The first issue, of course, is chemistry.
For a high-energy, light-hearted, banter-driven buddy-cop show to succeed, the primary job for its writers and actors is to convince viewers the crime-fighting co-workers at the centre of the storyline really do fit well together.
In the new made-for-cable drama King & Maxwell, Jon Tenney and Rebecca Romijn are confident they've hit all the right notes.
"I know Rebecca's a good enough actor, and I'd like to think I'm a good enough actor to make it work," Tenney says in a telephone interview from Vancouver, where the pair were doing the media rounds in advance of King & Maxwell's Canadian premiere. "We're professionals, and whoever you work with, you try to get along and do good work. But there is a certain undefined element that either happens or doesn't happen, and in our case, our experience was that we just sort of clicked and it all made sense.
"It's hard to describe exactly what it was -- we have very different rhythms, but we kind of meshed together."
Romijn agrees there was an immediate ease to their on-the-set partnership, but is quick to add that it's really up to viewers to decide whether they're a well-cast pair onscreen.
"It's not up to us to judge," she says. "But you can't make (chemistry) up. It's either there or it's not."
King & Maxwell, which premi®res monday, Aug. 26, on Showcase TV, is based on a series of novels by David Baldacci. Tenney and Romijn play Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, a couple of former U.S. Secret Service agents whose careers ended badly (a candidate he was protecting was murdered; a client she was safeguarding was kidnapped) and who have teamed up to form a Washington, D.C.-based detective agency.
In the pilot episode of the shot-in-Vancouver series, King and Maxwell are drawn into the police investigation of the murder of a lawyer who was a close friend and mentor to Sean. They quickly learn the deceased attorney had been representing an accused serial killer. Police and prosecutors are treating it as an open-and-shut case, but there's something about the accused -- an autistic savant whose photographic memory was being exploited by a military-industrial corporation -- that prompts King to dig deeper.
There are some dark undertones to the story and to the backgrounds of the series' lead characters, but it's clear the show's producers have opted to keep King & Maxwell's attitude light and more focused on caper-driven fun than on grim and gritty subject matter.
"It's a delicate balance," says Tenney. "There always has to be some level of reality that grounds any show. It can be its own reality; it doesn't have to be the real world, necessarily. And I think it's a work in progress -- we're really trying to find a balance in tone where it can be light and entertaining as well as grounded in reality."
Just how much more tinkering they'll be able to do on King & Maxwell's narrative identity remains to be seen. While it has yet to air in Canada, the series just completed its 10-episode first-season run on the American TNT network, and the fact the Turner-owned channel did not include King & Maxwell on a list of series renewals announced last week suggests the future of this gumshoe duo might be in doubt.
"(The cable-drama landscape) is very competitive..." Tenney says. "I think TNT really likes the show and there are a number of factors that are going to enter into the decision-making process. All we can focus on is trying to tell a good story and be honest in our work. We certainly love the show and we believe in it, and we've gotten good feedback from the powers that be, but it's like anything in this business -- we're waiting to hear, along with the rest of the show's fans."
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