“Listen, junior, this job ain't about getting even.”
— Detective Don Owen
Owen (Chi McBride, “Boston Public”), a hardened cop, is trying to educate his inexperienced partner, Walter William Clark Jr. (Theo James, “Downton Abbey”), in CBS' “Golden Boy,” premiering at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
These sorts of lines fill the first few episodes of “Golden Boy,” which is unrelated to the Clifford Odets Broadway play of the same name. The TV show is about a New York Police Department commissioner, CBS' second after “Blue Bloods.”
In this, which airs for two Tuesdays before switching to its regular 8 p.m. Friday time slot, Commissioner Clark relays how he came to this vaunted position at an age when he would have been lucky to make detective. He's telling a reporter his story, and the action flashes back to his beginnings as a beat cop who acted decisively during an armed hostage situation. After three years on the job, he's made a homicide detective.
Within seven years Clark is commissioner.
“He is prepared to do anything to rise in the ranks,” James says. “He is going to be someone you may think is a good guy, but how he got the job is not clear-cut. I like to think of him as not just whip-smart. In terms of police savvy, he is a bit of a genius.”
On-screen, James adopts a Queens accent, masking his natural British lilt. Like others in this series, James did ride-alongs with officers to research his character.
In the station house, Clark has to deal with many who don't like him, who believe his rise was too meteoric. They don't bother to hide their contempt for this man they don't trust and consider an interloping opportunist.
The thing about Clark is he doesn't much care. He cares about his sister, who has a drug problem, and he takes care of her. But otherwise, Clark cares about his career and getting to the top faster than logic would assume possible.
When he becomes Owen's partner, Owen has but two years left before he can retire.
McBride understands Owen.
“He wants to get through this without getting shot,” McBride says. “He doesn't care who gets credit.”
Owen seems ambivalent, but there's a reason for his studied aloofness, and he is very much a by-the-book kind of cop. “He is deeply flawed,” McBride says. “He has compromised himself, his marriage. He has suffered great loss. He is just existing.”