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TV Preview: 'Boomtown' back on character track for season 2

Friday, August 08, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette Tv Editor

Hollywood -- Boomtown" hasn't proved to be a ratings boon for NBC yet, but the critically adored drama won a reprieve for a second season anyway.

 
 

'BOOMTOWN'

WHEN: 10 tonight on NBC.

   
 

Reruns have aired over the summer on TNT, but "Boomtown" returns to its home network tonight in a new time slot in preparation for its season launch on Sept. 26.

As "Boomtown" enters year two, viewers will see changes both in the cast and the storytelling. Reporter Andrea Little (Nina Garbiras) is gone, and paramedic Teresa Ortiz (Lana Parrilla) will become a cop.

Series creator Graham Yost said he fought against the show's other writers throughout the first season when they insisted "Boomtown," at its heart, is a cop show. He felt it was an L.A. crime show -- until the cop show realization hit him, too.

"We found that trying to service both the paramedic and the reporter was difficult," Yost said after an NBC press conference last month. "Working them into every story, it almost became Mayberry, where everyone's at everything all the time."

The disappearance of Little will be explained early in the season, and the job switch for Ortiz isn't as unexpected as it might appear on first glance. Yost said he went back and looked at first-season scripts and found that cops routinely complimented Ortiz on her police skills.

"When we found out the period of time you're in the [police] academy is not that long, it was a no-brainer," Yost said. Parrilla said her character will be in training for the first half of the season.

With the deletion of Little, Yost added Vanessa Williams to the cast as Katherine Pierce, a supervising detective with a slightly higher rank than Joel (Donnie Wahlberg) and Fearless (Mykelti Williamson)

"There's going to be some conflict between them," Yost said.

"Boomtown" launched as an ambitious drama that told a single story from multiple points of view, "Rashomon"-style. It also tried to strike a balance between procedural drama (think: "Law & Order") and character drama (think: "Homicide: Life on the Street").

"Early last year we veered away from character-driven stuff, and I think the show lost some viewership at that point," Wahlberg said. "I think the network may have wanted the show to be more compartmentalized and I don't think that works for this show."

By the end of the first season, "Boomtown" was back on the character track, which resulted in more cohesive, dramatic episodes.

A major story arc of the first season was the relationship between Joel and his suicidal wife, which appeared to resolve happily in the season finale, despite his earlier flirtations with Ortiz. Yost said Joel's wife will have a presence in the first 10 episodes of the season, but the relationship with Ortiz will be teased again.

"She's becoming a cop, so there's certainly going to be a closer proximity between the two characters," Wahlberg said. "One of the things we find in real life is usually once you get out of the woods with one situation, another one develops that hits you from out of left field."

The show's point-of-view storytelling will no longer adhere to as rigid a structure as in most of the first season, where the name of each character appeared on screen before scenes from his or her point of view were shown.

"If I'm getting tired of seeing names flash up on screen or I feel it's slowing down the story, then it's time to re-look at that and make sure it's not an artifice that's going to screw up the storytelling," Yost said. "We need to make it work better so when you go to another character's point of view, it has an impact."

Moving from Sunday to Friday night might have an impact on the show's future. "Law & Order: SVU," which has moved to 10 p.m. Tuesday, flourished in the 10 p.m. Friday time slot for years, but the more similar "Homicide" struggled on Fridays. Executive producer Jon Avnet said he's satisfied with the switch.

"We think it's a good time. We think it was a smart choice ..." Avnet said. "Because it's a little bit more demanding of a show, I think Sunday is a night where you want to go to sleep at 10 o'clock if you're over a certain age. It was a little tough at that time slot. I think Friday might be a little better for us."


Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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