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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.]
THE 2-2 (CBS)
(written by Richard Price; directed by James Mangold; TRT: 40:27)
The network's description: "From Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal comes THE 2-2, which follows six diverse NYPD rookies as they patrol the gritty streets of upper Manhattan. The new trainees include Jennifer "White House" Perry (Leelee Sobieski), a former college volleyball star and Marine MP in Iraq with a take-charge attitude; Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg), the oldest rookie and a former police news reporter with better sources than many seasoned cops; Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), who comes from a family with a criminal history and has a very personal connection inside the force; Ahmad "Kiterunner" Kahn (Tom Reed), an Afghani native who fought his way to freedom; Kenny McClaren (Stark Sands), a fourth-generation police officer with great instincts but qualms about joining the force; and Jayson Toney (Harold House Moore), a young basketball legend who squandered his opportunity in the NBA.
Their demanding Field Training Officer, Daniel "Yoda" Dean (Terry Kinney), is a case-hardened, unsentimental veteran of the force who emphasizes basics and holds each cop accountable for their actions. With unique backgrounds, personalities and reasons for being on the force, the new cops will make their share of rookie mistakes while they figure out how to relate to their boss, each other and to the people they swore to protect. Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro ("The Godfather: Part II," "Raging Bull"), Jane Rosenthal ("Meet the Parents"), Academy Award nominee Richard Price ("The Color of Money"), Ken Sanzel ("Numb3rs") and James Mangold ("Walk the Line") are executive producers for CBS Television Studios in association with Tribeca Productions. The pilot was directed by James Mangold."
What did they leave out? Said hour was originally known as "The Rookies."
The plot in a nutshell: It's the first day on the job for our six heroes: Jennifer "White House" Perry (Leelee Sobieski), a former Marine M.P.; Jayson "Jackpot" Toney (Harold House Moore), once a touted NBA prospect; Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg), a laid-off journalist who had to threaten to sue the department to get in; Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), the only straight arrow in a family of criminals; Ahmad "Kiterunner" Kahn (Tom Reed), a Pakistani immigrant who's routinely harassed about his background; and Kenny McClaren (Stark Sands), who comes from a long line of NYPD cops. Tasked with herding these cats is the enjoyably sardonic Daniel "Yoda" Dean (Terry Kinney), who buses them to footposts just a few blocks apart.
His advice: "Don't get hurt, don't hurt anyone. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. In essence, just stand there." In reality they're tasked with assorted menial tasks, from unclogging the toilet of a late cop's widow, harassing gangs for truancy violations, standing guard in front of an overly ripe dead body or playing peacekeeper during a fender bender. Not surprisingly, they're less than thrilled with scut work and aim to prove themselves by taking on more rewarding tasks. For Sanchez, it's looking into a seemingly abused woman; for McClaren, helping the son of an attractive single mom; for Toney, checking in on an old friend who may be up to trouble - all of which initially prove to be more than they can chew. Ultimately they prove up to their respective tasks, even if they make plenty of rookie mistakes while handling them.
What works: It's sort of "New York Stories" with cops as the pilot plays almost as an anthology into the daily minutiae of said sextet with the unifying theme that each has a chip on their shoulder and a breathless need to show they can hack it. And to its credit everybody is more or less pretty likeable - from Sands, so great in "Generation Kill," who brings the same stoic but quietly earnest trappings to McClaren; to Kinney, who should play every seen-it-all-and-could-care-less supervisor on TV as far as I'm concerned.
There's also a nice aura to the show that makes you realize that while it's a high stakes profession, there's often an unglamorous, humdrum quality to a cop's day. "Right now we just want to stop them from going to war long enough to forget about it and start something with someone else and we do the same thing with those two," gang intel sergeant Terry Howard (Felix Solis) explains about the Sisyphean task they face each day. "It's called a mobile scarecrow." Or as another cop quips, "It's called sweeping leaves on a windy day."
What doesn't: Whether that really translates to compelling television however is a different question: the crimes are sometimes small and the stakes are frequently lethargic, deviancies from the CBS formula it makes at its own peril. After all, between its classic rock needle drops (KISS! Iggy Pop!) and montage of opening and closing look ins on each character, there's the sense "The 2-2" has more in common with a show like "Grey's Anatomy" than the Eye's crime dramas.
It doesn't help that any of the aforementioned enthusiasm is regularly dampened by awkward attempts at humor - bits like every Latina officer is named Sanchez fall flat - while the generally neat and tidy way it goes about its business - an innocuous list of items to be aware of from the morning's roll call proves to literally be a checklist of every crime the rookies stumble across
- takes the air out of its proposed authenticity. All in all, it's not really a bad show or a particularly flawed one...
The bottom line: ...it just feels like it's going to be a short-lived one.