'NYC22': These cops are a strong force

Plainclothes officer Sergeant Terry Howard (Felix Solis, right) Plainclothes officer Sergeant Terry Howard (Felix Solis, right) and NYPD rookie and former reporter Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg, left) take cover during an altercation on the streets of Harlem in NYC 22, premiering April 15, 2012 on CBS. Photo Credit: CBS

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "NYC 22," 10 p.m. Sunday on CBS/2

REASON TO WATCH Cop drama with a bona fide NYC flavor.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Six NYPD rookies begin their first day under the hard eye of their field training officer, Daniel "Yoda" Dean (Terry Kinney, "Oz") who advises them "to not get hurt [and] keep your mouth shut. . . . In essence, just stand there." In essence . . . they do not. The newbies head out into the wild blue yonder of Washington Heights and Harlem in pairs: Jennifer Perry (Leelee Sobieski), a former Marine MP in Iraq, and Jayson "Jackpot" Toney (Harold House Moore), a former NBA star; Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), from a troubled family, and Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg), a laid-off newspaper reporter; Ahmad Khan (Tom Reed), who fled Afghanistan, and Kenny McLaren (Stark Sands), a fourth-generation cop.

MY SAY CBS sent out the first four episodes of "NYC 22" for review, which is usually an indication the network thinks its shiny new prize improves week to week. In this instance, the network is right. But maybe CBS is also trying to convince itself of the wisdom of "22." There's almost a silly amount of talent here -- novelist Richard Price created, James Mangold ("Walk the Line") directs, and Tribeca Film's Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro, who produce, are the double cherry on top. "22" is nevertheless replacing a wheezy old crowd-pleaser, "CSI: Miami," while the dramatic challenge of following beat cops is obvious, too. In most procedurals, their role is over before the first commercial break, making way for the detectives. (Won't see one of them until the third episode.) Price and Mangold resolve this by digging into the back stories of each, and by revealing further facets when each is partnered with someone else. They also honor the job without trivializing it, or turning it into melodramatic entertainment pap for the masses. This is among the world's most hazardous professions -- seven NYPD cops have been shot so far this year. "NYC 22" never makes light of that truth. "NYC 22" also features dozens of speaking roles with black actors -- an almost breathtaking rarity on prime time TV these days. This is a cast that looks like New York City, not Studio City.

BOTTOM LINE Quality newcomer

GRADE A-

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