December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

ABC (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)


It’s the Richmond, Va., field office of the FBI versus a rather generic local crime syndicate in this new series, which I might have dismissed as The Wire with less complexity or The Sopranos stripped of its ethnicity. But the more I watched Line of Fire, which premieres Dec. 2, the more I valued the time it spends on the wrong side of the law.

The Mob boss is portrayed by talented David Paymer, an unimposing character actor who has played a few unpleasant fellows in his time (like the movie producer in State and Main) but seems more likely to be the outfit’s accountant than its kingpin. Know what? I think that’s the point. Paymer is fascinating as an outwardly ordinary man who sees prostitution, extortion and murder as simply business. Real-life ex-con Brian Goodman has the right rough edges as one of Paymer’s henchmen. It’s the FBI element of the story that doesn’t ring so true. The special agent in charge (Leslie Hope, from 24) advertises her intensity by smoking a lot, and a national tragedy becomes a melodramatic device when a rookie (Leslie Bibb) reveals that she embarked on a law enforcement career as a way to avenge her husband’s death in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


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