The fact that Detective Lee (Jon Foo), one half of the duo at the center of CBS’s Rush Hour, is Chinese is brought up an awful lot in the pilot episode of the show. If asked, I couldn’t give you a particularly good reason for this, as it doesn’t add any sort of kick or nuance to any of the would-be jokes. Neither, for that matter, does the series seem even remotely interested in modern Chinese law enforcement, which is where Lee, and his younger sister, come from. If there was any comment about the rampant corruption and bias inherent in China’s police department, or similar, unwavering strains of complex political and philosophical problems that have dogged America’s police forces, Rush Hour might have turned out to be something worth watching, worth caring about. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.
This remake of the film franchise of the same name, which pairs Foo’s Lee with Justin Hires‘ Detective Carter as partners at the LAPD, takes the cultural differences of these detectives as one of the roots of its humor, possibly even the main crux of the comedy. There have been plenty of great jokes and strings of clever insights between races and cultures that major comedians have crafted to illicit tremendous guffaws, but those bits of humor came from wisdom, considerable thought, and more than a little bravery. The jokes that are deployed in Rush Hour, though certainly not the worst I’ve heard on TV recently, are so deeply uninspired, so uncaring in relation to the story and the characters, that the focus on such things leaves a sour aftertaste.
This tendency is made all the more startling in light of the show’s near weightless tone and sunny surroundings. Though clearly billed as a procedural, with each episode following a singular case, the show is anchored to Lee’s relationship to his sister, Kim (Jessika Van), while Carter’s close ties with his former partner, Didi Diaz (Aimee Garcia). The series is misguided on numerous levels, to an often repugnant degree, but it’s clear that the series is hopeful, optimistic, and means no ill will. With the cast filled out by talented veterans like Wendie Malick and Kirk Fox, who proved to be a consistent hoot on Parks & Recreation, there’s a sense of fertile ground in the performers but the writers and creators are either unwilling or incapable of yielding anything fruitful from the actors and actresses they work with. Indeed, even if the series means no ill will, that’s hardly an acceptable reason for such mediocre, ineffective, and wrong-headed nonsense to go on for much longer.
Rating: ★ Poor – Skip it
Rush Hour premieres Thursday, March 31st on CBS.