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Cover Me

It may be based on the factual life of an FBI family, but USA's "Cover Me" is hardly grounded in reality. Implausible at every turn, the cable net's new one-hour dramedy misses more than it hits despite a terrific leading man and some clever moments. For tough-guy shtick and cutesy camaraderie, there's still no substitute for "The Sopranos."

With:
Danny Arno - Peter Dobson Barbara Arno - Melora Hardin Celeste Arno - Cameron Richardson Ruby Arno - Antoinette Picatto Chance Arno - Michael Angarano

It may be based on the factual life of an FBI family, but USA’s “Cover Me” is hardly grounded in reality. Implausible at every turn, the cable net’s new one-hour dramedy misses more than it hits despite a terrific leading man and some clever moments. For tough-guy shtick and cutesy camaraderie, there’s still no substitute for “The Sopranos.”

The premise is kind of goofy: Federal caseworker Danny Arno (a hilarious Peter Dobson) enlists his wife and children to help with dangerous operatives. That means auds will have to take a giant leap of faith whenever dutiful spouse Barbara (Melora Hardin), 11-year-old Chance (Michael Angarano), and daughters Celeste (Cameron Richardson) and Ruby (Antoinette Picatto) mix it up with some violent felons all in the name of crimefighting.

First predicament is standard fare for the Arnos. Danny goes undercover as a union official to expose a mobster who firebombs building contractors. Since he can’t do it alone, he employs Celeste to get involved with the perpetrator’s son; Barbara to be a seductress; and Chance to become a messenger. With everybody’s cooperation, the bad guys are exposed, the world becomes a safer place and it’s on to the next job.

It’s evident from the pilot that “Cover Me,” filmed in San Diego, has its heart in the right place. No matter the extreme circumstances or silly coincidences, writer-exec producer Shaun Cassidy plays the affection card as often as he did with his short-lived “American Gothic.”

But regardless of the closeness, there isn’t much substance backing up the love. Preparation and security concerns are absent, and, in a matter of weeks, Chance and Ruby baby-sit for a crooked politician and gangsters move in next door.The perfs are its saving grace. Dobson is a hoot as a gung-ho agent who will do anything for his kids. His manly swagger (also on display in the upcoming pic “Drowning Mona”) and macho codespeak rescue many of the scenes because it’s almost impossible to believe anyone is this crazy. Walters is a good sport as a forgiving mate who adores her nutty hubby, and the tikes combine teen troubles with street smarts.

But all of this know-how might be the problem. Total fiction is one thing, but asking viewers to trust that this amazingly tight (and bulletproof) clan exists sure is expecting a lot. They might be fun to watch, but as soon as the gunplay starts you’ll doubt every word they say.

Cover Me

USA; Sun. March 5, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in San Diego by Shaun Cassidy Prods.. Executive producer, Shaun Cassidy; co-executive producer, Philip Gerson; producers, Jim Michaels, Mark Saracini; director, Michael Nankin; writer, Cassidy.

Crew: Camera, John Stokes; production designer, John Vallone; editor, John Ganem; music, John Ehrlich; casting Karen Margiotta, Mary Margiotta, Sarah Altman. 60 MIN.

Cast: Danny Arno - Peter Dobson Barbara Arno - Melora Hardin Celeste Arno - Cameron Richardson Ruby Arno - Antoinette Picatto Chance Arno - Michael Angarano

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