'Battle Creek' not too corny for most

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Team Active Cycling and Fitness is as authentically Battle Creek as Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

So when the bike shop's trademark sticker was placed prominently on one of the walls at the fictional police station on the new CBS drama "Battle Creek," a number of local viewers such as Lisa Rutherford couldn't stop smiling. Set in Battle Creek, but shot in Los Angeles, the series debuted Sunday and follows a police detective and an FBI agent who successfully solve crimes despite their disdain for each other.

Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters are detectives with different views on the world who team up using cynicism, guile and deception to clean up the streets of Battle Creek.

"We were excited when we saw that because it's a piece of home," said Rutherford, who has lived in Battle Creek for nearly two decades and is married to a hometown boy. "The acting was good and the show held my attention. But seeing the sticker was cool. Like they're trying to get it right. You'd have to live here to even notice."

Alan Parr also got a kick out of seeing the Team Active sticker. After all, he owns the shop and when producers were in town to capture the flavor of Battle Creek last year, Parr said he had no idea they'd actually use his sticker.

"We didn't know, but we were pleasantly surprised," Parr said. A photo of the scene can be found on the store's Facebook page. "It's a cool show, but it's that much cooler because they included Team Active."

In another scene, an online menu from Arcadia Ales, a beloved Battle Creek microbrewery, was noticeably visible on one of the detectives' computer screens.

Touches like these are what make Mayor Deb Owens optimistic that if the network show is a hit, Battle Creek could benefit in substantial ways. Early signs are bright and "Battle Creek" had an impressive debut with 7.8 million viewers.

"I'm hoping that this show can do for Battle Creek what 'Breaking Bad' did for Albuquerque," Owens said. (Vince Gilligan, who created and executive produced "Breaking Bad," is one of the creators and executive producers behind "Battle Creek.")

"There's so much history and culture here and people need to know about us and come see it for themselves," the mayor said.

Everyone isn't as enthusiastic. Some Battle Creek residents bashed the show on social media. One Facebook user said that the police force, for instance, came across as inept and the town looked like "nothing beautiful."

Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker, however, appreciates the humor.

"As police officers, we laugh at ourselves more than you all do," Blocker said. "Laughing at ourselves helps us get through the day."

Blocker, who enjoyed "Battle Creek," said he is curious to see how the characters develop and what other real-life stories the show will mine. He noted that the scene in the pilot where a drug dealer asks law enforcement not to knock down the door because it is both expensive and unlocked, happened to actual Battle Creek officers — with a few exceptions of course.

"The real life house was not nearly as nice," Blocker said with a chuckle. "I know creative license is taken. It makes the story better."

For her part, the mayor is encouraging local and national viewers to stick with the show because she believes it will get better and more flattering every week. The seventh episode includes a fictional event called Annual Breakfast Day, which is based on the city's Cereal Festival and World's Longest Breakfast Table celebration in June.

In that same episode, comedian Patton Oswalt plays the mayor. While Owens is much prettier, she said she chuckled at the casting choice.

"His character is a lot like the mayor of Toronto and nothing like me," Owens said. "A cereal mascot nearly gets snuffed out in the same episode and that could never happen here. If something were to happen to Tony the Tiger, the National Guard would have to intervene."

Such creative liberties are what make "Battle Creek" a TV show, she added.

"The most important part is that it is done tastefully," Owens said. "There was a double homicide and a drive-by shooting in the first episode. Those things do happen and they are taken very seriously.

"We have a pretty amazing, very professional police department. There was a lot of anxiety before the debut. But most of the people here like it because it is a quirky show and, although the crimes are serious, it's infused with very subtle comedic elements."

Doug Allen, assistant editor at the Battle Creek Shopper News, attended one of the screenings the mayor participated in and said she's not the only one rooting for this show.

"Some people don't get Vince Gilligan's quirkiness and someone called 'Battle Creek' a live-action cartoon," said Allen, who is a native and a newsman with 30-plus years of experience. "But the show has been well received for the most part and there was a lot of applause and laughter."

Mekeisha Madden Toby is an L.A.-based entertainment writer.

"Battle Creek'

10 p.m. Sundays