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'The Equalizer' review: Queen Latifah reboot sticks to the formula

Queen Latifah stars in CBS' "The Equalizer."

Queen Latifah stars in CBS' "The Equalizer." Credit: CBS/Barbara Nitke

SERIES "The Equalizer"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. (after the Super Bowl) on CBS/2. Moves to its regular Sunday-at-8 p.m. slot next week.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah) is a former CIA operative who is super-smart, super-empathetic, super-bad-ass and super charming-as-hell (to paraphrase the CBS press release). Her biggest challenge — reining in her 15-year-old daughter, Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes). Disillusioned with the Agency, McCall has returned to New York to fight for those who can really use her help — average people who need an equalizer in their life. She has been joined by some other tough-cookie crusaders, like former operative William Bishop (Chris Noth, "The Good Wife"), close friend Melody Bayani (Liza Lapira, "Dollhouse"), tech mastermind Harry Keshigian (Adam Goldberg, "Fargo") and — at least potentially — handsome NYPD Det. Marcus Dante (Tory Kittles, "Colony").

This post-Super Bowl entry is the latest adaptation of the 1985-89 CBS series starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, and the 2014 and 2018 big-screen versions, with Denzel Washington.

MY SAY If there really is nothing new under the sun, could the same be said of CBS prime-time? Tune in any night to any procedural, and enter the wormhole — to TV's past, CBS's past. Everything looks familiar because everything is familiar, which is the whole idea: Familiarity.

In fact, Sunday's opener is dedicated to Richard Lindheim, co-creator of the original series, who died Jan. 18. No doubt he'd appreciate the gesture, and no doubt he'd recognize his progeny too. It's as if nothing has changed, except for the cast, which (by the way) is quite good. The stock characters are all here too — Tech Nerd, Evil Plutocrat, Honest-Cop-Who-Doesn't-Play-by-The-Rules. Ditto the stock dialogue:

"Do you think she can help?" someone asks about the hero, as if that someone really has to.

"If anyone can," she's told, "it's McCall."

There's a torture scene, with this obligatory torture preamble by the bad guy: "We can do this the easy way or the hard way."

Please. The easy way. Let's get this over with and go to bed.

Enough. You get the idea. How could you not? But what about Latifah? As always, perfectly fine, although now and then she gives off just the slightest vibe that she has to fight the urge to roll her eyes. She's far too good an actress not to know bunkum when she sees it.

Nevertheless, get used to that bunkum, QL. You're not going anywhere, and this "Equalizer" isn't going anywhere either for a long time to come. In a sense — an obvious one — it never even left.

BOTTOM LINE 100-proof, pure-grade, high-gloss, low-risk formula.

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