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Sunday, June 30, 2013

CROSSING LINES Of Typical Crime Dramas

Article first published as CROSSING LINES Of Typical Crime Dramas on TheTVKing.

NBC's newest summer series is Crossing Lines. Yet, the series is neither really NBC's, nor a part of the typical summer schedule. Produced for France and shot in Europe, Crossing Lines boasts an international cast and story that makes it feel much more ambitious than anything other broadcast networks are airing in the summer months.

It's also not a familiar crime procedural. Much of the two hour "Pilot" is given over to character development, and the serial killer the characters are after is secondary to the main plot. Sure, it's the driving force that pulls everyone to one place, but it's really no more than an excuse to put together this remarkable group of people.

When introducing the task force, a gang pulled from a number of different countries, each with their own specializations that will combine to form a whole squad not to be messed with, Crossing Lines goes into a little bit of a stereotype. It's like Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job or other heist films. Thankfully, the show pulls back from fully committing to that conceit, not serving each character completely in the first hour, because that's such a cliche sequence at this point, it would feel old.

Instead, most of the focus is on former American cop Carl Hickman (William Fichtner, Entourage, Prison Break), who was run out of the force after suffering a terrible hand injury which causes him much pain and makes his skill set only apparent to a unique few. As we meet Carl, he appears to be wasting away working as a garbage collector. Yet, his tale is not exactly what one expects, with a couple of cool twists, especially at the end.

Second most prominent is Louis Daniel (Frenchman Marc Lavoine, The Good Thief), who puts the team together, convincing the International Criminal Court's Michael Dorn (Donald Sutherland, MASH, Dirty Sexy Money) that such a unit is needed. These are two wonderful actors, with complex interactions as intricate as the governmental body that they serve. There is definitely the feeling that Louis' job is on shaky ground, with his mission not firmly established, which adds a bit of drama to the proceedings.

The rest of the contingent isn't quite as compelling, but that may just be because they are supporting players who haven't yet gotten their dues. There's Italian Eva Vittoria (Gabriella Pession, Rossella), German Sebastian Berger (Tom Wlaschiha, Game of Thrones), French woman Anne-Marie San (Moon Dailly, Commissaire Magellan), and Irishman Tommy McConnel (Richard Flood, Three Wise Women). I hope Crossing Lines becomes a true ensemble piece, because as much as I like the leads, developing these other players further will make for a more compelling series, even if I like that the "Pilot" doesn't do so.

Crossing Lines has a sweeping, cinematic feel. Part of it could be because it hops from nation to nation across as Europe, with picaresque scenery and impressive production. But part of it is also the way the characters are written and performed. There's a depth not often present in procedurals, and there is definitely some back story to be explored that will surely come back around to enter into the main story. The fact that the show takes its time with such elements, not just bringing them in for a "special episode," is part of what sets it apart.

It also has some big surprises in store. In the first episode, a major character, who definitely feels like a part of the larger ensemble, dies. This tells us there are real stakes and danger, and that characters may not stick around permanently. A very exciting prospect for a show, and a genre-busting one, should it prove to be more than a one-time occurrence.

I am quite pleased with Crossing Lines, which I knew almost nothing about going in, and certainly did not expect much from when I read the series description. It's fresh, exciting, high quality entertainment on NBC at a time of year in which the Big Four typically give us drivel. And the more U.S. networks import the best of international programmings, the more we benefit. Other countries already consume our hits; let's make it a two-way street, opening up the doors to a lot more talent and ideas than we posses ourselves. The more great minds involved in making entertainment, the better.

Crossing Lines airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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