Filmed in Chicago by Paul Haggis Prods., in association with Universal Television/MCA. Created and executive produced by Paul Haggis; co-executive producer, Mark R. Harris; co-producers, Robert Moresco, Christopher Seiter; supervising producer, Tim Iacofano; consulting producers, Ted Haggis, David Latt; written by Paul Haggis and David Black; directed by Ken Olin; director of photography, Ron Garcia; edited by Elba Sanchez-Short; production designer, Laurence Benett; music, Mark Isham; casting, Nan Dutton, Jane Alderman. Cast: Ken Olin, Joe Pantoliano, Jason Gedrick, Debrah Farentino, Richard Portnow, Mike Starr, R.D. Call, John Finn, Sarah Trigger, Ken Lerner, Bobby Spillane, Saverio Guerra, Andrew Divoff. EZ Streets" presents viewers with a formidable challenge: No other new series has this kind of novelistic flow, with upwards of a dozen fully fleshed out characters whose lives crisscross, interweave and diverge. Tracking them requires sustained attention, a violation of natural law in couch potato land. But it's worth it. "EZ Streets" isn't perfect the first thing I'd jettison is that title but its effect is hypnotic, and Ken Olin is a revelation. This Paul Haggis production is also the most cinematic show on TV. Sustained, swooping crane shots parry the staccato thrust of car chases filmed through the steel skeleton of an aging, unnamed port city. Mark Isham's moody, Celtic-flavored score is so seductive you want to live in it for a while, and the people who really do inhabit this world make the time spent with them seem time well-spent. Olin plays Cameron Quinn, a tough-guy police detective whose reputation is shot when his partner is murdered and $ 10,000 they'd signed out for an operation turns up missing. Quinn, now looking like a cop gone bad, is recruited by the head of police intelligence to infiltrate the local mob controlled by Jimmy Murtha (Joe Pantoliano), a small-time Caligula capable of stunning ruthlessness as well as occasional outbursts of loyalty. Indeed, we first met Jimmy in the two-hour premiere, when he was the only one to show up to meet Danny (Jason Gedrick) as he's released from prison after three years for taking a rap on Jimmy's behalf. Danny yearns to go straight, to reconnect with his wife (Sarah Trigger) and infant daughter, but that's not in the cards. "EZ Streets" draws unsettling parallels between Danny and Cameron; indeed, the show's strength lies in its ambiguities. Jimmy Murtha may be pure evil, but little else is what it seems to be in this depressed but strangely compelling universe. Olin, best remembered as Michael Steadman, the straight-arrow ad exec of "thirtysomething," is remarkable as Quinn, clearly a man wracked by demons. We learn something about them in an astonishing scene with Quinn's estranged father, a real cop-gone-bad played grippingly by guester Rod Steiger (Rosemary Murphy has a recurring role as Quinn's mother). The show's mob/cop nexus includes politicians and businessmen, too, along with the usual assortment of fringe characters, all perfectly cast. There's a rare vibrancy in "EZ Streets," even if some of the moral equivalencies drawn between characters is more than a little shocking. Haggis sometimes goes for the cheap shot, as when Jimmy negotiates the details of confession and penance with his parish priest, only to be ambushed in the church sanctuary by his lawyer-girlfriend (Debrah Farentino) lying naked in a pew. I don't think so. And some of Ron Garcia's otherwise graceful camerawork is just showing off that intrudes on an otherwise beautifully wrought environment. Nevertheless, once you sort out the characters and still realize that assigning white hats and black hats here is going to be a thankless ordeal, you can sit back and let "EZ Streets" pull you in. It's remarkable TV. Jeremy Gerard

Filmed in Chicago by Paul Haggis Prods., in association with Universal Television/MCA. Created and executive produced by Paul Haggis; co-executive producer, Mark R. Harris; co-producers, Robert Moresco, Christopher Seiter; supervising producer, Tim Iacofano; consulting producers, Ted Haggis, David Latt; written by Paul Haggis and David Black; directed by Ken Olin; director of photography, Ron Garcia; edited by Elba Sanchez-Short; production designer, Laurence Benett; music, Mark Isham; casting, Nan Dutton, Jane Alderman. Cast: Ken Olin, Joe Pantoliano, Jason Gedrick, Debrah Farentino, Richard Portnow, Mike Starr, R.D. Call, John Finn, Sarah Trigger, Ken Lerner, Bobby Spillane, Saverio Guerra, Andrew Divoff. EZ Streets” presents viewers with a formidable challenge: No other new series has this kind of novelistic flow, with upwards of a dozen fully fleshed out characters whose lives crisscross, interweave and diverge. Tracking them requires sustained attention, a violation of natural law in couch potato land. But it’s worth it. “EZ Streets” isn’t perfect the first thing I’d jettison is that title but its effect is hypnotic, and Ken Olin is a revelation. This Paul Haggis production is also the most cinematic show on TV. Sustained, swooping crane shots parry the staccato thrust of car chases filmed through the steel skeleton of an aging, unnamed port city. Mark Isham’s moody, Celtic-flavored score is so seductive you want to live in it for a while, and the people who really do inhabit this world make the time spent with them seem time well-spent. Olin plays Cameron Quinn, a tough-guy police detective whose reputation is shot when his partner is murdered and $ 10,000 they’d signed out for an operation turns up missing. Quinn, now looking like a cop gone bad, is recruited by the head of police intelligence to infiltrate the local mob controlled by Jimmy Murtha (Joe Pantoliano), a small-time Caligula capable of stunning ruthlessness as well as occasional outbursts of loyalty. Indeed, we first met Jimmy in the two-hour premiere, when he was the only one to show up to meet Danny (Jason Gedrick) as he’s released from prison after three years for taking a rap on Jimmy’s behalf. Danny yearns to go straight, to reconnect with his wife (Sarah Trigger) and infant daughter, but that’s not in the cards. “EZ Streets” draws unsettling parallels between Danny and Cameron; indeed, the show’s strength lies in its ambiguities. Jimmy Murtha may be pure evil, but little else is what it seems to be in this depressed but strangely compelling universe. Olin, best remembered as Michael Steadman, the straight-arrow ad exec of “thirtysomething,” is remarkable as Quinn, clearly a man wracked by demons. We learn something about them in an astonishing scene with Quinn’s estranged father, a real cop-gone-bad played grippingly by guester Rod Steiger (Rosemary Murphy has a recurring role as Quinn’s mother). The show’s mob/cop nexus includes politicians and businessmen, too, along with the usual assortment of fringe characters, all perfectly cast. There’s a rare vibrancy in “EZ Streets,” even if some of the moral equivalencies drawn between characters is more than a little shocking. Haggis sometimes goes for the cheap shot, as when Jimmy negotiates the details of confession and penance with his parish priest, only to be ambushed in the church sanctuary by his lawyer-girlfriend (Debrah Farentino) lying naked in a pew. I don’t think so. And some of Ron Garcia’s otherwise graceful camerawork is just showing off that intrudes on an otherwise beautifully wrought environment. Nevertheless, once you sort out the characters and still realize that assigning white hats and black hats here is going to be a thankless ordeal, you can sit back and let “EZ Streets” pull you in. It’s remarkable TV. Jeremy Gerard

Ez Streets

(Wed. (30), 10-11 p.m., CBS)
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