Vince Gilligan, who created "Breaking Bad," and David Shore, who created
Based on a 10-year-old unproduced script by Gilligan, it premieres Sunday on CBS, home of the world's most successful procedural franchises (your
It is also mostly not like "Breaking Bad" or "House," except in its mix of light and dark — here to a lighter effect — and the presence of Kal Penn (who was on "House") and the fact that "House" was kind of a detective show. The Gilligan-related show it more resembles is "The X-Files," on which he was a writer and producer, in its teaming of a skeptic and a believer, looking for the truth that is out there, albeit not quite so far out there.
Dean Winters plays Russ Agnew, the skeptic, a senior detective in the "understaffed and underfunded" Battle Creek, Mich., police department.
The title "Battle Creek" names the setting — where the cereal comes from, a fact that will be acknowledged in an upcoming episode, "Cereal Killer," featuring King of Guest Stars
With a face that seems to have been created, like a work of art, to embody the idea of handsomeness, Duhamel's super-agent is effortlessly charming, with a professed faith in human goodness and friends in high places. Yet his extreme composure suggests a walled-away Dark Secret that forms the answer to Russ' constant question, "Why are you in Battle Creek?"
Russ: "Everyone seems sincere to you because you have a gracious mind."
Milton: "Thank you, Russ."
Russ: "You see, you thought I was being sincere."
Winters, recently of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" but perhaps most memorable as Liz Lemon's bad boyfriend Dennis on
As with nearly every procedural now on TV (see
All the performances are well shaded and, among the regular cast, get deeper and more individuated as the season goes on. (CBS made all 13 episodes available for review.) Shifts in tone are well handled within in each episode and from week to week: The show incorporates a satisfying range of subjects and styles, from straight drama to straight-out farce; it even finds time to parody "Breaking Bad" in its maple-syrup-themed second episode.
"Battle Creek' may be a little low-boil compared to other network mysteries, which I don't account a fault; even when it runs to caricature, it stays convincing. And if it doesn't break any new ground, it nevertheless feels fresh and genuine. It will make good company as winter turns to spring.
When: 10 p.m. Sunday