Hollywood has had more than its fair share of controversy over the years. Without the shock, anger and moral indignation frequently roused by the world’s oldest film industry, Hollywood wouldn’t be the place that it currently is, nor would it have the reputation that it currently has. Take that as you will, as it can be seen to be a good or bad attribute, depending on how one looks at it.
Even a quick look at the past couple of months reveals a host of issues that have for one reason or another, seriously divided public opinion: Quentin Tarantino speaking out against police brutality; Star Wars: The Force Awakens having cast John Boyega as one of its leads; Ghostbusters being rebooted with an all female Ghostbuster cast. Wherever you may stand on these issues, their potential for controversy remains until the next one comes along.
And come along it has – this time in the form of the CBS drama series Rush Hour, based on the Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker film franchise. CBS has already been blamed for lacking confidence in the material on display in Rush Hour's trailer - after the network briefly pulled it from YouTube shortly after the trailer’s premiere. Now the show has been accused of a stereotypical approach to the racial makeup of its characters.
During Rush Hour’s Television Critics Association press tour, a critic asked the show’s producers how they planned to flesh out the characters so they weren’t stuck in the same stereotypical archetypes seen in the Rush Hour film franchise. According to one critic who had seen Rush Hour’s pilot episode, the TV series was no more evolved than what has come before it.
“When the Rush Hour movies were out, they took criticism for being centered on two character who were really stereotypical. … Watching the pilot, I see you haven’t done much to change those archetypes. At a time where shows are really trying to have a nuanced discussion about race, these characters still feel very stereotypical to me. How are you going to try these archetypes a little bit so that they don’t feel so rooted in these longstanding stereotypes?”
Though Justin Hires, who plays the Chris Tucker role in the Rush Hour series responded to these accusations by assuring the press that his character was not a stereotype and was, in fact, the reality of who he is as a person, the aforementioned critic wanted to specifically hear from the show’s producers. Executive producer Bill Lawrence then spoke up.
“I have a track record – I’m very proud of diversity on the writing staff, I’m very proud of the diversity on the show behind the cameras, very proud of the diversity in the crew – and I want to say that not in a defensive way. […] Your question does lead to an answer that is important to us: Pilots, especially when you’re talking about what is – on some level [to do an] hourlong procedural on CBS with action and comedy – if we’re to play those tropes week in and week out … the audience wouldn’t respond to it.”
Without seeing the pilot, it’s hard for anyone to make a valid argument either for or against the series. From what’s on display in the trailer however, the Rush Hour TV show closely resembles the films – both in content and style of humor. That can be taken as a positive or a negative, but it also reeks of a been there done that style that could well cause viewers to lose interest fast - should the characters not develop beyond their quite frankly stale "the black guy" and "the Chinese guy" caricatures.
For those who haven't watched it yet, here is the Rush Hour TV series trailer:
Rush Hour premieres Thursday, March 31st, 2016 on CBS.