Lethal Weapon

In 1987, the movie Lethal Weapon paired Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the first of four buddy cop films. It made Gibson a star, proving he was more than just Mad Max, and Glover made “I’m too old for this shit” a catch phrase that has lasted the decades. For 2016, Fox introduces a new Riggs and Murtaugh for the small screen, played by Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans respectively.

Matt Miller created the TV incarnation, with producers Dan Lin and Jennifer Gwartz. McG directed the pilot. At their TCA panel, Lin said the show wouldn’t interfere with any future movie plans and that they were considering incorporating the characters Leo Getz and Lorna Cole, played by Joe Pesci and Rene Russo in the films, later in the series. We spoke with Miller, Lin and Gwartz at the Fox party for the Television Critics Association. 

It’s only a matter of time before someone in the writers room pitches a bomb on the toilet. Would you be open to that?

Miller: No, not on the toilet. That sequence in Lethal Weapon 2 is brilliant. It’s a great sequence because it checks all the boxes. It’s comedic. It lends itself to a genuine emotional moment between the two guys and it’s got an action component to it. So for me that’s the ideal sequence that encapsulates the two guys in the Lethal Weapon franchise. It’s the second movie but it’s a brilliant sequence. So we have some stuff that may be kind of similar but honestly, we haven’t been using the first four movies and trying to steal and plot. We’re all fans and now we take that information and forge our own path.

So it’s not the danger I think it is.

Miller: No, no because we’re all fans of it but I didn’t hire writers that were like, “Why did you change his wife’s name in the backstory?” People have to be fans but it’s not Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones where we feel like people are going to go nuts if we change one story point or one thing. We take the spirit of the original and then we forge our own path.

Lin: We’re looking for a fresh spin on the movies. The characters and underlying concept is the same but we’re trying to put a fresh spin on what’s been done before.

We only got to see Riggs and Murtaugh solve four cases. Is this a chance for you to invent 22 new cases they can solve?

Miller: Yeah, yeah, yeah, hopefully more than 22. Absolutely, it’s new cases every week and how these guys come at it from their different perspectives. It’s great. It’s super fun.

Gwartz: Absolutely. That would be the plan. Certainly there’s the procedural element that we will have a case of the week in addition to a series long arc/mythology that will kind of dig deeper and touch both Riggs and Murtaugh’s backstory. But yeah, in an ideal world, you’ll get to see 22 cases being solved by them, one a week.

Lin: We’re hoping they’ll talk about the one liners, the crazy things they do, not necessarily what exactly was the case of the week?

You do hope they talk about one liners?

Lin: There’s certainly some funny comedy between the two guys.

Gwartz: And heart. Matt said it and we’ve always talked about this. It’s about two men who are broken in different ways. One literally, physically, had a heart attack and is recovering from that both emotionally and physically. The other one who figuratively is dying of a broken heart and has no will to live. People have a lot of pain in their lives and you hope you come to these characters and even though they’re on a case, you’re relating to them emotionally and there’s a connection there. I think all of these shows at the end of the day, you want to walk away with some sort of emotional connection.

With one-liners, everyone knows “I’m too old for this shit” from the movies so you want to avoid that. Plus you can’t say that on Fox in primetime. Do you have a version of that or how will you give your Riggs and Murtaugh catch phrases?

Lin: We talked to [Lethal Weapon director] Dick Donner before we did the show. Dick said to us, “There’s a difference between humor and comedy.” I didn’t understand the difference. He said, “Humor comes out of real situations. Comedy is really just going for the joke.” We’re leaning much more towards humor, real situations. Even in the pilot, you saw how Riggs interacts with Murtaugh’s family. He’s totally a fish out of water. We try to create those moments and through those moments hopefully we’ll have a few one-liners.

When you think about what cops get into on the job, what are some things you would like to see Riggs and Murtaugh face that are maybe a little smaller than a movie would require?

Miller: Well, we’re doing a season-long kind of mythology with this cartel moving into Los Angeles, but that will be a season-long story. We have 22 hours to tell that story or however many episodes we do. The second episode deals with a next-gen weapon that’s been stolen and hit the market. Any one of our stories, no matter what the A story is, it always has to land on our guys in a very personal way. So whether it be a SEAL that’s out there and wreaking havoc and it puts Riggs vs. the SEAL in question, or an episode like Murtaugh wants to go back to the old neighborhood that they lived in before Trish made a lot of money and they moved to Sherman Oaks. That lends itself to an A story. We always want our A stories to connect to our guys in a very personal way.

Gwartz: Without saying what the cases will be, I can certainly speak to generally we want to take a look at and portray what feels real and grounded. Issues that touch people living in Los Angeles and crime stories that feel real.

Lin: It’s also a way to showcase Los Angeles. We’re in so many different locations. The pilot went to Griffith Park, Long Beach. The idea is to show places in L.A. either in a new light or places that people haven’t seen before.

Gwartz: And issues that touch us every day that we see in the news, whether it’s immigration, the drug cartels, politics, corruption. We want to present something that feels real, grounded and also relatable.

Not a lot of shows get to shoot in L.A. How did you make that work?

Lin: Unfortunately, we did not qualify for the rebate but we felt like L.A. itself is a character of the movie, it’s a character of the show itself. Luckily, graciously Fox and Warners allowed us to shoot in L.A. even though we didn’t qualify for the rebate.

Gwartz: I think again, a lot of credit to the studio and to the network that this is a show that this show in many ways, Los Angeles is a third character. We really wanted to take advantage of, again, that noir film. I don’t think there’s a reality where you’re shooting in Vancouver and that ever doubles for Los Angeles.

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