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A clever, Doyle-free variation on the Manhattan cop drama Add to ...

First, I want it known that I'm suing a passel of people in Hollywood. All the Doyles are in on it. We've had enough.

Lawyers representing a group of distinguished Doyles have filed a notice of libel against certain parties in Hollywood, asserting that the use of the Doyle name in movies and TV productions about roughneck officers of the law has gone too far. Our claim begins with the character called Jimmy (Popeye) Doyle in The French Connection films and continues from there. Our lawyers also note that in the most recent season of 24 a character named Doyle was presented as a ruthless, scheming man who enjoys torturing people.

Popeye Doyle is described in one assessment of The French Connection as a person of "negative qualities." He is further described as "alcoholic, bigoted, overzealous and sometimes disrespectful to his superior officers." The Doyle character in 24 was described by one American critic as "a serial choker" for his habit of grabbing suspects by the neck.

Our lawyers argue that this portrayal of Doyles is malicious and reckless. Further, it impugns the reputation of all Doyles and suggests that we are all accomplices to the attitudes and actions of Doyle characters. We seek compensation on the grounds that Doyles are invariable presented as people who are dishonest, unethical, immoral and lack integrity. We'll see those Hollywood mucky-mucks in court. Oh yeah.

It is time to reveal this situation because the matter of portraying New York cops arises again today. Anyone who has been to NYC and met a local cop knows that many of them have the air of people who have been around forever and seen everything. Turns out some of them have been around for centuries.

New Amsterdam (Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) is about John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a New York homicide detective who is more than 400 years old. In 1642, he was a young Dutch soldier in the place then called New Amsterdam and, it seems, he shielded a young native girl from a sword, sparing her life. In thanks, the mystic girl gave him immortality. He can grow old and die only if he meets and falls in love with his true soulmate.

Thus, today, Detective Amsterdam is a handsome, world-weary New York cop looking for love, waiting to meet "the one." As a variation on the staple Manhattan-based crime drama, it's clever and executed with an extraordinary grandiosity. It's simultaneously familiar, strange and beautifully made. Little wonder about the look and feel of it: The great Swedish film director Lasse Hallstrom ( Chocolat, The Shipping News) is an executive producer and directs the pilot episode airing tonight. In fact, there's a lot of non-U.S. involvement. Lead actor Coster-Waldau is Danish and co-star Zuleikha Robinson (the voluptuous Gaia in Rome) is British.

What happens tonight, apart from the standard murder investigation, is that John Amsterdam has a heart attack and almost dies. This leads him to conclude that he has met "the one" and if he can connect with her, he will finally age like every other New Yorker and die gracefully. But he isn't sure who she is - "the one" could be the doctor who treats him, his new partner or a woman glimpsed on the subway.

John Amsterdam is an intriguing character and has some good lines. Talking about his long, long life, he says, "Best invention? Indoor plumbing. Worst invention? The alarm clock." And of his extremely long career as a cop he says, "All of it gets old, except me."

Although the series is set among tough-talking, roughneck NYC cops, there is nobody named Doyle involved. I've combed through the credits. The word about the lawsuit is out. The chill is on.

Check local listings.

Mathew Ingram returns

March 18.

Also airing tonight

Prisoners of Age (Newsworld, 10 p.m., on The Lens) continues the aging theme, but it approaches it in a macabre way. It's a powerful doc about the work of Canadian photographer Ron Levine and his recent devotion to photographing geriatric prisoners. The men, he points out, look like your brother or your grandfather, but they are murderers and sex-crime perpetrators, jailed for life. The first prison we see, full of elderly men, is described by Levine as "a nursing home with barbed wire around it." The doc (directed by Stan Feingold) and Levine's photography ask this question of society's treatment of the criminals: "What happens when they get old?" Some prisoners - the focus is mainly on prisoners in the Deep South of the U.S. but also on Canadians in an Ontario prison - have remorse while others say they would commit the same crime again.

This Hour Has 22 Minutes (CBC, 8:30 p.m.) is new this week and here's the gist: Mark Critch interviews Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald at the New York Stock Exchange; a new talk show, "Strombeshi," is aired with hosts George Stroumboulopoulos (Mark Critch) and Jian Ghomeshi (Shaun Majumder); and "On Your Side" correspondent Nathan Fielder discusses appropriate humour in the workplace. Oh, the frolics.

J.D.

 

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