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KINKY - BUT NOT IN A GOOD WAY O'NEILL BRINGS LIFE TO 'DRAGNET' REMAKE, BUT PLOT LINES, WRITING ARE MORIBUND.



Byline: David Kronke TV Critic

DICK WOLF'S ``Law & Order'' franchise was inspired to an obvious degree by ``Dragnet Dragnet

radio show in which justice is always served. [Radio: Buxton, 73]

See : Crime Fighting
,'' so it's a little redundant to revisit the series.

Nonetheless, Wolf's remake employs the classic theme with a hip-hop drum track under it and, instead of original star Jack Webb gravely intoning that ``the story you are about to see is true,'' begins by informing us that stories are ``inspired by actual events,'' which is 21st-century-ese for ``we made this stuff up, so sue us,'' and anyway, the same, again, can be said of ``Law & Order.''

Then the show features four nude female corpses (privates hidden by discreet camera angles) and a shot of a corpse with her eyes dug out. This isn't your father's - or grandfather's - ``Dragnet.'' (Webb's ``Dragnet'' delved occasionally into kinky murders - one episode featured a woman hog-tied, but she remained fully clad; her blouse and skirt even maintained their smart dry-cleaning creases.)

Wolf's ``Dragnet,'' in its first couple of episodes, recalls the luridness of ``Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' without that show's leavening of its sadomasochistic sa·do·mas·o·chism  
n.
The combination of sadism and masochism, in particular the deriving of pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting or submitting to physical or emotional abuse.
 crimes with genuinely thoughtful explorations of extremely difficult social issues. Tonight's premiere features a criminal who goes to the trouble of elaborately re-creating the details of the Hillside Strangler's murders, celebrating the 25th anniversary of those crimes by spraying victims with silver spray paint.

Ed O'Neill (``Married ... With Children's'' Al Bundy) is an inspired choice to play Joe Friday, Webb's celebrated cop on radio and TV. He's a no-nonsense, seen-it-all, by-the-books detective who pretty much paved the way for the procedural crime drama that ``Law & Order'' and ``CSI'' have made phenomenally popular today, and O'Neill, who previously starred in the cop show ``Big Apple,'' has the dead eyes and delivery to make the characterization work.

More problematic is Ethan Embry as Frank Smith, Friday's partner - he's too young to be playing such an old soul; even Friday can't fathom how the guy made detective at such an early age.

Tonight's episode, as mentioned, focuses on a sexual sadist, allowing such phrases as ``erotic asphyxiation asphyxiation /as·phyx·i·a·tion/ (as-fix?e-a´shun) suffocation; the stoppage of respiration.
Asphyxiation
Oxygen starvation of tissues.
,'' ``murdering pedophile pedophile Forensic psychiatry A person with pedophilia; there are an estimated 500,000 pedophiles in the world. See Child prostitution, Megan's law, Pedophilia. ,'' ``carjacking The criminal taking of a motor vehicle from its driver by force, violence, or intimidation.

The u.s. justice department categorizes the crime of carjacking as a "completed or attempted Robbery of a motor vehicle by a stranger
 necrophiliac'' and other more gruesome terms to be bandied about freely. It also allows for such lame lines as ``Mulholland Drive at night: the best view in L.A. - unless you're dead'' to be worked into the script.

A future episode dwells on exploitative videographers (``That's the most vile, disgusting thing I've ever seen,'' a character helpfully notes). It also offers some apropos-of-nothing cheesecake shots of an aspiring actress and a portrait of a USC An abbreviation for U.S. Code.  film student so cliched that one's tempted to suggest Wolf should stay on the East Coast, where his ``Law & Order'' dramas are filmed. It also opens with a dumb black-humor line - eyeing a corpse, Smith deadpans, ``I thought I had a bad night.''

``Dragnet'' Version 2003 unspools its dramas at a quick enough clip that you don't have time to question its detectives' assumptions, and O'Neill gives the proceedings a gravitas grav·i·tas  
n.
1. Substance; weightiness: a frivolous biography that lacks the gravitas of its subject.

2.
 that salves the show's exploitative story lines. (Even ``The Shield,'' which exceeds this ``Dragnet's'' propensity for wallowing in lurid crimes, has more on its mind than gruesomeness for gruesomeness's sake.)

When one suspect is said to have spent his youth ``(gratifying grat·i·fy  
tr.v. grat·i·fied, grat·i·fy·ing, grat·i·fies
1. To please or satisfy: His achievement gratified his father. See Synonyms at please.

2.
 himself) to pictures of crime scenes,'' you're forgiven for wondering if that's not also describing Wolf's target audience for this show.

DRAGNET - Two and one half stars

What: Remake of Jack Webb's classic cop procedural, with Ed O'Neill as Joe Friday.

Where: ABC ABC
 in full American Broadcasting Co.

Major U.S. television network. It began when the expanding national radio network NBC split into the separate Red and Blue networks in 1928.
 (Channel 7).

When: 10 tonight.

In a nutshell: Webb would have a coronary, if he hadn't already died of one. For less squeamish squea·mish  
adj.
1.
a. Easily nauseated or sickened.

b. Nauseated.

2. Easily shocked or disgusted.

3. Excessively fastidious or scrupulous.
 tastes, it's serviceable drama. But there's a measure of gratuitous sleaze sleaze  
n.
A sleazy condition, quality, or appearance: "His record of public service is untouched by any stain of shadiness or sleaze" James J. Kilpatrick.
 here that can easily be considered cynical storytelling.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Ethan Embry, left, is Frank Smith, and Ed O'Neill is Joe Friday, in the new ``Dragnet,'' a remake of the classic cop show premiering at 10 tonight on ABC.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 2, 2003
Words:651
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