The new Edie Falco vehicle is, to twist what a character from “Mad Men” once said, “Not great, bub.” I can’t say I’m surprised, only because “Tommy” is a prime-time network procedural, which generally means the writers will forgo character depth and plot subtleties in favor of spelled-out stereotypes and tricked-up whodunits. Every once in a while, there are exceptions — I’m thinking of “The Good Wife” at the moment — but for the most part, network crime dramas are about the murder of nothing other than time.
Falco’s CBS drama, which runs Thursday nights at 10, makes a second-rate first impression. The characters declare themselves and their backstories almost instantly, telegraphing which side they will take in the show’s simplistic good-vs.-bad dichotomy and what their relationship with Falco’s Abigail Thomas, known as Tommy, will be. Tommy has just left the NYPD to become the first female police chief in Los Angeles, and she was brought in by the slimy mayor, played by Thomas Sadoski, after the force was scarred by a police underage-prostitution scandal and departmental sexual harassment issues. She’s there to clean things up, but the corruption is deeply embedded and she meets with a lot of resistance. She also meets with resistance from her somewhat estranged daughter, who lives in L.A.
I can see why Falco may have chosen “Tommy.” It’s a female-driven series, and Tommy, we learn, is a lesbian who came out later in life, after a failed marriage. That’s an unusual setup for a CBS procedural, with the potential for some distinctive network plotting as the cops learn her story, and then Paul Attanasio, of “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “House,” is the show’s lauded creator. Falco is just fine in the show, using touches of dry humor to charm even while we understand that Tommy is a flawed person. But, sadly, despite her chops, Falco is not asked to do a lot in the script except exude principles and rock a police uniform.
I’m not prepared to write off “Tommy” after seeing the first two episodes, despite the mediocrity and a few awkward tonal switches. I’m hoping the writers can add layers to the timely stories they tell — about #MeToo issues, about aggressive ICE workers, about being a woman in charge of a lot of men — as they become more familiar with the characters and the actors. I’ll keep you posted.