On '1-8-7,' Imperioli plays an odd number

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: Michael Imperioli

WHEN/WHERE: Tuesday at 10 p.m. on ABC/7

Tough cities need tough homicide detectives, but they especially need experienced ones, and the men and women of this unit have many years on the job.

All except newbie Det. Damon Washington (Jon Michael Hill), whose pregnant wife constantly alerts him to changes in her prenatal condition via cell phone. The ringtone invokes top 40 radio, which drives his partner, Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli), nuts.

But Fitch, a 10-year veteran, was already a little unbalanced to begin with. He is particularly poor at communicating his feelings, and instead calls up Washington, who sits a yard or two away to either scold or offer counsel. But Fitch, as a colleague notes, "gets results" on the street and in the squad room.

MY SAY

Ever since "Hill Street Blues" reinvented the cop show back in 1981, there have been dozens of variations, but many usually get back to the genesis show's most enduring innovation - the hand-held camera. "1-8-7" - the term is cop code for murder, and is also deeply embedded in hip-hop culture - came by way of its style almost by accident. This was to be a faux-documentary drama until a little girl in Detroit was killed while a camera crew for A&E was following around the cops.

There was an outcry in Detroit over the idea of camera crews tailing the police force, and so ABC decided to drop the "faux" but retain the gritty visual style. It's done "1-8-7" a world of good, too. Absent the overworked conceit of actors glancing at the camera to register annoyance or irony, this has turned into just another well-produced cop show with some excellent actors, like Imperioli or James McDaniel, who plays Det. Jesse Long and played Lt. Arthur Fancy on "NYPD Blue."

BOTTOM LINE

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"1-8-7" can't resist the poisonous network TV urge to wet some eyes in the viewing audience with emo music tracks or utterly implausible - but heart-tugging - climaxes. But despite a flawed pilot, there's real promise here.

GRADE

B

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