Another new show premieres on TNT tonight at 10, fitting neatly into a summer basket of dramas that's in tune with the season: formulaic and not particularly challenging, yet entertaining.
Capers, procedurals, medical stuff (fun-and-games or life-and-death), some legal shenanigans, well-populated with pretty girls and gorgeous guys, they run across the "We Know Drama" channel (TNT) or the "Characters Welcome" network (USA) like children, albeit not-so-innocent ones, through sprinklers on a hot summer day.
USA's characters tend to be a little quirkier and more fun, and TNT's dramas, well, more dramatic. The tough, conflicted women of TNT (Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Holly Hunter in Saving Grace, Jada Pinkett Smith in the stupidly named HawthoRNe) bring heavier subject matter to the network, but, because the shows are as predictable as burgers at a picnic, they still make for easy watching.
Dark Blue escalates the violence and the angst and the male quotient, as our three handsome heroes, joined by one beautiful rookie, try to make their way through cases, so deeply undercover you almost wonder if they will get gobbled up. But you never do wonder, because you know all the while that they'll be back again next week.
The Practice's Dylan McDermott is as brooding and earnest and attractive as ever, but this time he carries that stubbly beard that's been standard wear on outsider cops since Sonny Crockett lived with Elvis the alligator in his Miami sailboat home.
Like Mr. Monk and the Mentalist (and who knows how many others?), McDermott's Lt. Shaw went toward the dark side, apparently, when somebody killed his wife. (You may remember that Leverage's Nate Ford left the straight and narrow when the Big Insurance Company let his son die.)
Now, Shaw can't sleep and pops pills and runs an LAPD squad that's so far undercover, only one cop shop big shot knows about it, and he wishes he didn't.
Would you be surprised to learn that these folks break all the rules, except the ones that require lots of violence and a nice, neat package by 11 p.m.?
Tonight's premiere starts with a guy getting the full feet-in-a-bucket-of-water electroshock treatment. Another guy gets his head blown off, with appropriate blood spatter. There are also repeated amazing, yet surprisingly harmless, machine-gun battles; lots of running around in deserted industrial districts, and even a totally gratuitous and brutal fight-club bout.
Of course there's a beautiful geek who does all the gang's impossible computer work, and generic, yet exciting, mood music, and people say things like, "How long can you pretend to be something before you become it?" - the "something" being the most heinous, ruthless, soulless, loveless, good-looking bad guy you can imagine.
But don't take this review the wrong way. Some of the CSI guys, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman and Danny Cannon, are among those in charge here. They may have thrown out a lot of the fascinating, and expensive, bells and whistles you see in the winter (or in reruns) on CBS - it is cable; it is summer - but they still know how to tell a story.
If you're looking for unencumbered tough-guy entertainment, you won't be disappointed. Or, you could go to bed at 10 and get up early the next day to enjoy the glorious, temperate weather that, unlike cable's TV shows, is the big surprise of the summer.
Tonight at 10 on TNT