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‘Battle Creek’ Review: Dean Winters & Josh Duhamel Play Mismatched Detectives

battle creek

For a police procedural, Battle Creek is pretty unorthodox.

Comprised of Commander Guziewicz (Janet McTeer), Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) and Detective Fontanelle White (Kal Penn), Battle Creek PD the sort of underfunded police department that has to use a baby monitor to record a drug deal. That’s the sort of darkly comedic tone that creators Vince Gilligan and David Shore establish in the first episode of CBS’ new crime drama.

Help arrives in the form of FBI Agent Milton Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel). His old department resents him, even though they throw a going away party that would suggest they consider him a valuable asset. It quickly becomes clear that Chamberlain — while outwardly attractive — isn’t the most relatable or likable guy around, especially not in Battle Creek. I mean, Chamberlain’s idea of a small town is Monaco. And despite Battle Creek PD’s limited resources, he gets a huge office all to himself.

He’s immediately at odds with “rough around the edges” Agnew, who pretty much embodies Battle Creek with his bruised up face, gruff demeanor, and disheveled attire. Then there’s the matter of how they go about handling a crime scene.

Chamberlain’s first case when he arrives in Battle Creek is a double homicide. While Agnew starts developing his theory immediately, Chamberlain would rather solve this case as neatly and meticulously as possible. That means forensics and facial recognition technology, tools that Agnew and the rest of his colleagues aren’t used to working with. Yet, despite being completely mismatched, Chamberlain requests for Agnew to be his partner.

Battle Creek isn’t the most riveting hour of television, and I’m not that fond of Duhamel’s character (he’s the least interesting presence on the show yet he’s given a huge chunk of screentime thanks to his co-lead status). But for a police procedural, CBS could do a lot worse (see: CSI: Cyber). Battle Creek has a good handle on its tone and I’ve always been a fan of Dean Winters, who’s best known for playing Liz Lemon’s no-good ex-boyfriend Dennis Duffy on 30 Rock but has also appeared on OzLaw & Order: SVU, a number of AllState Insurance commercials, and most recently Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Despite some of the darker elements of the double homicide case, the show leaves room for comedic moments in the form of the less important (and quirkier) members of the Battle Creek Police Department (who seem like their modeled after The Office‘s secondary characters), as well as some of the town’s residents (Teddy The Snitch). It’s not the most glamorous place in the world, but Battle Creek definitely has character, which makes it the perfect setting for this show.

Of course, this entire review is moot considering Battle Creek is “certain to be canceled.” Ouch. Hopefully, Vince Gilligan can find Dean Winters another gig. Better Call Saul, maybe?