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CBS: Crimes Being Solved

Crime touches us all in different ways. For some of us, crime is petty theft, or perhaps the occasional robbery perpetrated when you wander into a dark area by yourself a bit later than was probably wise. For others, crime can cause major scars on a life, scars caused by hideous acts that can never be rectified with a new backpack or a panicked call to the auto shop to get LoJack installed.

And then there's Les Moonves, the evil genius who runs CBS, for whom crime is not just a social problem waiting to be solved by the next generation of public servants weaned on Bill Clinton's Americorps and the golden-hued hallways of The West Wing.

When it comes to the Fall 2002 CBS schedule, crime is Les Moonves's meal ticket.

Moonves -- who often played a gun-toting hood during his days as a character actor -- is riding the crime gravy train these days. Just about the only crime-related show CBS won't be offering this fall is one in which a former character actor turned network president takes time out of his busy schedule to fight crime.

That one is slated as a midseason replacement.

Among CBS's new series are Without a Trace, which marks the return to series TV of two former leading men from cancelled shows -- Anthony LaPaglia (from the second year of Murder One) and Eric Close (from the brilliant, genre-shifting Now and Again). Without a Trace is kind of like CSI, right down to the Jerry Bruckheimer production credit -- but this one's about an FBI task force that finds missing people. During their investigations, the Without a Trace team constructs what's called a DOD, or Day of Disappearance, timeline. Once can only assume that the show would have been called DOD had CBS not run out of letters while naming some of its other shows.

Like, say, RHD/LA, a show about the Robbery and Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. This show, starring Tom Sizemore, takes the prize for the worst series name since last year's UC: Undercover and, well, CSI. The slash is what puts them over the edge, I think. In any case, RHD/LA is kind of like CSI, except the team of colorful characters on RHD/LA solve all sorts of high-profile crimes, none of which require the intervention of Gil Grissom and his unique homespun creepy-ass wisdom. Also, RHD/LA isn't produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, but rather by Michael Mann, the much-honored film director who in a past life created Miami Vice. Expect a guest appearance by Lt. Castillo (Edward James Olmos) by February sweeps.

Then there's CSI: Miami -- and you thought ABC was the Alphabet Network -- which stars David Caruso, Emily Procter, and a bunch of other people you may have seen if you saw the leaden episode of CSI which served as a pilot for this series last month. As Horatio Caine, Caruso brings his trademark empty stare and monotone back to the small screen, where it belongs. No doubt his repartee with the so-homespun-it's-painful Procter (Ainsley Hayes of The West Wing) will be a highlight of this show. CSI: Miami is kind of like CSI, except... well, it's set in Miami, and presumably Gil Grissom will not be called in to solve all the cases with his unique, creepy-ass vision. Instead, Ainsley Hayes will.

Hack, starring David Morse and the sainted Andre Braugher, shows a refreshing use of lower-case letters for a CBS show. But make no mistake -- there's crime aplenty in this story of a disgraced cop who becomes a cab driver who fights crime. Morse is the cabbie, and Braugher plays his former partner, a ghost only the cab driver can see. Okay, I made that last part up. But the rest of it? About the cabbie who solves crimes? That part is true. Hack is kind of like CSI, except there's only one guy on the team, and he won't make change for a fifty. There is no truth to the rumor that this series was original called CSI: Cab.

Rounding out CBS's slate of dramas is Presidio Med, starring Blythe Danner and Dana Delany as hard-working doctors in a San Francisco medical practice who use their great talents not to solve crimes, but to serve their patients. Who is solving the crimes in this series is unclear, but it's from the John Wells-Lydia Woodward production team who brought you ER. Presidio Med is nothing like CSI, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's the exception that proves the rule.

Returning to CBS's line up are several more dramas, including The Guardian, which is very little like CSI, and The Agency, which is sort of a hybrid of CSI and CIA. Judging Amy, The District, and Touched By An Angel, also return, despite the fact that none of them are anything like CSI.

On the non-crime side of the slate, CBS is adding two comedies, neither of which is about fighting crime. Still Standing is a family comedy starring Mark Addy and Jami Gertz; apparently the pilot has been carefully fashioned by a team of engineers to slide directly into the "innocuous family sitcom" slot right after Everybody Loves Raymond. Who would believe that it's from the iconoclastic geniuses who brought us Yes, Dear? Bram and Alice is a show about a head-case of a novelist (Alfred Molina!) and his devoted fan (the girl from Two Guys and a Girl!), and is produced by two Frasier veterans. So which is this one going to be, Veronica's Closet or Encore! Encore! -- any bets?

Finally, Mr. Moonves unveiled his crowning achievement: a midseason replacement series that you may be familiar with.

Yes, it's true. Returning to the CBS schedule next winter will be Baby Bob.

Remember what I said about the CBS schedule being criminal? I rest my case.


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