Looking to the Great White North for cop drama while its domestic mainstays take a breather, CBS introduces “Flashpoint,” a pretty nondescript hour that — much like the net’s “The Unit” — attempts to straddle the line between gung ho/Spartan and soft/mushy. Focusing on one of those elite cop squads (in this case, Toronto’s Strategic Response Unit) that producers love, the series benefits from the sturdy presence of Enrico Colantoni as its easygoing sergeant, but the premiere mostly fizzles with what amounts to a minor hostage situation and its prolonged aftermath.
Opening with the hostage standoff apparently to try to energize the pace, this first outing backs into introducing Sgt. Parker (Colantoni) and his team, to the point where it’s hard to distinguish one from another. Nor does the crisis — essentially a domestic dispute gone bad — have the kind of scope or crackle viewers have come to expect even from failed fare in the hostage-negotiator vein, a la Fox’s short-lived “Standoff.”
Rather, as structured by writers Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, the premiere yields plenty of familiar-sounding dialogue (“This guy doesn’t look too happy.” “That guy knew what he was in for. You saved lives.”) that might have more pop if, say, we could rotate the hands of the clock back to before “NYPD Blue” existed. But that’s probably an entirely different show, eh?
Based on this initial encounter, the SRU looks to be a hard-drinking, hard-working bunch — tough guys (and gal, Amy Jo Johnston) who throw back a few cold Molsons at the end of the day but don’t discuss the psychological impact of putting a bullet in somebody’s cranium. There’s even a slightly reckless new hotshot joining the gang, but that only augurs more cop cliches to come.
After several second-banana roles (most recently “Veronica Mars”), Colantoni is a welcome choice for this assignment, and given the financial benefits of the U.S.-Canadian alliance, it’s understandable why CBS would take its own low-risk shot with “Flashpoint” as summer filler. Yet as viewing experiences go, the series itself possesses so little flash, finally, that it’s difficult to see the point.