Picks and Pans Review: Cracker

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

originally published 09/29/1997 01:00AM

ABC (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)

B+

Just how badly will they muck it up? That's what Cracker fans have been wondering since ABC announced plans for an Americanization of the popular British drama series (shown stateside since 1994 on A&E) about a hard-living police psychologist. Surprisingly, not much has been lost in the translation. The first two episodes of ABC's Cracker (Sept. 18 and 25) closely follow the plot and dialogue of the British series' two-hour finale from 1996. As portrayed by Robert Pastorelli (Murphy Brown), Gerry Fitzgerald is somewhat more intense and overbearing than his U.K. model Eddie Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane). Gerry may be hard for the audience to take, particularly when he's spouting pessimistic philosophy. The new show also makes an atmospheric error by shifting the London location to sunny Los Angeles rather than to an older, bleaker U.S. city. But Cracker can't rightly be accused of going Hollywood—except, perhaps, in the choice of a too-beautiful actress (Sarah Paulson) to play the serial killer who sends "Fitz" love letters in the suspenseful opening story line. The protagonist remains as difficult and dissipated as he is brilliant. Just ask his fed-up wife (Carolyn McCormick). If you're in the minority of Thursday-night viewers seeking a stark contrast to Seinfeld, here is your man.

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