It makes sense they did another episode to run as the first episode instead of this pilot. What doesn’t make sense is CBS green-lighting the series based on this pilot episode. It’s also interesting to see who they got to come back for the previous episode after they clearly didn’t work out in the pilot; Sam Coppola as star David Caruso’s cop mentor has a surprise twist here, so maybe it was good to bring him in before… but they really could’ve used Dina Meyer. She’s an investigator at the U.S. Attorney’s office and has been dating Caruso for long enough other investigator Ruben Santiago-Hudson teases him about it them talking flirty over the radio, but apparently she was out of town two weeks before in the first episode.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the pilot—I’d forgotten the hook of the show is former cop Caruso becomes acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and not just former cop Caruso becomes a deputy U.S. Attorney or whatever—but they really try to cram it all in here. The episode opens with a mob hit (so did the previous episode, sort of) and then we get Caruso meeting with dead guy’s attorney Donna Murphy, Meyer, and Philip Baker Hall. Hall takes Murphy’s car, which goes boom—leading to Caruso saving Hall from the burning car while a line of cops stand around and do nothing (again, it’s pre-9/11). Eventually Caruso gets the job, which would presumably cause some problems for Meyer, who doesn’t sleep with bosses. If only they can think of a way to exit her from the show while being low-key misogynist about it.
Caruso’s not initially on Murphy’s case because he’s busy getting Joe Grifasi in trouble. The episode’s got a handful of solid character actor guest stars—Murphy, Grifasi, Josef Sommer—and it’s scary to think how the show would play if it weren’t them. Tom Amandes is on as another deputy U.S. Attorney whose job it is to tell Caruso he’s going too far with the working class hero takes on the blue bloods stuff (Peter Outerbridge has a filler scene, presumably shot after they decided they needed him—or Amandes found steadier work). None of the previously mentioned guest stars appear on the IMDb page, apparently because none of their agents think anyone would care they were once on “Michael Hayes.”
Wouldn’t you know Grifasi’s case is going to end up having to do with Murphy’s case, but then it’s going to turn out there’s an even simpler explanation to it all so they can do a bad sirens-on cop car sequence and giving Caruso—at the time the acting U.S. Attorney—a burner handgun so he can be macho.
Along the way we get some more with Caruso’s family problems—nephew Jimmy Galeota needs recently released ex-con dad David Cubitt (credited as a guest star, which makes you wonder what’s going to happen to him in the series) to pay him some attention while the relationship between Caruso and suffering sister-in-law Mary B. Ward is different than in the previous episode. Especially since last time Caruso was trying to convince her to take Cubitt, hashtag family values, while this time he’s telling her to stay away from his deadbeat brother.
John Romano’s teleplay is fairly bad—the show has Romano and Nicholas Pileggi as creators but Pileggi doesn’t have a writing credit, just a story one, which is telling. Thomas Carter’s direction is fairly good for a nineties TV show (it’s interesting to be able to compare to the previous but subsequent episode just for Carter’s ability to compose for 4:3).
Maybe ten percent of Caruso’s performance is good and better. Most of it’s middling. Some of it’s “CSI: Miami.” All of the bad is Romano’s fault. He writes rather trite dialogue. The most important performance ends up being Mary Lou Rosato as Coppola’s wife and she doesn’t even get a credit in the opening titles.
Grifasi’s the biggest disappointment; not even he can accomplish Romano’s script. He’s only in it for a scene and doesn’t have the weird baked-in misogyny Murphy ends up with. She’s fine, just wasted. I was hoping for more obviously because what kind of shit stain wastes Donna Murphy.
I have no idea what to expect from “Michael Hayes” going forward, which must’ve done wonders for it back during original airings when you had a whole week to decide if you wanted to come back.
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