Want a badass to get something done? Tap a New Yorker.
Two new TV series – one on CBS, one on Fox – do just that. On CBS’s Tommy, Edie Falco plays a NYPD captain recruited to become the first Chief of Police for the LAPD. And on Fox’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, Rob Lowe stars as a NYFD captain who agrees to relocate to Austin, Texas, to rebuild Station 126. Each program benefits from a strong, very appealing lead actor, backed up with a talented supporting cast. Because these series deal with law and order (or, more often, law and disorder, even chaos), there’s plenty of action. And when the action isn’t on the job, it’s on the home front.
Falco’s Tommy (real name Abigail Thomas), is not shy about telling the public that’s she a lesbian. Her biracial daughter, Kate, played by Olivia Lucy Phillip, is a school psychologist constantly trying to psychoanalyze her mother. Angry about Tommy’s absence during her formative years, Kate is beginning to come to terms with the demands of balancing her own family with her career. Kate, separated from her husband, asks Tommy to move in, ostensibly to help with childcare, but also to mend their relationship. Still, Kate exhibits little understanding of her mother’s demanding job and what it entails. She’s freaked out about the security detail parked outside her home, and upset that Tommy must keep her gun locked up in the house.
At work, Tommy must deal with politics. L.A.’s mayor, Buddy Gray (Thomas Sadoski from The Newsroom), has some unsavory bedfellows, including Arturo Lopez, who brought Maria de la Puerto into the country when she was 15. He raped her and now is fearful she will testify against him. Not only does Tommy arrest Lopez, but she arranges for Maria and her daughter, Madison, conceived during the rape, to be placed in protective custody. Gray is alarmed and fears that Lopez might talk, voicing his concerns to Tommy’s communications director, Blake (Adelaide Clemens). When Lopez is killed in prison, Blake can’t help but think Gray was behind the hit.
Tommy’s first three episodes are ripped from the headlines and, like that phrase, suffer from clichéd plots. The pilot theme on immigration, is followed by episode two dealing with police suicide, and episode three, sexual assault in the film industry. What saves each one are strong performances by guest stars (particularly Gary Perez as Alejandro Guzman, the father of the dead police officer), and Falco’s steady presence. She pushes back when Gray makes unreasonable demands, and sticks up for her officers and for the victims when doing so might seem risky. We see both shades of Carmela Soprano and Nurse Jackie in her performance.
Has Rob Lowe ever played a bad guy? Probably, but it’s his performance as the attractive good guy that has guaranteed him a long career in both film and TV. (A scandal involving a 1988 sex tape has been in the public’s rear view mirror for a long time.) After the cancellation in 2018 of CBS’s Code Black, he quickly signed on for 9-1-1: Lone Star, an offshoot of Fox’s successful 9-1-1. Lowe’s Owen Strand was a first responder on 9/11 and now is undergoing chemo for lung cancer. Because he lost his entire firehouse in New York, Strand is loyal to the men and women under his command, which includes his son, Tyler (Ronen Rubinstein), who is gay and a recovering opioid addict. Also on the team is Michelle Blake (Liv Tyler), an EMS captain who, in between saving lives, is trying to find her sister, Iris, who went missing three years ago.
From the onset, Owen knows he’s not in Manhattan anymore. So far, Strand has had to rescue someone from a corn-filled silo, another who had been crushed by a harvester, and a bull that went on a rampage, impaling several civilians, before becoming getting his head trapped in a truck window. In other words, just another day at the office.
Top photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved