Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Crime & Punishment' Latest Cop Show to Hit Airwaves

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Crime & Punishment' Latest Cop Show to Hit Airwaves

Article excerpt

Cop shows, battered by sitcoms and yuppie ensemble dramas to near extinction only a few years ago, are suddenly roaring back this season. But unlike cop shows of TV seasons past, the new ones have a few unexpected twists and spins, none of them having to do with squealing tires or blazing revolvers.

There's Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson's first television show, "Homicide: Life on the Street," which airs Wednesdays on NBC, that shadows, with shaky handheld cameras, a group of Baltimore detectives. "Crime & Punishment" follows the lives of a couple on and off the job in Los Angeles, but lets an off-screen interrogator probe the psyches of the criminals they pursue and capture.

ABC's "Sirens," which premieres Wednesday, March 10, takes a look at three female rookie cops trying to make it on the Pittsburgh police force. PBS' miniseries "Prime Suspect 2," which concludes Thursday on WQED, has returned to London, where Helen Mirren reprises her role as Deputy Chief Inspector Jane Tennison.

And CBS, which began playing with the genre late last season in the outer space show "Space Rangers," takes a more traditional route with action star Chuck Norris in "Walker, Texas Ranger," a neo- western about an independent crime fighter who uses the traditions of the Old West to solve his cases.

"The secret is to take the basic genre and twist it slightly through a new prism," said "Crime & Punishment" executive producer Dick Wolf, who also produces "Law & Order." "Crime & Punishment" premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. Both shows are on NBC.

"You are trying to change things by millimeters, not miles," he said. "But the medium has aged and become mature. The worst thing is for viewers to say, 'Gee, we've seen this before.' A producer has a tight rope to walk. You can't go too far."

Wolf said stories about cops and robbers will always have a life on television and in films for one simple and critical reason: "They are about life and death, which is drama at its highest. …

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