Back to the streets of New York City goes Dick Wolf , creating and executive producing (with Michael Chernuchin) this gritty crime drama that peers in on the fine folks who populate the U.S. attorney’s office and their opposite numbers at the FBI. When it doesn’t feel like warmed-over “Law & Order””Law & Order” leftovers, series scores with a bleak sort of urgency. The downside is, unfortunately, Blair Brown. She simply isn’t at all believable playing U.S. attorney Erica Stanton, the second-most- powerful woman in federal law enforcement after attorney general Janet Reno (if this were real life). Casting Brown as a hard-edged heavyweight is like asking Jay Leno to play Al Capone. It just doesn’t click.
Otherwise, its cast is this show’s strongest point, ranging from the magnificent Regina Taylor (late of “I’ll Fly Away”) to John Slattery (“Homefront”), Adrian Pasdar” (the beguiling and tragically short-lived Fox drama “Profit”) and Dylan Baker (“Murder One”).
Slattery is the heart and soul of “Feds” in the opener, scripted by Wolf and Chernuchin and called “Crash and Burn.” He’s assistant U.S. attorney Michael Mancini, a man whose wife and kids were gunned down in cold blood before his eyes some seven weeks earlier in a suspected mob hit. As the show opens, he’s a loose cannon waiting to blow, stumbling around in a sort of shellshocked haze.
Meanwhile, Oliver Resor (Pasdar) is prepping to ankle the Manhattan federal prosecutor’s office to take a job in Daddy’s law firm, while prosecuting an airline pilot whose boozing may have led to a crash that killed 45 people.
Completing the picture is Sandra Broome (Taylor), hard-nosed, tough, principled and, in the opener, really, really angry. She is a black woman forced to prosecute a black cop who beat the tar out of a tattooed, skinhead scumbag who allegedly taunted him with a racial slur.
Wolf and Chernuchin deliver a compelling kickoff hour with a driving energy, with director John David Coles keeping things moving at a brisk pace. No fancy footwork, just meat-and-potatoes crime drama a la Wolf.
The show’s primary strength, besides its rock-solid cast, is its ability to set a vivid mood. When a group of FBI agents conduct a surveillance by peering through the blinds of a specially equipped van, we feel like we’re right there taking it all in ourselves.
There are, however, certain lines in “Feds” that are lifted practically verbatim from the early seasons of “Law & Order.” That’s sheer laziness. Overall premise of seeking out the bad guys and then slam-dunking them in court is likewise more than a tad derivative of “L&O.” Pilot leaves the subtle impression that the show’s agenda includes glamorizing these government law upholders who play cops ‘n’ robbers with our tax dollars all day and night.
Despite all of this, “Feds” looks like a show that will be worth coming back to on Wednesdays — even if Blair Brown makes a lousy Janet Reno. Molly Dodd, we hardly knew ye.