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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
(Mondays at 8:00/7:00c this fall)
The network's description: "From writer and executive producer Jonathan Lisco ("NYPD Blue," "The District") comes a heroic police drama set in New Orleans. Two years after Katrina, the city is still in chaos. Many cops have quit, and the jails, police stations and crime labs still haven't been properly rebuilt. But the cops who remain have courage to burn and a passion to reclaim and rebuild their city. MARLIN BOULET (Anthony Anderson, "The Departed," "The Shield") is a brash, funny, in-your-face veteran of the NOPD's Felony Action Squad, the specialized unit that targets the most-wanted criminals. Even when his partner deserted him during the storm, Boulet held his post, spending days in the water saving lives and keeping order. Now he's unapologetic about bending the rules when it comes to collaring bad guys. Boulet's new partner, TREVOR COBB (Cole Hauser, "The Break-Up," "ER"), was a soldier in Afghanistan before joining the NOPD. He's tough and committed, but if he's less than comfortable with Boulet's methods, it's because he's harboring a dark secret. Cobb has come to New Orleans seeking redemption, but redemption can be dangerous. Will Boulet be able to trust him? Will Cobb's past endanger them both? Rounding out the crew of cops are hotheaded BILLY "K-9" FAUST (Maximiliano Hernndez, "Law & Order," "Shark"), who often speaks before thinking; wisecracking JEFF "GLUE BOY" GOODEN (Blake Shields, "Sleeper Cell," "Veronica Mars"), the team's comic relief; tough-as-nails GINGER "LOVE TAP" LeBEAU (Tawny Cypress, "Heroes"), the only female on the squad, who gives as good as she gets; and CAPTAIN JAMES EMBRY (John Carroll Lynch, "Zodiac," "The Drew Carey Show"), who wrangles the eclectic personalities of his squad with equal parts humor and tenacity."
What did they leave out: Stay tuned.
The plot in a nutshell: September 1, 2005. New Orleans. A local cop named Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) is one of the few calming voices left in the aftermath of Katrina. His partner Charlie Pratt (Derek Webster) however is the complete opposite - he's frazzled, confused and overwhelmed. Feeling he's left with no other option, he abandons Marlin in the middle of a call, taking their squad car with him. Two years later, Marlin is still trying to be that same calming voice, except now he's starting to crack - he toses "For Sale" signs off the lawns near his house in the 9th Ward, helps himself to a shot of bourbon while he's on duty and loses it with kid trying to steal a cypress tree from his front yard. Even his boss Captain James Embry (John Carroll Lynch) is worried, especially considering Marlin hasn't mentioned Charile's name since he walked out. In any case, Marlin's got himself a new partner - Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser), an ex Army ranger who did his basic training at the nearby Fort Polk. "He got to be half a nut job," Marlin notes, considering new recruits are few and far between. "Take a look in the mirror sometime," Embry quips back. Anyway, Marlin and Trevor go through the expected new partner dance - Marlin's unsure of Trevor's true motivations, Trevor's taken aback by Marlin's rule breaking and rough tactics. Their first case then involves working security for a benefit for the 9th Ward thrown by Christina DuBois (Kate Levering), the daughter of a powerful casino owner ("Lost's" Sam Anderson). Not surprisingly bad things happen as its held up by a pair of gunmen and a local singer - who also happens to be Marlin's neighbor - gets killed in the process. A furious Marlin then takes the Vic Mackey route and tries to shake down the singer's shady ex but his alibi checks out - plus the gunmen appear again to shoot up a second benefit. The duo then turn their attention to Christina's father, whose security chief (William Mapother, hey it's a "Lost" reunion!) somehow lost the gunmen during the first robbery. Along the way Charlie makes an unexpected return, hoping to get Marlin's forgiveness while Marlin's wife (Elise Neal) announces she and their daughter (Jiya Fowler) are going to move to Atlanta, with or without him. Also somewhere in here is a supporting cast of cops (Maximiliano Hernndez, Blake Shields and Tawny Cypress) who literally only get a few lines to not differentiate themselves. As for Marlin and Trevor, as one no doubt could guess, they eventually discover the true culprits (and motivations) behind the robbery. In the end, New Orleans is safe for another day and Marlin gets a much deserved reward in the form of a block party by his thankful neighbors. But wait, as they say, there's more! Marlin corners Trevor with the news he knows who he really is - a twist I won't spoil here.
What works: It's more or less the show you're expecting - a competently done procedural that uses the heartbreakingly unique post-Katrina problems as the basis for its cases. Anderson and Hasuer likewise prove to be more than capable leads, the former so memorable during his stint on "The Shield" and the latter calling up fond memories of Steven Spielberg's short-lived ABC series "High Incident." Jonathan Lisco's script also works in several interesting details - such as how most of the street signs have been removed by troublemakers to confuse the police; or how there's no money for crime scene techs; or how the cypress trees were all nearly wiped out by the salt and chemicals from the flooding - not to mention cleverly sets up Anderson's character as literally the guy who chooses to put the world on his shoulders, a sisyphusian task to say the least.
What doesn't: Nevertheless despite its promising setup and solid execution, the show doesn't quite take "the leap" into something that's truly unique and interesting. Throwing a huge wrench into the machine is the aforementioned final twist, which literally has to be the most ill-conceived, unbelievable revelation I've seen in some time. They might as well have had Hauser's character turn out to be an alien from outer space, it's really that silly. Even worse is that the reason for making said reveal - to ensure that it will be a long time before Marlin and Trevor can truly trust each other - is already covered in the 40-odd minutes leading up to it (i.e. Marlin is barely holding it together, Trevor is pegged as an outsider). Seriously, I'm not kidding. Also not helping matters - but not really as frustrating - is the paper thin supporting cast - who, aside from Lynch, literally only have one or two lines each. In the end even if you can forgive the above offenses, it's not quite appointment television.
The bottom line: A promising albeit rocky show that's derailed by a few silly choices.