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Broken Pilot: 17th Precinct

Could the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reunion actually pulled it off?


I’m not sure how legal it is, but the Sony Television pilot of “17th Precinct” leaked online this week.

From “Battlestar Galactica’s” Ronald D. Moore, NBC had a chance to pick up a police procedural in a world that was very different from ours. Where magic is the norm and science is a fringe mythology.

Apparently, NBC only had room for one supernatural procedural, so welcome “Grimm.” But the idea of fighting crime conducted by magic with magic … can’t say I’ve really seen that before.

If “17th Precinct” had come to pass, not only would we have had a chance to see a very unique concept from a celebrated writer and producer, but we’d also have a chance to see much of our favorite stars from “Battlestar Galactica” and even “Caprica” reunited. Almost to the point of distraction.

Using a setup similar to “Southland,” a popular show NBC foolishly gave up a few years ago as well, we get to see different functions of the 17th Precinct, beginning first with Caolan Longstreet and John Bosson, investigating a murder in the middle of the street that no one could hear. Longstreet and Bosson should look familiar because they are played by Jamie Bamber and James Callis, who played Lee Adama and Gaius Baltar in “Battlestar.”

They are joined by someone who interviews the victim — yeah, the dead one. A witch, by the name of Morgana Kurlansky, played by our very own Six, Tricia Helfer.

Esai Morales, Joseph Adama from the “Battlestar” spinoff “Caprica” also was there, in a police lieutenant who apparently was once a woman. And while there is no Col. Tigh, there is an appearance by Michael Hogan’s wife, Susan Hogan, who plays a judge (once again — remember Baltar’s trial?) who is almost a victim of the episode’s bad guy.

But the actress who steals the show, however, is not from “Battlestar Galactica.” She’s actually from another critically acclaimed NBC Universal property, “The West Wing.” Yeah, I’m talking about Mrs. Bartlett herself, Stockard Channing.

Channing plays Det. Sgt. Mira Barkley, tired of judges giving her perps light sentences, and rejoins the 17th Precinct because of a looming threat not only to that precinct, but probably the entire city of Excelsior — science.

And in this case, bullets.

The cast for “17th Precinct” was huge, and it was tough keeping up with two different cases at the same time. This is what eventually wounded “Southland,” although all it really required was some patience by the network (and not bringing in Jay Leno to fill the 10 p.m. slot every night). But once you adjusted to the characters and the universe of magic, everything else fell into place. You’re pulled in before the pilot ends, and you’re looking for more.

What Worked
There are far too many police procedurals on television, and while every new show is trying to find a new angle, it takes good science-fiction to create something truly unique, and Moore does that with “17th Precinct.”

While it does have a touch of “The Dresden Files,” it creates a universe that is much different, and where the use of magic not only makes sense, but seems pretty much normal.

The types of cases, and they way they are investigated, creates something fresh and interesting. And like what Harry Potter did in making us realize how truly Muggle we are, “17th Precinct” brings us a society that we would love to be in. Where it’s OK to be a witch, and where there are no coroners, only necromancers.

Also, did I hear the voice of Edward James Olmos?

What Didn’t Work
Introducing so many characters and a new universe is a lot to swallow in one episode. While Moore succeeded in bringing all those together, with the help of “Battlestar” veteran director Michael Rymer, it was still a lot to take in. My mind wanted to start connecting the two different cases being investigated in the pilot together, when there was really nothing there to connect.

Of course, once a concept like this is accepted in the mind of a viewer, and they become comfortable with the world, this negative is not really a negative anymore. But it is a tough way to bring us into a pilot.

And as much as I love Tricia Helfer and feel she has a long career ahead of her, I feel her casting as Morgana was just wrong. While it was easy for me to see Bamber, Callis and everyone else take on new roles, the part of the dead-talking witch just didn’t seem to fit well with how I envision Helfer.

There are many great roles out there for Helfer, but Morgana Kurlansky was not one of them.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“17th Precinct” starred Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Stockard Channing, Tricia Helfer, Eamonn Walker and Esai Morales.

The pilot was written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Michael Rymer.

Image courtesy of Zap2it

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Could they be a gh...gh...gh...ghost? Rut-ro! Shaggy
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