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New tonight: 'Mob City,' 'Kirstie'

TNT goes dark with stylish period drama, while TV Land goes broad with ex-"Cheers" stars.

"Mob City" features (left to right) Milo Ventimiglia, Jon Bernthal. (Photo: Scott Garfield)
"Mob City" features (left to right) Milo Ventimiglia, Jon Bernthal. (Photo: Scott Garfield)Read more

* MOB CITY. 9 tonight, TNT.

* KIRSTIE. 10 and 10:30 tonight, TV Land.

HISTORY MEETS homage in "Mob City," a new TNT series from Frank Darabont ("The Walking Dead") that's as much about his love for film noir as about organized crime in 1940s Los Angeles and the people who fought it.

I'm not sure how purists will respond to the result, but I don't mind seeing actors like Ed Burns, Milo Ventimiglia and Robert Knepper in nice suits, acting the way bad guys in old movies are supposed to act.

I'm even happier to see Jon Bernthal ("The Walking Dead") all cleaned up and zombie-free.

I just can't quite tell, after two episodes, whether their stories can compete with their setting.

After a brief, explosive prologue in the "Boardwalk Empire" Prohibition era, we're transported tonight to 1947 LA, where we meet our narrator, Detective Joe Teague (Bernthal), who will be found, more than once, to be not quite what he seems.

Teague, a link between the mob and the LAPD's resident Boy Scout, Capt. William Parker (Neal McDonough), is fictional, and before you start Googling, so is Knepper's Sid Rothman, a sociopath who supposedly grew up with Ben "Don't Call Him Bugsy" Siegel (Burns).

"If you're telling a fictional story, you want to with impunity have a character, say, be an unbelievably corrupt guy," Darabont said in August on the show's Red Studios Hollywood set.

In the end, it may be the good guys who turn out to be the most surprising, particularly Gregory Itzin ("24," "Covert Affairs"), who's playing real-life reform Mayor Fletcher Bowron, in what he admitted was a departure.

"I usually play white-collar assh---s," he said.

The potentially open-ended "Mob City" - a sorry compromise of a title for a show that Darabont hoped to call "L.A. Noir," after the John Buntin book on which the series is based - will air in three two-hour blocks on Wednesdays, beginning tonight.

'Kirstie': Alley oops

TV Land isn't the first network to believe that sitcoms can be assembled from past comedy classics.

But it's going to take more than the reunion of Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman - and the casting of Michael Richards - in "Kirstie," the retro programmer's newest original series, to make anyone forget "Cheers" or "Seinfeld."

Or even "Veronica's Closet."

A comedy so broad it might as well wander off the sides of the screen, "Kirstie" stars Alley as a childish Broadway star named Madison Banks who comes undone when Arlo (Eric Petersen), the son she gave up for adoption 26 years earlier, tracks her down. His own mother having recently died, he's eager to bond with a woman who's embarrassed to be seen with him and who assumes that when he says he works at "The Glazed Hole," he means a gay bar, not a doughnut shop.

Cringing yet?

I was, but mostly for Perlman, who, as Madison's assistant and best friend, Thelma, is stuck being the voice of reason in an unreasonable universe. But at least she seems also to be acting in a better show than the people around her.

Richards is merely in "Kirstie," playing Frank, Madison's driver, as a guy apparently separated at birth from Cosmo Kramer, but with hit-man ambitions.

As for Alley herself, she's playing a less-likeable version of the persona she projected in Showtime's "Fat Actress." Even people who've never darkened a theater's door may have trouble buying her as a Broadway star.

I've seen only the first of the two episodes premiering tonight, but in two subsequent ones, there's a slight shift in tone, making Arlo less of a loser and Madison a smidgen more maternal.

That's maybe less unpleasant, but it's really no funnier.

Twitter: @elgray