THE SHOW The second-season premiere of "Power"
WHEN | WHERE Saturday, June 6 at 9 p.m. on Starz
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Kanan (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who is also executive producer) is out of jail and back on the streets, and he coming for James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick). Ghost remains a Hamlet of the drug underworld: He wants out, he wants to go legit with his club, Truth, and he wants Angela Valdes (Lela Loren), the assistant U.S. District Attorney. But he can't quite leave the past behind. Also, his wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton), has other plans for him, and so does his right hand man, Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora). Season 2 promises more 50 Cent.
MY SAY Long ago and not all that far away -- South Jamaica, in fact -- Jackson was a street-level drug dealer who survived a hit and who knows what else, then moved on to a successful music career, sold millions of records and launched a business empire. Out of all this came a show that was and is partly inspired by all that.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Jackson is also the best thing about "Power." At the very least, he comes by way of this brutal role authentically. When he comes on screen, the needle pops perceptibly on a series that can still be occasionally talky and turgid. He looks like the kind of guy who probably didn't need lessons from a Hollywood stuntman on how to handle a gun. He bangs on someone's head, and you suspect he's had practice with that too. He looks dangerous.
Few actors have that kind of electricity. Tony Sirico had plenty during his Paulie Walnuts days on "The Sopranos", but Sirico, of course, was also a former gangster. It's the sort of electricity that writers can't write and actors can't act. As a viewer, you don't actually even know it when you see it; instead, you know it when you feel it, as kind of a convulsive shiver. Jackson -- by no means a great actor, but a competent one -- has that effect.
Starz seems to have gotten the message, and there is more of him on-screen this season. Hardwick's the better actor and smoother actor, and certainly the more appealing one. But it's Jackson who gives this show bite and -- to a considerable degree -- life, too. If "Power" earns a third season, Jackson will be the reason.
The show? What can I say that I haven't said a thousand times before about a thousand other shows. "Power" should be better and smarter, and have at the very least a purpose. (Most shows should). What does Ghost's life mean, beyond that oft-told TV story --Good guy wants out, but can't get out, because he's not really a good guy to begin with (or is he)?
The language is harsh, often brutal, but is it all in service of something that guides viewers to a deeper understanding of what this world is about, and why language this brutal needs to be used?
I haven't got the faintest idea.
At least there are brains behind this show. Now all it needs to do is find a heart and purpose.
BOTTOM LINE A plot that still often seems to go in circles, and a show that feels like it should be better than it is. At least 50 Cent is good.