Take it as an accident of timing that two big-time burglar dramas arrive mere days apart, with “Heist” preceding FX’s considerably darker “Thief.” NBC’s 13-week spring tryout is essentially a George Clooney-inspired film festival, mixing an “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe with a pinch of “Out of Sight.” Pilot directed by Doug Liman works a little too hard at establishing a fun-loving, “Swingers”-type tone, though at least that represents something of an alternative to “CSI: NY” and ABC’s new procedural “The Evidence.” Still, a bountiful Nielsen score looks like a long shot.
Created and written by Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen (who previously dealt out FX’s “Lucky”), the series picks up with thief Mickey O’Neil (Dougray Scott) plotting a half-billion dollar payday by hitting three Beverly Hills jewelry stores just before the Oscars, assembling a crack team to pull it off. At his side is buddy James (“The Practice’s” Steve Harris), with whom he waxes philosophical as they kill time during break-ins.
“Mother Teresa did not believe in God,” James muses at one point, elevating the exchanges slightly above the level of “Hudson Hawk,” but not much.
As for the cop half of this cops-and-robbers tale, detective Amy Sykes (Michele Hicks) is on their trail, flanked by a pair of mismatched, squabbling partners (Reno Wilson and Billy Gardell) who engage in their own less-than-playful banter, insulting each other about their race and weight, respectively.
Opener involves Mickey and the gang engineering a clever bank robbery to help finance his larger scheme, at the same time monitoring Amy to better know his pursuer. Bumping into her in the supermarket, however, there’s a flirtation that, per the production notes, is going to blossom into something more, potentially raising that age-old “I love you, but I have to arrest you” conundrum.
The initial hour hints at Mickey’s past involving a lost family and treacherous former colleague, but as played by Hicks, Amy is too bland to offer much hope for major chemistry. And while the premiere enjoys some sort of closure, keeping the caper plot progressing in serialized form, a la Fox’s “Prison Break,” would appear to pose a significant challenge.
Nor do the characters really pop, with more bickering than actual dialogue, including thieves Lola (Marika Dominczyk) and Ricky (David Walton), who spends most of his time hitting on her. Ted Danson will be joining the show about halfway through its run, but that could amount to the cavalry arriving late.
NBC is moving “Law & Order” up an hour, against “Lost,” to provide “Heist” some semblance of a lead-in. It’s not a bad scheduling ploy, though given the damage Dick Wolf’s mother ship figures to sustain in that earlier hour, the new series had better deliver.
Whatever the results, though, this much seems certain: Mickey’s opening heist is as close as this show will get to a major awards ceremony.