At first blush, the choice of Robin Williams for this episode seems like casting gone awry. But by show's end, wags should be silenced by Williams' dynamic portrayal of a grieving husband reacting to the senseless shooting of his wife during a street robbery.

At first blush, the choice of Robin Williams for this episode seems like casting gone awry. But by show’s end, wags should be silenced by Williams’ dynamic portrayal of a grieving husband reacting to the senseless shooting of his wife during a street robbery.

The four-episode run of the series in the spot usually occupied by “L.A. Law” should garner a significant following, likely to track the series to its permanent home on the schedule.

In the return of this series, the shooting of a tourist in front of her family sets the wheels in motion for the homicide team regulars, who try to solve the politically charged case. Civic leaders push for a speedy resolution, realizing the murder of a tourist can be bad for business.

Seg director Stephen Gyllenhaal deftly communicates the hysteria and confusion of the crime scene and its aftermath, allowing viewers to share much of the uneasiness proffered by those investigating and affected by the tragedy.

Scripters David Simon and David Mills weave themes of police insensitivity, victims rights and dysfunctional families into the whole cloth of the gritty realities of law enforcement, keeping the emotional rollercoaster they’ve created moving swiftly on track.

Street toughs are portrayed diligently, without resorting to cartoonish characters or stereotypes. Top-notch writing also translates to viewers the grief felt by Williams’ character, as he hindsights the event, self-assigning blame for his wife’s demise.

Writing gives Williams the program’s most powerfully understated moment when he inquires of a detective, “You live in a world where everyone carries a gun, don’t you?” It conveys in one sentence both the helplessness and anger victims of violent crimes must feel.

The writers and producers also deserve kudos for their depiction of Yaphet Kotto as the squad room honcho, positioning his character as an even-keeled leader, rather than the raving incompetent many cop dramas prefer.

Fellow cast members, most notably Daniel Baldwin and Melissa Leo, talk the talk and walk the walk, cementing program’s overall air of credibility.

The gallows humor commonplace among law enforcement is accurately and effectively used to make a point, and not tossed in gratuitously.

Homicide: Life on the Street Bop Gun

(Thurs. (6); 10-11 p.m.; NBC)

Production

Filmed by Baltimore Films Prods. in association with Reeves Entertainment. Executive producers, Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana; supervising producer, Jim Finnerty; producer, Gail Mutrux; director, Stephen Gyllenhaal; script, David Simon, David Mills; story, Fontana.

Crew

Camera, Jean De Segonzac; editor, Cindy Mollo; production design, Vince Peranio; sound, Bruce Litecky; music, Jeff Rona; created by Paul Attanasio.

Cast

Cast: Daniel Baldwin, Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Melissa Leo, Jon Polito, Kyle Secor, Ned Beatty, Shawn Woodyard, Richard Pilcher, Herb Levinson, Mel Proctor, Judy Thornton, Sharon H. Ziman, Jay Spadaro , Fredella D. Calloway, Robin Williams, Lloyd Goodman, Antonio D. Charity, Julia Devin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Caron Tate, Vincent Miller, Kay W. Lawal.
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