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Global, 8 p.m., premieres Oct. 4

Genre: Action drama

Stars: Travis Fimmel

Tarzan writers have a motto for this jungle-less Tarzan: "No loincloth, no yodelling." It's set in New York and the title role is played by Fimmel, a former Calvin Klein underwear model. You can tell this is his first acting gig. However, as long as Fimmel keeps his shirt off and keeps up those smouldering, hungry stares at Jane (played by Sarah Wayne Callies), his guerilla (maybe that should be gorilla) acting skills don't much matter. Producers plan a long mating dance between the two, that's why "and Jane" was dropped from the title. This shot-in-Toronto series is no meaty drama; it's a rewrite of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale that doesn't come close to the cleverness of the Superman-inspired series, Smallville. Tarzan gets two stars (and one is just because Fimmel works so hard to stay in shape). - C.D.M.


Cirque Du Soleil: A Variety Series


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CBC, 8 p.m., premieres Nov. 30

Genre: Variety

A throwback to the old days of TV, when networks could and would fill time with a raucous assortment of variety acts. In this case they're coming from a grandiose source as this showcase involves the marquee acts from the travelling theme circus. Among the acts appearing over the 13-week series: the troupe Khayalahov, originally from the Russian Circus, who will perform from the highest perch ever employed in a circus act; juggler Michael Moschen, who spins items on his head; and the Navas clan, who perform a high-wire act without any safety net. You'll believe a man can fly. - A.R.



ABC, VR, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 28

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Genre: Police drama

Stars: Danny Nucci, Ernie Hudson

A Brooklyn punk named Rico (Nucci) gets his act together and attends the police academy in Los Angeles. After graduation, he's teamed with a veteran sheriff (Hudson of Oz) who has faith in his new charge but isn't about to pamper him. The odd-couple duo takes to the streets, but it's not always easy going as they seem to have opposing views of when the law should step in. This show, from veteran producer Aaron Spelling, is a bad idea gone too far. The veteran/rookie cop theme is an idea long past its day and there's little chemistry between Hudson and Nucci to extend this more than a few weeks. It's all been done before; for example, say, on T.J. Hooker, another show created by - surprise! - Aaron Spelling. - A.R.

Cold Case


CBS, CTV, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 28

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Genre: Police drama

Stars: Kathryn Morris, Jeremy Ratchford

Veteran homicide detective Lilly Rush (Morris) is reassigned to handle her department's growing list of cold-case files - those murders that are unsolved and have long been abandoned by investigating officers. Working alongside a crack team of forensic specialists and detectives, Lilly's advantage is her ability to take a fresh tack and examine the case from new angles. The show is strongly reminiscent of several other successful current shows, most notably CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami and even CTV's own Cold Squad. Much of the storytelling occurs in flashback form, as the viewer has one benefit Lilly does not: They're able to see the murder re-enacted. It's graphic at times, and fairly gritty, but nothing outstanding. Still, given the public appetite for CSI and its spinoff, this show should find an audience. - A.R.

The Ortegas


Fox, 8:30 p.m., premieres Nov. 2

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Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Cheech Marin, Al Madrigal,

Renee Victor

A young Latino man (Madrigal) somehow convinces a TV network to let him have his own talk show. The only stipulation: He has to broadcast it from his own backyard! Oh, the hilarity. His hammy parents (Marin, Hoyos) are also part of the makeshift talk show; each week's episode will also feature an appearance by a celebrity guest star; Eric Estrada is an early example. There are almost no words to describe the awfulness of this show. Madrigal is transparent in the lead, Marin and Hoyos mug shamelessly. Don't expect it to last. - A.R.

Arrested Development


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Fox, 9:30 p.m., premieres Nov. 2

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter

Young widower Michael (Bateman) is miffed when his CEO father (Tambor) passes him over for promotion in the family business. As revenge, Michael quits the company and takes off with his own young son. Then, big Daddy is arrested and Michael's sister (de Rossi) convinces him to come back and help out the family. Confused yet? A crass, awful affair that seems to be mostly a club for former TV actors. Tambor was brilliant on The Larry Sanders Show, but looks lost in this program; likewise for de Rossi. No comment on Bateman and his earlier career moves. Arrested Development might appeal to those still in mourning over Marriedwith Children's demise; anybody else won't last more than five minutes. - A.R.

The Lyon's Den


NBC, Global, 10 p.m., premieres

Sept. 28

Genre: Legal drama

Stars: Rob Lowe, Kyle Chandler,

Frances Fisher, Rip Torn

The son of a U.S. senator, Washington-based lawyer Jack Turner (Lowe of The West Wing) tries to hold onto his ideals but it's getting tougher. Jack's pro bono work is abruptly halted after he's conned into taking over a high-end D.C. law firm best known for defending the type of clients Jack usually goes after. The Lyon's Den is probably the season's most anticipated program, but it fails on all counts. Lowe is capable of carrying a show but is cast here in a thankless role with few dimensions. The viewer knows his character is a stoic soul right away, and there's nowhere to go from there. Really, the only highlight in the pilot is Torn's appearance as Lowe's senator father. Sadly, he seems to be only a semi-regular. It may be The Lyon's Den, but it's toothless television. - A.R.


Toronto Tonight

Toronto 1, 7 p.m., premieres Sept. 22

Genre: Newsmagazine

Hosts: Ben Chin, Sarika Sehgal

The latest local channel in this city launches its weeknight news hour. Chin and Sehgal look impressive on all the billboards, now we get to see them in action. Toronto Tonight won't be chasing ambulances; this show will try to win viewers by taking a longer, more feature-like look at the day's events. - C.D.M.



CTV, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 29

Genre: Comedy/reality

Stars: Ashton Kutcher

If you've been "punk'd," you've been had or taken. It's a word that Kutcher has launched into the lexicon with this show. Punk'd is an MTV import that's already been airing on the digital channel MTV Canada. It makes celebrities the butt of Candid Camera-style cons, though the ruses are crueler. Here the star of That 70s Show reveals his wicked sense of humor and knack for knocking a hole through the Hollywood ego. Kutcher himself often lures unsuspecting celebrity friends into the hidden-camera traps. In the past he had Seth Green thinking he was being arrested for illegal gambling, Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) believing his Porsche has been stolen and Justin Timberlake aghast that he owed $900,000 in back taxes as repo men packed up his house. Timberlake even called his mom to ask her what he should do. Punk'd is juvenile, but pretty darn funny. - C.D.M.



Fox, 9 p.m., premieres Oct. 20;

CH, Mondays, 9 p.m., premieres Oct. 19

Genre: Drama

Stars: Ron Silver, Kevin Anderson

There is a basic theme of good versus bad, of a district attorney (Anderson) determined to put a pornography empire (ruled by Silver) out of business. But the DA doesn't mind working outside the law, while the porn king fights back above the board. Add to all of this a Romeo and Juliet overtone as the son of the DA and the daughter of the porn king fall in love and you've got a provocative story that appeals to both young and old. Pornography (even this pale imitation) making an appearance in American primetime has raised the moral hackles of many American critics, even after watching the pilot where the porn parts are mostly talk, not shock. Look at the timeslot. Skin is really about highlighting censorship issues, not waiting for the money shot. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, The Amazing Race), expect Skin to capture enough interest and controversy to stick around. - C.D.M.

Two and a Half Men


CBS, Global, 9:30 p.m., premieres

Sept. 22

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer

Sheen plays Charlie Harper, a selfish bad boy (a stretch, huh?) who starts to change his ways when his brother Alan (Cryer) and 10-year-old nephew move in. That's pretty much it. Thrown into the mix are Charlie and Alan's harridan mother and Alan's soon-to-be ex-wife who threw him out when she decided she was gay. Two and a Half Men is about two brothers finally growing up. It's pretty standard and safe fare with enough laughs to make this one a keeper, especially on Monday nights when easy laughs are all you want after work. - C.D.M.

Las Vegas


NBC, CH, 10 p.m., premieres Sept. 22

Genre: Drama

Stars: James Caan, Josh Duhamel

If you've been to Sin City you'll want to at least check out the first episode. Anyone who has been inside a casino has experienced its maze of mind-numbing sound, light and temptation. In this show, we meet a cast of characters whose job it is to make sure players lose their money and enjoy the experience. They also spend a lot of time nabbing the cheaters before they win too much money. Caan plays the bombastic head of security and soap star Duhamel is his protégé, Danny. They work deep inside the security dens of the fictional Montecito Casino where dozens of keen-eyed investigators watch for increasingly inventive cheaters. Plots include many of the odd and evil characters drawn to the Strip, which should keep storylines lively week after week. Unfortunately, the pilot opens with a steamy sex scene between Danny and his boss's daughter that distracts from the real tone of the show - a workplace comedy drama. - C.D.M.


72 Hours

CBC, 8 p.m., premieres Nov. 4

Genre: Crime documentary

Old crimes are solved again in this half-hour series that combines documentary with dramatic recreations. Each case is Canadian, and looks at the forensic science and other nifty technologies that are used to solve crimes without witnesses. No star rating is assigned since a preview tape was not available. - C.D.M.



CBS, CH, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 23

Genre: Action drama

Star: Mark Harmon

The series title stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. (CBS added the extra Navy as a redundant clarifier.) In the show, a team of naval officers travel around the States looking into any crime that is connected to navy and marine corps personnel. It was inspired by JAG, another man-in-uniform series on CBS about a Judge Advocate General unit (the navy's lawyers). In fact, the pilot already mixes the two with David James Elliot from JAG guest starring as a suspect in the show's first case. Harmon is a welcome sight on TV and much missed after he was shot off The West Wing last year. Here he plays the head of the NCIS unit, a smart, tough, bend-the-rules kind of boss. You know, the kind you see on these shows every year. - C.D.M.



NBC, 8 p.m., premiered Sept. 9;

CTV premieres Monday, Sept. 22

Genre: Sitcom

Star: Whoopi Goldberg

If Goldberg puts out a sitcom pilot full of Arab and terrorism innuendoes, does that mean the terrorists haven't won? She must think so. Goldberg plays the cranky owner of a small hotel in New York (don't for a minute think this show resembles Fawlty Towers; it doesn't come close to the classic Britcom). She is aided and abetted in tolerating her paying guests by a handyman from Iran, her out-of-work lawyer brother and his girlfriend, a white woman trying hard to be black. Refreshingly, Goldberg does set out to break just about every taboo she can get away with in a network comedy, but the show feels more like an elaborate stand-up set. Goldberg isn't really playing a character; this is her and her tough-mama act. Whoopi's success depends on how long audiences can stomach her act week after week. - C.D.M.

I'm With Her


ABC, CTV, 8:30 p.m., premieres

Sept. 23

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: David Sutcliffe, Teri Polo

What you think about I'm With Her will depend on what you thought about the movie Notting Hill. It's the same premise. Here high-school teacher Patrick Owen (Saskatoon-born Sutcliffe) is bitten by a dog who belongs to famous movie star Alex Young (Polo from Meet the Parents). The series is based on the experiences of Chris Henchy, who met his wife Brooke Shields in a similar chance encounter and had to learn to live with paparazzi and red carpet premieres. Henchy is a producer and co-creator and admits many of the predicaments he and Shields faced as a new couple ended up in the pilot episode. That may be the problem with I'm With Her, by the end of the 30-minute pilot the two are a couple and pose for photographers at a movie premiere. It's a cute story, but where does it go now? - C.D.M.

Happy Family


NBC, Global, 8:30 p.m., premiered

Sept. 9

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: John Larroquette,

Christine Baranski

This is not your average family comedy. Larroquette and Baranski play Peter and Annie Brennan, upper middle-class parents who are happy that their youngest grown child is finally moving out of the house. But before they have time to settle into their empty nest, their kids start messing up and, of course, heading home. Larroquette and Baranski play smug, self-absorbed baby boomers well, and considering how both usually chew the scenery, here they are oddly subdued. They're also very funny, especially if you've lived in a household where the kids stayed at home a few years too long. The Brennans can't stop comparing their adult children - the good one, the lonely one, the screw up - and many of the jokes stem from their unrealized expectations. - C.D.M.




VR, 8 p.m., premiered Sept. 10

Genre: Police drama

Stars: Gloria Reuben, Caterina Scorsone, Dean McDermott

Veteran FBI agent Brooke Haslett (Reuben of ER) has the difficult assignment of tracking down missing persons across the U.S. She is given a new partner: a teen psychic named Jess (Scorsone), who's a bit off the wall but still has a credible track record. After some initial bumps, they turn into an efficient hunting team. Despite the clunky title, it's better than it sounds. Reuben is a bankable TV face, and Scorsone is engaging without being cloyingly cute. The focus here is more on police procedure, than spooky sci-fi material. It's a keeper. - A.R.

It's All Relative


ABC, 8:30 p.m., premieres Oct. 1

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Reid Scott, Maggie Lawson

Clean-cut young couple Liz and Bobby (Lawson, Scott) are just crazy about each other, so they decide to tie the knot. The only hitch is their decidedly diverse backgrounds: Bobby's parents (Lenny Clarke, Harriet Sansom Harris) are uptight Catholics; Liz's parents happen to be two gay fathers (Christopher Sieber, John Benjamin Hickey). Oh-ho, here we go! It's incredible this show saw the light of day. The cast is entirely unknown, the pilot had more canned laughter than an old episode of I Love Lucy. This was probably a better idea the first time it was done, when it was called The Birdcage. - A.R.

A Minute with Stan Hooper


Fox, Global, 8:30 p.m., premieres

Oct. 29

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Norm Macdonald, Penelope

Ann Miller

Deciding he needs a change of pace, New York lifestyle reporter Stan Hooper (Macdonald) informs his wife (Miller) they need a change. So, they load up the truck and move to quaint Waterford Falls, Wis. Once they arrive, Stan is disheartened to discover small-town folk are every bit as strange and mean-spirited as New Yorkers; people like the money-obsessed local cheese magnate (Fred Willard) or the gay couple that run the town diner. The Green Acres concept aside, this is simply a weakly conceived show that's a bad fit for Macdonald's droll style. The notion of him becoming aghast at meeting yet another quirky character gets old after the first six times. It's a shame, because the Canadian-born Macdonald can be funny, in the right format. This just isn't the show. - A.R.

The Simple Life


Fox, CTV, premieres later this season

Genre: Reality

Stars: Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie

At last, a reality show so absolutely ridiculous that it is truly amusing and true appointment television. Twentysomthing pals Paris, the hotel chain heiress, and Nicole, Lionel Richie's daughter, lead a pampered and coddled life. They want for nothing, except an understanding of how the other half live. Enter The Simple Life's producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray (The Real World) and that is taken care of too. Paris and Nicole get a rude and hilarious awakening by spending six weeks with a large Arkansas family on their ramshackle farm (i.e., only one, tiny bathroom). The girls are oblivious to most people's everyday life, including U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart ("Do they sell wall stuff there?" asks Paris) and find grocery shopping extraordinarily difficult. - C.D.M.

Jake 2.0


UPN, VR, 9 p.m., premiered Sept.10

Genre: Action

Stars: Christopher Gorham, Marina Black, Judith Scott

Computer geek Jake Foley (Gorham) likes his IT-support job at the National Security Agency, but yearns for excitement. He gets his wish when accidentally exposed to a top-secret project, which somehow injects microscopic computers into his body. Suddenly, Jake has super-strength, the ability to heal and is able to communicate with anything mechanized. He'd make a great agent, or so he thinks. Hopefully Jake 2.0 is aimed at kids, because adults will just find it sophomoric and silly. Gorham is fine in the lead role, although he looks a bit cool to be cast as a computer nerd. It also doesn't help matters that there isn't a single familiar face in the entire cast. Unless the show clicks straight off with younger viewers, Jake 2.0 will likely have his plug pulled before Christmas. - A.R.

Karen Sisco


ABC, 10 p.m., premieres Oct. 1

Genre: Crime drama

Stars: Carla Gugino, Robert Forster

This is a tolerable adaptation of the Elmore Leonard character from Out of Sight. Gugino plays the sharp-dressed U.S. Federal Marshal Karen Sisco. Forster is her dad, a semi-retired private investigator with whom she shares a close relationship. Sisco is struggling to make an impression with her bosses but loses a wiley prisoner in the pilot. Lucky for her, the con-man is taken with her mind and body and plays a cat-and-mouse game that gives Sisco a few leads to hunt him down. Forster and Sisco work well together, and their characters hang out with a mélange of almost law-abiding criminals that liven up the otherwise dull world of law enforcement on TV. Karen Sisco is executive produced by Danny DeVito, watch for him and wife Rhea Perlman to guest star later in the season. - C.D.M.


Threat Matrix


ABC, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 18

Genre: Action drama

Stars: Jamie Denton, Kelly Rutherford

This drama is named for the report the president receives every morning that details the domestic and international threats against the United States. This ensemble show dramatizes how the Department of Homeland Security eliminates those threats. Threat Matrix sits on the fence between fiction and the real world. In the pilot, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is seen in a news clip that is part of the fictional story. How bizarre is that? Producers say the rest of the season will not cross through the looking glass so obviously. Threat Matrix is full of fast-paced action and terrorist intrigue that's entertaining but hardly edge-of-your-couch compelling. - C.D.M.

Tru Calling


Fox, CH, 8 p.m., premieres Oct. 30

Genre: Drama/thriller

Stars: Eliza Dushku

The pilot is one jumbled mess: Dushku, late of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plays Tru, a recent college grad heading toward med school who sees dead people in her dreams. A former track star, she runs around town after waking up, trying to prevent her nightmares from coming true. Two things are obvious: The producers really liked the 1998 film Run Lola Run - this should be called Run Eliza Run - and Dushku is wasted in this unless it settles down and tries to tell one credible story instead of six silly subplots simultaneously. - S.C.

The O.C.


Fox, CTV, 9 p.m., premiered in August, goes on hiatus Sept. 16, returns Oct. 30

Genre: Prime-time soap

Stars: Peter Gallagher,

Benjamin McKenzie, Adam Brody

Benefiting from an early summer start, The O.C. is set to become a guilty pleasure for viewers who miss Dawson's Creek and its solemn silliness. Gallagher plays a crusading lawyer who introduces a troubled teen (McKenzie) to the rarified air of Orange County, Calif., home to the beautiful rich. McKenzie, as a writer in The New York Times has accurately pointed out, is like a young Russell Crowe - a tough with sensitive eyes - and the series is supported by the charming Brody and next-door neighbour Mischa Barton, heiress to the elfin Katie Holmes. Ripe for parody, but very fun. - S.C.



NBC, Global, 9:30 p.m., premieres

Sept. 25

Genre: Comedy

Stars: Rena Sofer, Jay Harrington

Lifted almost word for word from a popular British sitcom and billed as the heir to Friends, Coupling (the Yank version) is a difficult hybrid to take in. The actors are pale imitations of their English forbears, like a cover band of a group most people have never heard, and already some of the raunchier bits that made the original so much fun have been excised for those sensitive Americans. The writing is still funny - the set pieces about modern sex lose little in translation - and if you've never seen the Britcom (available here on PBS and the digital BBC Canada) it may seem raunchily fresh compared to the crop of tepid network sitcoms. - S.C.

The Toronto Show

Toronto 1, 10 p.m., premieres Sept. 25

Genre: Variety

Host: Enis Esmer

Local comedians, singers, dancers and magicians will perform three times a week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Toronto's newest channel hopes this hourlong variety show will become a "must stop performance destination for acclaimed entertainers from around the world." We have our doubts. Casino Rama has the lock on that claim. - C.D.M.


Joan of Arcadia


CBS, CTV, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 26

Genre: Drama

Stars: Joe Mantegna, Mary Steenburgen, Amber Tamblyn

Joan is your average suburban teenager: police chief dad (Mantegna), caring mother (Steenburgen), one brother in a wheelchair and the other a charming science geek. The first 15 minutes of the pilot sets all this up with promising style, familiar but solid. Then God starts stalking Joan. He puts on a peeping Tom outfit and watches her getting dressed in the morning and later He takes the form of a cute boy on the bus. It seems God wants Joan to work in a bookstore and run some errands for Him. This series could pull in some of the viewers who made 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel modest successes, if they don't burn it at the stake of heresy first. - S.C.

Miss Match


NBC, Global, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 26

Genre: Comedy drama

Stars: Alicia Silverstone, Ryan O'Neal

It's another Darren Star creation and Silverstone carries this fluffy show like a designer purse. She plays Kate Fox, a divorce lawyer who would much rather be setting people up than tearing them apart, much to the chagrin of her father and boss (O'Neal). Silverstone goes through outfits like Madonna on tour - I lost count at 11 - and is genuinely charming, but Miss Match is ultimately forgettable. The lovelorn folks she mixes and matches are difficult to care about, falling from memory like last year's accessories. - S.C.


no stars

Fox, 8:30 p.m., premieres Sept. 19

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Luis Guzman

If lame sitcoms full of tired jokes and one-dimensional characters is not your thing then skip this review. Luis (Luis Guzman) is the proud owner of a doughnut shop in Spanish Harlem. He's just trying to make a buck but too many freeloaders spend too much time in his shop. Cue the belittling ethnic jokes toward an elderly Irish woman, a Chinese-food delivery guy, a black huckster selling suspicious merchandise and his daughter's jobless boyfriend. Luis also trades a lot of Puerto Rican versus Hispanic jokes with his ex (played by Diana-Maria Riva). Luis is as stale as a bag of day-olds and as irritating as those long morning lineups at Tim Hortons. - C.D.M.

Married to the Kellys


ABC, 8:30 p.m., premieres Oct. 3

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Breckin Meyer, Kiele Sanchez

Unless you're from Kansas, or like to visit Kansas, there's no need for this comedy to be on your radar. New York writer Tom (Meyer) has to get used to country living and his in-laws when he and his wife (Sanchez) move to Kansas City to be near her large close-knit family. Full of city mouse/country mouse jokes (and bad ones at that) ABC might be divorcing itself from Married to the Kellys after a couple of episodes. - C.D.M.

Hope & Faith


ABC, 9 p.m., premieres Sept. 26

Genre: Sitcom

Stars: Faith Ford, Kelly Ripa

Hope (Ford) and Faith (Ripa) are sisters leading completely different lives who must learn to live under the same roof. Hope is the all-American soccer mom of three, Faith is a soap actress that's just been put out of work when her character was unexpectedly bumped off. Faith moves in with Hope and her family (complete with husband, played by Ted McGinley). The arrangement takes some ironing out of personalities and the pilot features a food fight between the leads. Anyone who watches Ripa in the morning on Live with Regis and Kelly will have already heard more than they need to about the show. The rest of you can tune in to the pilot, then tune out, unless mindless sitcoms are what you want on Friday nights. - C.D.M.

The Handler


CBS, Global, 10 p.m.,

premieres Sept. 26

Genre: Police drama

Stars: Joe Pantoliano

This tough series from Da Vinci's Inquest creator Chris Haddock has a great premise: Pantoliano, of The Sopranos and The Matrix, plays an FBI agent who coaches, places and monitors undercover operatives. He moves from street corners to Russian massage parlours to the homes of his agents, allowing Pantoliano to show off his impressive range as a supporting actor (because that is what he provides - support). His stable of young apprentices includes a few potential breakout actors (Hill Harper and Anna Belknap especially) and the pilot features the reliable Pruitt Taylor Vince, of Heavy, in a memorable guest role. The time slot is a killer (and its up against Boomtown), but this has enough echoes of Homicide to earn the attention of viewers looking for gripping, quality TV. - S.C.

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