There's a fine line that divides a tough-guy cop from a jerk. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on "The Shield" avoided the latter. Sure, he was a sociopath, but he cared about his kids and frequently tried to protect the innocent.
Charles Barker (Patrick Swayze) on A&E's "The Beast" (10 p.m. Thursday) does nothing to make viewers think he's anything other than a thug in the series' first two episodes.
- When: 10 p.m. Thursday, A&E
- Starring: Patrick Swayze
In the opening minutes he shoots his rookie partner, Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel, looking more jowly than in the 2003 WB series "Tarzan"). Sure, Dove is wearing a bulletproof vest and Barker does it to protect his protege when Ellis makes a gaffe, but it's an introduction that's not adequately complemented by non-jerk behavior later in the episode.
Barker and Dove are FBI agents and Barker is the type who ignores protocol to get the job done, never mind that in doing so he threatens the chain of custody in any potential court case that follows. He's gruff and bottom-line oriented, encouraging suicide for a man who gets in a jam to protect the man's family.
"Yeah, there's a line," he tells Dove, "so we know where to cross."
Viewers will be curious to see how Swayze seems to be doing since it's public knowledge that he's fighting pancreatic cancer. Although he looks drawn and aged, his character doesn't shy from a fight and Swayze seems up to the physical tasks at hand.
"The Beast," named after Barker's reference to his FBI job, seems like a pretty plain cop drama with added "Road House"-style grit until the end of the first hour, when a new wrinkle adds more intrigue.
Dove is drafted by FBI bigwigs to spy on Barker, who is suspected of wrongdoing. This puts Dove in a moral quandary and gives the show more layers. Still, Charles Barker is not as complicated or as complex as Vic Mackey, no matter how rough-and-tumble or morally compromised Barker might be.