Flipping Channels: If You Like CBS Cop Shows, Golden Boy's Another One

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CBS is pulling huge numbers each week with a lineup heavy on formulaic crime procedurals, so no one should be surprised they're trotting out another one. Golden Boy, a hour-long cop drama, makes its debut 9 p.m. Tuesday on WTVF-Channel 5. Those who can't wait until Tuesday can see it now on CBS's website.

The premise covers the rise of Walter William Clark Jr. (Theo James), who becomes the youngest police commissioner in New York City history. This takes an enormous psychological toll, which forms the series' primary focus. Co-produced by Greg Berlanti and Nicholas Wootton, it's the latest American program to feature a British actor in a principal role.

But if the opening episode is any indicator, the person who's going to get the highest career bump from this show is veteran actor Chi McBride. His Det. Don Owen functions as Clark's combination partner, mentor and advisor, yet he's also deeply affected by the hot shot's meteoric rise — a show of favor that has sunk his own chances for promotion. Their relationship sets off the only fireworks in what's otherwise a crime-by-numbers debut.

Since CBS already has one successful insider NYC cop show on Fridays with Tom Selleck's Blue Bloods, why it needs another is anyone's guess. Nevertheless, Golden Boy moves to its regular spot on Fridays March 8, right before Blue Bloods at 8 p.m. It will replace the long-running CSI:NY, which wraps its ninth and possibly final season Friday. The long-running procedural spinoff almost didn't make it back this year. Ratings have been decent, but not so great that the network might not let it go to try something fresh (and cheaper) in that slot.

Cassidy appears on original CSI
Meanwhile, the original CSI is enjoying a ratings rebirth the past two seasons. The arrival of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue has rekindled interest among the fan base, as have entertaining stunt shows like Wednesday's (9 p.m. WTVF-5) — which features 62-year-old David Cassidy playing a one-time poker champion whose desperation to maintain his youth has resulted in some shocking plastic surgery results. His reaction to this and other life problems lead to the situation the CSI crew must resolve.

Cassidy told TV Guide he enjoyed the role and didn't find it negative or self-ridiculing. As for CSI's own cosmetic surgery, it seems to have provided the desired lift for a show that's been a cornerstone franchise for CBS since 2000. The program now appears in no danger of imminent cancellation, something that wasn't the case a couple of years ago.

Vegas in danger of crapping out
Most networks with a show whose weekly audience surpasses 14 million viewers would be rejoicing. But CBS' Vegas (9 p.m. Tuesdays, WTVF-Channel 5, returning in mid-March) finds itself staring cancellation squarely in the face for two reasons.

The first: The show has lost viewers, especially in the key 18-49 demographic. Ratings have dropped more than 14 percent from what the show Unforgettable (which clearly wasn't) attracted in that same time slot last year.

Second, by network TV standards, Vegas is quite expensive. Stars Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis didn't take discounts on their salaries, and the fidelity to the show's 1960s look, clothing and decor has had significant impact on the show's budget. On top of that, critics have complained about Vegas' pace and creative quality, which have been erratic at best. Michael Mann's Crime Story this ain't.

Because it's based on real people and events, Vegas works in that murky area between docudrama and a standard episodic crime drama. It's also hurt by being set in a period (the '60s) that's rarely been a commercial turn-on despite its historical importance.

To be sure, Mad Men has explored the same era and skated by for years on AMC with a fraction of Vegas' audience. But that won't cut it on a network. Unless CBS sees some improvement in ratings over the show's upcoming episodes, the sun will set on Vegas after one season.

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