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TV Review: CBS’s ‘NYC 22’ is TV District That Feels Too Familiar

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CHICAGO – “NYC 22” reminds me of a cover song by a really strong bar band. You can admire the craftsmanship. It doesn’t hit any wrong notes. And it reminds you of what you like about the original. But it can’t replace it. “NYC 22” is so derivative of other programs that it is constantly fighting with itself because it exposes its own flaws through the comparison. It feels like “NYPD Blue” and “Southland,” but those are the brilliant originals. This is the cover version.

HollywoodChicago.com TV Rating: 3.0/5.0
TV Rating: 3.0/5.0

The cast of “NYC 22” is a strong one but the more important voice is behind the scenes as the show was created by the brilliant Richard Price, the author of the novels “Clockers,” “Samaritan,” “Lush Life,” and more, as well as one of the main writers of “The Wire.” (Read and see everything in the previous sentence…now.) Richard Price knows the streets of New York City and he knows how to create complex, interesting characters. There is an authenticity to the job of a NYC policeman in this show that is often missing from inferior cop dramas. Many people have already compared this program to “Rookie Blue” but it’s Price’s sense of character that makes it feel more believable than that mediocre program.

NYC 22
NYC 22
Photo credit: CBS

The problem is that the sense of realism isn’t maintained through entire episodes and the storytelling doesn’t live up to the characters. It’s as if Price designed these characters, gave them back stories, and then let the network come up with silly “cop show plotlines” in which for them to engage. And the writing too often underlines its themes. The end of the first episode even features the Captain (a nice bit of casting in the underrated Terry Kinney of “Oz”) telling his new recruits all of the lessons they learned that day. With dialogue as on-the-nose as “You’ve got too a big a chip on your shoulder” any sense of realism is deflated. The show features elements that work but they have been painted over with a second coat of cliche.

NYC 22
NYC 22
Photo credit: CBS

NYC 22” is a program about rookie cops and features a nice variety of personalities in its central six roles. There’s the older rookie, Ray “Lazarus” Harper (Adam Goldberg), a former reporter who seems a bit reserved to be a Big Apple cop but also seems too determined to give up. He’s partnered with the beautiful Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), a cop with a personal connection to crime in her family who makes a huge mistake in the premiere and gets caught up in a horrendous domestic dispute. There’s the beautiful girl, Jennifer Perry (Leelee Sobieski), who has to work in a male-dominated world. There’s the sweet guy Kenny (Stark Sands), who gets the most interesting initial arc with both a potential girlfriend and a judgmental father. There’s the enigmatic Officer Ahmad Khan (Tom Reed), who has to deal with racial profiling in the other direction. And there’s Jayson “Jackpot” Toney (Harold House Moore), a former basketball star trying to make good.

All six of these central characters are interesting to varying degrees but the show is instantly reminiscent of “Southland” in its multi-story structure, following pairs of cops through a rough day. The writing here doesn’t compare to the brilliant TNT program. It doesn’t feel as gritty. It doesn’t feel as genuine. It feels more generic and cliched. And every time I thought Price and his team were about to overcome those cliches, they sunk right back into them. The best moments in “NYC 22” have nothing to do with the overall storytelling. It’s the subtle way that Goldberg plays an arc involving an encounter with a deadly criminal. The way that Moore portrays the conflict in dealing with an old friend who may have broken the law. The way that Reed sells his quite believable potential love story. I like these characters. I just don’t think the storytelling is nearly strong enough to allow them to stand out. There are a million stories of rookie cops in not just New York City but the history of television. We’ve been on this ride-along before.

NYC 22” stars Adam Goldberg, Judy Marte, Leelee Sobieski, Harold House Moore, Stark Sands, Tom Reed, and Terry Kinney. It premieres on CBS on April 15, 2012 at 9pm CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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