June 30--WITHOUT William Fichtner, NBC's summer crime drama "Crossing Lines" would be just another cop show, on another continent.
With him, it's a show that occasionally rises beyond a gimmicky premise to become captivating television.
That premise: Fichtner's Carl Hickman, a wounded New York detective, is the last man added to an international team tasked with investigating crimes that cross borders in Europe.
The team operates under a mandate from something called the International Criminal Court, which exists largely to give us Donald Sutherland as their boss.
He's the one that blesses the team, while Marc Lavoine is Louis Daniel, the French policeman who heads up the unit created to track down criminals so brutal the regular rules of jurisdiction shouldn't apply.
All that sounds well and good, but Fichtner is the light in this bottle, the spark that makes this thing fly.
Yes, we get it, the members of the team come from police units in England, France, with Interpol and more. And they each have specific talents with weapons, high-tech toys, investigation techniques and more.
Fichtner's Hickman is the group's premier investigator, the policeman who can ferret out things that others can't.
As with all good dramas, he arrives with conflicts of his own. On the case that broke him mentally and physically he suffered injuries that leave him in constant pain and struggling with an addiction to painkillers.
In the show's pilot, which was pretty violent but also captivating at times, he's struggling for much of the hour with just the idea of being back in the game.
Then he makes a mistake that nearly costs the team an agent. After that, he's all in.
Sutherland, the consummate actor, makes the most of his fairly limited moments on screen.
The other members of the team are largely forgettable. But wouldn't you know it, the second-most-interesting one, from Scotland Yard, got killed off in episode one.
I'll tune back in to see what Fichtner, who's been a bright spot on many a mediocre series, is up to next.
If you'd seen only one episode of "Desperate Housewives," it wouldn't be hard to recognize where Lifetime's new "Devious Maids" comes from. Namely, from executive producer Marc Cherry, who also created "Housewives."
Like the earlier show, this new offering gives us all sorts of beautiful people, both the maids the show's built around and the rich, oblivious folks who employ them.
There's also all the sex, taking place between some of the maids and some of the oblivious rich.
And don't forget the beautiful houses, where there's also murder mixed in with that cross-class sex.
There's even the same silly humor running through it all, and music that sounds like it was left over from "Housewives."
There are a few differences, which may strangely serve to make this a guilty pleasure in the short run but ultimately forgettable.
First off, these maids have it going on, from beauty that seems to be universal to talents for music, sexual intrigue and even the investigation of murder.
It's confusing at first because so many of them get introduced quickly and most have similar long brown hair. But soon enough we can identify them by personality type.
There's the flirty singer, the amorous youngster, the good momma and, of course, the one in love with her employer who gets stabbed and collapses, dead, in the pool in the show's first 10 minutes.
And then there's Marisol, whom we suspect from the get-go is much more than she appears.
That's because she is well- versed in just about everything, feels comfortable giving her rich "Mrs." advice, and, for some reason, seems really interested in finding out more about this murder.
Played by Ana Ortiz, she's the beauty and brains in this series that really is less than the sum of all its parts.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
WANT TO WATCH?
WHAT: "Crossing Lines"
WHEN: Sundays nights
WHAT: "Devious Maids"
WHEN: Sundays nights
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