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“Raising the Bar”: Catching up with old friends

POSTED BY STUART LEVINE

Being a huge fan of “NYPD Blue” — yeah, I watched all 261 episodes over 12 seasons — it was nice to see at least some of the folks from the 15th Precinct back on Steven Bochco’s new TNT series, “Raising the Bar.”

Caught the pilot last night, in preparations for Turner’s presentation at TCA next week, and I’m on board. Leading the charge is Mark-Paul Gosselaar, a young and impressionable public defender and an actor who was an underrated “Blue” standout and a great partner for Dennis Franz’ Andy Sipowicz. Then there’s Currie Graham, who arrived on “Blue” during its final season as a mostly incompetent leader, and here plays a sexist boss in charge of the district attorneys. And in a couple of scenes, “Blue” alum Michael Harney shows up as a cop doing whatever he can to put someone away.Raising_2

It was also a pleasure to catch the fabulous Jane Kaczmarek back on the air, and not screaming this time. On “Bar,” she’s a judge with a chip on her shoulder, and a boy toy for a clerk. Her vocal chords needed a few years to heal after all those years harping at the kids on “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Legally speaking, this is familiar turf for Kaczmarek. She got her first big TV break working with John Houseman in “The Paper Chase” in 1983, and only a year later, was Officer Clara Pilsky on a little thing they called “Hill Street Blues”; hence, the Bochco connection.

This is a family affair for the Bochcos, as Steven exec produces and wrote the first episode; his wife, Dayna, produces; and son Jesse directs and co-exec produces. It was that way a lot on “Blue” as well, and if “Bar” can merit only a fraction of the success and longevity of “Blue,” they’d all take that in a heartbeat.Kaczmarek_2

And lets make sure to give co-creator and TV newcomer David Feige due credit, as he pitched the idea for the show to Bochco and co-wrote the pilot.

I’ll let my colleague and Variety TV critic Brian Lowry give a more exact take on what he thinks, but count me in. It’s rare that pilots wow right off the bat — “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Friday Night Lights” might possibly be the last few that absolutely blew me away — and this one didn’t, but that’s OK. Every show needs to find its footing, and I see no reason why “Bar” can’t succeed from its solid, if unexceptional, start.

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