Taye Diggs in a scene from the pilot for "Murder...

Taye Diggs in a scene from the pilot for "Murder in the First." Diggs stars as a San Francisco police detective in the drama that also stars Kathleen Robertson. Credit: AP / Trae Patton

THE SHOW "Murder in the First"

WHEN | WHERE Premiere Monday night at 10 on TNT

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Two cops with the San Francisco Police Department have a murder to solve -- an indigent shot in the head in a fleabag apartment. The police work of Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) is helped by an email that leads to one particularly nasty tech tycoon, Erich Blunt ("Harry Potter's" Tom Felton) who has two attack-dog lawyers -- David Hertzberg (Richard Schiff) and Warren Daniels (James Cromwell). This serial -- created by Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal -- will follow one case all summer.

MY SAY Probably long after civilization has ended, there will still be cop shows. They are the cucarachas of pop culture and I can almost imagine some series flickering away on some battered TV set atop a smoldering post-apocalyptic rubble heap that was once a city . . . where people watched cop shows.

All that's left for this genre, or all that you can ask of it, is to do the thing right: Make sure the bad guys get caught, the cops are three-dimensional, and the road to justice lays clear, albeit with a few potholes. TNT certainly has the right man in Bochco to get the job done here; he's the master of the genre and a great producer who knows exactly what to do -- and whom to cast. (And this cast is good indeed.)

But you almost sense that this is a redo -- another bite at an apple called "Murder One," which ended too soon (after two seasons, back in '96) and couldn't lick the serial challenge "Murder in the First" now faces, too. As serials go, "Murder in the First" can be languorous, or even pokey. It has also created a far too loathsome heavy in Felton's Blunt who might not be guilty, but you still want him to undergo a ritual auto-da-fé by season's end anyway.

Diggs and Robertson are both solid here -- lonely souls in the big city who need the job and, although they don't know it yet, each other, too. Will they get the real bad guy? Will justice be served? Probably, but you'd appreciate it if they had just a little more chemistry while waiting for answers.

BOTTOM LINE Good, cleanly told newcomer that can be a bit pokey.


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