Despite a slight, breezy USA network-type feel, “Taxi Brooklyn” is such a risible concept as to border on parody. Alas, this NBC series by way of France doesn’t make that turn, leaving behind a head-scratcher of a show, derived from a last-century French movie written by Luc Besson (“Taxi”), and casting “Grey’s Anatomy” alum Chyler Leigh as the latest in a long line of unconvincing hard-bitten smallscreen detectives. Before it’s over, the show has detoured into nonsense about her taxi-driving co-star’s immigration status and the unsolved murder of her father and, oh for the love of God, who cares?
As a movie, one might ostensibly buy the premise of a cab driver — with mad maneuvering skills, naturally, and an elaborate backstory — having to help out a detective for a couple of days in order to clear up a legal hassle. Extended to series form, it just feels flat-out ridiculous, as Leigh’s Det. Caitlyn “Cat” Sullivan arrests Leo (Jacky Ido), after he’s forced to drive a getaway car at gunpoint, then turns him into her grudging, de facto sidekick.
Having earned fame for solving a high-profile case, she’s been booted down to foot patrol for some reason, and of course, the best way for any self-respecting cop to get around the city is by taxi.
The few glints of tolerability reside in Ido’s easygoing performance as Leo; he’s a French transplant with an aversion to confined spaces. But any goodwill pretty quickly evaporates, as he tries to assist Cat while spouting expository dialogue and doing things like referencing his affinity for “CSI,” presumably to justify his participation.
As for Leigh, her perpetually pissed-off character doesn’t provide much latitude, other than the opportunity to find various ways to say “douchebag.” Pity, too, the supporting cast, which includes James Colby as Cat’s irascible boss, Jennifer Esposito as her one pal on the force (a CSI, naturally), Bill Heck as her ex-husband (conveniently, an FBI agent) and Ally Walker as Cat’s blowsy mom, who can’t understand why she’s so obsessed with her dad’s murder.
Adapted by Gary Scott-Thompson, “Taxi Brooklyn” does a reasonable job of capturing its locations while racing around New York (the program was shot in English and dubbed into French for consumption there), but otherwise this export makes a pretty strong case for sticking with national staples, like wine and cheese.
Adding amateur psychologist to his assortment of skills, Leo tells Cat in the premiere, “You’re afraid if you start crying you will never stop.”
Although the show will get a boost from an “America’s Got Talent” lead-in, those who start watching “Taxi Brooklyn” should have no such problem quitting.