It's a hot summer night, and Appellate Judge Mac McEntire is ready tonight.
He only knows one way to do his job…HIS WAY.
Remember 21 Jump Street, that show about cops going undercover as high school students to fight crimes and social issues torn from the day's headlines? Sure you do. Well, in the show's third season, it introduced rebellious cop Booker (Richard Grieco, If Looks Could Kill) to stir things up a little. The character proved popular enough for a spin-off, dropping the high school setting and replacing it with corporate America.
Facts of the Case
Dennis Booker used to be a cop, but now he has no badge and is stuck working as a bouncer in a crappy dive bar. His former Jump Street boss arranges an interview for him with the Teshima Corporation, which has an opening for an investigator to work on various in-company cases.
With his black leather jacket, earring, and motorcycle, the stuffy suit-and-tie wearers at Teshima don't know what to make of Booker. This includes his always-serious boss Chick Sterling, (Carmen Argenziano, Angels and Demons), and ice queen supervisor Alicia (Marcia Strassman, Welcome Back Kotter). Booker's only friend at Teshima is his down-to-Earth assistant Elaine (Katie Rich, Red Dragon). He's later joined on many of his cases by outrageous troublemaker Suzanne (Lori Petty, Tank Girl).
This episode list has a mysterious bloody thumbprint on it:
• "The Pump"
• "Raising Arrizola"
• "High Rise"
• "All You Got to Do is Do It"
• "Bete Noir"
• "Flat Out"
• "The Red Dot"
• "Who Framed Roger Thornton?"
• "The Life and Death of Chick Sterling"
• "Love Life"
• "Black Diamond"
• "Wedding Bell Blues"
• "Molly and Eddie"
• "Mobile Home"
• "Booker's Dad"
This isn't the greatest TV show ever made, but one thing's for sure—it has style. Most episodes, especially the early ones, have a montage sequence set to music with all sorts of hip camera work and editing. Additionally, scenes are bathed in blue lights with heavy shadows. This being the late 1980s, there are a lot of neon and strobe lights on display as well. The whole thing just looks cool.
This sense of style continues with the main character. Booker's opening credits might as well read, "Starring Richard Grieco and co-starring Richard Grieco's hair." He's got the image, with the jacket, earring, torn jeans, and yeah, the hair. Oh, that hair. Those bangs go from here to next Tuesday. But you can't base an entire series on mere style. At least, not a good series. Grieco has the "bad boy" swagger down to a science, and he has no problem with shooting an icy glare at villains. During those scenes when Booker shows a little emotion, such as romantic longings or grief over fatally shooting someone, Grieco does a fine job.
Story-wise, the scripts are hit or miss. The basic concept here is the "fish-out-of-water" scenario, with the streetwise tough guy Booker having to associate with corporate white collar types. They're all about following regulations and filling out paperwork, while he's all about action and gunfights and knocking dirtbags unconscious with a single punch. This contradiction should make for all kinds of fun interactions between the characters, and the "corporate investigator" conceit should open up different kinds of cases outside of the usual cop show setting. It's strange, then, how many episodes start off with Booker taking time off away from the company to work on some other case, usually involving some old acquaintance of his. They're taking the character away from the unique setting, and these episodes are not as fun, and more by-the-numbers crime drama.
Once Suzanne enters the picture, things brighten up. I know Lori Petty's style of acting isn't for all tastes, but she's a perfect fit for this show. Her verbal sparring with Grieco brings out the best in them both, and there's a lot of energy when the two of them are on screen together. In the second half of the season, once she becomes a regular, Suzanne is given less to do. I'd like to think that if the show had made it to a second season, we would have gotten more great Booker/Suzanne interaction, but we'll never know, will we? As for the rest of the cast, Strassman and Argenziano each get one episode in the spotlight. Otherwise, they're there to set up each plot and then receive some wisecracks from Booker at the end of each episode. Katie Rich gets sidelined by Lori Petty halfway through the season, but she fills the supportive sidekick role nicely.
Check out some of the famous to semi-famous names who showed up in various guest spots: Don Cheadle (Traitor), Mariska Hargitay (CSI), Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways), Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives), Maura Tierney (NewsRadio), Denise Bixler (Linda from Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn!), and Don Davis (Stargate SG1) as two different characters. Behind the scenes, one of the show's producers was TV legend Stephen J. Cannell, and writers and directors include Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire), David Nutter (The X-Files) and Glen Morgan and James Wong (Final Destination). Also, 21 Jump Street stars Stephen Williams, Peter DeLuise, and Holly Robinson make multiple appearances. No Johnny Depp, though.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Now the bad news. You'll notice that this four-disc set is labeled "Collector's Edition" and not "The Complete Series." Two episodes are missing. The first is the second half of the two-part crossover event with 21 Jump Street. To see that episode, you have to buy the Jump Street fourth season box set. Another episode, which I'm sure wasn't cheesy at all, guest starred music legend B.B. King and had Booker searching for King's stolen guitar. This episode isn't on this set, allegedly because of expensive music rights. Speaking of which, another glaring omission is the removal of the show's original theme song, "Hot in the City" by Billy Idol. It's been replaced by a similar-sounding but much more awful rock tune, featuring the laughable lyrics, "It's a hot summer night, and I'm ready tonight." Allegedly, several other songs in various episodes have similarly been replaced by more generic music.
The picture quality bounces back and forth from broadcast quality at some times to glaringly soft and grainy at other times. The audio is pretty rough. It can be hard to hear what actors are saying, and the background music often overwhelms the dialogue. There are no bonus materials of any kind. Finally, as long as I'm complaining, when you open the package, you discover that the discs are not in the usual sturdy plastic trays, but instead they're barely held in place in four flimsy paper envelopes. What the heck?
The DVDs are bare bones, awkwardly packaged, missing two episodes, and don't have the original rockin' theme song. What's left, though, is a fun '80s detective show.
It's not guilty tonight, and I'm ready tonight.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Review content copyright © 2009 Mac McEntire; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.