If you asked anyone in your neighborhood what they thought of Satan (except for the creepy guy with the pencil-thin goatee and red velvet robe), they are more than likely to tell you that he was a bad, bad dude. As the landlord of hell and its ever-increasing rents due to overcrowding, he’s going to take the brunt of a lot of anger, fear, and hatred.
But let’s get Grinder-y here and ask… but what if he wasn’t? What if Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Mario Lopez was a… cop! Well then, that would be another wonderful idea for a network television series, so here I am reviewing Fox’s Lucifer. It’s based on the character created by Neil Gaiman in the author’s Sandman comics and then later spun-off into his own DC Comics series Lucifer. I guess what I’m saying is we can’t totally blame Fox for this.
And you know what? “Blame” isn’t even the right word because the pilot of Lucifer was a surprisingly good time! That is, when it wasn’t entirely horrible. Lucifer is one of those shows that you hate a lot at first, then you kind of like the fact that you hate it so much, then you settle into numbness with brief bouts of enjoyment. That kind of reaction can’t come from a series that doesn’t know how to have fun, and Lucifer would make a good addition to any party made up entirely of TV shows.
All you need to know about the plot of Lucifer is that Lucifer helps cops solve crimes and Fox made a show about it. But if you want to get particular, this Lucifer (handsome Welsh actor Tom Ellis) grew bored with ruling hell and decided to “vacation” in Los Angeles and help the cops punish bad guys, as Lucifer likes to do. And because every oddball contractor working with law enforcement needs a buttoned-up partner, Lucifer met up with Chloe (Chicago Fire’s Lauren German, who, like her character, is just along for the ride) while investigating the death of a pop starlet named Delilah who was killed in a drive-by shooting outside of the Hollywood nightclub that Lucifer owned. Still with me? Yeah, this was around the time in the pilot that I hated Lucifer.
But then something happened—Lucifer roofied me maybe—because after that the pilot became a hoot. It was maybe not exactly what the show intended, but it was still enjoyable! That’s largely due to Ellis’s performance as the smarmy, charming, and sexually radiant leader of the netherworld. Ellis was great in this and singlehandedly kept everything on the very tip of watchable. That scene when he walked into Delilah’s ex-boyfriend’s crib and said he hated hip hop to one of the most famous fictional rappers on TV ever? It was horrendous, but it kept popping back up like one of those inflatable punchy clowns because of Ellis and his go-for-it attitude with this incredibly silly show.
And that attitude permeates other parts of Lucifer, too. I always say that as long as a corny show knows that it’s corny, it’s inviting you to revel in that kind of corniness, and Lucifer is cornier than turd after a corn fritter fry-off and is comfortable in that fact. Lucifer had a license plate that read “Fallen1.” A no-nonsense therapist (the always great Rachael Harris) was overcome with a case of the hornies when she saw Lucifer. Chloe’s backstory was that she showed off her tits in a campy comedy movie a decade ago but then realized she wanted to be a cop. Lucifer stared down a chubby elementary school bully with hellfire eyes and made her freak the F out. These were the best parts ofLucifer because they were the most ridiculous and embraced the show’s own ridiculousness.
But then there’s almost every procedural element of Lucifer, which was, like, half the show. The pilot’s case (who killed Delilah?) and the way it was solved (the killer wore the same watch as Delilah’s ex-manager/ex-boyfriend, so obviously he was behind it) were so [fart noise]and pseudo-serious that the prospect of sticking around for another episode knowing the actual cop stuff would be like time served in hell was horrifying. There’s nothing exciting about the cop action in the show, and Lucifer felt like it wanted to get those parts out of the way so it could put Ellis full frame and have him smile or force another person to admit their innermost desires using his angelic charm. Anything but let him, you know, be a cop.
There was some minor display of smarts by Lucifer that could add just enough depth to make this a cultish fave. Early discussions found Lucifer ruminating on whether or not he was the bad guy, just an instrument that people used to justify their own inherent bad nature, or if the devil actually made anyone “do” anything or if it was just what people always wanted to do anyway. It was a surprising eye opener for a show that just featured a drive-by outside a nightclub that the devil owned, and it was pretty much dropped after that in favor of a Lucifer who chased skirts and had sex with women to get what he wanted. Whether or not Lucifer explores that in later episodes… I have my doubts!
Lucifer’s a series that knows how to have fun but also has to be a police procedural even though it doesn’t want to put any effort into that part. And it shows.