KUSA - The Ed Burns mini-series "Mob City" has ended its first season. If you missed it, you can find it on demand.
In the last three years alone, TV has given us Mob shows set in Atlantic City (Boardwalk Empire), Las Vegas (Vegas), Miami (Magic City), Sausalito (Red Widow) and Chicago (The Mob Doctor), not to mention the Mob plots that eventually wind their way through most any series in the New York/New Jersey environs.
The Mob City min-series is a L.A. Confidential-style trip to Los Angeles circa 1947, a noirworld where men are tough and women are trouble. Oh, and as it is the land of noir, the dark streets are always wet and glistening, which may strike you as odd in a city with so little rain, but not odd enough to hold your attention.
Meaning yes, you've seen it all before.
Granted, mobsters are entrenched in our national folklore, and every series that touches upon them cannot be expected to reach the artistic bar set by The Sopranos. But unless you have something new to add to the tale, why bother to retell it?
Written, directed and produced by Frank Darabont, apparently still smarting over his ouster from The Walking Dead, Mob City quickly divides its denizens among the good, the bad, and the uncommitted.
On the hero side of this fact-based story, you have Police Chief Bill "The Boy Scout" Parker (Neal McDonough). On the Mob side, you have famous gangsters Bugsy Siegel (Ed Burns) and Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), with Milo Ventimiglia and Robert Knepper playing supporting henchmen. And in the middle, you have The Walking Dead'sJon Bernthal as a conflicted cop, and Alexa Davalos as the requisite moll on the make.
The connections between them are purposely obscured in the beginning. But over time, secrets will be revealed and links will become clear. Or at least clearer.
If Bernthal is a bit blank in the early going, it's what the plot requires of him: He's the secrets-keeper-in-chief. And while Burns and Knepper provide some fun in two of the show's flashier roles, keep your eyes on McDonough: There's never been a show he hasn't made more interesting simply by being in it.
From its smoky night clubs to its fleabag dives, there's no doubt Mob City looks good. But in this case, looks aren't enough, particularly when too many of the details seem more studied than lived in. Indeed, the show spends so much time flashing its pedigree that you may eventually get the feeling you're not watching a series so much as a redemption project - a TNT effort to expand its footprint beyond popular but lighter series such as The Closer into the rarefied AMC prestige-drama air of Breaking Bad.
If this is the show that takes it there, it will be the biggest surprise. And the one new thing Mob City has to offer.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)