Sunday, August 2, 2015

Worth Watching: Battle Creek (CBS, 13 Episodes)

The graveyard of excellent but cancelled shows garners new headstones every season and, for some, the sight gets a little more depressing each year. The graveyard's most recent arrival reads

The dirt hasn't settled yet. The fans are still in denial. Fans like me.

So let's talk about it.

Is It Even Worth Starting?
The first thing anybody asks about a cancelled show that's being pushed on them is "If I already know this show is cancelled, why bother starting it? Is it really worth it?"

The answer is YES.


Battle Creek's nuanced characters, brilliant actors, wonderful and subtle script writing, and original and genuine feel quickly made it my favorite new show of 2015. (Surpassing my then favorite Scorpion, I might add.)

Bonus? The show does not end on a cliffhanger. You aren't left with a burning question like "Who are the two by twos with hands of blue?" (Firefly) or "IS JIM DEAD AND WHO SHOT HIM?" (The Glades). While there are still questions you'd like answered and things you'd like to know, they aren't game-changing, nerve-crunching, fist-shaking questions that will keep you up at night and burn a hole through your chest.

Battle Creek ends with -if not complete resolution- a satisfactory note. You'll feel the bitter sweetness of not seeing how things unfold next, but what you do get in those thirteen episodes makes it worthwhile. At the end, the characters and story lines are all in a good place.

Reason #3: There is a #SaveBattleCreek movement under way. I told you the fans weren't ready to let this gem go. Will it make a difference? To be determined. But our numbers are growing. Join us...

Why You Should Watch It
There's three major components that make this show so fantastic: Writing, Characters, and Actors.

From the creators of House, M.D. and Breaking Bad, you expect stellar quality, and David Shores and Vince Gilligan deliver.

Setting it in the small(ish) town of Battle Creek, MI, offers some interesting and quirky new facets to the traditional cop procedural you aren't going to see in metropolis set NCIS or CSI or Castle. Like Breakfast Day, a city-wide celebration of the breakfast cereal that provides income for the city. Like mob-controlled maple syrup distribution. Like a department so underfunded that its tasers don't tase and their 'surveillance' equipment is duct tape and a baby monitor.
It can't be identified merely as a drama or a comedy or even a strict cop procedural. It's more than that. It's a slice of life. It's hilarious, cynical, heart-warming, gut-wrenching, wry, realistic, and full of hope. All at the same time! It's both the world at its worst and the world at its best.

It's what we want to believe about the world but also what we dread about it.

And that's why this show has garnered a group of such loyal fans. Because it is everything. It's taken life and everything about it and infused it into brilliant characters, stories that give us both the worst and the best of people but manage to leave us with an overall feeling of hope.

All of the characters are well-crafted. There are no throw-away minor characters cluttering the background. From the get-go, each of them have distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, and this doesn't always happen until a show has been underway for a while. You're immediately drawn into these characters.

While Battle Creek is a cop show, that's only half the story. The other half is the characters, specifically hard-boiled Detective Russ Agnew and the FBI's own knight-in-shining-armor Milt Chamberlain. They are Cynicism and Optimism, which reminds me of another favorite cop duo [Dani Reese and Charlie Crews from Life]. Milt always sees the good even in the worst of people while Russ believes the worst of everyone. And you know what?

They're both right.

And that's one reason the show is compelling.
Russ and Milt don't just spend every hour arguing over who's right -though they occasionally do that with wit and charm- they're also challenging each other. Challenging their beliefs and the way they see the world and how they think. It's character development at its most subtle and satisfactory.

It is brilliant.

They did such a fantastic job casting the roles in Battle Creek, from our leads Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters with their spectacular on-screen chemistry, to the recurring Meredith Eaton as the saucy medical examiner, to the guest spots for Patton Oswalt as the town's unorthodox mayor and Candice Bergen as Russ' con-artist mother.
These are just the top marks. The entire cast works so well together and has such great chemistry. Even when they're not solving a crime, there's workplace banter and they play off each other so well. This is a group of talented and well-cast actors, and it's so much fun to just sit back and watch them interact.

If it's such a great show, why was it canceled?
Alas, merely because a show is good does not secure its place in next season's line-up.

CBS says the show failed to connect to viewers, while fans protest that Battle Creek had an unfortunate time slot and not a lot of push in advertising.

As far as quality is concerned, Battle Creek was listed #17 on IMDb's 25 Best New TV Series 2014-2015, higher in both listing and rating than CBS' CSI: Cyber and The Odd Couple, both of which the network renewed. It also made #7 on Trending Top Lists' Best 10 TV Series In Season Right Now. Online reviewer and viewer ratings of Battle Creek both averaged about 7/10 (again, higher than CSI: Cyber's 5/10).

The show received many positive reviews, but the sad truth was the numbers just weren't up to snuff. It's a game of odds, and they aren't always in your favor. Always remember:

Just because a show is cancelled, doesn't mean it's not good.

Where You Can Watch It
Convinced? Want to give it a try? still has the last five episodes available for viewing. There's no word yet on a DVD or Blu-Ray release, but you can download the entire season from iTunes and Amazon for $19.99.
EDIT: Amazon now has the DVD available on demand and it is currently streaming on Netflix.

Trust me. It's totally worth it.


  1. Great post about the show, made me sad all over again that we won't be getting anymore Russ and Milt, and also made we want to do another re-watch. This show was so much wasted potential!

    1. I feel your pain, Jess. At least we'll always have another re-watch.