Kim Delaney: Andrew Eccles
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October 23, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

On Philly, Kim Delaney’s Philadelphia defense attorney Kathleen Maguire is run ragged chasing cases while also working out child-custody arrangements with her bristlingly hostile ex-husband (”Homicide”’s Kyle Secor). ”Philly” is like biting into a cold, stale version of the city’s famous cheese steak — it gives you a lot to chew on, but it’s pretty greasy, gummy fare.

Delaney, out of her ”NYPD Blue” slacks, has been dolled up: She invariably wears short skirts, the better for sleazeball colleagues like Assistant DA Terry Loomis (”The $treet”’s Rick Hoffman) to look up them and make lewd comments. Another of the show’s stars, Kathleen’s colleague Will Froman (Tom Everett Scott, also right off ”The $treet”), boffs a comely prosecuting attorney in a courthouse to win a favorable verdict. Two episodes later, he makes a point of telling a new client who’s a stripper, ”I’ve seen you dance.” Eewwww: Boys in Philly are yucky.

Since the big gun behind ”Philly” is producer Steven Bochco, we’re supposed to interpret such stuff — along with partially bared breasts and anatomical insult words that only a big gun gets away with on network prime time — as gutsy realism, instead of what it really is: tedious nastiness. It’s too bad, because Delaney herself is good at expressing both quick-witted courtroom savvy and openhearted vulnerability. The series also has a good supporting character in a sour-faced, vengeful judge played by Robert Harper.

But ultimately, there’s a punishing quality to ”Philly.” Kathleen cries herself to sleep on her son’s bed, hugging his teddy bear as the episode fades to black. It’s as if women are made to suffer for their aggressiveness — their independence. Set up as saviors, they play out as losers.

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