TNT is smartly pairing "Dark Blue" -- a new drama about a deep-cover special police unit -- with the return of "Leverage," essentially another post-Cold War variant on "Mission: Impossible." The Jerry Bruckheimer label ensures that the new project will be dark, gritty and handsomely produced, though for the most part the series hews closely to safe procedural terrain -- taking far fewer chances than its life-risking protagonists. "Blue" does offer a few zestier character flourishes toward the end, but the dreary first mission is better executed than conceived.
Wearing a three-day beard and perpetual scowl, Dylan McDermott stars as Carter Shaw, a driven cop still brooding over personal loss. His elite team includes the recently married Ty (Omari Hardwick), the brash Dean (Logan Marshall-Green) and the fresh-faced Jaimie (Nicki Aycox).
It's the kind of world where the good guys occasionally have to do (or at least ignore) very bad things so they can maintain their cover and thus utter lines like "No one has ever been this close" to a nefarious crook. In the premiere, said criminal's evil is immediately established by an opening sequence in which a hostage is tortured, if nothing else suggesting that this might be Dick Cheney's favorite program.
Directed by "CSI" alum Danny Cannon and written by Doug Jung (with the two sharing story credit), the show exhibits little interest in exploring any new ground -- a meat-and-potatoes approach that has characterized most of TNT's development; rather, the cable net's formula generally relies on playing to an audience that doesn't mind soaking in shows that could just as easily be found on a 1970s or '80s primetime roster.
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