Eliot Ness’ anti-crime force moves into a second season with 26 episodes in 182 markets, or 96% of the country, after last season’s No. 2 spot among new, first-run syndie fare. With Tom Amandes again cast as Ness and William Forsythe as Al Capone, first chapter’s as weak as watered gin.
Steve Bello’s strained, decidedly non-violent teleplay has Capone going off to the Eastern State pen thanks to Ness’ prowess, with Capone’s longtime Brooklyn pal Frank Nitti (Paul Regina) taking charge, at Capone’s command, of the overall Chi crime org. The ho-hum story alternates between Capone’s activities in jail, the mob’s actions under Nitti, and attempts by Ness and his crimebusters to jail Capone’s bagman.
Amandes’ Ness, instead of cool, is tepid, and, when addressing his men, sounds like a tryout for cheerleader. Forsythe’s Capone’s fierceness comes off as a put-on. He talks sotto voce about prison reform to a group of veterans’ mothers who, incredibly, believe the notorious mobster. Thesping throughout, aside from Regina’s crisp Nitti, comes across as “let’s pretend.”
Filmed well enough on Chi locations Ness and Capone might have used (dates get confused: a license plate says 1930, while Capone’s booking tag reads June 1929), initial episode displays the requisite fedoras and cars, but anachronistically falters occasionally in the dialogue department.
For a story about the breakup of a crime syndicate whose fortunes were made on bootlegging, prostitution and gambling, the preem is squeaky clean. With 25 episodes to go, there’d better be more action than stuntmen falling off high spots and a girl popping back-to-camera nude out of a cake; as of now, the Untouchables and the Undesirables are tangling with the blahs.