Politicking gives `The D.A.' its edge

New lawyer series focuses on the insider nastiness


March 19, 2004|By Steve Johnson | Steve Johnson,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ABC's The D.A. is the second - and better - of two lawyer series to debut this week.

CBS' Century City, which premiered Tuesday, had the better idea: lawyers a quarter-century from now.

But The D.A. (tonight at 10, WMAR, Channel 2), set in the present, offers a more thoughtful and innovative execution. It's not as good as Karen Sisco, the sharp, sly Elmore Leonard-based drama that ABC executives, lying, promised to give another chance to win an audience. But it's not bad.

Steven Weber (Wings) plays David Franks, who's doing the usual D.A. business: prosecuting high-profile cases, running for re-election, mouthing what sound like platitudes about representing "the people."

The cases in the first couple of episodes are clever enough: an informant and a prosecutor are slain together for murky reasons, a sitcom star abusing his wife is shot to death. But the twist that executive producer James Duff (Star Trek: Enterprise) comes up with to make this series feel at least a little fresh is to have Franks also besieged in his own office. Most of his top aides are loyal to a former colleague, and the situation is laid out with an insider's eye for the political knife in the back.

Maybe that's due to the presence of former Los Angeles D.A. Gil Garcetti, whose office lost the O.J. Simpson case, as a consulting producer. Maybe Duff just has a vivid imagination.

Weber is fine when he has to play controlled or cunning. But give him some stronger emotions and he seems to fade off the screen.

Similarly short of range is his co-lead, Bruno Campos (Jesse, Leap Years), who seems to have one expression - wounded little boy - as Franks' idealistic young investigator.

In the early going, though, this look at the nastiness of big-city politics is more interesting than its parts would indicate.

The D.A.

When: Tonight at 10

Where: Channel 2

In brief: Insufficient evidence, but worth a look.

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