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TELEVISION & RADIO | THE FALL TV SEASON

Awkward tone shifts are criminal in '10-8'

September 27, 2003|Craig Tomashoff | Special to The Times

On the list of ancient television fixtures, the Buddy Cop ranks right up there with such perpetual classics as the Wacky Neighbor, the Dopey Dad and Larry King.

There have been many variations on the theme. We've had Goofball Buddy Cops ("Car 54! Where Are You?"), Hunky Buddy Cops ("Starsky & Hutch") and Lady Buddy Cops ("Cagney & Lacey").

No matter what the hook, though, the idea is always the same: The partners must be mismatched in some way (Starsky is street-smart, Hutch is book-smart, and so on). If nothing else, at least ABC's new series "10-8," should be considered a part of TV history by continuing this venerable tradition.

The Buddy Cops here come from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. They are rookie recruit Rico Amonte (Danny Nucci), the world's most wholesome ex-juvenile delinquent, and Deputy John Henry Barnes (Ernie Hudson), the grizzly bear of a boss responsible for training him. Rico's a perennially smiling, fleet-footed smart aleck. The lumbering Barnes, on the other hand, has the personality of a severely constipated Andy Rooney. Put these two together and watch the wacky crime-busting ensue as each week they cruise the streets of L.A. County searching for criminals and a way to get along with each other.

It's not that "10-8" ("in service" in sheriff-speak) is a comedy. Buried somewhere in its psyche is the desire to be the new, true-blue "Adam 12." However, the premiere episode spends so much time playing cute with its mismatched partners that it's hard to take the show seriously.

For every dramatic scene where a crazed gunman's victims writhe in pain, there's a scene where a trainee complains about her superior officer passing gas in the squad car.

In short, this cop series wants to have its doughnut and eat it too. Honor the police who serve and protect, but at the same time be Barney Miller. It's an awkward mix that is unfulfilled on both ends. The G-rated drama plays too much like watered-down "Cops" in order to blend into its early Sunday evening time period. Meanwhile, the humor is too forced and broad to have much impact.

Nucci works overtime to hold the audience, and he's pretty engaging. His Brooklyn accent and tough-guy swagger aren't new, but they're the only things giving "10-8" a personality.

Hey, wait! Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in a squad car. Now there's one that's got a shot at next season's Buddy Cop sweepstakes.

*

'10-8'

Where: ABC

When: 8-9 p.m. Sundays; premieres Sunday.

Rating: The network has rated the show TV-PGDLV (may not be suitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence).

Danny Nucci...Rico Amonte

Ernie Hudson...John Henry Barnes

Miguel Sandoval...Otis Briggs

Travis Schuldt...Chase Williams

Christina Vidal...Gabriela Lopez

Creator, writer, Jorge Zamacona. Executive producers, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Zamacona. Director, Martin Campbell.

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