Lifetime’s effort at a female ensemble cop show, “The Division” suffers from a paint-by-numbers blandness. Derivative to its core, series doesn’t deliver a fresh point of view on some very familiar television territory and continually wastes the dramatic opportunities it sets up. Positioned by the cable net on Sunday evenings, this inauthentic hour will seek to draw younger women from “Millionaire” and network telepics and may get some sampling based on a diverse cast with some relatively well-known names. Still, it’s hard to imagine the lackluster proceedings generating much of a loyal audience.
Show’s primary appeal actually comes not as much from what it does but rather from what it doesn’t do. There’s no hand-wringing over women working as cops, no questioning whether they’re up to the task; their abilities and commitment — and predominance in the department — are taken for granted.
Captain Kate McCafferty (Bonnie Bedelia) supervises her staff with confident charisma, but at least in the first two episodes, which will air back to back, she isn’t given much of a role to play. By the end of the second episode, she’s in bed with a young prosecutor, a plotline lifted from “Hill Street Blues” with an age issue thrown in and the genders reversed.
The other characters and their relationships are unoriginal as well. McCafferty’s underlings include the promiscuous Jinny (Nancy McKeon), who has trouble following the book; Latina Magda Ramirez (Lisa Vidal), who works to keep any sexual tension with her male partner (David Gianopolis, who even looks a bit like Ed Marinaro) at bay; the cynical veteran C.D. DeLorenzo (Tracey Needham), who’s a bit testy with her new, ambitious, well-educated partner Angela Reid (Lela Rochon Fuqua).
The stories don’t reveal any great truths about police work or the people behind the badges, instead opting for an inorganic hit-and-run style. Jinny sets up a trap to catch some deadbeat dads; DeLorenzo and Reid try to find the identity of a murdered homeless man; Ramirez has a sister she must arrest; McCafferty has a spiky-haired daughter about to marry an ex-con.
Even the more promising narrative threads quickly dissolve into dullness. All the mysteries are ridiculously simple enugh for our distaff cops to unravel with a single pointed question, and the perfs are not particularly stimulating. Show pales in comparison with “Cagney and Lacey” and “NYPD Blue,” two other cop shows with a female following.
Tech credits are adequate, although second-unit shooting in San Francisco (as in “The Streets of…”) doesn’t provide the atmospheric jolt the show needs.