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The Latest from CBS, 'Tommy,' is Worth Investigating
February 6, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

It was only a few minutes into watching the first episode of the new Edie Falco drama Tommy that I realized this was not a reboot of the rock opera, and Falco would not be singing "Pinball Wizard."

Once I got over that disappointment, this new Tommy turned out to be a nuanced, dark, somewhat unusual, and rather engaging police drama.

Tommy premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, and while it's true that CBS is home base for police procedurals, this is more than just another one.

Falco plays Abigail "Tommy" Thomas, who has just been named the first female chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It's a simple sentence that makes everything about Tommy and this show sound way less complicated than it is.

The stock template for CBS procedurals, police and otherwise, is that our hero or heroine solves a problem, like a crime, every week. At the same time, he or she also works through one or more complicated long-term issues, like the murder of a parent or a troubling secret from deep in the past.

Tommy nods to that pattern, in the sense that it tackles a case of the week. Judging from early episodes, however, those cases will have to fight for airtime, because long-arc issues fill this show the way rich people fill the shops of Rodeo Drive.

Tommy's trials start with the job itself, which she was appointed to by Mayor Buddy Gray (Thomas Sadoski). The reason for her appointment: The previous chief, Milt Leakey (Corbin Bernsen), was implicated in running a prostitution ring. There were also complaints of sexual harassment in the department. So Buddy had to sign a consent order with the feds, promising to hire a female chief.

Take a wild guess how enthusiastic the powerful old boys' network in L.A. power circles feels about Tommy's appointment. Or, for that matter, how a lot of rank-and-file cops feel, even though she was one.

The point person in the unofficial campaign to run her out of town is Deputy Mayor Doug Dudik (Joseph Lyle Taylor), whose close pals include Leakey.

Tommy's strategy, in general, is to play offense. If someone is going to leak something about her, she likes the idea of announcing it first. So even though she's inheriting the previous chief's staff, her unusual directness wins her a few quick allies.

That includes press secretary Blake Sullivan (Adelaide Clemens), speechwriter Ken Rosey (Michael Chernus), and Chief of Staff Donn Cooper (Russell G. Jones), who has kept his job through multiple chiefs because he knows how to keep his mouth shut.

One of Tommy's first hires, Abner Diaz (Vladimir Caamaño), is technically on the security staff. More importantly, he knows where New York native Tommy can find a decent slice and bagel.

As the lineups start to form, the pressure builds. Tommy knows she was hired because she's female and also knows that if she fails, it will be blamed on the fact she's female.

She's not that good at treading political waters, though, and her police instincts send her into situations where maintaining a discreet distance would be the better career strategy.

We also quickly see that she has a complicated personal story, stretching back to the earlier years when she spent so much time on her career that her daughter back at home felt neglected.

Now her daughter, Kate Jones (Olivia Lucy Phillip), is all grown up and living in, yes, Los Angeles. Their still-difficult relationship, therefore, is now impossible to ignore, and this one, too, is going to get complicated.

That's even before we get to Tommy's romantic life, which is complicated in perhaps more delicate ways.

All this does not suggest Tommy lacks a light side. Falco is one of the great poker-face wisecrackers of modern television – check out some Nurse Jackie episodes – and she brings that skill to Tommy.

Some of her fellow cops are also amusing, intentionally or otherwise, and darker moments will often be followed by a scene in which, say, Tommy orders a room service dinner of Sauvignon Blanc and mashed potatoes.

Tommy may require closer attention than some CBS procedurals. It's worth paying.

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Years ago the CSI franchises all used recycled hits from the Who for theme songs. Now there is a CBS procedural titled Tommy and no Pete Townsend.
Attanasio's Bull drops a pile on CBS every Monday.We won't be fooled again.
Feb 6, 2020   |  Reply
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