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Picks and Pans Review: The Beat

updated 03/20/2000 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/2000 01:00AM

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Show of the week

This new drama from executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana (Homicide: Life on the Street) is a sort of police pastiche. Like the departed Homicide, it has a gritty look and camera work that's both jerky and arty. Like NYPD Blue, it's set in lower Manhattan. Like the failed Brooklyn South, it focuses on uniformed officers rather than detectives. And when partners Mike Dorigan (Derek Cecil) and Zane Marinelli (Mark Ruffalo) deal with everyday urban flare-ups—particularly in those scenes that switch from film to videotape—you may think you're watching Cops.

So The Beat isn't breaking new ground, but the series patrols its turf with style and a welcome touch of humor. In the March 21 premiere, Mike and Zane get a talking-to from a captain (Tom Noonan) who calmly waters his plants while laying down the law. In the second episode, Mike gets credit for dissuading a suicidal citizen from jumping off a roof, when all he really did was remind the guy to heed nature's call. In episode three, a coffin found in the river turns out not to contain a great mystery. "Damn," says Zane, "I thought it was gonna be somethin' scintillating." Life on these streets is unpredictable but infrequently sensational—just as in the real world.

Regrettably, the show stretches for the unusual in Zane's personal life. His girlfriend (Heather Burns) is a sexy psycho who torches his apartment, and his father (Joe Grifasi) is in prison—perhaps unjustly—for murdering his mother. Mike's relationship with his med-student fiancée (Poppy Montgomery) is more believable, if more mundane.

Bottom Line: Try walking this beat

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