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'Rush Hour' On CBS Reimagines Classic Buddy Action Films


The old movie franchise "Rush Hour" is getting a new treatment in a show debuting on CBS tonight. At least that's the idea, but NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says this new buddy cop series stalls out in the same way the movies did.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: There are lots of reasons to hate CBS's version of "Rush Hour." There's that predictable premise imported straight from the film, a rule-breaking, black LAPD cop is paired with a straight-arrow detective from Hong Kong who apparently can't even say his new partner's name right.


JUSTIN HIRES: (As James Carter) Hey, man. I'm supposed to be meeting some Chinese cop from Hong Kong. I'm Carter.

JON FOO: (As Lee) Carter?

HIRES: (As James Carter) Detective Carter.

FOO: (As Lee) Carter.

HIRES: (As James Carter) Do you just love my name or do you not understand a word I'm saying?

DEGGANS: Then there's the lame sexist jokes like the moment Detective Carter tricks his new partner into saying this to a female police captain.


WENDIE MALICK: (As Lindsay Cole) Detective Lee, I'm Lindsay Cole.

FOO: (As Lee) Nice to meet you, captain. You have beautiful legs.

HIRES: (As James Carter) Sorry, captain, you know what? We should go. I'll go talk to him.

MALICK: (As Lindsay Cole) No, no, no, I take it as a compliment.

HIRES: (As James Carter) You'd kill me if I said that.

MALICK: (As Lindsay Cole) Yeah, because you don't look like an Asian Orlando Bloom.

DEGGANS: There's even a line lifted from the movie "Men In Black" where Will Smith jumped onto a double-decker tour bus and send this...


WILL SMITH: (As Jay) It just be raining black people in New York.

DEGGANS: And "Rush Hour's" Detective Carter jumps from a crashing helicopter into a swimming pool and says this...


HIRES: (As James Carter) Crazy weather we're having. It's raining black people.

DEGGANS: But with all its hackneyed plots and reheated jokes, what disappointed me most about CBS's "Rush Hour" was its inability to transcend boring action flick stereotypes. Comic actor Justin Hires plays the fast-talking, corner-cutting black guy. He's paired with Jon Foo as the heavily accented, culturally confused Asian martial arts expert. That combination made the three "Rush Hour" movies box office successes. They starred Chris Tucker as the obnoxious American cop and Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan as rigid Detective Lee. In a scene from the first "Rush Hour" movie in 1998, the two argue after Chan's character reveals he can speak English.


JACKIE CHAN: (As Lee) Not being able to speak is not the same as not speaking. You seem as if you like to talk. I like to let people talk who like to talk. It makes it easier to find out how full of [expletive] they are.

CHRIS TUCKER: (As Carter) What the hell did you just say?

DEGGANS: But that same scene in CBS's pilot episode feels musty as a 20-year-old overcoat.


HIRES: (As James Carter) And what are you doing? You're not even supposed to speak English.

FOO: (As Lee) I never said I don't speak English. I let people talk who like to talk. It makes it easier to find out how full of crap they are.

HIRES: (As James Carter) Oh, burn (laughter). Shut up.

DEGGANS: I mean, if you're going to translate "Rush Hour" for 2016, why not update the characters a bit? When I asked executive producer Bill Lawrence about this during a press conference, he had a tough reaction at first.

BILL LAWRENCE: You're coming at the question from a very negative angle which is designed to put us on the defensive, but that's your prerogative. You're a journalist.

DEGGANS: Though later, Lawrence conceded the show's pilot had to start with the stereotypical characters fans would recognize from the movie. The producer, who also created comedies like "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town," hopes to update "Rush Hour's" characters quickly in episodes to come.

LAWRENCE: If you're playing I'm a fish out of water, I'm an Asian man that doesn't understand your ways, it seems both played and it seems out of place in time because the way that the world has shrunk.

DEGGANS: It's tough to know if a transition like that will be much help to "Rush Hour," which still suffers from too many derivative jokes and two lead actors who have little chemistry together. But at a time when television couldn't be more diverse, basing a new series on tired ideas cribbed from an 18-year-old movie might not be the wisest choice. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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