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This cop's got character

'Against the Wall,' Lifetime's first original police show, is a good female-focused drama.


Lifetime, which no longer bills itself as "Television for Women" but is anyway, premieres its first original cop show, "Against the Wall," Sunday night. The network has a long history with crime, of course, with all those TV movies about killers and stalkers and darkly handsome con men. But this is something else, and better made -- something that, while it retains the essence of Lifetime, looks across the dial to TNT and USA, where character-driven procedurals have been blooming like wildflowers after a wet spring. (Indeed, "Against the Wall" was created by Annie Brunner, who wrote for TNT's "Saving Grace," whose executive producer Nancy Miller is also the executive producer here.)

Abby Kowalksi (Rachael Carpani) is the Lifetime woman at the center of the drama: daughter, sister, friend, partner, professional. A former Chicago patrol cop, she has just made detective. The hitch is that she's working for internal affairs, the police who police the police, which sets her not only against her fellows but her family: Her father (Treat Williams) and three brothers (Brandon Quinn, James Thomas, Steve Byers) are patrolmen all. Meanwhile, her pregnant partner (Marisa Ramirez), is more than mildly offended that Abby sees internal affairs as a temporary roost on the way to homicide, where most TV detectives want to work.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, August 02, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
"Against the Wall": A review of the TV series "Against the Wall" in the July 30 Calendar said it was the first original cop show to air on the Lifetime channel. It is not the first.

Much in the house style, she has meaningless get-over-here-now-OK-bye sex with one brother's partner (Andrew Walker), even as she runs, literally, from a would-be flame (Chris Johnson), because she might like him too much and that could get complicated. "Dating," she tells her BFF (Mayko Nguyen), "leads to a relationship which leads to marriage which leads to kids."

The pilot, shot with magazine-spread vibrancy by Sharone Meir -- Carpani herself seems to glow -- has its problems. Dialogue that strains to sound natural sounds ... strained. Characters say things that real humans say only ironically: "Did I teach you nothing?" her father rails when he gets the news of her new post.) And there is a tendency to grab the viewer by the collar and tell her what she needs to know: Your understanding of a situation will not be left to chance, or require the merest reflection.

But this is a common enough failing of pilots, and there's much here to suggest that, if everyone relaxes a little, good things will come. Kathy Baker, who plays Abby's wise and understanding mother, would have to be in something extraordinarily bad to not be worth watching. Williams is stiff-necked, but, you know, sweet. And Carpani, the latest Australian blond to strap on a local accent along with a side arm for American TV (see also: Anna Torv on "Fringe," Yvonne Strahovski on "Chuck"), is an attractive lead who plays the drama for the comedy that lurks at its corners.

Notwithstanding a character that for the moment reads as a cooked-up agglomeration of quirks -- she likes the Chicago Bears, she's a klutz, she's claustrophobic, she sings old pop songs under her breath -- there is life in her.




the Wall'

Where: Lifetime

When: 10 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-14-LS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and sex)

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