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On the Tube: New Fox drama is shot through with cop-show cliches

Friday, October 15, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

If you've ever watched a cop show on TV, you've already seen "Ryan Caulfield: Year One."

It's not a terrible show, but it's exceedingly ordinary.

Premiering tonight at 8 on Fox, "Caulfield" follows the tentative footsteps of its title character, a 19-year-old rookie on the Philadelphia police force. Sean Maher, who looks about six years older than 19, stars as Ryan, a guy who wants to do right because of his father's sins.

In tonight's pilot Caulfield is torn between two worlds. He's a cop by day, but in his off-hours he hangs out with his neighborhood buddies and attends frat parties with his girlfriend. He hasn't reconciled one life with the other.

At a party he gets into a scuffle, someone spots his gun and Caulfield pulls out his badge and exclaims, "Relax everybody, I'm a cop!" He immediately becomes a pariah among his fellow underage drinkers.

 
    Television Review:
"Ryan Caulfield: Year One"


When: Tonight at 8 on FOX.

 
 

In the first episode Caulfield has an annoying girlfriend. Mercifully, she's not in another episode Fox sent to critics and given Ryan's obvious attraction to fellow rookie cop Kim Veras (Roselyn Sanchez), it's a sure bet he'll break up with the dizzy blond.

At work Caulfield partners with Officer Susser (Michael Rispoli, who got shot the end of NBC's "Third Watch" pilot), a big softy who becomes a sort of father figure to Ryan. Susser doesn't like the music Caulfield chooses, but otherwise they get along.

His first day on the job Caulfield sees dead people, but not in "Sixth Sense" way. Everywhere he goes there are dead bodies lying around. It's overkill, pardon the pun, intended to make Caulfield serious about his new career, but it comes off as unrealistic TV drama hype.

The premiere's only innovation comes in action scenes where it looks like every other frame of film has been removed for a herky-jerky motion. It's a cool effect, but it doesn't make up for the sheer plainness of this series.

Caulfield's buddies are colorful, but they're pretty much slacker loser stereotypes. Vic (James Roday) wears rose-colored glasses (literally) and comes off as a cross between Richard Belzer and early Christian Slater. His loser cool cred? Vic searches for "real emotion" in porn films with titles such as "NYPD Blew."

Vic and H (Chad Lindberg), another Caulfield crony, take center stage in a future episode when the grungy gas station where Vic works (lovingly named The Gas Hole) gets robbed.

"Ryan Caulfield" was created by James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox, who wrote and produced "The Negotiator," starring Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson. You'll notice the camera lingers on a "Negotiator" poster hanging in Caulfield's bedroom. This is their first TV project and the pair seem to be cobbling together clichés from every other cop drama and melding their creation with The WB youth sensibility.

Not surprisingly, the show had an identity crisis. First it was titled "Ryan Caulfield," then it was changed to the grittier-sounding "The Badland" until it finally became "Ryan Caulfield: Year One," a hopeful title that presumes the unlikely scenario there could be a "Year Two."

Don't count on it.

New "snick"

Nickelodeon debuts a new line-up of Saturday night programming, led by the season premiere of "Rugrats" (8 p.m.) and the series premieres of "The Amanda Show" (8:30 p.m.) and "100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd" (9 p.m.).

"The Amanda Show," a variety/comedy series, stars 13-year-old Amanda Bynes, a stand-up comic who will appear each week in comic sketches.

"100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd" features a bully turned into a dog (voice of Seth Green) who must perform 100 good deeds before he'll return to his human state.

Brandon Gilberstadt plays Justin, a shy new kid in town and Eddie's owner. Joe Piscopo gives voice to Salli, a pug dog who lives in the house next to Justin and Eddie McDowd.



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