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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
BOSTON'S FINEST (ABC)
(written by Richard Hatem; directed by Gary Fleder; TRT: 44:16)
The network's description: "When a committed young Boston detective stumbles upon a corruption ring within her own police department, she joins forces with a rogue ex-cop to expose the truth. These unlikely partners will work together to solve new crimes while slowly investigating the truth behind the crime ring. Promising young detective Julia Scott is nearly killed in the line of duty, but at the last minute, a mysterious stranger saves her life. The stranger turns out to be the last person Julia ever expected. Angus Martin is a legend in the Boston police department. A decorated cop, Angus was exposed as a crook and "died" attempting to escape justice. Apparently, he's not as dead as everyone thinks. How do you separate fact from fiction when someone who's supposed to be a brutal killer just saved your life?
At first, Julia is reluctant to believe Angus' story that he was framed and faked his own murder after discovering a major corruption ring in the Boston police department. But the more Julia looks into Angus' case, the more she begins to see that he was onto something. This rich, atmospheric new thriller from Richard Hatem (Supernatural) explores the intersection between right and wrong. Sometimes, when the truth is hidden in plain sight, you need to look at it from a new perspective. To expose the corruption ring, Julia and Angus will have to combine her access to the police with his connections to Boston's criminal underworld. Each week, they will solve new cases together, but can they uncover the truth behind the conspiracy that keeps them apart?"
What did they leave out? It winds up playing a lot like a vigilante superhero story.
The plot in a nutshell: Boston detectives Julia Samuels (Katee Sackhoff) and Taylor Whitaker (Nia Long) are in hot pursuit of a pair of drug dealers - one which ends with the former nearly getting killed. Fortunately for her, a mysterious man with a nasty scar on his neck (Goran Visnjic) comes to her rescue at the last minute. Three weeks later, on her birthday no less, Julia and the aforementioned man meet again, this time after a single mother is kidnapped outside a laundromat leaving her young son as the only witness. It seems our shadowy hero has some inside information about who's responsible - Mike Sewell, a recent parolee whose modus operandi was to abduct women and leave a dead rat behind - and he presses Julia to investigate. Julia of course is equally interested in who her new helper is and it's not long before she concludes that Sewell's arresting officer, Angus Martin, is the vigilante in question.
The problem is Angus Martin is supposed to be dead, an infamously crooked cop who belonged to the Russian mob and who murdered his wife seven years ago. As luck would have it though, Angus's old partner Jack Holt (Treat Williams) just so happens to be her ADA boyfriend Christian's (Jason Wiles) father. And the connections don't end there: Angus's son Brandon (Miles Williams) has since been adopted by Jack and his wife (Kate Burton). Jack insists that Angus was a good cop and no matter what anyone says, his collar of Sewell was legit. You see, all of Angus's cases are being reviewed due to his corruption so - brace yourself - if he were alive and innocent it makes sense he'd be working to get those set free back in prison.
Not surprisingly, that is very much the case as 20 minutes into the proceedings Angus finally reveals himself to Julia. He argues he was framed and the only way to protect his son from the mob's wrath was to fake his own death and go underground where he - and his sole confidant, restaurant owner Eddie Lao (Will Yun Lee) - tries to fight the good fight. Julia however is skeptical of Angus's story, especially when his Mike Sewell lead turns out to be a bust (he's dead! no he faked his death too! but he has an alibi!), and she turns up a more promising lead on her own. Ultimately, neither proves to be right but after Angus saves Julia's life once again, he earns her trust. And so our new dynamic duo is formed. But there are forces - namely one of the aforementioned cast, in a closing reveal - that are working against them!
What works: As teased previously, "Boston's Finest" plays like a vigilante superhero story...
What doesn't: ...and unfortunately a stilted and cliched one at that. The first half of the pilot is essentially Angus is Batman and Julia is Commissioner Gordon as the former literally has his own Batcave, complete with CCTV feeds of the entire city; never reveals his face to her (he even manages to disappear whenever she turns around); and has almost superhuman hand-to-hand fighting skills. All that's missing is a costume and a signal in the sky. The second half twist then is Angus and Julia are supposed to feel a connection: he finally has a new person in his life after all these years, she a heated attraction, one her vanilla boyfriend doesn't elicit from her. The problem is we the audience don't get hooked into any of it: Angus is just a haunted mess, watching old videos of a his once happy family while Julia keeps her feelings under lock and key. Together they have an awkward chemistry that says one thing but feels much different.
That's however noting compared to its overarching problem: everything is mind-numbingly dull and non-descript. Unless I missed it in my notes, half the cast is never actually mentioned by name - Richard T. Jones for instance turns up as their un-monikered, no-personality lieutenant - while those that are don't have any distinct quirks or traits beyond "cop" or "bad guy." There's no back-and-forth dialogue, no references to the city, no declarative statements about anything to make the characters stand out. Everyone's almost distressingly bland. Sackhoff and Visnjic likewise seem to be lost in the weeds here as they kind of zombie their way through the proceedings. All in all, I wish there was some kind of spark, some sign of life to the show since right now...
The bottom line: ...there's nothing to get excited about.