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TV REVIEW

Well-Made 'Trinity' Loaded With Crises

October 16, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Good night, Bobby. Good night, Liam. Good night, Mandy. Good night, Fiona. Good night, Kevin.

Actually, there is nothing especially cuddly, syrupy or moralistic about the McCallisters of NBC's "Trinity," who resemble "The Waltons" only in their numbers. Instead, "Trinity" is easily the best of the new season dramas about big, eclectic families, offering a strong cast and intelligently written characters worth caring about, in a volatile New York setting that keeps them on their toes.

*

In fact, here is an Irish American family that not only confronts crisis but also is stalked by it. The biggest challenge here is sorting through the initial clutter.

Bobby (Justin Louis) is a steamed-up police detective who's been targeted for a hit, is obsessed with the drug-related death of a sixth sibling and doesn't seem to notice what his wife, Clarissa (Kim Raver), does: that his new female partner is gorgeous. The sparks between Bobby and Clarissa, who wants him to spend more time at home, make them an arresting pair to watch.

Meanwhile, Liam (Sam Trammell) is a rising union leader whose boss Bobby believes to be shady, and that is a source of conflict between the two brothers. The youngest of the McCallisters, 20-year-old Mandy (Bonnie Root), is a dysfunctional drug-head who may be pregnant. Glamorous Fiona (Charlotte Ross), the oldest of the siblings at age 30, is a successful stockbroker who is ending an affair with a married colleague, but still wants more than another prospective suitor, a sweet, blue-collar palooka from the neighborhood, can give her.

And whatever the Catholic Church is paying Kevin (Tate Donovan), a priest, it's not enough. In the first two episodes, he's called upon to advise a secretly gay man on what to tell his wife and child, hears the confession of someone planning to commit murder, stops a thief from robbing the church, coaches a basketball team and plays violin at a wedding reception.

A nice thing about initial episodes of "Trinity" is that they end almost as untidily as life. Few pat resolutions or swiftly knotted loose ends.

Tonight's episode concludes with a Sunday dinner at the home of Mama and Papa McCallister (Jill Clayburgh and John Spencer). Keep alert: Given how often trauma strikes this clan, you never can tell when someone may choke on a bone.

* "Trinity" premieres at 9 tonight on NBC (Channel 4). The network has rated it TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14).

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