It's awfully hard to come up with a new twist on the cop show, and yet everyone keeps on trying.
The latest effort "NYC 22" (10 tonight, CBS) comes from executive producer Robert De Niro and writer/creator Richard Price, the author of "Clockers" and "Freedomland" (two great, gritty reads) and screenplays for the films "Sea of Love" and the Oscar-nominated "The Color of Money." Native New Yorkers both, they've set the show in "upper Manhattan" aka Harlem, and populated it with a realistically diverse cast of characters.
And yet, the show is about as white bread bland as it can be.
"NYC 22" chronicles the lives and times of six rookie cops and their leader. There's Jennifer Perry (a blank face Leelee Sobieski), a former Marine MP in Iraq, who is sometimes underestimated because she's pretty and blond; Ray Harper (an effectively world weary Adam Goldberg), an older rookie who became a cop after being downsized from his job as a cops reporter at a newspaper (I guess that could happen); Tonya Sanchez, who is trying to separate from her criminal family; Ahmad Kahn (Tom Reed), an Afghani native; Kenny McLaren (Stark Sands), a cop from a family of legendary cops; and Jayson Toney (Harold "House" Moore), a former basketball star who blew his NBA shot and is starting over in his old neighborhood. Their boss is Daniel Dean (Terry Kinney), known as Yoda.
The interesting backgrounds of the characters, and the notes of humor Price sprinkles in the script are nice, but other than that the show plays like those middle-of-the-road, not-quite-awful, nowhere-near-great dramas CBS likes so much. (And often manages to turn into hits somehow.) In his books, Price's dialogue is authentic, his depictions of race relations pointed, his situations powerful. The man wrote episodes of "The Wire" for goodness sake! "NYC 22" feels like Price-lite or maybe a Price imposter. I watched four episodes (because I kept telling myself it might get better); thirty minutes of "Southland" wipes the floor with them.
Even if you don't watch "Southland," you'll probably be disappointed by "NYC 22." It should be so much better.