In the wide world of movies and television, the words “international production” often seem to mean something akin to “free vacation.”
I exaggerate. There is work to be done. Still, in comparing the level of on-screen talent with the glorified B-movie that is NBC’s imported, summertime Eurozone-trotting cop show “Crossing Lines,” the thought springs to mind.
The series comes from Ed Bernero, who co-created the very solid “Third Watch” and the Munich-based Rola Bauer, who was an executive producer on the frequently daffy Ken Follett adaptations “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End.” A co-production of France’s TF1 and Sony’s AXN, a worldwide network of satellite and cable channels, it’s just the sort of easy-to-read action adventure that plays well in multiple markets and has made Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis global superstars in a way that, say, Liev Schreiber will never be.
We begin with the familiar TV sight of a woman getting dressed — “Like all good stories, this one starts with a beautiful woman,” rasps weary narrator former police Det. Carl Hickman (William Fichtner) — followed by the too-familiar sight of that woman running for her life, followed by the less familiar sight, for American viewers, of the Eiffel Tower, seen in the distance from the park where her body was found.
This being summer and yet, for many of us, a time in which vacations will be only vicarious, that in itself is a welcome sight. (I was grateful even for the few snatches of French that were spoken.) Based in Czechoslovakia, the series shot in Prague, Paris and Nice to represent a host of other European locations.
Hickman, whose NYPD career ended when a suspect shot him in the hand — he can’t hold a gun, or a pen, and survives on morphine — has been living in Amsterdam, I assume because the drugs are easier to come by, picking up trash in an amusement park. (He has a seemingly endless supply of morphine patches, which he regularly slaps upon his chest in a sweaty panic.)
It is here that he is approached by Major Louis Daniel (Marc Lavoine, French actor and pop star), the Jim Phelps of the piece, to join the brigade of super-cops he is assembling to catch a cross-border serial killer (note minor resemblance to FX’s “The Bridge,” coming soon to your television). They have been hanging out in the Hague, in the basement of the International Criminal Court, whose sponsorship they court.
Marquee name Donald Sutherland, who is in what one might call the triple-scale session man period of his career — arrives, plays the part perfectly, departs — is the ICC official Daniel must persuade (to persuade other ICC officials) of the wisdom of this enterprise. Auden is quoted here, for intellectual respectability.
The rest of the team, introduced by their forensic specialties in a scene that plays almost as a parody of scenes in which team members are introduced by their specialties, are themselves an international production, for maximum market penetration: German high-tech guy (Tom Wlaschiha), Italian undercover expert (Gabriella Pession), French analyst (Moon Dailly), Irish weapons fella (Richard Flood), British interrogator (Genevieve O’Reilly). Except for Hickman (the man who can read a crime scene like a book) and Daniel, they are young and totally hot.
Though constructed from off-the-rack tropes and predictable dialogue, the show also keeps moving forward, causing its characters enough trouble that you feel compelled to stick around at least to see how they get out of it. And suddenly you find that an hour has gone by, and you have burned your dinner.
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)