Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TV premiering tonight: Smith

I'm posting this late once again, which is unfortunate, because I really want to encourage people to watch this show. The reviews have been disappointingly mixed, but based at least on the pilot I saw, this is the best new show of the season, a dark, complex and very well-acted drama that's neither formulaic nor overly gimmicky, and is a bit of an odd fit for CBS, home of safe, predictable procedurals and risk-averse sitcoms. Smith plays a lot like the criminally underrated FX series Thief, with a cast similarly full of wonderful, film-trained actors (including Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jonny Lee Miller, Simon Baker and Amy Smart) and sharply cinematic production values. It has echoes of Michael Mann, whose work I of course adore, and plays like a sophisticated feature film.

It's too bad that people may still be soured on this sort of show thanks to NBC's lame Heist, but, like Thief, this show understands that criminals are tortured and often downright evil people, and doesn't shy away from depicting some of their nastier acts while also depicting them as full human beings. As with many great pilots that tell satisfying stories, this show may have a hard time keeping up its quality and narrative urgency over time. But at the moment it's so self-assured that I'm not worried about that; I'm far more worried that people won't take a chance on it and, like Thief, it'll end up forgotten and pulled off the air after only a handful of episodes. Great shows deserve a much better fate. CBS, Tuesdays, 10 p.m.

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