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Television Review

'Flashpoint' resorts to usual suspects

Amy Jo Johnson stars as a police sniper in the new drama 'Flashpoint.' Amy Jo Johnson stars as a police sniper in the new drama "Flashpoint." (Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / July 11, 2008

"Flashpoint," CBS's new police drama, is just going through the motions. It goes through the motions quite competently and respectably. But it is nonetheless merely re-creating crime-series moves we've all seen many times before, with only the faintest afterimage of originality.

The show, tonight at 10 on Channel 4, is set in Canada, amid the assignments of a SWAT-like team called the SRU (Strategic Response Unit) that rushes into explosive crisis situations to save the day. In the premiere, it hurries to help a generic innocent bystander, who has been taken hostage by a generic perp, who has committed other generic crimes for generic reasons. You know the drill.

The SRU is your basic, everyday, average TV team, led by a paternal figure played by Enrico Colantoni from "Veronica Mars" and "Just Shoot Me." When tonight's perp takes his hostage, Colantoni's the guy who's urging him to put down the gun and talk. When a team member kills someone, Colantoni's the guy who's telling him not to worry, he did what he had to do. On "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," Colantoni is William Petersen.

Amy Jo Johnson from "Felicity" is the other familiar face on the show, as the fiery sniper with romantic complications. You've met her before, for sure. But the premiere focuses on her sniping partner, played by Canadian actor and musician Hugh Dillon. He's the requisite guy's guy who spends too much time at work and not enough time with his family. Tonight we see him arguing with his wife, of course, because if he didn't, he'd be stripped of his membership in the Stock Character's Club.

At occasional moments, "Flashpoint" rises above formula, as it lingers on the psychic toll that such high-tension work can take. Dillon evokes some distinctive and human feeling midway through the premiere, after he has shot someone. Still on the roof of a building with his gun, he vomits from anxiety. And later, still reeling, he is treated with suspicion by internal-affairs investigators.

If "Flashpoint" could dig deeper into such post-traumatic issues, it might have a chance to distinguish itself somewhat. Otherwise, the writers will merely justify CBS's lack of faith in their series, which is airing on an unpopular TV night in an unpopular time slot during an unpopular time of the TV year.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

Flashpoint

Starring: Enrico Colantoni, Amy Jo Johnson, Hugh Dillon, Michael Cram, Mark Taylor

On: CBS, Channel 4

Time: Tonight, 10-11

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