'Murder in the First' on TNT, 'Chasing Life' on ABC Family
Steven Bochco's latest doesn't quite make its case, while cancer drama is about a lot more than cancer.
* MURDER IN THE FIRST. 10 tonight, TNT.
* REMEMBERING THE ARTIST ROBERT DE NIRO, SR. 9 tonight, HBO.
* CHASING LIFE. 9 p.m. tomorrow, ABC Family.
In 1995, long before "Damages" or "The Killing," Steven Bochco edged the TV procedural beyond the box with ABC's "Murder One," in which a single case consumed an entire season.
He also cast Daniel Benzali, a bald, middle-aged character actor, as the series' first lead, only to replace him by Season 2 with Anthony LaPaglia, while tweaking the format to cover more cases.
Bochco's back tonight with "Murder in the First," a TNT drama that premieres after "Major Crimes" and, like the original "Murder One," focuses on a single case for the season (though now that's only 10 episodes).
This time, he's playing it safer. Or at least prettier.
Taye Diggs ("Private Practice") and Kathleen Robertson ("Boss") are Terry English and Hildy Mulligan, San Francisco homicide detectives with sad, complicated personal lives. They're backed by a cast that includes Nicole Ari Parker, Richard Schiff, Steven Weber and James Cromwell, and which features Tom Felton - Draco Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" films - as a tech billionaire and suspect.
Maybe it's partly that Felton's aptly named Erich Blunt is more than a little reminiscent of Ryan Phillippe's character from the final season of "Damages," but little about "Murder in the First" feels fresh, much less first.
Even before it became a major weeper of a motion picture, John Green's bestselling The Fault in Our Stars was probably helping to ignite interest in young people with life-threatening illness.
Fall will bring Fox's "The Red Band Society," a teen drama set in a children's hospital, and tomorrow ABC Family premieres "Chasing Life," which stars Italia Ricci as April, an intern at a Boston newspaper who receives an out-of-nowhere cancer diagnosis.
Steven Weber's in this one, too, playing an oncologist who's also April's estranged uncle. This being an ABC Family series (and one based on a Mexican telenovela), there are one or two (or five) plot points too many packed into each episode, potentially lessening the impact of any single one but also ensuring that "Life" won't be one long sobfest.
Leukemia's hardly the least of April's problems, but it may have to take a number.
De Niro's labor of love
If we don't remember our parents, who will?
Most people won't have a child famous enough to commemorate them the way actor Robert De Niro does in tonight's HBO documentary "Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.," but the film's a timely reminder that fame alone isn't what gives a life meaning.
Would HBO be presenting a film on a respected but not wildly successful abstract expressionist painter if his name hadn't been De Niro? Probably not, but the impulse to try to place our parents in context within the wider world is universal enough to make the effort interesting (yes, even if De Niro's father hadn't been gay, which is, recent headlines aside, not the actual point of the film).
"Individual artists have moments. It has nothing to do with whether they're good or not. It has to do with the culture's taste and appetites shifting." So says one of the experts assessing the late De Niro's career, suggesting that if he'd lived longer, he might have had "another great moment."
Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
At the time of year in which we honor our fathers, there are worse ways to do it than to give them the benefit of any doubt.
On Twitter: @elgray