‘Battle Creek’s Female Characters Don’t Have Much To Do, Even Though They’d Make The Series So Much Better
Before I get into a critique about CBS' newest buddy cop series Battle Creek , I have to sing its praises a little bit. The series is definitely indicative of creators David Shore and Vince Gilligan's grit and black humor. Both of things translate well to the mainstream big network setting, which seemed difficult before the series premiered considering how dark Gilligan's Breaking Bad was and considering how repetitive David Shore's House became after a while. Both TV veterans make great use of their leads in this dramedy about a Battle Creek PD Detective Russell "Russ" Agnew — played by 30 Rock's Dean Winters — and his new partner, federal agent Milton "Milt" Chamberlain, played by Tad Hamilton himself Josh Duhamel. But in the pilot alone the series faces a huge problem that desperately needs addressing: The lack of female involvement in the show.
The three major characters on the series so far seem to be Russ, Milt and Kal Penn's Detective Fontanelle White (a strange name, but I'm moving past it). And while Battle Creek does have a female police chief, one female detective and a female office manager for Battle Creek PD, the only person who gets any kind of attention in the pilot is the office manager Holly, who very clearly has a thing for Russ. In fact, other than the police chief Commander Guziewicz's introduction of Milt to Battle Creek and police detective Jacocks' admiration and attraction towards the obviously good looking Milt, they pretty much disappear from the rest of the episode.
Now I understand that putting the women of the show in the forefront in more scenes would have been a bit difficult in the pilot, considering the series is trying to identify itself as a buddy cop show. And I know that suggestion one of the buddy cops be a woman makes the series too similar to Castle, Bones and other female/male crime series. So despite me believing that would actually be an interesting model to see emulated by two incredibly talented showrunners, I'm moving past that argument completely. (But seriously, don't you think a Vince Gilligan/David Shore version of Bones or Castle would be crazy awesome? Ok, I'm done now.)
All I'm saying is that if you're going to present us with women in strong positions in law enforcement, why not actually give them something to do? Battle Creek's pilot follows a double homicide with an interesting twist: A potential witness ends up being the killer and the detectives don't realize it until he's already about to take out his next victim. But the information Agnew and Chamberlain need about the killer comes from the two male detectives on the series. Couldn't Shore or Gilligan at least let Detective Jacocks get in on the action? When Agnew and Chamberlain lie to try and get the case settled with an innocent man and they get in trouble, why wasn't Commander Guziewicz the one to actually punish them? Why did the news have to come from Chamberlain?
It's little changes like this to incorporate the already strong, talented women in the cast that would have made Battle Creek even more interesting to watch. Because while Agnew and Chamberlain are clearly intelligent and have a great buddy cop chemistry, that won't be enough to sustain a television show without the help of some brilliant female supporting characters.
It seems to me that Shore and Gilligan would be smart enough to give their talented female cast members some meaty material even if they are trying to attract a wider audience on CBS. Getting some women on board to watch the show would help with that guys. I have faith in both men and their ability to make a great show, I just want to see the women on that show get the spotlight as the series progresses. There are still 12 more episodes guaranteed to air. Let's see how much female involvement we'll get.
Images: Monty Brinton, Sonja Flemming/CBS