ends up staying. So within that structure, we knew that there was certain points that we had to hit. We liked making it more personal in giving Det. Lee a sister that was the reason that he came, making him a guy who had his family in Hong Kong who’s then gone and he came here for that reason. Pilots, you’ve got to hit certain beats. We knew that that was the basic structure we needed to work in. We thought that we were able to make the characters both on the page and in terms of the performers bringing what they brought in, unique from the feature.
So even details of the case he comes to consult on, the theft of Chinese merchandise.
Blake: Yeah, that was an element from the feature. We made it the statues. We thought they were a little more interesting and had potential for damage, and we knew we wanted to stage a fight around those. We thought that was a good way to make it a balanced relationship where it wasn’t just Carter is in L.A. and he knows all the moving pieces of this case and Lee is just a guest. We wanted to give Lee some inside perspective on the case and know things that Carter didn’t know. So we thought using some Chinese historical artifact was a good way to do that.
You probably can’t incorporate Rush Hour 2 where they got back to Hong Kong, can you?
Steve: If we can get some more money out of Warner Brothers we will. Season two! Actually at one point we do go to Hong Kong but we do it with a purchased stock film that says Hong Kong.
What are the cases of the next episodes after the pilot?
Steve: I think what we were looking for, and this is where we start at the beginning, is what’s the most fun situation we can put these guys in and we started with action pieces and worlds that we wanted to play in. So we blow up an armored car on the freeway. We have this Quantao gang come back into our world and create all sorts of havoc in a couple of episodes. We’re playing with the history of the characters. So for us it was all about let’s use these iconic L.A. places. Let’s naturally dive into those worlds and let’s see fight scenes in places we’ve never seen them before. In the abandoned zoo, we have an amazing chase and battle that happens in these 50-year-old abandoned lion cages and up the feed tunnels. It’s really fun and spectacular. We’re always going to have a decent, solid bad guy. We’re going to be one of the only shows, especially on this network, that can deliver the long extended action piece. So we’re going to lean into that in a big way.
Blake: Also the way we look at this season was how can we do a one hour action movie every week? This isn’t your average crime show where it’s like okay, dead body, how do we figure out whodunnit? It’s like okay, let’s start with a massive, amazing bank robbery. Let’s start with a witness we have to get to a courthouse and we realize right away there are a dozen soldiers trying to kill this person. What’s a situation where our guys have to get from point A to point B across the city in 45 minutes, semi close to real time? Basically just wanted to come at it as each week is a different action movie.