PASADENA, Cal. – Television seems determined to give Los Angeles law enforcement a makeover.
Two series – both scheduled for Thursdays, a month apart – put offbeat people in charge.
First was Fox’s “Deputy,” which arrived at 9 p.m. on Jan. 2. Stephen Dorff is Bill Hollister, a cowboy type, suddenly named Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Next is CBS’ “Tommy” (10 p.m. Feb. 6). Edie Falco (shown here) is Abigail Thomas, the city’s new police chief.
In some ways, the shows are opposites. “Deputy” is blunt and brash, drawing mixed reactions from critics; “Tommy” – written by Paul Attanasio, an Oscar-nominee for “Quiz Show” and “Donnie Brasco” – has the sort of depth and nuance you might not expect in a CBS cop show.
But both share a key theme – putting a rugged individual – atop the massive bureaucracy. “It’s something we all want from our city leaders …. We want them to have a face; we want them to be a person,” Tom Szentgyorgyi, the “Tommy” producer, told the Television Critics Association.
And TV seems to want them to be outsiders, shaking up the bureaucrats.
That fits Hollister, a horse-riding cop who became acting sheriff due to a quirk in the county charter. “Bill is a unique character …. He’s really the voice of the people,” Dorff said. Instead of attending meetings, “he wants to catch bad guys.”
And it fits Thomas, who got the job after a sex scandal. She’s a classic outsider, Szentgyorgyi said. “She’s a woman, she’s a New Yorker … she’s a lesbian. She’s an outsider even in her own family, to the extent that she’s estranged from her daughter.”
She has some rough edges, Falco said – and they fit comfortably. “I have been told (I have) some rough edges and whatever else other people may equate with being a New Yorker.”
Falco has managed to keep those edges. “I went to an acting school for four years where they (had) sandpaper, trying to rub them off …. It just never quite fit. Once I started to be myself” things soared. She’s had 14 Emmy nominations (mostly for “Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie”) and four wins.
Dorff also had his rough-edged moments. “I went to two Catholic schools, but I was just politely asked not to come back,” he said. Then he discovered acting and a new life.
Their shows have two other things in common:
– Both have interesting characters as the protagonist’s bodyguard. For “Deputy,” that’s Brianna Bishop, a tough ex-soldier played by Rebecca “Bex” Taylor-Klaus, who has drawn praise in gender-fluid roles. “The writers in Hollywood have been able to write with so much more knowledge and compassion about these characters,” Taylor-Klaus said. “They were just guessing a couple years ago.”
– And both of these distinctively Los Angeles shows are filmed elsewhere, with only some second-unit footage in LA. “Deputy” did the pilot in Atlanta, then moved to Albuquerque. For “Tommy,” Falco insisted on her town of New York.
“A shout-out to our scenic department,” she said. “I started to wonder, after a while, where we were. We had a truck with our palm trees.”