I don't disagree with the essential premise offered by the previous reviewer -- all cop shows vary from some mix of the realistic and the fantastic. C'mon, please: Lab techs who bust down doors with the badges? Decades-old cold cases where all the key suspects are still among us, living in Philadelphia? And these examples represent two of my favorite recent procedurals.
That said, I skipped this one when it first played on ABC -- I was still riding high on Hill Street Blues, and I feared Daniel J. Travanti was slumming for a gig. Never heard of the supporting cast, and when Valeria Harper came on, I figured she'd given up the ghost, as well.
Kind of glad I waited until Cannell's new omnibus DVD set came out with all 18 eps. Have watched four, and what I'm seeing so far is a fairly solid, reasonably low-key modular procedural -- the kind Ed McBain used to write with his 87th Precinct novels. It reminds me of another underestimated ABC short-timer, The Unusuals. Travanti brings his best boss sensibilities, along with some credible gray, to Lt. Ray -- the kind of guy who might have mentored Frank Furillo. Ray's short-fused impatience with incompetence and callousness is well-rationed, and his home life reminds me nostalgically of Barney Miller's.
Jorja Fox (later CSI), Frederick Weller (later In Plain Sight), and Erik King (later Dexter) all make credibly dogged investigators, following trails far freer of melodrama and coincidence than Without a Trace. I enjoy spotting out the Chicago 'hoods and the city's various cultural enclaves as the tecs seek their prey. Unlike Trace, not every step is traced with the help of an ATM or mini-mart surveillance cam, and not every missing person is involved in some labyrinthine scheme or conspiracy.
In terms of realism, I like at least the semblance of some genuine police procedure being applied to the proceedings. Stan the office phone jockey, surrounded by reverse phone directories and city maps, is another nice contribution to the ersatz-reality of the show.
This one probably would never have caught on in the pre-Bruckheimer era. But if you like a cop show with some plausible human interaction (a la Glades, Memphis Beat), I'd recommend it as a pleasant diversion and a look at some young stars who'd someday make their way. It shows me Cannell still had some oomph between the classic Rockford Files and the latter-day punch of Wiseguy.
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