You hate being coarse. You hate being crude. But applying best to UPN's glitzy new drama, "Level 9," is the good old-fashioned F-word.
Cyber-crime for a new millennium is the theme here. High-tech trappings and computerese aside, though, what we have is another series about one of those specialized rapid-response strike forces that operate secretly inside the government while tackling high-level crimes that no other agency--yes, not even the National Endowment for the Arts--is capable of addressing.
And guest what? Not only are these kids demographically aligned to UPN's youngish audience, they don't play by the rules. Why? Because they're Level 9, stupid.
You got Jerry (Romany Malco), the surveillance expert who "can move through the world as anonymously as fog." You got Joss (Susie Park), who "tracks anything that moves." You got Tibbs (Michael Kelly), who "handles field operations like a general at war." You got Roland (Fabrizio Filippo), the kind of "super-cool ex-criminal" essential for every elite team.
You got cyber-mavens Jargon (Esteban Powell) and Sosh (Kim Murphy), who "can find a needle in a Web stack and make a computer keyboard dance to whatever tune they tap."
And the boss is ex-FBI agent Annie Price (Kate Hodge), who is not only brilliant, uncompromising and tough, but also swell-looking, else some viewers (blush) would not watch this past the opening sequences when a killer dressed as a mailman blows away a pair of innocent people and abducts a woman from her Los Angeles home.
As you can imagine, a case this complex would be too much even for the Peace Corps and the Farm Credit Administration. So on come Price and Level 9, determined to give the mailman what for. Joining them soon is a maverick LAPD detective (Tim Guinee), whose absence from work somehow goes undetected at Parker Center.
Well, what can you say? Instead of killing his most tenacious pursuer when he has the easy opportunity, the otherwise all-knowing mailman inexplicably abducts him, too, allowing the plot to proceed illogically toward a predictable result.
One less mailman will not rid cyberspace of evil, though, for orchestrating all of this, we learn, is CrayZhorse, an unseen insidious super-hacker who is so intent on forming a new world order he will hatch something nasty each week. He won't find it easy, for joining the Level 9 team in Episode 2 is street-savvy Jack Wiley (Max Martini), who not only makes up the rules as he goes along but also does so "at his own fierce pace."
"Level 9" is one they could have e-mailed in.
* "Level 9" premieres tonight at 9 on UPN. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).