best new drama NBC, 10-11 pm DEBUTS SEPTEMBER 29

I love L.A.,” says Boomtown creator Graham Yost. ”I grew up in Toronto, so I have the outsider’s appreciation for the weird stuff as well as the good stuff.” An example of the former was on display when the crime drama shot its pilot near the seedy L.A. River. ”I watched a 16-year-old kid shampooing his hair in water the safety experts said had fecal E. coli,” says exec producer Jon Avnet (Uprising). ”I’m thinking, Life never ceases to amaze me — and this is after I spent years researching the Warsaw ghetto uprising, where some amazing s — – came down.”

Some amazing, um, stuff comes down in Boomtown as well. Like an American Rashomon, the show boldly examines a single story every week from multiple points of view, including those of beat cops (Jason Gedrick and Gary Basaraba), detectives (Mykelti Williamson and Donnie Wahlberg), and an assistant district attorney (Neal McDonough). ”It’s a brain tease to see it from the other perspectives,” says Avnet. ”I’m hoping to really push the envelope.” But not too far: ”My joking rule in the writers’ room is no dog’s point of view before the third season and no blind person’s point of view until the fourth,” says Yost. ”But in the third episode, we’ve got a guy who’s drunk.”

Hopefully, viewers won’t also feel disoriented. ”It’s very smart, but it’s not so smart that it’s going to leave people behind,” says Wahlberg. ”It’s not really alienating anyone.” At least not within the limited audience that has seen the show so far. ”In testing, the most gratifying thing we heard was that people enjoyed the puzzle aspect, and they were moved,” says Yost (Speed, Band of Brothers). ”God, if we could do that every week, that would be fantastic.”

It would also be a refreshing change of pace for Boomtown’s ensemble, whose resumes list such noble failures as Brooklyn South (Basaraba), EZ Streets (Gedrick), and Big Apple (Wahlberg). ”When they’re doing a scene, I like to glower at them and say, ‘Don’t screw up this time!”’ jokes Yost. ”No, the fact that those shows didn’t work didn’t have a lot to do with them.” Adds Gedrick: ”EZ Streets was a darker, serialized show. This is going to be far easier to watch.” With its self-contained stories and shifting POVs, Boomtown should flow more easily out of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (which looks at one case from both cops’ and perps’ perspectives) than last season’s UC: Undercover did. ”At times, we’re like an L.A. version of Law & Order,” confirms Gedrick. But can these Angelenos take down the Beantown lawyers of ABC rival The Practice? ”We’re gonna kick their ass!” says Yost. ”No, it’s a great show, [but] it’s been on a while, so maybe we’ve got a shot.” That may pose a problem for feature-film vet Avnet. ”I made a good living off of David E. Kelley’s wife with Up Close & Personal, so God forbid I should do anything bad to that family, because I might want to work with Michelle Pfeiffer again.”

As for Wahlberg, Boomtown’s success would mean long-sought stability. ”I’ve been traveling since I was 18,” says the ex-New Kid on the Block, who shot a Yost-penned episode of Band of Brothers in England. But while the series will keep him close to his home and family, ”I’m not the type of person to do a TV show just to make some money,” Wahlberg says. ”It’s important to me that if it goes down, it’s gonna go down swinging.”

  • TV Show