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'Boomtown' ends its arrested development

Back from a six-week hiatus, the series is injecting some plot twists in a bid to recapture its early momentum.

March 02, 2003|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

NBC's gritty cop series "Boomtown," which has been preempted the last six weeks, returns to the network lineup Sunday. And just in case you missed any or all of the first 12 episodes of the acclaimed series, Bravo, the cable outlet recently purchased by NBC, is presenting a "Boomtown" marathon earlier in the day.

"Any splash we can get we're happy for," says Graham Yost ("Speed"), "Boomtown" creator and executive producer. The complex drama presents a crime "Rashomon"-style as seen through the perspectives of Los Angeles detectives, patrolmen, paramedics, reporters and even the perpetrators themselves.

"Boomtown" had been gaining momentum since premiering last fall and was averaging 10.1 million viewers per week. But like other new shows that don't burst out of the gate with "CSI: Miami"-sized ratings, it will need some extra care -- and luck -- to earn a renewal.

NBC preempted "Boomtown" to make room for the limited series "Kingpin." The network also didn't want the freshman series going up against some of the early-year ratings powerhouses.

"We wanted to protect 'Boomtown,' " explains NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. "We love 'Boomtown.' It would have been off three of those six weeks anyway because of the Super Bowl and the Grammys. Balancing all of your babies is the trick."

Yost is diplomatic about NBC's decision. "If we're not on next year, I'll second-guess it," says Yost. "But for now, I'll trust the people whose job it is to make those decisions. They have other shows and other things they have to try."

Before "Boomtown" went on hiatus, it had been doing battle with ABC's "The Practice." The long-running legal series has since moved to Monday nights. "Boomtown" will now be duking it out with another crime drama set on the gritty streets of Los Angeles: Dick Wolf's new version of "Dragnet."

"In a way, blunting 'Dragnet' with something fresh ["Kingpin"] was a good idea," says Yost. "Then it gives us a chance to relaunch. I just hope we beat them. What can I say? I hope we do better and we come back next season. That's all I can hope for."

The ensemble series stars Donnie Wahlberg as Joel Stevens, a dedicated detective whose Rock of Gibraltar demeanor masks the fact that his home life is a shambles. Stevens' wife has been mentally unstable since the recent death of one of their children.

Mykelti Williamson plays his partner, Bobby "Fearless" Smith; Neal McDonough is David McNorris, an ambitious deputy district attorney; Gary Basaraba is Ray Hechler, a veteran patrol officer; and Jason Gedrick is Tom Turcotte, his young partner, who is often overeager to prove himself. Rounding out the cast is Nina Garbiras as tough metro reporter Andrea Little and Lana Parrilla as the compassionate paramedic Teresa Ortiz.

Stevens' domestic problems are an important thematic element in the remaining episodes, says Yost. "It was something we planned right from the beginning, that we would try to resolve that one way or another. There is also the competitive kind of flinty relationship between Donnie Walhberg's character and Jason Gedrick's character. You see that really start to flare up in episode 15 and then take a surprising turn."

Wahlberg, who worked with Yost on the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," says it's a balancing act playing Stevens.

"The easy thing to do is just ignore what's going on and play each scene as it comes," says the actor. "But there's a danger in that. The danger is that you don't want him to become a bore with the audience and you don't want him to be too heavy all the time. I can't let my character's problems get too far suppressed that they are forgotten about, but I can't make it a distraction from the other characters and the story arc."

*

Balancing acts are nothing new for "Boomtown."

"Boomtown" airs Sundays at 10 p.m on NBC. The network has rated tonight's episode TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under 14). The "Boomtown" marathon begins Sunday at 11 a.m. on Bravo.

Cover photograph by Paul Drinkwater.

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