'Lethal Weapon': How a strong start spiraled into a countdown to extinction after the sacking of much-loved star Clayne Crawford
Once a series that managed to get on par with the iconic 'Lethal Weapon' films by Shane Black and also be just as commercially successful, the show has become a tragic confusion
It is no secret that the future of 'Lethal Weapon' is in muddy waters after this season. The show, currently on its third season, had been an unlikely candidate for such a future when it first aired in 2016. However, two seasons, a casting switch and ample backlash later, 'Lethal Weapon' has become one of those shows in Fox's list of programming that will be remembered for controversy. Once a series that not only managed to get on par with the iconic 'Lethal Weapon' films by Shane Black but also be just as commercially successful, the show has become a tragic confusion. So how did it all go so wrong for this buddy cop drama?
Ahead of 'Lethal Weapon's series premiere, the world had its doubts, quite naturally. It is never easy to be able to re-create the same magic as an existing movie, especially if the film is a Mel Gibson and Danny Glover starrer. It isn't often that an adaptation manages to keep the essence of the original project as well as tweak it to match their audience, all the while making sure to keep fans happy and engaged. Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford, who ended up playing the buddy cop duo thwarted all doubts — some even went on to enjoy the TV show more than they did the films.
The reason for its success was pretty simple — the two had chemistry and the show had solid action. 'Lethal weapon' had managed to keep not just Danny Glover's "too old for this sh***" attitude, but Mel Gibson's maverick cop with a heart of gold style as well. Wayans, who starred as Murtaugh (Glover's role in the film) and Crawford who starred as Riggs (Gibson's part) quickly replaced the idea of the old 'Lethal weapon' in our hearts and it showed. 'Lethal Weapon's season 1 maintained its viewership somewhere between 11 million to 8 million while season 2 hit its highest viewership at 7.50 million, making it one of Fox's most watched shows. The show was bound to get a second 3 renewal.
All was well, until...tragedy struck the show in the form of Clayne Crawford's firing.
Clayne Crawford saga
In April 2018, days before the season 2 finale, rumors started circling that Clayne Crawford was going to be replaced on 'Lethal Weapon'. A shock to one and all, allegations against him surfaced claiming that he was violent and abusive on set. A Deadline report said that he had a "history of bad behavior" and that the situation was so severe that he had to be "disciplined several times over complaints of emotional abuse and creating a hostile environment" after the cast and crew felt "uncomfortable being on set with him". Fans lost their minds — they rallied against the piece on social media and refused to accept it to be true.
Just a day later, however, their worst fears were confirmed. Crawford issued a statement on Instagram saying that it was true and he was sorry and that he had apologized for his part of the conflict.
The very next day, on April 25, another report surfaced that claimed that it was co-lead Damon Wayans who had a falling out with Crawford. It was like a messy divorce — Wayans took it to social media and Crawford claimed that it was an internal decision and he wasn't even told he was being let go.
A Variety report said, that Crawford had hit another co-star named Lance Henrikson who was set to appear in season 2's episode, 'Frankie Goes to Hollywood'. Wayans alleged that Crawford had hit Henriksen with a bottle. Crew members, however, reportedly said that it was false. The report also said that the scene that Wayans had mentioned involved Henrikson catching a bottle of green tea that Crawford was supposed to throw at him. In one of the takes, the bottle accidentally hit him. There were also rumors circulating saying that crew members who supported Crawford were also fired from the show along with him.
The report also called his temperament with cast and crew as "warm". "I’m not always a fan of people’s temperaments," one crew member told Variety. "Clayne’s not the only person who had a bad temperament with which he communicated his frustration. But he’s a dedicated actor. He cared about the show and was prepared." The firing triggered fandoms like never before and they threatened to boycott the show — in fact, till today, almost eight months since the incident they blame Wayans and Warner Bros for taking a decision that they believe ruined the show.
Seann William Scott is brought into the picture
It seemed unlikely after Crawford's firing that 'Lethal Weapon' would return for a third season. However, just a month after this entire drama, Seann William Scott was announced as Crawford’s replacement along with the news that they would indeed be coming back for a third season. 'Lethal Weapon' spoke up for the first time since this entire episode had started and said that Scott would be playing a different character on the show but would be in the same storyline at the LAPD. This angered fans even more, especially since the show didn't mention Crawford at all.
Crawford makes a statement
After Scott was brought in, Crawford finally broke his silence and told the world what really went on behind the scenes. In August, in an interview with Drinkin Bros, he said, "It's a little different when you replace Becky or the mom off of 'Fresh Prince'. Like, if they'd replaced the Fresh Prince, we'd have been like, what the f**k are we watching anyway? That's why I just didn't think it was possible," Crawford commented. "I just didn't think they were going to get rid of me, I guess. And if they did, I thought they'd give me a buzz... just a jangle? Just grab two cans and a string and just be like, 'You're not coming back. We feel like this is the Damon Wayans Show and people just don't like you. So go the f**k back to Alabama you dumb hick, thanks for playing.'"
He further claimed that he had been blackmailed. "I knew that they were going to release these tapes because they'd been blackmailing me with them for months and months and months, the entire second season," Crawford alleged, also claiming that Wayans was behind the negative stories about him prior to his firing. "And I have all the text messages from these people and voicemails from these people saying, 'Obviously you're not the problem, but you've got to get ahead of this because you know they're going to use those tapes against you'."
This solidified fans' belief in Crawford more than ever.
The way Riggs was written off
After all the turmoil, Fox delivered season 3, freshly packaged with Seann William Scott in the spotlight in September. Scott's performance may have been great in the episode, but fans were just not happy to see him, unsurprisingly. Twitter was alive with backlash and disappointment. Moreover, the show wrote off Riggs in perhaps the most lukewarm way possible. He was shot, he's rushed to the hospital and he dies.
For someone as smart, tough, unbreakable and capable as Martin Riggs, it did seem like a silly way to die. Moreover, when the show brought him up like a ghost from the past — they did it a little disrespectfully. Martin Riggs was a baseball cap, a pair of shades and an empty can of something in the premiere, literally.
There was a minute-long montage of him dying from last season and that's the last time we saw his face in 'In the Same Boat'. Although he is mentioned throughout the episode, there's a strange unreal vibe every time you see Roger mentioning how much he misses him. It is perhaps a perception created by his real-life antics but the love was definitely lost... and it showed.
Clayne Crawford fans who called themselves Team Clayne continued to rally against what they thought was absolute injustice the whole time. Without Crawford, 'Lethal Weapon' just wasn't the same to them. can you really blame them, though? Riggs was the heart of the show and Crawford, its nerve. Without him, the season premiere definitely did miss out on the lethal side of things.
Damon Wayans announces he's quitting the show
In October, Wayans announced that he was quitting the show after filming was done for this season. He said, "I’m going to be quitting the show in December after we finish the initial 13, so I don’t really know what they’re planning, but that’s what I’m planning. I’m a 58-year-old diabetic and I’m working 16-hour days… Like Murtaugh said, 'Too old for this'." He even claimed that he was planning on returning to stage in order to try and find his smile again once he leaves the TV show. "This has been very hard, especially last week. My mother had surgery, my daughter had surgery and I had to look them both in the eye and go, 'I can’t be there'."
Fans called this an attempt to grab attention and that no one should really take him seriously anymore. This also pushed the show's future further down the abyss.
Season 3 hasn't seen any episode that has more than 6.29 million total viewers. Clearly, someone isn't watching as much as they did. In fact, fans on social media want the show canceled now because they really don't see a point in continuing the show forward. Fox has canceled shows in the past that have been fan favorites and done well on ratings - so why won't they let the legacy of 'Lethal Weapon' rest in peace?
Fox announces 2 more episodes to season 3
Shockingly, after this announcement by Wayans in October, just a couple of weeks later, Fox announced that 'Lethal Weapon' would be getting two additional episodes for its third season and that both Wayans and Scott would appear in them as Murtaugh and Wesley Cole.
Where we are now
More than the Clayne Crawford firing it was the way in which Fox and Warner Bros dealt with the whole situation. There were neither official statements from them confirming the firing nor were fans given any closure. In fact, before he was officially fired, Crawford found out about the decision through social media. For a show the size of 'Lethal Weapon', it was disappointing to see the drama being handled so badly.