`Heist' and `Evidence' aren't very arresting

For the most part, crime dramas don't stand out in lineup

TV Preview

March 22, 2006|By HAL BOEDEKER | HAL BOEDEKER,ORLANDO SENTINEL

The schedule overflows with crime drama, but networks keep adding to the glut. Two newcomers face off tonight in the same time slot dominated by CSI: NY on CBS. NBC goes the jokey route with the annoying Heist, and ABC takes the serious path in The Evidence with ho-hum results.

The Evidence presents detectives as heroes, and Heist celebrates criminals. No matter which side of the law they're on, the characters still have to grip the viewer. Both programs mostly fumble that challenge.

Heist is the riskier show, because it unfolds as a sprawling serial in the manner of 24 and Prison Break. Mickey O'Neil (Dougray Scott) rounds up expert thieves to knock over three Beverly Hills jewelry stores during Academy Awards week.

With director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) as an executive producer, Heist strains to translate an action movie into a series. What's brisk and fun on the big screen turns labored and far-fetched on the small one. The flippant tone grows tiresome and clashes with harrowing bursts of violence.

Mickey and his colleagues usually carry on as chatty goofs, which diminishes their appeal. Steve Harris stands out in this crew primarily because he was a viewer favorite on The Practice.

Heist strives to build up Scott's sex appeal by putting him in the same orbit as Detective Amy Sykes (Michele Hicks). But he's easy to resist, and she's perplexing. In the screwy world of Heist, the police are more irksome than the thieves.

With no one to root for in Heist, the jewel robberies hardly matter. NBC pushes Law & Order from its slot to an hour earlier on Wednesdays to accommodate this trash. Now that's a crime.

ABC has removed Invasion from its lineup to make way for The Evidence. But don't sweat that change. Oft-plodding Invasion will return with new episodes in April.

The Evidence is basically just another procedural in the CSI and Law & Order mold. The drama starts by displaying evidence in a slaying (a cell phone, a locket), which lets viewers unravel the mystery along with two San Francisco inspectors.

These heroes are an odd couple: Playful Cayman Bishop (Orlando Jones) has a yen for hamburgers, and serious Sean Cole (Rob Estes) struggles to come back from a tragedy. Coroner Sol Goldman (Oscar-winner Martin Landau) conveniently fills in the blanks and furnishes his scientific expertise.

The Evidence dresses up a by-the-numbers story with frenetic editing, flashy photography, foot chases and a daring leap. To its detriment, this sleuthing also throws in violence.

Yet there are reasons for hope. With author Dustin Thomason (The Rule of Four) as co-creator, the storytelling could transcend the predictable.

Sporadic glimpses into the characters' personalities also suggest The Evidence might surpass its so-so start. Estes can be likable when he doesn't have to suffer, and Jones puts a witty spin on his dialogue.

These moments are fleeting, however, and The Evidence needs more distinctive twists to stand out in the overpopulated crime lineup.

Hal Boedeker writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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