TV Reviews : 'Nasty Boys' Live Up to Their Name in New Series

Now here's a novel idea for a TV series. You see, there's this elite squad of undercover cops--two whites, one Latino, one black, one Asian--who hang out together and travel around in a van. And the boss is a lieutenant whose tough exterior hides a heart of gold.

Actually, "Nasty Boys"--premiering at 9 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39--was inspired by an actual narcotics unit of the North Las Vegas Police Dept. The trouble is that the real-life Nasty Boys themselves sound as if they were inspired by an entire generation of TV series exactly like "Nasty Boys" on NBC.

So which is doing the imitating, life or art? Not that it makes much difference, for this derivative hour is another of prime time's endless echoes: The Series Concept That Refuses to Die.

There is one new twist--black ninja hoods. The Nasty Boys wear them on drug busts to hide their identities, a practice whose ethics you might question given that masked cops are potentially less accountable for their actions.

This series is equipped for action, not introspection, however, as Nasty Boy Eduardo Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) tonight is shocked to discover that a fellow Colombian he knows only as a philanthropist is actually a drug-crazed drug lord. Credibility is the first casualty, as the drug lord is such an overdrawn, obvious character that only someone incredibly naive or thick wouldn't immediately see through his veneer of altruism.

All of this builds to the inevitable Nasty Boy shootout that produces a stack of bodies and is capped by a somewhat hazy ending in which the maniacal drug chief gets the drop on Eduardo but abruptly changes character and lets him live. This appears to have something to do with Colombian solidarity. Whatever.

Dennis Franz is an interesting presence as Nasty Boys leader Lt. Krieger, and Las Vegas is an intriguing backdrop, but not enough so to avoid stillbirth for NBC's nasty new ninjas.

Whatever happened to the Keystone Cops? Now there were some guys you could have fun with.

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