When looking at a list of Disney+’s original programming, it’s hard to find much that actually seems “original.” Beyond multiple series based on the Star Wars universe or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the streaming service that isn’t even two years old has already mined past properties with The Right Stuff, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and Monsters at Work. The future of Disney+ isn’t much better, with new shows based on Doogie Howser M.D., Willow, National Treasure, and far more on the way. We already know that Disney owns a ridiculous amount of properties, but Disney+ exists to assure us that none of these properties ever have to die.
Released in 1989, Turner & Hooch was a charming buddy-cop film between a man and a hulking dog that was a moderate success and was one of Tom Hanks’ first big roles after the success of Big. A year later, the pilot for a Turner & Hooch series starring Back to the Future’s Thomas Wilson was filmed, and ultimately never picked up, but was released as a television film on The Magical World of Disney. Yet since no idea at Disney ever truly dies, the company has revived Turner & Hooch one more time, three decades after their last attempt.
In this latest iteration, Josh Peck plays Scott Turner, the son of Hanks’ character from the original movie. Like Hanks’ portrayal, Scott is a very clean, set-in-his-ways detective who has his world thrown upside down after taking ownership of a giant, drool-covered French Mastiff named Hooch. After his father’s death, Scott’s father wanted him to have this new pet, with his father saying this new dog is “almost like the original Hooch came back.”
The first episode of Turner & Hooch, “Forever and a Dog,” pretty much hits the main beats of the original film in an abbreviated fashion, which also makes the eventual bond forged between these two feel extremely rushed. While Turner & Hooch tries to do its best to create an understandable connection between these two, the partnership between the two grows more out of necessity than out of any believable growth.
Despite dog and new owner supposedly connecting in the first episode, the serialized nature of Turner & Hooch means that at least in the show’s first three episodes, we get a similar dynamic and arc in each subsequent episode. The second episode, “A Good Day to Dog Hard,” is a cute recreation of Die Hard, where Turner must babysit the head of the Olympic committee’s daughter, while the committee itself is being held hostage. This homage has some fun with retelling the classic action film, but as with the first episode, there’s plenty of moments where Turner can’t quite trust Hooch’s wild behavior, until Hooch ends up saving the day in the end.
The same is true of the third episode, “Diamonds are Furever,” where Turner uses Hooch to sniff out a jewel thief. Once again, Hooch’s antics are a problem for Turner, until he learns to appreciate his slobbery new partner and, yet again, is saved by his four-legged friend. The Odd Couple nature of this story, in which a neat freak took on a destructive dog, made sense in a two-hour comedy, yet trying to recreate this dynamic over and over again in each episode of a series starts to become tedious.
But amongst these repetitive storylines, Turner & Hooch is at least attempting to set up some decent storylines that could pay off in the future. Scott’s sister Laura (Lyndsy Fonseca) finds police files in their father’s closet, and the two begin to explore what their father was investigating before his untimely death. Turner & Hooch also spends most of its time with rookie Turner learning the ins and outs of his new U.S. Marshal job, with his pregnant partner Jessica (Carra Patterson), and exploring the social dynamics of this ladder he wants to climb.
Yet the most enjoyable dynamic in Turner & Hooch comes between Turner and the head of the U.S. Marshal K9 unit, Erica (Vanessa Lengies). Erica’s clear crush on the oblivious Turner, and the awkward yet charming moments between the two make for some of the show’s most lovely moments. While the characters and plots of Turner & Hooch can often feel extremely cliche, Lengies’ Erica is a breath of fresh air in a series struggling for originality.
Even with scripts that don’t do him any favors, Peck is charming in the lead role, especially considering that he has to fill the large shoes of Hanks. Peck can pull off the bumbling nature of the character, but can also pull off a Die Hard tribute if need be. Peck might not have been the most obvious choice for this role, but his puppy dog face and his willing attitude make him a solid, albeit surprising, choice for this lead performance.
It’s also questionable who this reboot/sequel series is actually for. The tone seems to imply that this is for a younger audience, yet at times, Turner & Hooch is surprisingly violent, with plenty of gunplay and one moment where Turner throws a villain down several flights of stairs. It’s also hard to imagine that anyone with nostalgia for the original will care beyond the pilot episode’s abbreviated recreation of the film. Turner & Hooch is too violent for its childish attitude, but too kiddie for fans of the original movie.
Creator Matt Nix, who also previously made Burn Notice, clearly knows how to take an idea and serialize the hell out of it, which he tries his best to do here. Yet these first three episodes follow an extremely similar three-act structure that isn’t all that funny or exciting. As is expected with a serialized shows, 90% of each episode focuses on a mediocre concept like “Die Hard, but with a dog,” or “jewel thief, but with a dog,” with about 10% of the episode actually consisting of the relationship dynamics that end up being the show’s most interesting element.
Turner and Hooch is at its best when focusing on the relationships that transcend the standard serialized storylines. But unfortunately, at least in these first three episodes, the show is too caught up in recreating the squabbles between Turner and Hooch over and over again in new scenarios. Turner and Hooch has some fun with the concept of a buddy cop film between a reluctant human and his overwhelming dog, but its inability to get out of the shadow of what the film presented makes this a repetitive series that isn’t quite for anyone and is already stretching this premise extremely thin.
Turner & Hooch premieres on Disney+ July 21, with new episodes airing every Wednesday.
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