Clean-cut, mannerly and educated, Miguel Cadena (Yancey Arias) doesn't seem like the sort of young man who would seek supreme power in the family-owned drug cartel. In fact, Miguel visits a church and makes a generous contribution—cash, of course—while his uncle and cousin, blocking his upward movement in the corporación, are liquidated on his orders.
Now, then, does this guy remind you of anybody? It wouldn't be far off the mark to describe Miguel Cadena as the Mexican Michael Corleone or to give Kingpin the alias El Godfather. That doesn't mean you should write it off; just don't get the idea that this six-episode series is blazing a trail in the field of crime drama.
Like his Corleone counterpart, Miguel has a wife from outside his ethnic group. But Marlene (Sheryl Lee), a blonde American lawyer, is not one to keep a disapproving distance from her husband's dirty business. She's a coke-sniffing Lady Macbeth, constantly prodding the more cautious Miguel to wipe out his rivals. Arias and Lee portray this power couple with sufficient skill and subtlety that you're apt to pardon Kingpin when it goes out of its way to shock. For example, does wild would-be boss Ernesto (Jacob Vargas) really need to feed his pet tiger a severed human limb in the Feb. 2 premiere? NBC promises that even more explicit footage trimmed from the broadcast version will see the light when the drama repeats on cable's Bravo in March. I can wait.
BOTTOM LINE: Potent but not particularly fresh
ABC (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
Things ain't what they used to be. When Dragnet was on NBC in the 1950s and '60s, the announcer opened with "The story you are about to see is true." But here's the wishy-washy wording in ABC's revival of the classic cop show, premiering Feb. 2: "The story you are about to see is inspired by actual events." Will Joe Friday, who used to insist on "just the facts," now settle for "an acceptable approximation of accuracy"?
Okay, executive producer Dick Wolf's new Dragnet isn't all that bad. Though still best known for Married...with Children, Ed O'Neill did solid police work two years ago on the short-lived Big Apple, and he's well cast here as a tough, terse, old-fashioned detective who's not without humor. I dare say the Friday of yesteryear, Jack Webb, would approve of the way his successor stares a hole into a pretentious film student and puts down a porky slimeball in skimpy swimwear.
O'Neill handles himself a lot like Jerry Orbach on Wolf's Law & Order, and that's as much a problem as a compliment. A half century after Dragnet first hit the air, there's nothing in this version that hasn't been done better on other series. Friday and partner Frank Smith (Ethan Embry) crack a lurid, gory murder case in the first episode, but you can get that sort of thing any week on CSI. The two work in L.A.'s Robbery Homicide Division, but didn't CBS recently cancel a more stylish police drama by that name? I hear the Dragnet theme—"dum-dee-dum-dum"—and I can't help thinking "been-there-done-that."
BOTTOM LINE: Just routine, ma'am
Show of the week
CBS (Sunday, Feb. 9, 9 p.m. ET)
"We gotta show the world we're like everybody else," says Ricardo Thornton (Delroy Lindo) to future wife Donna (Kirstie Alley). The truth is, Ricardo and Donna aren't like everybody else. They're mentally handicapped, and coping day-to-day as spouses and parents is their triumph in this affecting, well-acted TV movie.
The real-life Thorntons have been profiled twice on 60 Minutes, so it's appropriate that the drama has the main characters telling portions of their story in interview style. Whether speaking to the camera or one another, Ricardo, Donna and their bright teenage son Ricky (Kevin Duhaney) express themselves with honesty, directness and refreshingly little sentimentality. Occasionally the film gets too cute—a bus-stop sign looks like hieroglyphics from Donna's point of view—but its sincerity more than compensates for a few slipups.
BOTTOM LINE: Above the norm
>Sunday, Feb. 9 BECKER CBS (8 p.m. ET) Cheers! The doc (Ted Danson) gets a visit from his college roommate (guest Kelsey Grammer).
Monday, Feb. 10 THE PRACTICE ABC (9 p.m. ET) Rosanna Arquette guest-stars as a murder suspect.
Tuesday, Feb. 11 8 SIMPLE RULES ABC (8 p.m. ET) Backstreet Boy Nick Carter plays Bridget's older boyfriend.
Wednesday, Feb. 12 CELEBRITY MOLE HAWAII (10 p.m. ET) The double agent is unmasked in the finale.
Thursday, Feb. 13 SURVIVOR: THE AMAZON CBS (8 p.m. ET) Also known as Survivor VI. Brazil is the scene for a new round of scheming.
Friday, Feb. 14 TV'S MOST MEMORABLE WEDDINGS NBC (8 p.m. ET) A Valentine's Day special recalls Charles and Diana, Luke and Laura, et al.
Saturday, Feb. 15 TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL CBS (8 p.m. ET) A lost angel (guest Lesley Ann Warren) finds her way to heaven in the show's 200th episode.
NBC (Sundays and Tuesdays through Feb. 18; 10 p.m. ET)