Lynette Rice
April 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Andy Sipowicz had better watch his exposed butt: It looks like FX has found the next rogue cop people love to hate. Michael Chiklis’ antihero Det. Vic Mackey in the new drama ”The Shield” has catapulted the Fox-owned cabler to new ratings territory — the pilot episode scored a basic-cable record for an original series premiere (nabbing 3.1 million viewers).

”Shield,” which also stars CCH Pounder, doesn’t hold back on the racial slurs, expletives, and partial nudity — but then, that’s what happens when you’re grooming FX to be a cross between HBO and Fox, says FX entertainment president Kevin Reilly. ”Cable has to be an alternative, so by definition we want something bolder in tone and concept than what you would get on broadcast.”

In fact, Reilly hopes his next postcards-from-the-edge series will be a dark comedy starring ”Sex and the City”’s John Corbett as an ex-gambler. As for Chiklis’ Mackey, who slings epithets at his Latino boss before roughing up a molester in the interrogation room, Reilly says, ”You find yourself rooting for a guy who at times you’re fairly shocked and repulsed by, yet you understand why he’s doing it so you stick with him.” Funny, that’s also the reason we watch ”Fear Factor.”

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