Richard Crenna has settled comfortably into the role of Lt. Frank Janek, which is as much a tribute to the top-notch writing of this series of telefilms as it is to Crenna's portrayal of a driven-yet-sensitive New York police detective. This latest installment is among the series' best and could be a worthy ratings challenger to "NYPD Blue," another cop drama positioned against Janek.
Richard Crenna has settled comfortably into the role of Lt. Frank Janek, which is as much a tribute to the top-notch writing of this series of telefilms as it is to Crenna’s portrayal of a driven-yet-sensitive New York police detective. This latest installment is among the series’ best and could be a worthy ratings challenger to “NYPD Blue,” another cop drama positioned against Janek.The murder of Janek’s goddaughter kicks off this briskly paced story, which forces the detective to deal with his grief and with his colleagues’ snail-paced investigation. Janek jumps into the fray when he learns that the killings are the work of a serial killer and the FBI is on it. He goads the Feds, vowing to solve the case before they do. The vidpix have fleshed out Janek’s character, making him distinct from the current crop of TV coppers. Scripter Gerald Dipego keeps the story tight, adding a handful of plot tangents to keep things interesting. He has given the actors plenty to sink their teeth into, but the role of therapist Dr. Martin (Tyne Daly) is particularly well-conceived. The formidable acting ability of Daly and the unfolding — or unraveling — of her ice queen are a delight to observe. Another of the producers’ and scripter’s well-planned devices is Janek’s enlistment of love interest Monique Dessier (Helen Shaver). The slinky widow, who is also a Canadian forensic psychologist, taps into the killer’s background, allowing several investigative blanks to be filled. Janek’s sidekick, Cliff Gorman, as the gruff, Hawaiian-shirted Detective Sgt. Aaron Greenburg, sometimes skews into standard network-cop territory, but is nonetheless the seemingly perfect foil to the tightly wound Janek. Director Robert Iscove elicits polished perfs from the cast, and has choreographed well the crime fighting two-step between Janek and Martin. The interplay from the well-rounded cast should keep viewers’ trips to the fridge at a minimum.