Denis Leary has made a career out of capitalizing on other people”s misfortunes, often reducing them to tears with his cutting-edge sarcasm and sharp-witted sense of humor. With his pop-punk, no-nonsense attitude, Leary is at his best when making other people feel their worst, tearing them down by simply spewing the brutal truth. Appearing in such films as “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Wag the Dog” and most notably “The Ref,” Leary has garnered moderate commercial success as well as critical acclaim for his trademark black comedy.
In the ABC comedy series “The Job,” which returns for its second season premiere tonight opposite “The West Wing,” Leary clearly uses this brand of humor to his advantage. Created by Leary and Emmy Award winning writer Peter Tolan (“The Larry Sanders Show”) and shot entirely on location, “The Job,” focuses on a New York City precinct and the unconventional methods of one of its decorated detectives.
Leary plays Detective Mike McNeil, an unorthodox cop with a disdain for authority and a fondness for overindulgence. He has a harder time dealing with his own personal life than he does fighting crime on the streets of New York. Leary has a penchant for playing characters who waver between quiet cynicism and blatant mockery, and here he makes about as much of an acting stretch as Arnold Schwarzenegger in anything. But one would be hard pressed to think of an actor more right for this role. Leary”s pissed-off approach to life comes in handy when playing McNeil, whose complicated existence gives him a pretext for being an asshole.
In the second season”s premiere, McNeil and his partner Terrence “Pip” Phillips (Bill Nunn) are assigned to take the District Attorney”s 12-year old daughter on a ride-along for her school paper. McNeil is less than thrilled about the assignment, especially when they lose her in the city.
Similar in style to “Scrubs,” whose connection to “ER” has allowed it to gain opportunity as well as popularity, “The Job” can be seen as a companion piece to “NYPD Blue.” Like “Scrubs,” it utilizes a single-camera, laugh-track free technique, and shares a narrative relationship with “Blue.” Besides the obvious resemblance as a cop show, “The Job” also uses exterior shots of New York City, backed by a techno-flavored two-step beat to introduce each scene. It is essentially “NYPD Blue” played for laughs.
While “The Job” is nowhere near and probably will never be as successful as “NYPD Blue,” Leary deserves a break after a difficult year. He lost numerous firefighter friends in the September 11 attacks, and suffered a tremendous loss this past weekend when his best friend and longtime collaborator Ted Demme died of an apparent heart attack. “The Job” is a good show, though not a great one, but for Denis Leary”s sake, let”s hope Aaron Sorkin suddenly develops a horrible case of writer”s block.