10-8: Officers on Duty: Pilot (2003) TV Review

Cop shows. I swear Hollywood can’t get enough of them. As soon as one cop show fails (and the vast majority of them invariably does), there are 10 more to jump in and give it a shot (only to invariably fail just like the one they tried to replace). It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that, at one point or another, every up-and-coming actor in Hollywood has played a cop or a criminal in a cop show at least once in his or her life. There’s that many of these things out there.

“10-8” is yet another entry into the saturated genre. The show’s one potential contribution to the genre is its combination of humor and drama. The show stars Danny Nucci (“Firestarter 2”) as Rico Amonte, a New York transplant and all-around wiseass who is on his first day in what will become a long probation period with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. We learn that Amonte was an ex-hood, whose big brother, an L.A. Detective, brought him out to Sunny L.A. to turn a new leaf. He does, and decides to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

But first Amonte has to survive his probation period. His veteran trainer is Ernie Hudson (“Ghostbusters”), whose bad side Amonte gets on during a training session, before the two men are even partnered up. The duo rides the streets as mentor and student, with Hudson’s John Barnes barking orders, barking insults, and just constantly barking at the good-humored Amonte. Being good-humored, Amonte manages to keep annoying Barnes, such as ordering pizza to his squad car when he’s not allowed out of the squad car during a lunch break. The show also features 2 other rookies and their trainers, but the show’s 1-hour pilot (plus commercials) spends so little time with them that I couldn’t tell you what their character names are.

Danny Nucci has been around in bit parts and some major roles, with “Firestarter 2” being one of them. The major problem with using a mostly unknown lead in a TV show is, not surprisingly, no one knows who the lead actor is, which means they will not be inclined to tune in out of the blue. If not for the clever network ploy of premiering “10-8” an hour before the third season premiere of “Alias”, I’m not sure if “10-8”, with its lackluster TV ads and mostly absent word of mouth, would have registered otherwise.

That isn’t to say some pilots with unknown stars don’t work; “Alias”, for example, came onto the scene 2 years ago with an unknown Jennifer Garner. “The X-Files” also had two unknown leads, and it ran forever before finally axing itself. But there is one very important difference between those shows and “10-8”. It’s this: “10-8” doesn’t have a gimmick. And in today’s TV landscape, not having a gimmick is almost as good as arriving DOA. Of course shows with a major star can afford not to offer up a gimmick. What’s so special about Rob Lowe in “The Lyon’s Den”? It’s just another lawyer show ala Tom Cruise’s “The Firm”, isn’t it? Yes, but it has Rob Lowe.

What does “10-8” have? It has a handsome Hispanic actor name Danny Nucci and a bear of a veteran in Ernie Hudson, with the rest of the cast populated by unknowns. (Unknowns are cheaper to pay, you know.) Which leads me to this second conclusion: When ads for your show can only boast that the creators were once involved in critically acclaimed shows like “Homicide” and “Oz”, you’re in trouble. Why? Because people don’t tune in to “watch” producers. Just as David E. Kelley, who despite a prolific history in TV, has more cancelled shows under his belt than successful ones.

Although I find “10-8” to be a reasonably entertaining and refreshing show, with some biting humor and very good rapport between leads Amonte and Barnes, there is no doubt in my mind that the show doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving past its initial episodes. I’m almost certain the show won’t even make it through its first year. In the first place, there’s nothing new about “10-8” that would pull in new audiences. There are no stars and the premise is pedestrian at best.

Also, the show is not edgy enough to entice the “NYPD Blue” crowd, and there were no hints of skin or grit in the pilot. Of course this doesn’t mean the show couldn’t develop the grit and edge in later episodes, but I’m afraid it’ll never get the chance. Just as “NYPD Blue” and “The Shield” did, you have to hook the audience with the pilot, which is probably the first and (in all likelihood) only episode of your show many potential viewers will see. They’ll judge rather to come back or not based on that one 45-minute episode. You have to hook them right away.

Unfortunately, “10-8” is grossly lacking in the hooking category.

Jorge Zamacona (director)
CAST: Danny Nucci …. Rico Amonte
Ernie Hudson …. John Henry Barnes
Alex Meneses …. Anna Valero
Kris Murphy …. Claire Tarisi
Travis Schuldt …. Chase Williams
Mercedes Colon …. Sheryl Torres
Christina Vidal …. Gabriella Lopez