Let’s face it, nobody remembers much about “S.W.A.T.” — the ABC cop show that premiered in 1975 — except for the title and that chart-topping theme, providing ample latitude to reinvent it. CBS has done largely that in a show that at times awkwardly seeks to contemporize and contextualize the material while still offering basic thrills of the busting-down-doors variety.
Shemar Moore hasn’t moved far in migrating from his role on “Criminal Minds” into the lead here, playing Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson. In the premiere, the former Marine gains the promotion to head his elite unit after an officer-involved shooting of an African-American youth, with the department seeking to defuse racial tensions with the “optics” of putting a black man in charge.
Dealing with the politics, sensitivities and occasional humor of policing in L.A. has certainly been ripe fodder through the years, and the producers push some of those buttons, which includes having fun with the setting. In subsequent episodes, interludes range from a rooftop chase with bikini-clad extras to pulling over a star-sighting tour bus to interrogate the guide.
Created by “The Shield’s” Shawn Ryan and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, “S.W.A.T.” (an acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics, incidentally) doesn’t deviate much from CBS’ crime-procedural wheelhouse. Beyond corralling the bad guys each week, familiar touches include having a fearless, work-hard/play-harder young hothead, Jim Street (Alex Russell), join the team, prompting a lot of lectures about doing the job and still coming home alive.
The newer wrinkles, meanwhile, involve Hondo trying to mix work and romance with a colleague (Stephanie Sigman), which is complicated by his promotion; and an intra-departmental rivalry with another unit headed by Mumford, played by Peter Onorati, who has a long history of cop roles behind him.
CBS caught the front end of the reboot wave with its long-running “Hawaii Five-0” revival. By contrast, “S.W.A.T.” seeks to storm its way back into primetime after a spate of unearthed ’70s and ’80s TV artifacts — including the CW’s current “Dynasty” — has yielded mixed results.
The hope, obviously, is that a cross-section of viewers will show up, some motivated by curiosity due to the name (which also produced a movie adaptation), and stay for the thrills and characters. It’s just that after the opening notes of that aforementioned music, “S.W.A.T.” offers a relatively short list of bullet points that make the case for sticking around, except, perhaps, for those seeking more Moore.
“S.W.A.T.” premieres Nov. 2 at 10 p.m. on CBS.