Vid serializing of 1987’s smart feature “The Big Easy” fails to do credit to the spirit, intrigue or sexiness of writer Daniel Petrie Jr.’s original New Orleans crimer. With Tony Crane in for Dennis Quaid and pretty Susan Walters cast in Ellen Barkin’s role, the first chapter is a formula detector up to here in gumbo.
Remy McSwain (Crane) is an easygoing police detective working with forced Cajun colorfulness and a simple grin; Anne Osborne (Walters) is now working for the Dept. of the Interior, bird-dogging a quarry. McSwain, who knows every crook and cranny of his city, intros her to local spots and relentlessly artful coo-zahns.
McSwain charms her and, uncoaxed, she slurps down two rum hurricanes. The cad , already known for going after married women, carries single Osborne to his room.
The pilot sails stickily on with Barry Corbin cast as McSwain’s uncle-in-law, Sheriff C.D. LeBlanc, and Troy Bryant as waspy assistant D.A. Lightnin’ Hawkins. Karla Tamburrelli limns the oversexed detective Darlene Broussard, and Eric George gives a good assist as McSwain’s jazzman pal Smiley Dupree.
One trouble is that Crane and Walters don’t come near striking a spark; episode’s final, unprepared-for scene, in which they profess a mutual declaration, goes clunk.
Writer Jacqueline Zambrano — perhaps wary of an original storyline for the intro, due to the thick exotica of styles and patois — finds corruption in high places, misplaced loyalties, a not-so-surprising killer and all the com-monplace hijinx. Director James Frawley, pulling down impressive speed, atmosphere and occasional confusion, keeps the pot boiling.
But for viewers trying to sort out characters’ names and relationships, it’s pretty thin going. Crane makes a valiant attempt to bring the hero to life, but doesn’t deliver the slick, engaging personality and Cajun know-how that are needed. Walters rightfully looks uncertain, but Corbin, fresh from his “Northern Exposure” exposure, works the sheriff’s role to good effect.
Brian Savegar’s production design is an asset. Billy Dickson’s sharp camerawork is suited to the subject, Michael B. Hoggan’s editing is fine, and Joseph Vitarelli’s score pushes the New Orleans flavor.
Stories for the 13-episode series better show some originality, and characters better communicate more with the aud, dawlin’; otherwise, it’s a bayou dozer. Sure thing, sug!