February 01, 1993 12:00 PM

NBC (Sun., Jan. 31)


Getting the big launch right after the Super Bowl, this limited-run series is the best ensemble cop drama since Hill Street Blues. Based on reporter David Simon’s nonfiction book, the show centers on a squad of Baltimore homicide detectives played by Ned Beatty, Jon Polito, Melissa Leo, Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher, Daniel Baldwin, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto and Kyle Secor.

The pilot is extraordinary. Directed by the series’ coexecutive producer, Barry Levinson (Rain Man), it’s both joltingly realistic and stylish, using askew hand-held camera work and abrupt, jumpy editing.

The cast is wonderful, particularly comic Belzer, who keeps just enough of his acid-dipped stand-up persona. Questioning a suspect, he says, “OK, now I get it. You’re saving your really good lies for some smarter cop, is that it?…I’m just Montel Williams. You want to talk to Larry King.

Three days after this premiere, the show moves to its scheduled slot, Wednesdays at 9, for seven weeks, bumping Seinfeld to Thursdays at 9:30 and Mad About You to Saturdays at the same time.

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