I'm still unhappy that Fox's "The Chicago Code" was canceled. And seeing an inferior new cop drama set in Chicago, "Against the Wall" (9 p.m. July 31, Lifetime; ** stars out of 4) begin its 12-episode first season doesn't ease my frustration.
Created and written by Annie Brunner ("Any Day Now") and executive produced by Nancy Miller ("Saving Grace"), "Against the Wall" gives us images of Chicago and a lot of Bears references, but very little Chicago flavor. Unlike "Code," it isn't filmed in the Windy City and isn't too concerned with how things might really go down here.
Brunner and Miller are more concerned with their heroine, Abby Kowalski (Rachael Carpani), a single Chicago police officer who has advanced to detective, but in the Internal Affairs division.
Her new job puts her at odds with her father, Don (Treat Williams), and three brothers, Richie (Brandon Quinn), Donnie (James Thomas) and Steve (Steve Byers). They are all police officers (shades of another better cop drama, CBS' "Blue Bloods") who think very little of IA, the division that investigates police wrongdoing, among other things.
"There's a code we live by," Don barks at his daughter when she tells him her news. "We protect our own."
It's one of many predictable lines from the premiere, which goes from scenes of middling humor to silly-looking basic-cable sex to "Leave It to Beaver" family moments to a token (and bland) mystery. Tonally, it's all over the place.
"Against the Wall" has some positives: Carpani has an appealing twinkle in her eye, while Williams and Kathy Baker (as Abby's mom, Sheila) always bring high-quality acting to their roles. With the three brothers plus Abby's possible love interest, Danny (Chris Johnson), all played by attractive young actors, Lifetime's core audience of women should be pleased.
Abby's complicated private life also creates fun moments and a surprise, but the family conflict at the show's heart needs to become more interesting and less obvious.
That family drama, along with the episode's ending, stretches credibility. I won't give away the ending, but Abby may be part of an investigation that, in real life, she never would be assigned.
I can't fault "Against the Wall" for not being as ambitious as "The Chicago Code," but I can fault it for not being ambitious enough to have a clear idea of what it wants to be.