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'Golden Boy' review: NYPD blah

Walter Clark Jr. (Theo James, left) is mentored

Walter Clark Jr. (Theo James, left) is mentored by his partner, experienced veteran Detective Don Owen (Chi McBride) in "Golden Boy." Credit: CBS

THE SHOW "Golden Boy"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 10 on CBS/2, then Fridays at 9 p.m., starting March 8

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In seven years' time, NYPD Det. Walter William Clark Jr. (Theo James) will be named the youngest police commissioner in city history. But how did he go so far so fast? Unfolding in the present day, young, brash, impetuous, ambitious Clark is a street cop who breaks up a violent robbery in progress and gains citywide fame.

He is offered any job he wants in the department, and chooses homicide. The hitch -- he's marked by a rival, Det. Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro), as an upstart who needs to be knocked down; in Clark's corner is Det. Don Owen (Chi McBride), his partner who teaches him some valuable lessons in office politics. Meanwhile, Det. Deborah McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville) views the squad room squabbling at a bemused distance.

MY SAY British newcomer James is probably best known to viewers here as "Downton Abbey's" Kemal Pamuk, the randy Turkish diplomat who stole Lady Mary's (Michelle Dockery) virtue, then promptly died in her bed. Now, with that image firmly planted in your head, try to imagine Det. Clark, with his passable if indeterminate accent from one of the outer boroughs and a moxie that seems better suited to high school than the NYPD.

A good actor with Adonis looks, James simply can't project what he needs to project -- a hard case with laser-focus ambition. That's one gripe. Here's another. "Golden Boy" is basically a well-crafted procedural -- Nicolas Wootton ("NYPD Blue"), who created and produces, knows his way around this formula better than just about anyone alive -- that is tethered to a gimmick that doesn't particularly add anything to the core narrative.

It's kind of like the cop version of "How I Met Your Mother": We know how this ends (he becomes commish) but there's little evidence suggesting how or why that happens, and even less reason why we should care. Meanwhile, the best stuff in "Golden Boy" is the little stuff -- sharp, brittle dialogue, nice performances and a street cred that's a cut above average.

BOTTOM LINE Decent cop procedural. Period.


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