James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) and Tasha St. Patrick...

James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) and Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton) in "Power." Credit: Starz

THE SHOW "Power"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on Starz

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Partly for cover, partly to establish a money-laundering operation, New York's top drug runner, James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), decides to open a nightclub, which he names "Truth." Truth is high-end, the clientele, too, and Ghost gets an idea -- why not build an empire with legitimate interests? His vicious sideman, Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), has doubts, however. St. Patrick's wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton), starts to have doubts of her own when a former Ghost squeeze, Angela Valdes (Lela Loren), turns up at the club. The show is executive produced by rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.

MY SAY We've all been on this kind of "Power" trip before, or a similar one: Up-from-the-'hood mogul wants to go legit, but all those bad old habits, and bad old friends, just keep pulling him back in . . . What's different here is the man whose name is on the door -- Curtis Jackson, rap mogul and now first-time television producer.

Superficially at least, it's easy to see why a TV drama like this one appealed to a guy like 50 Cent. A gulf, or at least a New York borough, separates "Power's" high-gloss Manhattan from South Jamaica, Queens -- Jackson's home turf -- and those formative mean streets where St. Patrick was raised. The parallels between Fitty and Ghost are all here, just waiting for someone to tease them all out for Starz.

The obvious pitfall is that such "teasing" could turn "Power" into another kind of trip -- an ego one full of bone-tired cliches and full-bore baloney. Yet "Power" somehow avoids this fatal trap, and the result is a promising newcomer.

"Power" is well-drawn but particularly well-written, with dialogue that exudes an easy, sharp familiarity with the way crooks talk -- and federal agents, too. The executive producer is Courtney Kemp Agboh, who was a producer on "The Good Wife," and you'll hear echoes of that in "Power." The performances are also solid -- in particular Hardwick's Ghost, whose stone-cold eyes can't shade the doubt he has about his present, and future.

BOTTOM LINE The opening episode -- already posted online -- is a bit sluggish, but "Power" gets better in subsequent episodes. Starz, and Fitty, appear to have a winner.

GRADE B- for the pilot; B+ for the next two episodes

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