Filmed in Los Angeles and New York by Steven Bochco Prods. Executive producers, Steven Bochco, William M. Finkelstein, David Milch; producer, Mark Tinker; supervising producers, Marc Buckland, Bill Clark; coordinating producer, Stephen Lim; associate producer, Laina Mumbrue; writers, Finkelstein, Milch; story, Milch, Bochco, Clark, Finkelstein; director of photography, Brian J. Reynolds; Brooklyn South” is yet another attempt to reinvent the cop show from the mother of all cop show producers, the man who thrust “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” onto an unsuspecting world. But for all its early edge and intensity , this ensemble police drama isn’t quite in the class of Bochco’s best.
The show has received much advance buzz for its jarringly graphic opening shootout between cops and crooks during which one officer is shot in the head. It sets a riveting tone the hour can’t come close to sustaining, though “Brooklyn South” is a quality piece of work packed with Bochco’s usual collection of all-too-human men and woman in blue struggling to make sense of a chaotic world.
What stifles the show’s inherent power is an ensemble of characters who don’t leap off the screen in the same way that David Caruso and Dennis Franz — and the legendary “Hill Street” group — did. Script by producers William M. Finkelstein and David Milch paints a complex picture in a show whose ambition thus far exceeds the sum of its parts.
Jon Tenney (best known as Teri Hatcher’s real-life husband), Michael DeLuise (who played the murdered son of Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue”) and “Hill Street” alum James B. Sikking are “Brooklyn South’s” most recognizable faces. Tenney, as patrol sergeant Francis X. Donovan, is the drama’s soul, a man obsessed with doing the right thing, and loaded with inner turmoil.
Sikking is can-do lieutenant Stan Jonas, DeLuise beat cop Phil Roussakoff. Also figuring prominently is Yancy Butler as Officer Anne-Marie Kersey.
What separates “Brooklyn South” from “NYPD Blue” is the obvious class distinction. “NYPD” zeroes in on the guys working out of the glass office. “Brooklyn,” which has more of a “Hill Street” flavor, is about walking the thin blue line in the trenches, on the beat and smack in the face of the enemy.
This is a solid piece of work populated by complex characters caught in the crossfire between good and evil. It showcases all of the requisite Bochco dramatic trademarks: the quick-cut editing, the cinema-quality camera work, the wild swings between action and calm, the inner emotional workings of its characters, the sliding scale of what constitutes morality. No one does it better.
Yet it’s impossible to shake the sense of deja-vu that surfaces while watching “Brooklyn South.” The producer has traveled this highway a few times before, and it’s puzzling why he would choose to do another cop show that can’t help but feel derivative.
On the up side, at least these badgeholders never break into song. One “Cop Rock” per lifetime is sufficient.