The U.S. network cop show is not dead or dying. It’s just undergoing renovations.
In recent years, networks have scrambled to find clever concepts to revive the genre. Forensic cops on CSI. The cop on Unforgettable who can remember everything. The cop on Awake who lives in two dream worlds. Some concepts work, some don’t. Looming over the network version is the shadow of tough-minded, adult shows such as FX’s The Shield. In contrast, what appears on NBC, CBS, Fox or ABC seems tame.
NYC 22 (Sunday, CBS, Global, 10 p.m.) is an attempt to revive the genre by going back to basics – a motley crew of rookie cops walking the mean streets of New York City – but adding in some intense flavour. The flavour comes from Richard Price (writer of the novels The Wanderers and Clockers, the movie The Colour of Money and episodes of The Wire), who created this new mid-season show. Robert De Niro is executive producer – his company produced the show. It has a good cast – Terry Kinney from Oz plays a veteran, Leelee Sobieski plays an icy blond ex-Marine with issues and Adam Goldberg is a laid-off newspaper reporter who decided to become part of the police force he used to cover.
There’s a lot of predictable material in the first episode. The rookies arrive on their first day full of sunny optimism. Old-timers are snarky with them. Some newbies are naive. Others are hopeless. Some make deadly mistakes. A rookie who looks like a kid and is originally from Afghanistan gets baited. A routine assignment to seal off an apartment with a dead body turns into a crazy hostage-taking.
In all this, there isn’t much evidence of Price’s gift for authentic-sounding dialogue. In fact, NYC 22 often looks like it took elements of other shows and simply stitched them together. Anyone expecting innovation is going to be disappointed. Mind you, predictability is the key ingredient in many successful cop shows. Many viewers don’t want to be shocked or have their illusions shattered. They want the rookie to make mistakes and learn. They want the harsh veteran to reveal a soft side. Viewers will get all that with this show. It’s nicely made, though hardly dazzling in style. Adam Goldberg is a standout, playing a guy who has seen everything from the reporter’s side and still takes notes obsessively. His character feels more fully formed than the others.
ALSO AIRING THIS WEEKEND
Girls ( Sunday, HBO Canada, 10 p.m.) arrives awash in praise from many twentysomething female columnists and bloggers. Little wonder, it’s about twentysomething women adrift in a big city, involved on the fringes of publishing and the arts. At its centre is Hannah (Lena Dunham, the 25-year-old creator), who is a toxic mixture of insecurity and entitlement, Everything is centred around the days and nights of Hannah’s tight circle of friends – Holly (Allison Williams), who is sweet-natured but bored by her too-sweet boyfriend; Jessa (Jemima Kirke), a cool but shallow, always travelling, wannabe femme fatale and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), who is Jessa’s nice but naive cousin. There are scenes that are breathtakingly sharp in writing, funny and graceful, and then scenes of relationships with men that will make your skin crawl. It’s all wonderfully original, superior TV drama but not to everyone’s taste.
Masterpiece Classic: The Mystery of Edwin Drood ( Sunday, PBS, 9 p.m.) is a new adaptation of the unfinished novel by Dickens. Tightly made as a murder-mystery with melodrama, it’s about choirmaster John Jasper (Matthew Rhys). We meet him when he’s stoned on opium, but we grasp he expects to meet with his nephew Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox), who is engaged to beautiful young Rosa (Tamzin Merchant). Of course it turns out Jasper has a secret passion for Rosa, and this matters when Edwin disappears, presumed murdered. Much of the Victorian eroticism hinted at in the book is intact, as are the colourful secondary characters.
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