There is every reason that I would like a bantering-detectives series starring Jon Tenney and Rebecca Romijn. Everything in that sentence sounds good to me.
"King & Maxwell," which premieres Monday on TNT, is the show that brings them together. And if it isn't quite the comedy-drama of my dreams, I would not warn you away.
Tenney is King and Romijn is Maxwell, partners in private investigation who also share a nonsynchronous story with the Secret Service, which each left after something bad happened to a person they were assigned to protect. Still based in Washington, D.C., they have been working together a year when we meet them; the circumstances of their own meeting are not described, though they are possibly known to the readers of the books, by David Baldacci, upon which the series is based.
Not having read any of those, I can't say to what degree this adaptation (from "NCIS: Los Angeles" creator Shane Brennan) resembles, honors, betrays or, indeed, improves upon the originals. Baldacci is also the author of the novel "Absolute Power," upon which the 1997 Clint Eastwood film was based and which, like "King & Maxwell," involves outrageous bad behavior within and around the Beltway.
Like most TV series, it would be better reviewed off its fifth episode, when everyone has relaxed a little, than its first; chemistry matters more than cleverness here. Most of what doesn't work in the pilot happens when the production strives for a big effect or grand stroke, while all of what works best happens in the close space between the leads.
The opening scenes, in which Maxwell, in a red sports car, chases down a stolen tour bus driven by a man in a beaver suit — it's the end of an earlier case unrelated to the rest of the show — sets out the dichotomy pretty well. The action sequence is just something to get through so the leads can start talking, and the fact that none of it makes much sense feels nonetheless forgivable once they do.
Pairings like this — we are in the land of Nick and Nora, "Moonlighting" and "Remington Steele" — always raise the possibility of romance (sometimes embraced, sometimes avoided). "King & Maxwell" teases it — she showers with the door open in their funky waterside office (where she has arrived by scull); he looks. A line such as "That's why we could never be married" echoes as "We could be married." (He seems to be referring to the banana peels in the bottom of her boat, but he's the designated messy one, with rumpled shirts and a permanent two-day's beard.)
Both Tenney and Romijn belong to a small upper percentile of human beauty, but they wear it modestly; as actors, each has a light touch but also a grounded quality that lets them go deeper when necessary. On "The Closer" (him) and "Ugly Betty" (her), they did the kind of subtle work that can seem like no work at all.
It is to their advantage, too, that at 51 and 40, respectively, they are no spring chickens: Prettiness plus time is an attractive combination, the rage for erasing all signs of age and experience notwithstanding.
'King & Maxwell'
When: 10 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14-LSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence)Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times