Nash Bridges” raises the question of whether it’s possible for one actor to carry a police drama nowadays. Don Johnson has traded in his pastel sports coats and loafers for tweed, jeans and sneakers. But unless a strong ensemble develops or another Michael Mann lends a distinctive style to the action, this traditional and comparatively light cops-and-robbers hour could get lost on the streets of San Francisco.
Going head to head with “Homicide” will highlight show’s vulnerabilities and strengths. Johnson, who shares the exec producer credit while cutting a fine figure in the title role, has as good a chance as any actor to make this series last.
Nash Bridges is a glib S.F. police inspector with a photographic memory and a rare 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Predictably, his personal life is a mess while his effectiveness as a cop is unassailable. He’s an amateur magician and loves his job so much that he won’t take a test to be promoted. His only disagreeable trait is calling everyone “Bubba” or “Bub.”
The interplay between Bridges and his ex-partner (Cheech Marin in a recurring role) will be a consistent source of humor once the latter’s function is better defined. Potential of other supporting characters also remains to be tapped. His rookie partner (Jaime P. Gomez) is a technology whiz. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays his ponytailed boss.
The necessary exposition is nicely woven into premiere, which takes place at Christmastime and centers on a computer-chip heist. The stolen chips are being sold to the Chinese mob by a millionaire villain. Nash’s magic skills come in handy.
On the personal front, he’s in the process of divorcing wife No. 2, a gorgeous socialite (Serena Scott Thomas), and remains close to his first wife (Annette O’Toole) and their daughter, given a promising turn by Jodi Lyn O’Keefe.
Creators cannot be accused of overreaching. Show has a laid-back feel in keeping with the supposedly mellow milieu. Director Peter Werner comes through with solid action sequences, including the obligatory car chase over the city’s hilly streets.
Some of the choice lines in Carlton Cuse’s estimable script are telegraphed or delivered in a self-congratulatory manner.
The style of “Nash Bridges” can be summed up by the cool jazz bar where Nash is a regular, as well as by the taste he shares with Marin’s character for the Allman Brothers Band. Bay Area flavor is sought with references to Jerry Garcia’s death and Merlot grapes, plus a small earthquake.
Review tape lacked a title sequence and key music and included temporary effects, so it’s hard to get a complete sense of production values.