ABC's new police show, 'Sirens' is designed to attract men

March 10, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

"Sirens" is "The Rookies" with a gender switch. Instead of three young men, three young women join a big-city police force in this new drama series from ABC, which premieres at 10 tonight on WJZ (Channel 13).

Who says there are no new ideas at the networks? Who says the networks aren't on the cutting edge of social trends? Who dares to think that the all-male television programming councils don't understand working women? Who thought up that title? This is what ABC is canceling "Civil Wars" for?

The best thing that can be said about "Sirens" is that the full hour is not as bad as the opening scene might make you think. The show, set in Pittsburgh, begins with one attractive rookie walking around in her bra as she gets dressed for her first night on the job. Thankfully, the entire show is not about women cops as sex objects, like Sgt. Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson (Angie Dickinson) in "Police Woman" or the Angels in "Charlie's Angels."

"Sirens" wants to be about realism with a capital "R." The fTC affected camcorder beginning followed by 55 minutes of almost every excess of hand-held photography underscores the attempt realism. Scenes featuring a dead dog and a woman killed in an auto wreck provide exclamation points. This is "The Rookies" in the post-"Hill Street Blues" era, where depressing scenes must be included before everyone can get a drink, do some bonding and ultimately reaffirm the system with a capital "S."

As for the young officers, naturally they are all good looking. There's Jayne Brook who plays Officer Sarah Berkezchuk. She's married, but her husband isn't nearly as interesting a spouse as Kate Jackson was as nurse Jill Danko in "The Rookies." Officer Berkezchuk is afraid of physical confrontation and violence. Why did she become a cop then? Don't expect this script to explain it.

Liza Snyder plays Officer Molly Whelan, a twentysomething veteran of Desert Storm who has an attitude problem. She's not nearly as interesting as that might sound. And Adrienne-Joi Johnson plays Officer Lynn Stanton, a single mom with two children.

If you have never heard of any of these actresses, you're not alone. This is the future of network TV drama -- low production costs and absolutely no star salaries. Goodbye, Mariel Hemingway.

In the end, the most interesting thing about "Sirens" is the scheduling. It comes on after "Home Improvement" and "Coach," network shows that are both big hits and have large audiences of men. Almost two-thirds of the prime-time audience for most other shows is made up of women.

So, somehow ABC believes men are going to like "Sirens." It's hard to say whether that's a sad commentary on all men or just a sad commentary on the guys in programming at ABC.

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