The most remarkable thing about NBC’s “Taxi Brooklyn” is that it so closely resembles one of USA’s blue-sky cop dramedies. It has all the USA ingredients: The premise is confidently silly, the buddy chemistry is oh-so-charming, the weekly cases are tissue soft, and the whole enterprise walks the line between police procedural and spoof.
USA practically invented this style of light TV with “Monk,” “White Collar,” “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” “Suits,” and “Covert Affairs.” Quirky people, lots of sunshine, Saturday morning bad guys, bursts of action, and steady banter — a simple recipe. And the basic-cable network has done quite well with these EZ-to-read shows, opening up new vistas for summer TV viewers who don’t want repeats, reality shows, or the rigors of most pay cable shows. So it’s not surprising that NBC would hanker after this kind of product. What is surprising, though, is just how exacting the imitation is.
The series, which premieres Wednesday night at 10, is loosely based on the French “Taxi” movies by Luc Besson (there was an American remake with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in 2004). Chyler Leigh, who broke through as Lexie Grey on “Grey’s Anatomy,” plays a tough, irritable, and obsessive detective (suspend disbelief or die) named Cat who has gone through five partners and a couple of cop cars, which she has crashed while chasing perps. No one in Brooklyn law enforcement has much patience for her anymore, including her boss, Captain Baker (James Colby), and her ex-husband, FBI Special Agent Gregg James (Bill Heck). But her father was a cop who was killed on the job, so she is also beloved.
Enter a taxi driver from France named Leo, played by Jacky Ido, who is in the United States illegally. Since Cat has been forbidden to drive cop cars, and demoted to foot patrol on Coney Island, she offers Leo a deal. If he will drive her on the job, as well as help her identify her father’s killer, she will help him stay in this country. (Again, suspend belief or die.) Leo, who is remarkably astute when it comes to catching criminals, takes the deal, especially since he and Cat are so cute together — not in a flirtatious way so much as in a sibling way. Also, Cat’s widowed mother, played by Ally Walker, has the hots for him, and he doesn’t mind.
So the point is, if you like some of those undemanding USA shows, you just might cotton to this one. “Taxi Brooklyn” requires no thinking — in fact, it discourages thinking. Ido is winning, too, which helps matters. I found the first two episodes both unimpressive and easily consumed, a little like drinking a bottle of light beer.