Maybe USA should try something a bit less common.
It's not always fair to judge a show by its title, but in this case the exercise is depressingly accurate. Taken together, the words Common Law (* 1/2 out of four, USA, Friday, 10 p.m.) tell you that the show's two main characters work in law enforcement (as homicide detectives, easily TV's most oversubscribed profession) and that their constant bickering is supposed to remind you of mismatched, not-quite-mainstream spouses.
As for the "Common" by itself, what that tells you is that this is yet another dull-on-arrival, purposely unoriginal blue-sky buddy show, a patchwork quilt pieced together by writers Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (best known for the movie version of I Spy, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and the National Treasure films) out of a thousand TV detective clichés. This isn't escapist TV; it's TV you need to escape.
Helpfully, at least that need to flee is made clear in the overextended pilot's very first scene. We meet Travis (Michael Ealy) and Wes (Warren Kole) in group couples' counseling, but they're not gay, despite the plodding efforts to make you think so. Instead, they're straight cop partners sent there by their newly new-age boss (Jack McGee, like Necessary Roughness's Callie Thorne a misused Rescue Me alum) to restore calm in their work relationship.
The idea would be ridiculous and tired enough as a one-off joke. But instead, their group therapy bit is actually part of the show's conceit, complete with a therapist (Lost's Sonya Walger, who deserves better) so entwined in the plot that she follows one of the cops into a bar for an unrequested house call. It's the one novelty in a show otherwise completely devoid of surprise, and it happens to be a ludicrous one.
The boys do have a murder to solve, but Friday's opener is far more interested in establishing their squabbling bond. Travis is an irresponsible, womanizing former foster child (an important point, because cases will apparently hinge on the multiple foster siblings he can turn to for help). Wes is a compulsive former attorney with anger-management issues who was driven to become a cop over bad-verdict guilt.
They fight over dinged car doors. They fight over who owes whom an apology. They fight over whose bullet stopped the fleeing murderer. And in one scene, they out-and-out fight, crashing through an office window but managing not to get hurt, or be disciplined, or to suffer any long-lasting repercussion, personally or professionally, at all. Because that's the kind of show this is, and reality and sense — common or otherwise — need not apply.
Maybe USA can't or won't do any better on a summer Friday. Surely you can.