July 26, 2004 12:00 PM

TNT (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

Clichés and visual clutter plague the July 19 premiere of this four-week series about an American-British effort to thwart a terrorist plot. But by the second episode the story gets a grip on us.

“This is our worst nightmare….The genie is out of the bottle….You will be a team player.” Too much dialogue in the two-hour opener seems to have come straight from the spy-thriller manual. When you hear that an FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) lost his best friend in the attack on the World Trade Center, you know it won’t be long before he says his counterterrorism mission is “personal…very personal.”

In its zeal to establish documentary-like authenticity, The Gridprovides onscreen I.D.s for nearly every character—complete with name, job title and organizational affiliation. We do need help in sorting these people out, but often we feel as if we’re poring over their personnel records.

The strong cast includes Julianna Margulies as a National Security Council official who warns of a possible terror threat to the New York City subway system, Tom Skerritt as a CIA schemer out to undermine her, and Jemma Redgrave as a major player in British intelligence who’s wary of interfering Yanks. The series is most involving, however, when it focuses on two lesser-known actors: Piter Marek as a CIA analyst, viewed with suspicion by superiors because of his Muslim faith and Arab background; and Silas Carson as an Egyptian doctor and devout Muslim drawn into the terrorists’ orbit. The inner conflicts of these characters are The Grid’s chief power source.


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