The Equalizer

A revival of a revival of an original – can that possibly work?

What’s The Show? The Equalizer.

What’s It All About, JG? Well, back in the dim and distant days of the 80’s, when bubble perms were acceptable and day-glo was somehow alright to wear for a night on the town, Edward Woodward defended the lost and in-trouble of New York City who had no-one else to turn to. It was all exceedingly 80’s, with a moody synth theme tune, grubby locations and ice-cool Robert McCall as played deadpan-straight by Woodward. Then, in the dim and distant days of *checks date*, erm 2014, the series became a movie, starring ice-cool Denzel Washington as Robert McCall – in other words it was exactly the same. But wait! Now, in the dim but extremely present day of 2021, we have a third go-around, this time starring Queen Latifah, as ice… no wait, that’s not it. She’s exceedingly cool but the ice has gone this time out, instead playing Robyn McCall (no relation) as someone who’s driven to help people but is also balancing a family life at the same time. It is, in other words, every bit as 2021 as the original series was 80’s.

Why Did You Give It A Go? (Very) faint lingering appreciation of the original, which I probably haven’t seen since its original broadcast. Not that those feeling encouranged me in the direction of the Denzel movies. But, let’s be honest, mostly for Queen Latifah. 

Is It Any Good? It’s very much it’s own thing, but the thing it’s very much its own of (if that makes sense) is refreshingly enjoyable. This is comfort TV – something to watch when you’re eating dinner or doing the ironing. It’s genre TV in the best sense. Though the plots – which are mostly standalone despite a running thread of Robyn’s past life being dragged into the present via Chris Noth’s William Bishop, an ex-CIA boss – are pretty rote as far as TV thriller shows go there’s… well, there’s something about it that just works. It’s a long way from prestige TV but that’s also why it functions as well as it does – it’s not trying to be something it isn’t and understands how to make what it is work well.

It helps that the cast are insanely charismatic – with Queen Latifah naturally at the top of the pile. She’s fantastic as Robyn, endlessly watchable and kick-ass in all the right ways, but she’s not the only one. Lorraine Toussaint very nearly steals the show as Aunt Vi, a lovely, naturalistic performance that really helps to give dimension to the home-life material which might otherwise border on cliche. Tony Kittles as Detective Dante, whose uneasy alliance with McCall powers much of the drama of the show, is definitely channeling his inner Denzel but he’s also good enough to pull that off – certainly magnetic enough to hold attention, and he’s got real spark with Latifah. It’s just enjoyable watching such a gifted cast chew their way through this material.

How Many Of These Did You Watch? All of the first season, which is only ten episodes, and since it’s been renewed for a second season I’ll be watching them too.

Would You Recommend It? Yes, with the caveat that this is pulpy, genre TV so, you know, don’t go in expecting Mr Robot or something. Yet it is thoroughly entertaining, and it’s got a high enough budget that can slickly pull off big car chases or fight scenes every episode without it seeming ridiculous (or at the very least, the right kind of ridiculous). Queen Latifah helps a lot here – she’s simply marvellous when sliding about the place on her motorbike – but it’s a solid production all round. The only bit which rings slightly false is the whole “Bat-cave” underground geek hideout, whereby Robyn has a couple of handy nerds on tap to do all the very-nearly-sci-fi surveillance stuff. And again this is saved by a couple of rather charming performances (from Adam Goldberg and Liza Lapira, not given a whole lot of material beyond point-at-things-and-explain) so it just kinda comes off. So if you’re in the mood for a bit of a TV action thriller that you don’t need to overly invest in the, sure, I’d recommend it. You could do a lot worse. In fact the only thing wrong is the absence of that Stewart Copeland theme from the original and really, that’s not too bad at all.

Scores On The Doors? 7/10 It is what it is.

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