NBC sent out for review the second episode of Gary David Goldberg’s cop comedy due to the reshooting of scenes in the first episode. Goldberg and NBC know there’s a kernel of quality in “Battery Park,” but getting an ensemble comedy to gel at lightning speed, even with special handling, is well nigh impossible. Episode reviewed, which airs March 30, weaves through painfully worn-out jokes in the name of exposition and then suddenly shifts gears to show off its comic, and poignant, potential.
Ben (Justin Louis), the cop with what’s termed an annoyingly impeccable record, is smitten by Maria (Wendy Moniz), the daughter of a dead mob boss. Once they begin to date — in the middle of the show — it becomes a surveillance free-for-all that manages to bring in elements of a slew of police show predecessors: “Police Squad,” “Barney Miller” and “Hill Street Blues.” It’s in the second half of the show that “Battery Park” breaks from its fomulaic one-two of straight lines and jokes to elevate these plain-clothes members of New York City’s finest into full-fledged people.
Madeline (Elizabeth Perkins) is the overbearing commander with an ear for sarcasm and the eye of a watchful mother. She continually cautions her charges, particularly Derek (Bokeem Woodbine) and Stig (Frank Gillo), about rights and wrongs; these two overzealously blast their way through every assignment. What Madeline lacks are people skills, which opens the door for her more caring officers.
Carl (Jay Paulson) is running in a collection of hookers when he stumbles upon his high school English teacher (Michelle Clunie) — the brood’s madam. Without condemnation, he lavishes praise on her teaching skills and the effect she had on his life, while the juxtaposition of sentimentality and absurdity is resonant.
Elena (Jacqueline Obradors), meanwhile, takes pity on the squad room’s resident crime victim (Sam Lloyd as Ray) and even agrees to have dinner with him after she learns he’s a gourmet cook. Her police partner, Kevin (Robert Mailhouse), is stunned; it’s clear that he longs for a romantic diversion with her.
“Battery Park” has no interest in solving crime, and Sheriff Andy Taylor probably put more people behind bars in Mayberry than these cops ever will. To a certain degree, it’s “Sports Night” moved to a precinct. Blessed with one of the most-coveted timeslots in television, series needs to find a consistent tone to find its own audience — the second half of the second episode demonstrates that it is possible.