Screen Savors: NYPD Blahs

Steven Bochco's 'Blind Justice,' keeps viewers in the dark.

September 10, 2009 12:23
4 minute read.
Screen Savors: NYPD Blahs

NYPD blahs tv 248. (photo credit: )

Now that the kids are back at school, thank God, the remote control is once again ours while they're gone. But one of the drawbacks of being home alone most mornings is being drawn to the TV when there's nothing else to do, even to Hallmark's Blind Justice recently. Created by NYPD Blue's Steven Bochco as a mid-season replacement for that stellar series, which had just finished its run, it's easy to see that Bochco and those who thought this one up botched the whole thing. The basic story line centers on a New York cop Jim Dunbar (Ron Eldard of Sleepers and Black Hawk Down), who took a bullet to help fellow officers during an attack which left him blind. Now he's been reinstated on the force, but you'd have to be blind not to see that the show just doesn't work. First of all, there's Eldard himself, who's far too weak an actor to carry the series on his own - no Jimmy Smits or Dennis Franz he. And while NYPD Blue thrived through its cross-pollination and repartee between the detectives in the squad room and the sometimes unusual cases they investigated, here there's little or none of that. Instead, we get a standard Korean grocery shooting that takes place just as Dunbar happens to be walking by. But remember, he's blind, so all his OTHER senses have to be heightened, right? The creators even go so far as mini fuzzy stop-action when Dunbar is having one of his "using my other senses" moments. It doesn't work. Dunbar's got a seeing-eye dog and partner Karen Bettancourt (Marisol Nichols before she went to the much better Life) who believes in him, and a nemesis in detective Marty Russo, one of the squad who thinks Dunbar's just in it for the pity. There are way too many parallels to NYPD Blue, however, including those shots that start out blurry and then focus on something, such as the stationhouse where they work. And there's the usual throwing around of words like "perp" to make things sound authentic. "No one's blaming you as far as what you could or couldn't have done," at the scene of the shooting, the chief of detectives tells Dunbar during a debriefing, but the case is eating him up inside, and the script has us eating our hearts out. "You can't do the things you did before, detective," says the chief. "I am well aware of that, captain," says our hero. Zzzz. Not even the wise-cracking that sometimes was part of the interviewing of suspects is offered here. Everyone plays it way too straight, with no room for any curves like those Sipowicz or Meddaboy might try to get someone to confess. One suspect tells Dunbar his blindness "reminds me of a dog I used to have who had only three legs. He had to work twice as hard as the other dogs to get it done, but he did." On this dog of a series, that's about as good as the dialogue gets. Nichols tries and is the best thing in the show, but Eldard is so wooden, Pinocchio could play the part better. When the investigation of the suspect in the grocer's murder goes nowhere ("Don't tell me you think I killed Mr. Lee!"), they "kick him" (cop talk for letting him go). "You need a minute," Bettancourt asks her suddenly sullen blind partner. "No, I'm fine, let's go." Like we said, dazzling it isn't. Ultimately it's Dunbar and Eldard's portrayal of him that either makes or, in this case, breaks the series. That and lines like Bettancourt telling Dunbar: "You know you have nothing to be ashamed of, Jim." "Relax, I already have a shrink," says our hero. Even the shrink's no great shakes. "You've got to stop fighting so hard to prove that you're not the same, cuz you're not," he tells Dunbar. Like, duh. Even at home, with beautiful wife Christie, Dunbar's dead inside, but so's the plot, which has the Korean dude confessing, explaining the victim revealed a family secret about an adoption. "He called me the offspring of a dog," the perp explains. Hey, lay off the dogs already, guys! That and the general lack of tension, even in a chase scene, makes it a bitch to really latch on to Blind Justice. Disabled detectives aren't anything new - we remember cutting our teeth in Israeli TV watching catching Ironside, starring Raymond Burr as a detective in a wheelchair. Bochco may have had good intentions here, but came up with a copycat production lacking NYPD Blue's zing. Hallmark should dump this and some of its other lame day-time dramas, and stick with Law and Order and NCIS. As for Blind Justice, in this case, seeing is not believing. Read a book instead, even if you do have the remote back. Blind Justice airs weekdays on Hallmark at 12:40 p.m.

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