Set in a fictionalized version of the city of Battle Creek, Michigan, the show focuses on the efforts of Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) as he tries to keep his home safe while dealing with tight city budgets, failing equipment, and insufficient training. The FBI sends Special Agent Milton Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) to provide assistance, but Agnew takes an immediate disliking to the newcomer. Unfortunately, the two are stuck together and have to try and cooperate to make Battle Creek a better place.
This program provides examples of:
- The Ace: Chamberlain is supposed to be a rising star and demonstrates that he can collect information in a fraction of the time it takes the Battle Creek detectives. Agnew thinks that this is all a facade for something much more troubled.Sandy: "Milton, you're good at everything!"
- Affectionate Nickname: Commander Guziewicz is occasionally called "Goose" by her subordinates.
- Batman Gambit: Agnew uses his suspects' arrogance to manipulate them into a corner.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Neither Agnew nor Holly can admit their feelings for one another. Agnew is afraid of letting his guard down, while Holly keeps waiting for him to make the first move. She finally decides she's waited enough and practically jumps Agnew in the evidence room, resolving the UST.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough/Good Cop/Bad Cop/Odd Couple: Chamberlain and Agnew are a study in contrasts.
- Chamberlain had a cushy upbringing, wears expensive and custom clothing, and prefers to appeal to people's emotions when pursuing investigations.Chamberlain: "In my experience, if you trust people they trust you."
- Agnew is implied to have had a working class childhood (whose con artist mother frequently used him to trick people), wears shabby, ill-fitting suits, and uses threats of violence to convince people to cooperate.Agnew: "Have you actually met people?"
- Chamberlain had a cushy upbringing, wears expensive and custom clothing, and prefers to appeal to people's emotions when pursuing investigations.
- Consummate Liar: Chamberlain is an incredibly smooth liar. Smooth enough to almost fool Agnew, who's a pretty decent liar himself.Agnew: "He's a better liar than I am. And secondly, he quite possibly could much more interesting than I thought."
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Inverted. A man is deemed to have died of natural causes but the detectives believe that it was actually murder. They build a pretty good case against the man's former accountant but then the coroner tells them that the autopsy revealed no signs of foul play and it really was natural causes.
- Da Chief: Commander Guziewicz ably leads Battle Creek's detectives.
- Did You Just Have Sex?: Erin and Milt to Holly and Russ, respectively. Russ keeps denying it. Strangely, the two were the only ones who picked up on it, despite Russ acting extremely unlike himself in the morning.
- Dying Town: Characters bemoan the decline of the show's version of Battle Creek, Michigan.Funkhauser: What the heck is happening around here? It used to be nice...quiet. A place people moved to raise their kids. Now we're playing Whack-a-Mole with heroin dealers.
- Everyone Can See It: Agnew has a badly hidden crush on Holly, although Holly doesn't seem to be aware of it herself.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Subverted. In the pilot, Russ and Milton try coach their witness into fingering a local drug dealer for the murder of the week. Unfortunately for them, the dealer refuses to play ball because he's completely innocent, and Agnew only avoids a suspension because Milton tells Commander Guziewicz it was his idea (it was Russ's). Ironically the witness himself was the actual killer.
- Godzilla Threshold: Guziewicz's house burning down is serious enough for Agnew to voluntarily ask for Chamberlain's help.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Agnew tries to prank Milton by letting Milton answer the phone as if he was a member of the department. He expects that the call is from an old lady who regularly reports non-existant crimes so she has a reason to talk to police officers. However, this time it's a patrol officer calling in a double homicide and standard protocol is that the detective who answers the phone is the one who is the primary investigator on the case. Commander Guziewicz decides that this is a good time to teach Agnew a lesson so she gives Milton jurisdiction over the case and makes Agnew subordinate to him.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Throughout the episode "Syruptitious", maple syrup is treated like a drug. Russ repeatedly points out the ridiculousness of infiltrating a maple syrup cartel.
- Inheritance Murder: It features. The detectives are investigating a woman's murder when they discover that she has been spending a lot of time with an older wealthy man who died a few days before her. They suspect that the deaths are related and that the man's children might have killed him for his money. However, this theory is subverted when it is revealed that the man died of natural causes. The dead woman was the man's illegitimate daughter and was killed by her half-siblings so they would not have to share their inheritance with her. After they are arrested, the dead woman's son inherits everything.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Agnew has a personality so abrasive that his co-workers discourage him from giving death notifications because they're afraid he might make things worse just by being himself. But he's also a dedicated cop who wants nothing more than to make Battle Creek a better place.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Agnew does not appreciate Chamberlain's involvement in his cases even though the FBI agent was specifically brought in to help the overburdened Battle Creek Police Department.Agnew: "It's our town. It's our people. It's our job."
- Mundane Made Awesome: The production of pure, high quality maple syrup is given a montage that wouldn't have seemed so out of place on Breaking Bad.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: While arresting a Dominican drug kingpin, Funk attempts to duplicate Milt speaking Spanish earlier.Funk: (in subtitled Spanish) Very cold! I arrest myself!
Drug Lord: (in English) What?
Funk: I said, "You're under arrest!"
- Noodle Incident: Milt transferred to Battle Creek ostensibly because he slept with his boss's wife. But his boss reveals that the decision to make the transfer was made by an unknown party much higher up the chain of command and no one knows why it was made.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Commander Guziewicz is often frustrated by Agnew's attitude but she takes it all in stride and prefers to gently guide her subordinates but makes it clear that there are boundaries she doesn't want them to cross.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Battle Creek is a small industrial city that's seen better days (in real life, it's where Kellogg's keeps its world headquarters) but it might as well be Antarctica to Chamberlain, who should be rapidly moving up the FBI's ranks. He was transferred from the Detroit field office because he slept with Agent Bromberg's wife. It was kept quiet so that he could leave with a bit of dignity intact until Jacocks figured it out in "Man's Best Friend". But there's a greater power at play, according to Agent Bromberg.Agent Bromberg: "Good riddance, you miserable sack of-" Cut to next scene
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Agnew is red while Chamberlain is blue.
- Running Gag: In the pilot, everyone the crew canvasses offers them coffee cake. Even the drug supplier whose door they were about to break down!
- Serious Business: The manufacture and distribution of maple syrup is a tough and dangerous business and sets up the plot of "Syruptitious".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Chamberlain wears well-tailored suits and custom shoes.Agnew: "How do you run in those shoes?"
Chamberlain: "Oh, I have an excellent cobbler."
- Shoddy Knockoff Product: One episode revolves around the import and selling of counterfeit goods.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Agnew and Chamberlain's first case together makes headline news. Chamberlain graciously shares credit with Agnew but the front page photo crops Agnew out. Holly throws out the paper before Agnew can see.
- In "Old Flames" Chamberlain and Agnew rush into a burning building. While Agnew actually deals with the fire Chamberlain carries a victim to safety, where neighbors promptly pull out their phones to take photos and videos of the heroic FBI agent. Agnew can only look on from inside the house.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Chamberlain and Agnew do not like each other but have to work together. Chamberlain makes an effort to be civil while Agnew is outright antagonistic.
- Truth in Television: Due to the amount of time and labour, not to mention the cost, required to produce pure maple syrup, competition in the real world is steep and it's not unheard of for rivals to poison each other's trees or use tactics like force and theft to try and get ahead in the business. Though it's not quite as dramatic as depicted on the show.
- Who Murdered the Asshole?: When the detectives investigate a rich man's suspicious death the discover that the man was No Hero to His Valet and that his household staff all despised him. This makes for a rather large pool of suspects with motive, means and opportunity. The man dies of natural causes.