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'Heist' isn't the show that will stop NBC slide

Since the Turin Games ended, NBC has had almost as many flops as Bode Miller. And with the new drama, "Heist" (10 tonight, WGRZ-TV), the stumbles just keep on coming.

Despite the supposed promotional benefits of the Games, NBC's post-Olympic scorecard has one winner -- the game show "Deal or No Deal" (which probably will have a short lifespan) -- and one small winner in the move of "Las Vegas" to Friday. The Nielsen jury is still out on the oversexed new Dick Wolf drama, "Conviction" and won't return until CBS stops playing basketball on Fridays.

But "The Apprentice" is a disaster (fourth place in Buffalo in its time slot Monday), pulling "Medium" (tied for third here with "Seinfeld" reruns) down with it. And just about everything else on NBC but the "Law & Order" franchise is suffering.

It isn't exactly the time for the risky move of "Law & Order" from 10 p.m. to 9 tonight (opposite an original episode of "Lost") to serve as the lead-in for "Heist," which is part-drama and part-comedy and fails most of the time on both scores.

Dougray Scott ("Mission Impossible II") and Steve Harris ("The Practice") star as bank robbers and jewel thieves who crack clever and sarcastic jokes when they aren't cracking safes. Mickey O'Neil (Scott) and James Johnson (Harris) enlist a team of thieves that include an old guy, Pops (Seymour Cassel); a tough young lady, Lola (Marika Dominczyk); and a young multitasking, motor-mouth, Ricky (David Walton).

Their attempt to simultaneously rob three Beverly Hills jewelry stores during Oscar week is being challenged by Detective Amy Sykes (Michele Hicks of "The Shield"), a tough demanding boss. She immediately teams Detective Billy O'Brien (Billy Gardell of "Lucky") and Detective Tyrese Evans (Reno Wilson of "Blind Justice"), which doesn't exactly thrill Evans.
"He's lazy . . . fat and racist," Evans tell Sykes.

"This is just like 'Lethal Weapon,' except I do actually hate you," replies O'Brien.

The script isn't as clever as the writers think it is. Though it has a few decent if obvious twists and there is some suspense in the last 10 minutes, most of "Heist" plays like a 1980s or 1990s movie, and the thieves' great escape is old as the Trojan Horse trick.

Of course, there is the obligatory TV character development moment involving O'Neil's past that is unintentionally more funny than the clever repartee. "Heist" won't steal your heart, just an hour of time.

It is going head-to-head with an equally disappointing new ABC drama, "The Evidence" (10 tonight, WKBW-TV). Like "Heist," "The Evidence" features a black-white partnership in the San Francisco Police Department between the happy-go-lucky Cayman Bishop (Orlando Jones) and the depressed Rob Estes (Sean Cole), a strong female boss and a cliched back story involving one of the detectives.

Unlike "Law & Order" and other procedural dramas, viewers are told the evidence that was uncovered at the crime before they learn how the cases were solved. It sounds more interesting in theory than it is in practice.
Martin Landau also is on board as the narrator and coroner, who hired a hot new assistant.

The opening case involves the murder of a female medical student, a smart woman who apparently never learned the elementary school lesson that it isn't wise to go into dark alleys at night, especially when you think someone you know is involved in a crime.

The partners golf together at a town dump, play basketball, talk about cholesterol and solve the case after Cole gets an unexpected "aha" moment from a woman flirting with him. Cole is in no mood for flirting.

"Either you're thinking something or you have to go to the bathroom," Bishop tells his partner. That's a cue for an obligatory character development moment, played to a melancholy song.

The music, the joking, the sad back story, the strong female boss are all damning evidence that speak to the show's lack of imagination.

***

Critics are rarely unanimous about anything, but I'm betting the newest Fox reality series, "Unan1mous" (9:30 tonight, WUTV), will be universally slammed as this season's most disgusting program.

Combining the worst elements of "Big Brother" and "Survivor," the opener offends on several fronts. The most disturbing is the transparent lie concocted by one of the nine contestants trying to get a unanimous vote and be awarded $1.5 million so everyone can leave an underground bunker.

Anyone who has watched a Fox promo for the show or a "Survivor" episode probably won't be as much surprised by the lie as disgusted. There also is a predictable debate between the token gay character and a female "minister" who quotes the Bible and has her own little secret.

After five minutes with this loud, confrontational bunch, all I could think of was "get me out of here." Even by Fox's "standards," this sick program hits a new reality low.

Rating: "The Heist": 2 stars out of 4; "The Evidence": 1 1/2 stars; "Unan1mous": 0 stars.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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