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TNT's stark Dark Blue makes it a six-pack

Dylan McDermott trolls the underbelly of L.A. in TNT's Dark Blue.

Premiering: Wednesday, July 15th at 9 p.m. (central) on TNT
Starring: Dylan McDermott, Omari Hardwick, Logan Marshall-Green, Nicki Aycox
Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Danny Cannon, Doug Jung

Suave in ABC's The Practice and suaver in the network's short-lived Big Shots, Dylan McDermott lately speaks in a rasp, eschews suits and sports a little carefully rough-hewn stubble in TNT's new Dark Blue.

He's now part of the burgeoning "We Know Drama" family, teaming with the like-minded second season premiere of TNT's Leverage for the rest of this summer's Wednesdays. Viewers with a jones for undercover, misunderstood, justice-seeking renegades will find a bull market from 8 to 10 p.m. (central). So have at it if you will, but don't expect anything of either Emmy or even Golden Globes quality. That's not the way these shows roll.

Dark Blue is from the Jerry Bruckheimer prime-time crime factory. His hits so far have all been on CBS, though. The CSI trio belong to Bruckheimer, as do Cold Case and the recently canceled Without A Trace. Throw in The Amazing Race as something of a lark, and you've got a lot of revenue still pouring in.

Bruckheimer's latest predictably begins with a torture scene before McDermott's character, the divorced, unsmiling Carter Shaw, strides into view with an accompanying 'tude.

"I haven't seen 7 a.m. since 1992 . . . What can I do for the Federal Bureau of Intimidation?" he emotes for openers.

It turns out that one of Shaw's operatives, Dean Bendis (Logan Marshall-Green), has penetrated the inner sanctum of an over-the-top mobster named Franzine (James Russo). But has he "flipped" to the dark side? Inquiring minds want to know, including former Homicide: Life on the Street star Kyle Secor in the thankless guest role of a badgering FBI agent.

Shaw's other teammates are the recently married Ty Curtis (Omari Hardwick) and the freshly recruited Jaimie Allen (Nicki Aycox), whose ability to lie convincingly is greatly admired by her new boss.

Two prolonged gun battles and a bare-knuckled, underworld "Fight Club" match later, the bad guys are hauled off before loose cannon Dean gets a lil' lecture.

"There's goin' under and there's steppin' over," bossman Shaw warns him. "I get scared when I don't know the difference."

Next week's Episode 2 likewise includes some howlers amid the hostage-taking of undercover Ty, who's infiltrated an automatic weapons ring run by two broadly drawn psychopaths.

Ty's new bride, whom he tries to bed on her birthday, informs him, "I don't like having sex with you while you're 'under.' " Um, this has nothing to do with positioning or with hubby's overall level of consciousness. And anyway, he was supposed to keep his hands off of her while on the job.

This prompts another post-apprehension lesson to live by -- from killjoy Shaw, of course.

"Being alone in a crappy motel room and disappointing the woman you love, that's just the cost of doing business," he tells Ty. Otherwise go back to being a conventional cop. OK, sorry, boss.

Dark Blue takes itself very seriously during the course of its prototypical undercover cases. At least the preceding Leverage has a little levity, even if it's also largely preposterous.

The newcomer makes it six ongoing first-run dramas on TNT. The best is still The Closer, which partners on Mondays with producer Steven Bochco's improving Raising the Bar.

Tuesdays are reserved for Holly Hunter's holdover Saving Grace and Jada Pinkett Smith's first-season medical drama, HawthoRNe. Then it's male-dominated action on Wednesdays, with Dark Blue nonetheless the weak sister of the six.

Give TNT credit, though, for keeping first-run scripted drama alive during the hot summer months while rival broadcast and cable networks load up on reruns and lame-brained reality fare. Whatever Dark Blue's shortcomings, it soars like an eagle above NBC's recent I'm A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here or ABC's ongoing Here Come the Newlyweds. OK, enough of the plus side.