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Fall '98: "Buddy Faro"

I don't know why, but I had high hopes for Buddy Faro when I first read about it a few months ago. Maybe it's the six zoot suits packed away in my closet or my insistence that everyone call me "Deano." Or it could be my strange infatuation with nattily-attired vigilantes that drink martinis and refer to criminals as "punks." No, I don't mean Dellaventura.

I am, of course, referring to that late, lamented James Tolkan/Billy Warlock star-vehicle The Hat Squad.

But whatever the reason, smooth-talking, Rat Pack-hanger-on cop types always spark my interest. And for the first 15 minutes or so of Buddy Faro, I was far from disappointed. The series opens with small-time private eye Bob Jones, played by big-screen waterboy Frank Whaley, hired to track down the infamous Buddy Faro, private eye to the stars before he dropped off the face of the earth back in 1978.

Dennis Farina, who has played a smooth-talking, tough-guy cop in Crime Story and a smooth-talking, tough-guy mob boss in the big screen's Get Shorty is mining new acting ground by playing smooth-talking, tough-guy private eye Buddy Faro. But there are no complaints here. Farina is definitely smooth-talking and looks to be relatively tough. Plus he looks good draining a martini and tangoing with half a dozen beautiful women. What more could you ask for?

Bob eventually finds Buddy lying face down in a pool of his own drool at a run-down bowling alley run by Charles Robinson of Night Court fame. Bob and Buddy escape a trio of incompetent hit men, return to L.A. and set up a partnership to help find the man trying to kill them. It is, of course, a long-time enemy of Buddy's, a mob-boss Faro sent to prison just before disappearing. The Bob and Buddy team dispatch the Don and decide to set up a more permanent shop together, with Bob teaching Buddy how modern-day conveiniences like ATMs work and Buddy teaching Bob how to call women "dames" without getting slapped.

Buddy Faro is one of the best-looking shows on TV, with a distinctive visual style. But the rest of the program is a mixed bag at best. Even sadder is the fact that, given the rest of the drivel the networks have shoveled at us viewers this year, its visual style alone makes Buddy Faro one of the better freshmen on the air.

While the opening third of the pilot is fast-paced, relatively witty and sort of original, the plot eventually gets bogged down in Buddy's pseudo-sentimental reminisces of his past glories and ultimately settles into a predictable track straight to the cliché ending. But maybe that can be excused simply because pilots usually have to deal with a whole mess of back-story.

With any luck, Buddy Faro can stick to the visuals and fast pace and carve itself a niche as a show you shouldn't stay home on Friday nights for but might not mind watching on those rare occasions when you can't get a date.

Of course, in my case, I'll be watching it every week.


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