Struggling heroically to break the bonds of cop-show cliches, Under Suspicion (CBS, Sept. 23, 9-10 p.m.) has a major asset in its star, Karen Sillas, who portrays the sole female detective on a northwestern city police force. I’m guessing that the primary reason Under Suspicion got on CBS’ schedule is that it was sold as a high concept-”Prime Suspect with a sexy lead.” But if Sillas as Rose Phillips wears tighter skirts and higher heels than Helen Mirren did in those great British TV mysteries, she subtly subverts TV’s traditional notions of titillation in a new, exciting way. Sillas has thought through the way women present themselves in male-dominated work situations, and has arrived at a near-perfect blend of no-nonsense dignity and just-one-of-the- boys camaraderie. The result is something new in prime time, surrounded by the usual stuff. So far, Under Suspicion has been riddled with standard tough talk (Sillas has to say that a detective who committed suicide ”ate his gun”) and hokey dramatic situations that prompt banal threats (when Sillas challenges male authority, a cop rumbles, ”You’re crossin’ a line, lady”). The supporting cast is problematic too. The excellent actor Seymour Cassel is stuck in the tiresome role of Sillas’ grumpy-but-good-hearted supervisor, and Philip Casnoff still harbors vestiges of his fine Frank Sinatra TV-movie impersonation from last season. Casnoff plays a noble Internal Affairs officer but murmurs his lines like Ol’ Blue Eyes, which is disconcerting. Still, last week’s two-hour premiere also culminated with one of the best- directed shoot-outs I’ve seen on television, made all the more exciting by the fact that it was Sillas’ Phillips who was at the center of the biff-bang- pow climax. The promise of Under Suspicion cannot be denied. B+

Under Suspicion
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