Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Homicide': Bright, Dark and Brilliant

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Homicide': Bright, Dark and Brilliant

Article excerpt

THE one-two punch ending the season of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (9 tonight on Channel 5) shows again why this is the finest drama on television, if not why it remains one of the most obscure.

Last Friday, an episode called "Colors" jabbed at the heart of racial prejudice - in a quiet middle-class neighborhood, in a police squad room - in a way dramatic television seldom attempts.

Tension was fierce as partners, one black and one white, clashed with mounting intensity over a case that exposed nerves previously buried deep. By the closing moments, many fans' hands undoubtedly had to be pried off the arms of the couch.

Tonight's finale, directed by executive producer Barry Levinson ("Mrs. Doubtfire"), is something so completely different that it could be a textbook example of how the best dramas keep surprising us.

The story is just as intense as last week's: An ex-con, freshly sprung, has only one thought - to kill the cop who sent him to prison. But what makes the episode special is the execution (so to speak), not just dark but darkly funny.

The cop in question is one of our heroes, Det. Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), who, if there is any justice, will win an Emmy this year. Braugher's Pembleton is high-strung and complicated, a perfectionist who's toughest on himself; a man who (at least until now) has been easy to respect but hard to like.

Tonight, as Pembleton is stalked by Victor Helms (Bruno Kirby of "City Slickers"), we learn more about him than ever before, including a secret he shares with wife, Mary (Ami Brabson, Braugher's real spouse). All is revealed slowly, in the course of an hour that's both tense and witty as Victor and sidekick Danny (Richard Edson) shadow Pembleton's every move, waiting and watching and being unexpectedly affected by what they see.

We also get to know Victor and Danny intimately in the episode, a beautifully crafted mini-movie that would be a perfect introduction for someone who hasn't connected with "Homicide."

That's a lot of people, and no wonder. In its first season, "Homicide" was slotted against "Home Improvement" for only nine episodes. …

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