An intricate, determinedly moody two-hour pilot intros a new weekly one-hour cop series, “Under Suspicion.” Karen Sillas plays detective Rose (Phil) Phillips , whose partner, Fusco (Peter Onorati), inexplicably disappears. The puzzle over Fusco, who trained her, is a good one, but Sillas’ perf in the opener comes off as uncertain at best.
Phil has her first case cut out for her: The only woman on the squad, she was there when Fusco disappeared into a candy store. Sneaking a look in a wallet he left behind, she finds a wad of cash.
The missing man’s wife, Ellen (Jayne Atkinson), and their two kids are at a loss to explain the disappearance, with Ellen momentarily worrying that unmarried Phil and Fusco were playing around.
Phil asks to handle the case, but gets the brushoff. Eventually she gets the chief to put her in charge of the case, and Phil, treated until now like a kid sister around the squad room, becomes a jarring authority figure getting little cooperation.
The case enjoys sharp turns, and writer/creator Jacqueline Zambrano comes up with surprising plot twists and some credible dialogue.
Director Robert Lieberman’s action sequences are OK, but the mood-setters, like Phil standing out in the rain with a cigarette, are heavy-handed. Program’s top segs are its suspense scenes and serious passages.
Sillas’ Phil suggests Helen Mirren’s relentless Inspector Jane Tennison from the British “Prime Suspect,” and comparison to that Granada TV series is inescapable. But the dedicated Tennison doesn’t care what the squad room thinks of her, whereas Sillas’ Phil, earnest instead of steely, hasn’t developed her armor.
As internal affairs officer James Vitelli, Philip Casnoff, who played the title role in the “Sinatra” miniseries, doesn’t always convince. Seymour Cassel, as the detective supervisor, passes muster; Onorati and Atkinson are superior.
Ray Baker as the chief, Eric LaSalle as LeBlanc and Natalie Shaw as Fusco’s daughter are all solid.
CBS has ordered eight hours, including the pilot, with two-episode arcs used to explore stories more fully. David Hennings and Victor Goss’ camerawork effectively sets tones for scenes, and designer Lawrence Bennett has worked out good backgrounds in Portland. Joseph Vitarelli’s score is admirably restrained.
Program’s an heroic attempt to work up other aspects to the vid police detective field. Maybe looking down new avenues will be the draw.