Denis Leary: Frank Ockenfels
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March 08, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Like Ed O’Neill in ”Big Apple,” Denis Leary also plays an Irish, loose cannon Manhattan crime fighter on a new show, titled The Job, which we know from ”NYPD Blue” is cop talk for police work. Leary cocreated ”The Job” with ”The Larry Sanders Show”’s Peter Tolan, and this half hour is billed as a comedy, but it’s no ”Barney Miller.” Actually, ”The Job” is more like ”NYPD Blue” played for laughs. Shot on film with intentionally herky jerky camera work, ”The Job” is surprisingly effective. Leary, whose jaded wise guy persona can get annoying fast, has found a good character here; his Mike McNeil is, in the words of his partner (Bill Nunn), a ”smokin’, drinkin’, and self medicatin”’ punk, who’s cheating on his wife (Wendy Makkena) with a steady girlfriend (Karyn Parsons).

So why should we like McNeil as a TV show protagonist? Because we like screwups (”The Job” comes a lot closer to the tone of Robbie Coltrane’s incorrigible British crime solver in ”Cracker” than Robert Pastorelli did in his 1997 Americanized version) — especially screwups who acknowledge their sins and are good at their work. Mike may pull out a mint tinfull of pain killers, pop one, and say, ”That box and a bottle of Bushmills is the only thing keepin’ me from takin’ a hostage, OK?,” but he also admits to the ”idiotic path that I’m on,” even as he nabs crooks and coaxes confessions from killers.

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