Sunday, September 28, 2003

'Cold Case,' 'Lyon's Den,' 'Practice' premiere tonight


By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

What's new

It's a cold case Sunday.

Rob Lowe
Jerry Bruckheimer's newest procedural drama, Cold Case, premieres on CBS today, along with two legal dramas (Rob Lowe's The Lyon's Den, ABC's revamped The Practice) and a police series (10-8), all of which may be dismissed quickly by viewers. Let's examine the evidence:

Cold Case (8 p.m., Channels 12, 7): That's what this show is about - solving an old, "cold" case.

Although Bruckheimer (CSI, CSI: Miami) produces this series, the drama is more leg work than lab work for Philadelphia police unsolved crimes expert Lillian Rush (Kathryn Morris, Minority Report).

In the premiere, Lillian re-opens the 1976 murder of a teenage girl and tries to pin it on one of two wealthy, uncooperative brothers. (I won't give away the ending, but there wouldn't be much of a series if she failed, right?)

Add Cold Case to the growing list of police procedural shows. The only question is: When will viewers turn a cold shoulder to this hot genre?

Also returning with season premieres tonight:
60 Minutes (7 p.m., Channels 12, 7).
American Dreams (8 p.m., Channels 5, 22).
Charmed (8 p.m., Channels 64, 26).
Alias (9 p.m., Channels 9, 2).
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (9 p.m., Channels 5, 22).
WB's Tarzan premieres next Sunday. Fox's Sunday lineup returns Nov. 2, after the World Series.
10-8 (8 p.m., Channels 9, 2): Perhaps sensing viewers have overdosed on procedural shows, ABC turns back the clock to a light police drama with a '70s feel from Aaron Spelling and A. Duke Vincent (Starsky & Hutch, The Mod Squad, The Rookies).

Danny Nucci (Titanic, The Rock) stars as Los Angeles Sheriff's Department trainee Rico Amonte who is paired with the predictably salty veteran John Barnes (Ernie Hudson, Oz, Ghostbusters). Barnes' first rule is that Rico must call him "sir."

"My first name is for loved ones and friends," Barnes says. "I don't love you, and you're not my friend."

Action moves at a faster pace than CSI or Law & Order, with foot chases, bus wrecks and a man leaping off a rooftop. And on 10-8, a police code for "in service," a rookie cop has pizza delivered to his squad car. (You don't see that on NYPD Blue.) But it's doubtful anyone will watch this throwback buddy show - particularly against The Simpsons, American Dreams and Cold Case - because the plots seem so inconsequential.

The Lyon's Den (10 p.m., Channels 5, 22) Rob Lowe returns to NBC as a Washington lawyer in a one-hour show that's part legal drama, part murder mystery and part soap opera. Unfortunately, none of the parts add up to a completely satisfying show.

Lowe plays John "Jack" Turner, who, for some reason, leaves the tiny pro-bono law clinic that he loves to become managing partner of the old-money, ultra-competitive, well-connected law firm that his father (now a U.S. senator) used to work for, which he hated.

NBC wants you to think that Turner will be overmatched by his ambitious, cunning rivals (Kyle Chandler, Frances Fisher) and the manipulative firm president (James Pickens Jr.). That appears to be the case, particularly because lightweight Lowe doesn't have John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff and the rest of The West Wing staff to support him.

But Lowe as Turner has other problems: a Justice Department probe of the firm's largest client, and a police investigation into whether a respected partner's suicide was actually murder. Writers say they will continue to juggle the murder mystery, soap opera and court cases each week, which could be a mistake.

Let's face it: The West Wing staff would avoid a law firm like Lyon, LaCrosse and Levine at all costs. You probably will, too.

Season premiere

The Practice (10 p.m., Channels 9, 2): Loyal fans of ABC's Emmy-winning law show - you who stuck with it on Monday night last winter - will want to sue David E. Kelley for malpractice after seeing the season premiere.

Gone in a salary purge are actors LisaGay Hamilton, Kelli Williams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Chyler Leigh, Marla Sokoloff and Dylan McDermott, who starred as the compassionate Bobby Donnell. Still hanging around are Steve Harris (Eugene), Michael Badalucco (Jimmy) and Camryn Manheim (Ellenor).

Added to the cast is James Spader as Alan Shore, an "ethically challenged" anti-trust lawyer fired from another firm for embezzling. You'd call him a "sleaze ball." He drags down The Practice to a new low with salacious remarks you never heard from Bobby.

When a prosecuting attorney asks why he's defending a homeless man instead of Ellenor Frutt, Shore says: "She's tied up - nothing sexual, I assure you."

When he meets the young woman assaulted by his client, Shore tells her: "This isn't particularly relevant to the case, but I touched myself with you in mind last night." Then he suggests that they defraud the man's insurance company.

Kelley thinks he can spark ratings with stunt guest casting (Sharon Stone as a lawyer who talks to God on Oct. 12) and the tawdry, sensational Shore, folks who would fit in better on Kelley's old Ally McBeal.

To me, this smells like the misguided attempt to revitalize L.A. Law - where Kelley once worked - by bringing in Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur). The best thing that happened to her was falling down that elevator shaft. Eugene, Jimmy, Ellenor (and ABC) should give Shore a quick shove, too.

Whatever happens, don't expect The Practice to be in business this time next year. Or any of these other shows.


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