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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! 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.]
COOPER & STONE (BUSTED CW PILOT)
(written by Laurie Arent; directed by John Dahl; TRT: 32:14)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out? The pilot was shot as a presentation, meaning not all the scenes from the script were shot. Should it have moved forward to series, the missing sequences would have subsequently been filmed for the final pilot.
The plot in a nutshell: Jenna Cooper (Alexandra Breckenridge) and Angela Stone (Vanessa Ferlito) are two of the youngest cops to make detective in Chicago's Northside division. And they're good. They'll need to be too as their latest case is particularly daunting: Jeremy Evans, a prized junior college recruit is found dead in the basement of his home by the fire department, his ankles broken so he couldn't escape the blaze. Sure enough, there's a bevy of suspects: from the girlfriend he may have been cheating on to a fellow player that wasn't a big fan. And as they dig deeper even more faces turn up, including an overzealous college sports blogger and a recruiter for Oregon's football program.
The motives themselves prove just as wide reaching, whether it's getting into debt with a steroid dealer or the need to cover up a secret gay romance. Aiding Cooper and Stone in their quest are crime scene tech/aspiring DJ Luke (Christopher Larkin), sardonic beat cop Frank (David Ramsey) and new addition Danny Kovacs (Riley Smith), a former undercover cop who was Stone's foil - both academically and romantically - while they were at the academy. It's the girls however that do all the heavy lifting as the culprits are ultimately revealed thanks to their dogged pursuit of the truth.
Along the way we learn a little bit more about our heroes: Cooper was on the fast track to a successful political and legal career but instead opted to forgo becoming a lawyer to wear the badge - much the chagrin of her upscale family; while Stone is unabashedly promiscuous and confident, unfazed by her hard-knock childhood ("One brother in the joint, another brother that's divorced: I could work a freakin' pole and my dad would think I'm the second coming," she quips). Thankfully they have each other to fall back on, not to mention mock as needed.
What works: It's a remarkably solid procedural with a pair of likeable leads. Those horrified by the "two pop culture savvy detectives" logline will be happy to hear there's no real "CW-izing" at work. I mean, aside from Cooper and Stone's ages, the show's DNA has more in common with something you'd see on CBS or TNT than the netlet. To that end it's refreshingly diligent about its mechanizations not to mention feels fully formed out of the gate. It helps that Breckenridge and Ferlito have a nice, easygoing rapport with each other without being too showy (Stone: "Are you calling me a slut Coop?" Cooper: "No I'm just calling you a sure thing."). The pilot likewise manages to work in our heroes' backstories without trumpeting them as we get to know them just as fluidly as we do the case itself.
What doesn't: While it does one of the better green screen jobs I've seen in a while, the fact that it isn't actually shot in Chicago makes for some awkward angles and scene transitions at times. Thankfully, it more than makes up for it by restraining itself from having too many Chicago caricatures (the most glaring of which is Kovacs exclaiming he can't find "a decent Polish anywhere"). All in all, it's a sound, cogent presentation, one that presumably wasn't picked up for philosophical reasons rather than quality reasons. After all, it's definitely a detour from your standard CW fare. That being said...
The bottom line: ...good is good, no matter who it's targeted for.