By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION (CBS, FRIDAY, 10 p.m.), which is produced by Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Heat, The Insider), brings in the big guns. This is a show that's in love with L.A., but the object of its desire is a far glitzier, slinkier model than the one known to the average citizen. I have no idea how much money was spent on the pilot, but I'm sure it was a lot. Just the cops' wardrobe must have cost a fortune, since they were all dressed more like CAA agents than detectives. As Lieutenant Sam Cole, Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) even had some artfully placed blond highlights in his hair. A lesser man would no doubt suffer some ribbing for this, but the last person to make fun of Cole probably had his nose broken in school.
Last Friday's pilot episode began with a gorgeously shot prologue inside a hip Korean nightclub, a long commercial for what everybody wishes nightclubs were like. Had the writers been more thoughtful, they would have provided a name and address for the place so we could all go there. The sequence ended with a drive-by shooting, and before you knew it, there was Cole, cruising toward the scene of the crime. Even the way he handled the steering wheel looked stylish. The swirling, doomy electro-choral music on the soundtrack was pretty cool too.
From this point forward, the show was top-heavy with exposition, the bane of police procedurals everywhere. ("A lawyer handles the lease. Guess who? Donald Berman." "Berman?" "Berman.") The drive-by shooting leads to another, worse slaughter, in which a poor immigrant family is executed in its improbably luxurious suburban home. Although Cole never wonders why he, a mere lieutenant, is dressed like a guy who owns several yachts, he does question why the victims were living in such an expensive house. "Something's off," a colleague concludes. "Tell me about it," he grunts. At least that snatch of dialogue was audible. There was so much mumbling and muttering in this show I started to think I was going deaf. I spent half of it leaning into the set, saying "What?" "Who?" "Where?" Only when I switched to another program did I realize that these particular LAPD officers need to set aside some of their wardrobe money for elocution lessons. Still, the show does look stunning. And if (like me) you're a fan of Heat, there should be plenty to look forward to.
THE MAIN SELLING POINT FOR BOOMTOWN(NBC, Sunday, 10 p.m.) is its Rashomon-style narrative, in which we live and re-live a crime from different viewpoints. But narrative pyrotechnics age fast unless they're tethered to some interesting personalities, which is why a movie like Mementohad me looking at my watch long before it was over. On the evidence of its opening episode, Boomtownmay just manage to avoid the pitfalls of fancy-pants storytelling, but it's going to be a very close call.
Like Robbery Homicide Division, this is a show made by L.A.-philes. You know that right from the start, because it begins on a bridge overlooking the L.A. River, a trickle of tainted water only dedicated Angelenos care about. ("Paris has the Seine, London has the Thames . . . we got a concrete drainage ditch," intones an old man looking down on it sorrowfully.) The two main characters are detectives, and unfortunately they seem as familiar as the narrative technique feels different. Donnie Wahlberg (Band of Brothers) plays Joel Stevens, a young but world-weary cop with a suicidal wife. Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump) is Bobby Smith, a Gulf War veteran with a store of homespun wisdom and an ever-present cigarette behind his ear. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say about these two. One's black, the other's white, and you could parachute them into any of a half-dozen other cop shows, and no one would know the difference.
What writerexecutive producer Graham Yost and director Jon Avnet are good at is evoking the city. Theirs is an L.A. that feels lived in, scene after scene; they don't just raid it for a striking visual and move on. But the story they told in the pilot, once you peeled away the layers of overlapping perspectives, didn't amount to very much. (Nor did the different viewpoints ever contradict one another, which is usually the reason for having them.) Two girls have been shot by bullets from a passing car. The car turns out to have been driven by a spoiled white brat who wants to be down with the homies. He hands off the gun to his passenger, Cantrell, a young black track star who gets chased by a cop but evades him. Later the police come to Cantrell's home, where he lives with his grandfather, last seen mournfully gazing down at the L.A. River in the show's prologue. Trying to escape through the window of a neighboring apartment, Cantrell falls to the street and dies instantly. In the meantime, the brat is arrested, and at the end we circle back to the grandfather on the bridge, and learn why he's there: He's disposing of Cantrell's ashes while detectives Stevens and Smith gaze at him with strenuously soulful expressions.
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