| It's pretty popular this year for critics to complain about the decline of even the "good" Thursday night shows on NBC. You know the spiel---Friends is repetitive and lacking any conflict (and what the hell is up with Phoebe's bangs, anyway?); Frasier is coasting along on slapstick instead of smarts; and ER is all stress and no emotion. Heck, we've written it ourselves.
But there's nothing like sitting through a half-hour of Battery Park, with writing so juvenile it makes Teen Beat look like Granta, to make us take back all the nasty things we've ever said about the rest of the Must-See lineup. Compared to BP, Friends and Frasier are positively brilliant; hell, even Veronica's Closet starts to look pretty good.
BP is the number two offering in NBC's new Thursday offerings, number one being Mr. Mom, er, Daddio. It's a cop sitcom (sitcop? copcom?) set in New York with wacky wacky cops from the Joe Bob School of Comedy Writing and Vending Machine Repair. And BP's clearly not going for NYC realism---not one innocent person is shot, beaten, or violated in the entire episode.
The only recognizable name involved, at least to us, is Elizabeth Perkins. Right now, you're probably going through the same thought process we followed: "No, not the skank in Showgirls---that's Elizabeth Berkley---and not that woman in all those awful made-for-TV movies---that's Elizabeth McGovern." No, Perkins you sorta kinda recognize from Big and He Said, She Said. She's now dropped down to Jennifer Grey-land, but at least She of the Disappearing Nose earned her TV stripes on a halfway decent show in It's Like, You Know.
Instead, Perkins is stuck in this crud, playing a precinct captain who wants to be mayor. First, Perkins is about as convincing as a cop as she would be playing the Dalai Lama. Worse, the writers evidently wanted to eliminate any credibility she might somehow generate by making her character incredibly clueless about anything related to actual police work or what it might take to become mayor, instead just writing her as the ambitious dumb woman. Along the same lines, the other female cop is on duty with her bare midriff revealed---yeah, that'll happen in Rudy's NYPD.
Ridiculous characterizations and miscasting are just the beginning of BP's problems. Notwithstanding the networks' purported intention to improve racial representation, there's exactly one black cop, and, sure enough, he's angry and feisty, just another in a long series of sitcom blacks being "so funny when they're angry." Italians are, of course, the mob, and BP makes the extremely poor decision in that context to actually refer to The Sopranos. Instead of making BP seem hip, the gratuitous reference just made us want to get caught up on our Sopranos tapes.
Battery Park just doesn't do any of its parts well at all. The cops are better and, truth be told, funnier on either NYPD Blue or reruns of Homicide, and the political ambition is funnier on Spin City and smarter on The West Wing. BP is all leftovers, and its only value is to make the skinny ones on Friends seem like comic geniuses.