The cop show is TV staple, yet despite its abundant selection of women in jeopardy, it's taken awhile for Lifetime to get one on the air.
Now suddenly, it has two. "The Protector" with Ally Walker and Tisha Campbell-Martin is pretty lame. But happily "Against the Wall" (Lifetime, 10 tonight) is better. Not fantastic, but solid and promising.
It starts with the star. Rachel Carpani plays Abby Kowalkski, a Chicago cop from a family of cops. She wants a promotion and a faster ticket to becoming a homicide detective; she discovers that the only way there is through a position in Internal Affairs, the division that investigates other cops. This does not please her dad (Treat Williams), and two of her three brothers (Brandon Quinn, James Thomas and Steve Byers); one is mostly supportive. Her only refuge is her mother, played by Kathy Baker. Abby also has a pregnant partner played by Marissa Ramirez.
What "The Protector" and "Against the Wall" have in common is that the crimes on the show don't really matter; it's about the characters. I guess the characters that don't fit in on USA are now welcome at Lifetime.
Despite the fact that the writers overload her character with personality quirks (the frequent mentions of her love for the Bears only highlights the fact that the show has no authentic Chicago feel), Carpani makes Abby appealing. She's a flawed girl/woman; spunky enough to go her own way, but not quite ready to face the family consequences. She's romantically dysfunctional too; there's the nice guy she should be with, but pushes away, and then there's the guy she secretly sleeps with. Carpani plays it all with a lightness and honesty that makes her relatable.
And while it's always good to see Williams, at least in the first episode he's not put to great use. Baker, though, raises the bar and the material. The mother-daughter relationship is a highlight.
By the way the first episode ends, it's clear that "Against the Wall" will have silly contrivances, but maybe it's just getting that stuff out of the way early. It would be great, as I've seen happen before, if the writers find their sweet spot and make the show stronger, more nuanced. Baker and Carpani and Williams are up to it.