Edie Falco stars in CBS' "Tommy."  

Edie Falco stars in CBS' "Tommy."   Credit: CBS/Cliff Lipson

SERIES "Tommy"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on CBS/2.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Abigail "Tommy" Thomas (Edie Falco, "The Sopranos," "Nurse Jackie")  is a career cop from Hicksville who rose high in the NYPD, when a distant scandal brings her to the west coast as the LAPD's first-ever female top cop. She has to overcome doubts, an entrenched bureaucracy and tough local scandals, including one involving an undocumented immigrant, another involving a cop who may have been killed by someone with a grudge, and a Harvey Weinstein-like calumny that involves murder. Then there's this: Tommy is a lesbian. Is L.A. ready for her? Is she ready for L.A.? (Falco, by the way, is from Northport but also grew up in Hicksville.) 


MY SAY Tommy is a good cop. In fact, she's a great cop. She listens. She's fair. She's kind. She thinks first, asks questions later. She's hands-on. She goes out on cases because she wants to look the accused in the eye. She needs to be perfect in her new job because otherwise "someone's gonna say I don't belong here." Not that someone won't anyway. She's surrounded by told-ya-sos in badges — old-school types, closet homophobes, small-minded bigots— who resent this outsider. They were doing fine busting Angelenos, albeit mostly brown and black ones.   

Well, there's a new sheriff in town, boys, and just because you think one of those much-maligned citizens might walk like a duck or talk like a duck, that doesn't mean he's the real culprit. Leave it to Tommy to get at the truth. She does, after the third commercial break, and right before late local news. 

I, however, am not Tommy. I am under no such constraints. Falco's new show is, alas, a duck. 

Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with ducks. CBS is great at making ducks. It's had a lot of practice making ducks. Nevertheless, a duck is a duck is a duck. Seen one, seen 'em all. You can hear the quack from a mile away. 

 The immediate problem here is that this type of CBS procedural leaves precious little to the imagination, for either viewers or actors —including great ones like Falco. The formula is so ironclad, and viewer expectations so embedded, that any deviation would throw the entire enterprise off-kilter. To further belabor the barnyard fowl metaphor, imagine if a duck, instead of waddling,  broke into a booty-shaking version of the salsa, like JLo at the Super Bowl. That would be disconcerting. But "Tommy" doesn't want to disconcert. It wants to reassure.

Mostly "Tommy" wants to prove that CBS can do a prime-time series with an inclusive vibe, progressive outlook and diverse cast. That is to this newcomer's credit (and long overdue). Plus, there is an exciting core idea here. A lesbian top cop in the second largest police force in the nation? There must be a compelling, layered back story there, full of drama, heart, passion, and relevance. A woman has yet to be elected president but Tommy overcame (arguably) longer odds. How? Unfortunately, our duck is short on answers.

Falco is fine here (she always is) but she also looks bored. As a condition of joining the show, she insisted that "Tommy" be filmed in New York. Maybe she's got an eye on the clock or on her kids (as she's said in interviews, both regularly join her on-set).

Or maybe she's thinking about late dinner reservations at some hot new SoHo bistro. Roast duckling is on the menu. Mmmmm.

 BOTTOM LINE First-rate actress, compelling idea but neither can escape the clutches of a shopworn formula.        

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