Picks and Pans Review: Michael Hayes

updated 09/29/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Tuesdays, 9p.m. ET)

Grades: Michael Hayes, A-; Gold Coast, B.

We hereby declare this David Caruso Rehabilitation Week. The former NYPD Blue cop, who illadvisedly bolted that hit show after one season to pursue a film career (non-hits Jade and Kiss of Death), is back on the small screen in a big way: playing a good-hearted criminal in a Showtime TV movie and a principled prosecutor in his serious-minded new series on CBS. In this close-up medium—perhaps the best venue for his subtle strength as an actor—the guy is unquestionably a star.

Caruso's title character in Michael Hayes is an ex-New York cop who rises from an assistant U.S. attorney in the Sept. 15 preview episode to acting U.S. attorney in the Sept. 23 premiere, after his boss (Philip Baker Hall) is seriously injured by a car bomb. The reminders of Hayes's police background are too frequent (the premiere even has him rushing into danger with gun drawn), but the show has a moody, almost melancholy quality that distinguishes it from the rest of TV's law-enforcement crowd. Even more intriguing than the hero's professional life (in which an investigator played by Ruben Santiago-Hudson helps with the legwork) is his touchy relationship with his ex-convict brother (David Cubitt), whose wife (Mary Ward) and son (Jimmy Galeota) see Hayes as a surrogate husband and father. This could be Law & Order with heart.

Gold Coast, taken from an Elmore Leonard novel, concerns a part-time hood (Caruso) who falls for a Mob widow (Marg Helgenberger) and tries to protect her from a cowboy hit man (Jeff Kober). The plot is underdeveloped and the climax is disappointing, but director Peter Weller (who also helmed the Hayes preview) keeps tension simmering under the Florida sun. And Caruso shows again how much he can say with a glance.

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