First she was the "Profiler."
Now she's "The Protector."
In the 1996-2000 NBC crime drama "Profiler," actress Ally Walker played a detective on a violent crimes task force who used her analytical skills to solve cases while tracking down her husband's killer.
In the notably lighter new Lifetime show "The Protector" (10 p.m. Sunday), Ms. Walker plays Gloria Sheppard, a divorced mother of two who works as a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective, paired with an admiring but occasionally exasperated partner, Michelle Dulcett (Tisha Campbell-Martin).
With the Kyra Sedgwick version of "The Closer" coming to an end next year, the timing may be right for another light, police procedural on cable and Ms. Walker is certainly up to the task. She proved her dramatic chops recently in a recurring role on "Sons of Anarchy" and now she gets to show she's just as adept at playing a warmer character with a softer sense of humor.
Gloria Sheppard is no pushover, but she does smile and laugh both with her kids at home and on the job, which she takes seriously. Just don't be a neighbor who asks her to help find stolen lawn ornaments.
"I've got to be honest with you, gnomes are a little outside my jurisdiction," she tells a neighbor woman who seeks her help. "Now if you find a severed head, you give me a call. I've had a lot of success with severed heads."
In many respects, Sheppard is a TV cliche: The tough but likeable woman who's smarter and harder-working than the male cops. She even serves as a sounding board for her boss (Miguel Ferrer, "Crossing Jordan") when he has relationship troubles. But Ms. Walker's performance elevates the material, especially in scenes with Ms. Campbell-Martin.
The pair have a crackling chemistry, batting one-liners back and forth while standing over a body or following up on a lead in their murder investigation. When Dulcett floats a theory and Sheppard responds with "maybe," Dulcett calls her on it.
"Your 'maybe' doesn't mean maybe," she says. "Your 'maybe' means you have a different theory and everybody else is wrong."
"The Protector" is fairly routine plot-wise but the breezy tone -- conveyed through upbeat music and snappy dialogue -- and strong, collegial performances make this series a welcome summer diversion.
On the Web
Actor Jason Lee previews the new season of TNT's "Memphis Beat" in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv.
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.