TVision: TNT debuts 'Dark' new show

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 12:00am

Dylan McDermott stars in TNT's 'Dark Blue' as the leader of an elite undercover police unit.

Drama has long been the primary thematic focus on TNT, arguably the premier basic cable outlet along with USA Network.

TNT has not only cornered the market on the reruns for such prestigious shows as Law & Order, Without A Trace, Cold Case, ER and lately Bones, but they’ve introduced a number of top original series like The Closer and Saving Grace that frequently can equal their network competitors in terms of cast stature and content quality.

The latest in the ongoing line of TNT dramas debuts Wednesday night at 9 p.m. Dark Blue is the newest entry from the Jerry Bruckheimer combine, but it’s a bit darker and harder than some other cable entries, more in line with a program like Showtime’s Dexter or FX’s The Shield than USA Network’s Psych or Monk or even Burn Notice.

Dylan McDermott portrays Carter Shaw, the leader of an elite undercover unit whose targets are the absolute worst dregs of the criminal empire. Pursing these people with a vengeance has cost Shaw everything, and his obsession with bringing them down will be a recurring theme throughout the show.

The opening episode provides some backstory as to the origins and development of this unit, but its main purpose is to take the audience into the world these cops reside. It’s one where loyalties are constantly tested, nerves stay exposed and trust comes carefully, if at all.

Besides McDermott, others in the cast include Omari Hardwick, Logan Marshall-Green and Nikki Aycox.

Dark Blue is both ensemble drama and personal showcase, offering McDermott his finest and most complex role since the heyday of The Practice. It’s also another program where the line between good and bad often gets crossed and sometimes completely obliterated. The price of getting the job done will be something that these cops debate and consider everyday, as well as what being a top undercover operative really means and how much of a toll does it take on their lives away from the badge.

Summer doldrums

Network viewing plunged to record low levels during the three-week period ending July 5. The average for the four major networks combined (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) for that time frame was 20.2 million, an all-time low since ratings have been measured.

Much of the fare being offered during this time was new episodes of reality shows, supposedly the thing that young audiences in particular savor. What resulted was television sets being turned off around the country.

There were some exceptions to this. America’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance along with Wipeout still draw good size audiences and get decent ratings in the target demographic of 18-49. But those shows in and of themselves can’t compensate for a massive defection of viewers away from the deluge of unscripted presentations.

Despite that, there’s no sign that the reality push on the networks has slowed. For one thing, these programs are cheaper to produce. Also, reruns of scripted programs do even worse in the summer. Still, the next time someone cites the power of reality television, let them know that more of these shows fail (by a large margin) than succeed.

‘Idol’ raises

Ryan Seacreast and Simon Cowell of American Idol are getting fat and early Christmas presents.

Seacrest’s new contract calls for him to get his pay tripled, beginning with the new season. He’ll earn $15 million per year for three years. Cowell is supposedly being offered $144 million per year, quite a bump from his current $36 million per year. No figures have been given on the other judges, or even any statement regarding their fate for the new season.

While these salary figures are quite high, since American Idol reportedly earns Fox about $900 million per year, the producers shouldn’t have any trouble paying them.